Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason ... »


By Ren*escartes

Part. IIII.

I Know not whether I ought to entertain you with the first Meditations which I had there, for they are so Metaphysicall and so little common, that perhaps they will not be relished by all men: And yet that you may judge whether the foundations I have laid are firm enough, I find my self in a manner oblig’d to discourse them; I had long since observed that as for manners, it was somtimes necessary to follow those opinions which we know to be very uncertain, as much as if they were indubitable, as is beforesaid: But because that then I desired onely to intend the search of truth, I thought I ought to doe the contrary, and reject as absolutely false all wherein I could imagine the least doubt, to the end I might see if afterwards any thing might remain in my belief, not at all subject to doubt. Thus because our senses sometimes deceive us, I would suppose that there was nothing which was such as they represented it to us. And because there are men who mistake themselves in reasoning, even in the most simple matters of Geometry, and make therein Paralogismes, judging that I was as subject to fail as any other Man, I rejected as false all those reasons, which I had before taken for Demonstrations. And considering, that the same thoughts which we have waking, may also happen to us sleeping, when as not any one of them is true. I resolv’d to faign, that all those things which ever entred into my Minde, were no more true, then the illusions of my dreams. But presently after I observ’d, that whilst I would think that all was false, it must necessarily follow, that I who thought it, must be something. And perceiving that this Truth, I think, therefore, I am, was so firm and certain, that all the most extravagant suppositions of the Scepticks was not able to shake it, I judg’d that I might receive it without scruple for the first principle of the Philosophy I sought.

Examining carefully afterwards what I was; and seeing that I could suppose that I had no body, and that there was no World, nor any place where I was: but for all this, I could not feign that I was not; and that even contrary thereto, thinking to doubt the truth of other things, it most evidently and certainly followed, That I was: whereas, if I had ceas’d to think, although all the rest of what—ever I had imagined were true, I had no reason to beleeve that I had been. I knew then that I was a substance, whose whole essence or nature is, but to think, and who to be, hath need of no place, nor depends on any materiall thing. So that this Me, to wit, my Soul, by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the Body, and more easie to be known then it; and although that were not, it would not therefore cease to be what it is.

After this I considered in generall what is requisite in a Proposition to make it true and certain: for since I had found out one which I knew to be so, I thought I ought also to consider wherein that certainty consisted: and having observed, That there is nothing at all in this, I think, therefore I am, which assures me that I speak the truth, except this, that I see most cleerly, That to think, one must have a being; I judg’d that I might take for a generall rule, That those things which we conceive cleerly and distinctly, are all true; and that the onely difficulty is punctually to observe what those are which we distinctly conceive.

In pursuance whereof, reflecting on what I doubted, and that consequently my being was not perfect; for I clearly perceived, that it was a greater perfection to know, then to doubt, I advised in my self to seek from whence I had learnt to think on something which was more perfect then I; and I knew evidently that it must be of some nature which was indeed more perfect. As for what concerns the thoughts I had of divers other things without my self, as of heaven, earth, light, heat, and a thousand more, I was not so much troubled to know whence they came, for that I observed nothing in them which seemed to render them superiour to me; I might beleeve, that if they were true, they were dependancies from my nature, as far forth as it had any perfection; and if they were not, I made no accompt of them; that is to say, That they were in me, because I had something deficient. But it could not be the same with the Idea of a being more perfect then mine: For to esteem of it as of nothing, was a thing manifestly impossible. And because there is no lesse repugnancy that the more perfect should succeed from and depend upon the less perfect, then for something to proceed from nothing, I could no more hold it from my self: So as it followed, that it must have bin put into me by a Nature which was truly more perfect then I, and even which had in it all the perfections whereof I could have an Idea; to wit, (to explain my self in one word) God. Whereto I added, that since I knew some perfections which I had not, I was not the onely Being which had an existence, (I shall, under favour, use here freely the terms of the Schools) but that of necessity there must be some other more perfect whereon I depended, and from whom I had gotten all what I had: For had I been alone, and depending upon no other thing, so that I had had of my self all that little which I participated of a perfect Being, I might have had by the same reason from my self, all the remainder which I knew I wanted, and so have been my self infinite, eternall, immutable, all—knowing, almighty; and lastly, have had all those perfections which I have observed to be in God. For according to the way of reasoning I have now followed, to know the nature of God, as far as mine own was capable of it, I was onely to consider of those things of which I found an Idea in me, whether the possessing of them were a perfection or no; and I was sure, that any of those which had any imperfections were not in him, but that all others were. I saw that doubtfulness, inconstancy, sorrow and the like, could not be in him, seeing I could my self have wish’d to have been exempted from them. Besides this, I had the Ideas of divers sensible and corporeall things; for although I supposed that I doted, and that all that I saw or imagined was false; yet could I not deny but that these Ideas were truly in my thoughts. But because I had most evidently known in my self, That the understanding Nature is distinct from the corporeall, considering that all composition witnesseth a dependency, and that dependency is manifestly a defect, I thence judged that it could not be a perfection in God to be composed of those two Natures; and that by consequence he was not so composed. But that if there were any Bodies in the world, or els any intelligences, or other Natures which were not wholly perfect, their being must depend from his power in such a manner, that they could not subsist one moment without him.

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