[Philosophy 100] Descartes' Meditations (Meditations 5 and 6)

  • February 7, 2013 · 7:00 PM

The third meeting will cover the last two Meditations
- Meditation V: of the essence of material things, and again of God, that he exists
- Meditation VI: of the existence of material things, and the real distinction between man's mind and his body

The presenter will be: (no presenter ID'd for this meeting)

A synopsis of the text is available from Wikipeadia at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditations_on_First_Philosophy

The text itself is available from the Gutenberg Archive at:
http://www.archive.org/details/discourseonmet00desc

or here:
http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/descartes/meditations/Meditation5.htm

A note on our methodology.
READING: We don't tackle the full text in one sitting. We read smaller pieces of the text so we may have more detailed and (hopefully) rewarding discussion at the meetings. We will follow natural breaks in the texts and try to ensure no text takes longer than three months to read in full.

PRESENTATION: One member of the group will be responsible for presenting the reading at each meeting. The presenter should come prepared, preferably with notes to share with the other members of the group. Presentation is voluntary and really just ensures that at least ONE member of the group has actually read the assignment critically. Presenters are decided at the previous meeting and it is entirely voluntary (i.e. no one will force you to present).

SCHEDULE: We will try to schedule our meetings twice a month; on the first and third Thursday.

SECONDARY/SUPPLEMENT READING: We may - often - supplement the primary text with some secondary or supplemental reading to better understand/situate the text.

Other authors/works we intend to cover (in no particular order):

Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince"

John Locke,

David Hume, "A Treatise of Human Nature", and "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding"

Thomas Hobbes, "Leviathan"

Jean-Jacques Rousseau,

Plato, "Symposium", and"Republic"

Avicenna,

Aristotle,

Hegel, "Phenomenology of Spirit"

Kant, "Prolegomena"

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  • Mark

    Solid turnout of 8 people, continuing the trend of unpredictable turnouts. Almost none of us finished the readings, but some of us had read parts of the text as well as various secondary sources, and between us we managed to touch on the main gist of the last two meditations. I do, however, feel the discussion often got stalled in the debates over the nature of mathematics and geometry; and also that we never really delved into the 6th Meditation and its hugely influential (& debatable) conception of mind/body dualism. Just personally I think before we try and shoot down a writer or thinker it’s productive to first try to engage with what they were thinking and arguing on their own terms. On the whole, this was a memorable meet-up; thanks everyone for being there!!

    February 8, 2013

    • Joe G.

      I agree strongly on the last point. maybe we should have some sort of disclaimer sometimes. Too often, most of us, are trying to understand these work, by comparing it to present knowledge / understanding. its really more fun to be in their head, and trying to see what they see, and then attempting to understand why they see what they see. overall though, maybe its unfortunate that for the 5th / 6th meditation, no one really read both thoroughly, and that showed in the way we discuss both 5th and 6th. at the same time, i also agree that it would be unfair to expect Mischa and Mark to be presenting all the time. well, we shall see what happens next. but i think the key thing is - we have critical mass. i have clear and distinct perception that we are all thinking things. ^_^

      1 · February 8, 2013

  • Mischa B.

    Good. But I think we need to re-instate the presenter role.

    February 8, 2013

    • Mark

      I’m fine with what you said yesterday about alternating with you as the presenter if others aren’t confident enough to tackle the text. However, I won’t be presenting two in a row, because like you I’ve also got other stuff on my plate to attend to, and preparing a detailed presentation for Meditations 3 and 4 the last time already occupied a fair bit of my time. If in a particular fortnight it so happens nobody can afford the time and effort they’d need to tackle the text and prepare a presentation, or those who can afford it feel they lack the expertise to present, then I think we should accept that there’ll be no presenter for that particular meet-up, due to our individual contingencies.

      February 8, 2013

  • Alfred C.

    Oh and I wanted to ask, are we assuming that infinity exists, or can it be proven to exist?

    February 8, 2013

    • Mischa B.

