Michael Braverman portfolio / personal site

Three Descartes Meditations with Wine

Wine—just to get those Dionysian hints in the Apollonian, you know.

First Meditation (Evening I)

Descartes is right, it does seem like there is very little I can trust in my senses. The only real certainties that came to my mind were geometric and mathematical on. I thought of chemistry for a second, which I learned when I was in school, but even that knowledge is uncertain. These might be chimeras invented by the evil deceiver.

But another thing that begs my mind, why these ideas of triangles and mathematics, as certain as they are, were left out by Descartes when he listed what God has given Descartes and his cogito, leading Descartes to believe that he had no eyes, ears, hands, etc., but he specifically left out geometry (p.16-17) What if God deceives even me by making my cogito believe in geometry?

As I went to feed my cat which lives outdoors, who1 I haven’t fed for a day, a thought of care came to my mind where I thought of giving the cat some food, but then I justified it by thinking that I’m a Cartesian mind and everything else is a deception anyway. So I thought of the following:

What if Descartes sacrificed the Christian virtue of loving thy neighbor with a more solipsistic, egoistic mind-body dualist reality, but where at least the idea of God has been geometrically proven? Where I have no relation to other animals and natural things and deem them only as instruments, perhaps even some humans (not that I would’ve if was not under the influence of Descartes, let the moral standards settle, and let me let out the pure power of the mind and its force over the body). Isn’t this precisely what Nietzsche warned us against?

But this is what Descartes does to you, I was warned.

Ok, you know what, you got me on the geometry shit. Yeah, I’m in that “deep whirlpool” with you. Sure, fuck my senses for now and all my prior knowledge. Let’s move to the second one.

Second Meditation

My guy, that Archimedes metaphor is the best. He was searching for a point that is firm and immovable, lets continue and find yours.

Also this,

By body I mean everything that is capable of being bounded by some shape, of existing in a definite place, of filling a space in such a way as to exclude the presence of any other body within it. (P.26)

Bro, you definitely dippin’ that King’s crown into the bathtub—Eurikka! 2

The mind wander’s off from time to time since it enjoys wine, you know, but lets “slacken it reins as far as possible” my fellow, so we can conquer the body and “bring in more easily back to obedience”(p.30)! Hail mind-body dualism.

But jokes aside, there is something about the “clear and distinct” idea of the wax is (p.31). Indeed, what has been demonstrated, is that the mind does indeed grasp an idea of an object, whether this is a form or a concept remains to be further evaluated. But that one does not imagine the wax, but perceived the wax is a settled point, perhaps.

Third Meditations (Evening II)

Indeed, the certainty of me being and ‘thinking thing’ stands regardless of whether a God is a deceiver. The cogito is truly grounded and established, even if reality can be mediated and deceived by God. Even he deceives in me the geometric ideas that I think of (p.36), still, the cogito is simply is, but this cannot be a universal for all minds, but of the meditating mind that proclaims that it thinks and therefore is. Descartes can only be talked about from a first-person I: Even God is incapable of bringing about that I am nothing.

Claiming that God is a deceiver is a strong commitment to a metaphysical claim, therefore, this is task that the established cogito must direct itself towards it. God must be examined, since otherwise, I cannot proceed to investigate other certainties: “as long as I remain ignorant of this matter, I seem unable ever to be certain of any other at all” (p.36).

Since I’m a substance, and things around are a substance, these ideas are in me as result of the very fact that I’m a substance (p.45). But the idea of an infinite substance would not be in me if and infinite substance had not existed, therefore God exists. But my idea of the infinite comes from not its conception, but from the negation of the finite.

This can be explained perhaps by an example of a caveman who had always lived in a cave and never seen light. How can he have a conception of light if he had never seen it? Would he be able to simply ‘negate’ darkness and finally think of what light is—in the same way that the idea of God was obscurely brought to my mind? Well, no, because light is a quality of a substance, not exactly the same as the concept of infinity. The concept of God is “clear and distinct” and “contains more objective reality than any other”.

“I judge God to be the infinite in actuality in such as way that nothing can be added to his perfection”(p.48)—indeed, this already excludes the mathematical notation of ∞+1 where number can be added to infinity ad infinitum, in an infinite regress. In defense, Descartes states, “I cannot subtract anything from it, or add anything at all to it. It must therefore be that the idea is innate within me, in the same way as the idea of myself is innate within me” (p. 51). The definition of God already encompasses this notion in itself.

Knowledge is impossible without God for it will be only a mere accident without a being who know more than anything (p.48).

Ok, you know what, the Third Meditation is a big boy with a whole ontological proof that I need to dig out for an essay that I’m in the process of writing. This shit’s solid af.

  1. See, unlike Descartes, I unconsciously used the pronoun who, not what or it, etc. Don’t accuse me of thinking that animals are nothing but mechanistic automatons, despite the thought I’m about to entertain below. 

  2. I became really hesitant after realizing what I just typed, and the double (if not triple) meaning behind it; those are embracing Freud slips, what can I say. But as Levinas says, we must always strive to unsay the said.