Second meditation

7thOctober 2020

The nature of the human mind, and how it is better known than the body

Descartes’s synopsis:

In the Second Meditation, the mind uses its own freedom and supposes the non-existence of all the things about whose existence it can have even the slightest doubt; and in so doing the mind notices that it is impossible that it should not itself exist during this time. This exercise is also of the greatest benefit, since it enables the mind to distinguish without difficulty what belongs to itself, i.e. to an intellectual nature from what belongs to the body.


  1. Looking for the one knowledge which can be undoubtable (Searching for an Archimedean point)
  2. Elenctic demonstration: if I am deceived, I must exist
  3. Nevertheless, what is this “I”? Starting from what was believed before to be:
  4. I ama thing that thinks
  5. Trying to pinpoint a principle of demarcation between the thinking self and the actions of the man
  6. Empirical knowledge is “easier”: perceptions and corporeal entities seem to be much clearer than the innermost definition of self being
  7. The example of the piece of wax
  8. It’s not imagination but the intellect the one who grasps the essence of an external body whose empirical accidents change
  9. What I see is the object but it is the mind (intellect) which performs the association between being and body. We involuntarily judge an object to be something.
  10. Pointing the meditation towards the self: if I judge, if I think, I exist necessarily, independently of the authenticity of the senses
  11. I can now state thatbodies are not strictly perceived by the senses or the faculty of imagination but by the intellect alone

1. Searching for an Archimedean point

Proof of the principle of no contradiction, Aristotle points out that whoever wants to confute the principle of non-contradiction must accept it, since it’s the basis of any argument: something either is or is not, and cannot be both at the same time.

The deceiving God, which is an argument against the existence of other entities, is instead an argumentin supportof the existence of the self. It’s impossible to be deceived if not existing, no argument can question existence.

Elenchtic demonstration

From the Greekelenkhos, in Aristotelian Philosophy, a syllogism whose conclusion is refuted.
It’s impossible to be deceived if not existing: the argument of the deceiving God, instead of questioning an individual existence, proves one’s existence.

We can… demonstrate negatively even that this view is impossible, if our opponent will only say something; and if he says nothing, it is absurd to seek to give an account of our views to one who cannot give an account of anything, in so far as he cannot do so. For such a man, as such, is from the start no better than a vegetable…The starting-point for all such arguments is not the demand that our opponent shall say that something either is or is not(for this one might perhaps take to be a begging of the question), but that he shall say something which is significant both for himself and for another; for this is necessary, if he really is to say anything. For, if he means nothing, such a man will not be capable of reasoning, either with himself or with another. But if any one grants this, demonstration will be possible; for we shall already have something definite. … And again he who admits this has admitted that something is true apart from demonstration (so that not everything will be ‘so and not so’)

Aristotle,Metaphysics, bk 4, 4, 1006a 11-18

Only the subject can express this proposition. We now have amodel of knowledge, we got a paradigm to clearly understand.

Man isres cogitans: the I can exist without body and without senses, as long as it thinks.

Self perception comes from the interaction by the mind and the body.

The association between mind and body and the definition ofMind and conciousnessin Descartes.

Third Meditation



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