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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy
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Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes.
Difficulty level: easyIntroduces methodological skepticism to modern philosophy (much of which is a reaction against it). Generally you only have to read Meditations I and II, and not bother with the parts where he proves the existence of God. The whole thing is around 30 pages, so it isn't very intimidating either.
Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy |
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So I am proposing a new principle: ThePrinciple of Science. When first reading a philosophical text, you should read it not as the most compelling argument, but rather as though you were reading a scientific text. The reason for this is simple: scientific texts are taken as fact. Philosophy texts are always presumed to be questionable. When you first encounter Newton's Law that says an object in motion will continue inmotion until acted upon, you don't say, "What a load of crap, I threw a meat pie at my cousin Mike just last week, and it stopped on its own accord before it got to him." Obviously, although scientific theories can be overturned, people assume that they are correct, so their only objective becomes trying to understand the theory. However, when Kuhn says that science, like evolution,progresses towards nothing in particular, a lot of people's first reaction is something like: "What a load of shit, science obviously progresses towards the truth", then they spent the rest of the time trying to work out just how wrong Kuhn is. Now, obviously Kuhn's claim is much more controversial than Newton's, and in fact most philosophers don't agree with him, but the point of readinghis book shouldnt necessarily be to become a Kuhnian, but rather to understand him. That doesn't mean that you cant critique the ideas afterwards, but understanding the ideas first is much more important than refuting them, and you really shouldn't worry about it too much. In fact, its often more fruitful to read another philosopher's critique than trying to come up with yourown.
Essay: Descartes and his Meditations on First Philosophy
The book was added on the recommendation of William Molyneux, founder of the Dublin Philosophical Society and first translator of Descartes’ into English. In 1692 Molyneux made a flattering reference to Locke in the dedication of his own book, the . He sent a copy to Locke, sparking a correspondence that only ended when Molyneux died. Molyneux was immortalised on a later edition of Locke’s Essay as the creator of Molyneux’s Problem.
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