The University of Milan Descartes View on Nature of Consciousness Discussion

The University of Milan Descartes View on Nature of Consciousness Discussion

Question Description

View on Nature of Consciousness

1. In your own words, explain what you take to be Descartes’ view on the nature of consciousness.

2. What is Daniel Dennett’s critique of it? Do you find Dennett’s critique convincing? Why or why not?

Meditations 5 and 6

God’s Role in Knowledge
The ontological argument for the existence of God:
When I perceive an idea clearly and distinctly all that I think belongs to that idea really does
belong to it.
I see clearly and distinctly that existence is an essential attribute of God, since it is better to
exist than not to exist and God is perfect.
Therefore, existence really does belong to God, and hence, he exists.
Clear and distinct ideas are evidently true.
Without God this could only be guaranteed when I fix my attention on them.
And, I could still be tricked about thinking that I perceive certain ideas clearly and distinctly.
But, since God is not a deceiver, this is impossible. What I take to be true is not a trick.
All truth and certainty ultimately depends upon the existence of God.
Arguments for the Distinction Between Mind and Body
The argument from knowledge:
If I can clearly and distinctly perceive a distinction between one thing and another, it is true.
I am certain about my existence as a thinking thing. I am not certain about the existence of
There is a clear and distinct difference.
Therefore, the two are separate existents.
Argument from extension:
To be a thinking thing is to be a thing that does not have extension.
I have a clear and distinct idea of a body as an extended thing.
I perceive a clear and distinct difference between mind and body.
Therefore, the two are two separate existents.
Argument from divisibility:
Bodies are divisible by nature.
The mind is indivisible by nature.
I perceive a difference.
Therefore, the two are different.
I can think of myself without imagination and senses, but I cannot think of imagination and
sense with assigning them to a thing or body that thinks.
I can move, and movement is a power of extended things.
Therefore, I am not only a thinking thing. I must also have an extended body.
I have passive sense and an active faculty called mind. This active faculty allows me to create
ideas in my mind.
This power cannot only be in me because:
These ideas often come to me against my will.
Therefore, these ideas must originate in a source outside of my mind.
They must come from God or another extended body.
I have a tendency to want to assign the source of these ideas from objects in the world.
I am not deceived about this tendency, since God is not a deceiver.
Therefore, material objects outside of my mind exist.
Material objects exist, but, do our senses tell us the truth about what they are like?
The senses reveal information to us, but they do not tell us what objects actually are.
Ex: The sense tell us that fire is hot, but not what it is.
But, the intellect tells us about the size, shape, and volume of objects.

The intellect gives us a truer idea of what an object is.
The intellect reveals the primary qualities of an object: size, shape, volume.
The senses reveal the secondary qualities of an object: color, taste, texture, smell, and sound.
Think about the wax example…


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