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Posted on May 4th, 2014, by

The purpose of Descartes’ Meditation 1 is to strip away all his knowledge about the world and to come to some the most stable and certain knowledge. The author starts with doubting everything that can be doubted. The first thing that he doubts is his senses. Then his speculations switch to the distinction between dream and waking experiences.

In Meditation 1 Descartes speculates about the difference and distinction between our dream-experiences and waking-experiences. He emphasizes that he often happens to think that he is awake while indeed he is in bed and is dreaming at that moment. He puts forward the idea that ”˜waking can never be distinguished from sleep’ (Descartes 14). Descartes states that when he dreaming he often perceives the things he sees in his dreams as real ones. Thus, no one is bale to distinguish dreaming from reality. It is only possible to suppose that you are awake as your senses are more distinct and your experiences are brighter. However, the author emphasizes that his senses often deceive him, so, there is no way to rely on our senses in distinguishing between dreaming-experiences and waking-experiences. He insists that if you can be once deceived by your sense then you can be deceived all the time. Descartes takes it as a reason for not trusting the senses at all. It should be noted that at that period senses were thought as the only true and reliable way of getting knowledge of the reality (Hatfield 109). The philosopher provides an argument that things we see in our dreams are formed on the basis of real things that we are able to perceive when we are awake. Thus, these things are real indeed. Things that we see in our dreams are painted images which represent combinations of real things or their elements. Descartes comes to the conclusion that we never know if we are dreaming or we are awake. The author states any experience that he has when he is awake can be seen when he is dreaming. Dreams may exactly reflect the reality.  It makes in even more difficult to speak about some signs that can help us to distinguish between dream and waking experiences. In Mediation 6 the author continues to speculate about the problem of distinction between dream and waking experiences. He states that he is able to have the same ideas when he is awake and when he is asleep (Hill 2).  According to Descartes, all the sciences that rely on distinct facts and certain composite things are doubtful. However, the sciences that deal with the simplest things such as arithmetic, geometry and others can be seen as indubitable (Descartes 15). This idea leads us to the conclusion that Descartes think that human intellect retains the ability to distinguish ”˜transparent truths’ which do not depend on our being asleep or awake (Hill 4). In Meditation 1 Descartes goes deeper in his reflections and puts forward the idea that if God had created him the way he could be sometimes deceived then he had no arguments to support the idea that he could not be deceived all the time. The author states that God had enough power to create him the way for him to be deceived all the time. It strengthens his arguments that dream and waking experiences cannot be distinguished. In case the statement about always deceiving God is true then there is actually no sense of distinguishing between dream-experiences and waking experiences.

The method Descartes applied in his Meditation 1 is called methodic doubt. In such a way he tries to build a reliable foundation for knowledge (Soccio 272). Doubt is used as a method of getting rid of old and bad opinions and statements about the world.  In Mediation 1 Descartes comes to doubting the existence of the external world. However, he also concludes about the existence of some things (arithmetic, geometry, colours perception etc.) which are undoubted and an individual cannot be deceived about.

According to Descartes, our senses and our intellect cannot help us to distinguish between our dream and waking experience. Thus, our senses cannot be the way of obtaining knowledge of the reality. As soon as a human realizes that he lives in two parallel worlds of dream and reality, he should realize that he is not able to make a distinction between them. Post-dreaming-doubt-experiences can be explained as our constant doubts about certain things based on the fact that we are not able to trust our senses and intellect in distinguishing between dream and reality. Thus, getting knowledge about something we are not able to trust this knowledge as we are not sure of being awake.

Post-dreaming-doubt-experiences in Mediation 1 are the ways of obtaining certain and stable knowledge and image of the reality. As those beliefs and statements which pass through these experiences and still remain true become undoubted for the author. Descartes’ idea of Post-dreaming-doubt-experiences in Mediation 1 actually represents a new and more reliable way of obtaining knowledge of the reality which is contrasted to senses as the primary method.

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