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Meditations on First Philosophy (1641)

by René Descartes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,289223,081 (3.45)9
This edition features reliable, accessible translations; useful editorial materials; and a straightforward presentation of the Objections and Replies, including the objections from Caterus, Arnauld, and Hobbes, accompanied by Descartes' replies, in their entirety. The letter serving as a reply to Gassendi--in which several of Descartes' associates present Gassendi's best arguments and Descartes' replies--conveys the highlights and important issues of their notoriously extended exchange. Roger Ariew's illuminating Introduction discusses the Meditations and the intellectual environment surrounding its reception.… (more)
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» See also 9 mentions

English (18)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Reading this gave me a perception that Descartes argument for the existence of God, or really anything past Meditation Two, is paper-thin.

And to anyone who disagrees, know that this perception of mine was clear & distinct, so therefore it must be true. ( )
  100sheets | Jun 7, 2021 |
Descartes' project is more usefully undetstood as a changing shift in philosophical method. ( )
  Neal_Anderson | Mar 21, 2021 |
My feelings about this book are a bit complicated.

Let's start with the broad positives:

First, there's the fact that Rene Descartes achieved something monumental in this work, specifically regarding probably the first conclusive metaphysical examination of apodictic recognition of self-existence that has survived the passage of time. His elaboration of the idea is, I believe, deeply underappreciated, particularly since the rise of popular postmodernist materialism and those who become its adherents only by way of faddish self-conscious image cultivation. The frequency with which I encounter supposedly astute intellectuals who miss the real significance of the Cartesian ontological self examination due to self-conscious philosophical jadedness is deeply dismaying. Rene Descartes has, in part through subsequent commentaries that improve the form of the argument buried in the rambling Meditations, provided a succinct and lucid foundation that impressively fortifies any philosophical reasoning that can benefit from it.

Second, this is a relatively well-structured presentation of the Meditations, plus selected Objections and Replies. The informative footnotes, integration of information from both Latin and French original editions, and cross-referencing footnotes are all helpfully presented for the sake of keeping track of, and understanding, the material. It offers essential context in a pair of introductory commentaries.

This is important work, and deserves attention and (in the case of Rene's enduring contribution) a better reputation from students and scholars of philosophy.

Now, the negatives:

The introductory commentaries seem written from the perspective of someone who assumes a certain amount of formal philosophical scholarship, so the target audience is clear. I believe they might be more helpful, as written, following the primary material rather than before it. Some amount of context establishment is important before diving into the Meditations themselves, but as written I think much of the significance of preceding analysis is lost by the time a first-time reader of the Meditations actually gets to the addressed sections of Rene's work.

The manner of labelling the selected Objections and Replies after the primary text is more difficult to follow than would be ideal. In particular, additional notes (presented with the Objection instead of solely in the introductory material at the beginning of the book) about who is behind each Objection could offer substantial improvement in readers' ability to understand the perspectives of the writers.

I would like to see a commentary on Meditations that addresses the particulars of the strength of each argument, for the sake of the introductory reader; this book does not offer that. There are deeply flawed arguments, genuinely important questions, and quite effective arguments against parts of Rene's elaborations in Meditations that arise, and among Rene's Replies I find a similarly wide range of positive and negative in the reasoning. One source of Objections in particular ranges between attacks on the Meditations that are petty and superficial at times, and those that are thoroughly well-reasoned at other times -- where Rene tends to handle the former acerbically and condescendingly but with excellent reasoning clarity, and tends to handle the latter acerbically and condescendingly without any meaningful substance to his arguments.

Finally, while the rigor of Rene's reasoning varies wildly after (very slowly) reaching the important apodictism of the Cogito (the famous "I think, therefore I am" statement, less succinct than that in Meditations), much of even the best reasoning to follow that is largely wasted except as a demonstration of the skill, because of intervening flaws in logic and unexamined assumptions.

Overall, the importance of Rene's contributions to metaphysical philosophy -- both in concrete foundations for later work and in methodological practice -- are monumental, and all too often overlooked for their value, but the "negatives" I mentioned above make reading this a less than ideal experience, at some times frustrating, at others tedious. An attentive and honest thinker who has not benefited from an illuminating encounter with Rene in the past can learn a lot from this work, and it is mercifully short for the sake of its shortcomings relative to a lot of the rest of my habitual reading. ( )
  apotheon | Dec 14, 2020 |
It rly makes u think...
  theodoram | Apr 7, 2020 |
Logical and critical, this book is a good primer for those interested in Descartes and further philosophy. I recommend it to those seeking knowledge, logic, and sagacity. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (48 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Descartes, Renéprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bennett, JonathanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blumbergs, IlmārsIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cottingham, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cress, Donald A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haldane, Elizabeth SandersonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lafleur, Laurence JulienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rītups, ArnisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soriano, MarcIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, Bernard Arthur OwenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have a very good reason for offering this book to you, and I am confident that you will have an equally good reason for giving it your protection once you understand the principle behind my undertaking; so much so, that my best way of commending it to you will be to tell you briefly of the goal which I shall be aiming at in the book.
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This edition features reliable, accessible translations; useful editorial materials; and a straightforward presentation of the Objections and Replies, including the objections from Caterus, Arnauld, and Hobbes, accompanied by Descartes' replies, in their entirety. The letter serving as a reply to Gassendi--in which several of Descartes' associates present Gassendi's best arguments and Descartes' replies--conveys the highlights and important issues of their notoriously extended exchange. Roger Ariew's illuminating Introduction discusses the Meditations and the intellectual environment surrounding its reception.

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