      Good and difficult question.
      It raises a host of issues about 'existence' per se, as well; i.e. what would it mean for infinity to exist? Is the concept of infinity enough? It's interesting that Descartes himself toyed with the basic principles of what we now call Calculus (developed by Newton and Leibnitz much later) but did not pursue it because it involved infinity (an essence of Divinity).
      Certainly, we apply the idea of infinite limits in Calculus and the idea has its own mathematical fields. Cantor's work is famous for it's investigations into the 'properties' (for lack of a better word) of infinity. There's a good discussion of his work on wikipedia:
      http://en.wikipedia.o...­

      1 · February 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    haha late so missed most of it. but round two with Ang and Mark was good :-P

    why didnt the rest who went respond to the meetup? makes it hard to anticipate number of people.

    February 8, 2013

    • Alfred C.

      Had to give round 2 a miss due to the lateness of the hour. Do message me in future if any of you are able to come early for pre-discussions.

      My no. is[masked]

      February 8, 2013

  • Mischa B.

    I've posted the next meetup. Please sign-up so it goes live.
    http://www.meetup.com/hungryhundred/events/103606492/

    February 8, 2013

  • Alfred C.

    How do I identify the group?

    February 7, 2013

  • Mark

    I'll be in a dark purple t-shirt. The meet-up usually goes on until 9.30pm or so.

    February 7, 2013

    • Mischa B.

      I've arrived. white polo across from "the gourmet" sandwiches counter

      February 7, 2013

  • Mark changed the location to Han's

    February 6, 2013

  • Joe G.

    Regarding the ontological argument of God – is he saying - He has this idea of God as a really amazing infinite substance. However, since the cause must have more reality than the effect, the idea of God as an infinite substance cannot come from him (ie a finite substance). Hence, the idea of God must have been placed in him. Hence, God exists. Is that it ? or am I confusing myself ?

    January 27, 2013

    • Joe G.

      ah ok. i just read the 5th one. doesnt that sound like semantics ? isnt it just language games ? if a substance is conceptualize as "infinite", then the substance must exist. likewise, a square is only a square, cos we have defined the parameters as such. but ok i guess, he realizes his "clear and distinct" perceptions was a little dodgy, so he added in the "essence" to support his argument ?

      February 4, 2013

    • Mark

      Well... to be honest, I don't think it really has much to do with semantics. A word and a concept are two different things. He's not discussing this word "God", he's discussing the concept (or idea) which happens to be denotated by that word. If you choose to use the word "God" to refer to something else, like a bath towel, then you're no longer discussing the same thing as Descartes.

      And yes, if something is conceptualised as infinite, omnipotent and perfect, then Descartes argues it must also have the property of existence. But we can’t just loosely and arbitrarily conceptualise any random thing we like as ‘infinite, omnipotent and perfect’, otherwise those terms would end up losing their meanings. So... it’s not as if the parameters of any object can be arbitrarily set up however one likes.

      February 5, 2013

  • Thomas L

    A free online 7 week Intro to Philosophy course by Uni of Edinburgh:
    https://www.coursera.org/course/introphil

    1 · February 2, 2013

  • Mischa B.

    If anyone has a hard-copy of the book, I suggest they bring it to the meet-up; we can prop it up in the middle of whatever table we sit at so it's clear who we are.

    February 1, 2013

  • Lola L.

    Hi, I joined this group recently so I didn't have a chance to attend the previous sessions. May I still attend or have I missed out too much? I took a Philosophy elective so I have read Descartes' Meditations. :-)

    February 1, 2013

    • Mischa B.

      The more the merrier . . . come join in. I'd re-read the 5th and 6th Meditations though, they're not all that long.

      February 1, 2013

  • Mark

    On Descartes' mind-body distinction (6th Meditation):

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/descmind/

    On Descartes' ontological argument for God's existence (5th Meditation):

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ontological/

    SparksNotes on the Meditations: http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/meditations/

    February 1, 2013

    • Mischa B.

      The Plato site at Stanford is an EXCELLENT resource. I highly recommend.

      February 1, 2013

  • Joe G.

    lets drop the presenter thingy - unless ppl feel very strongly we should have one. it seems that most who turn up do the readings to some extent. i see this series of meetup as a tutorial of sort, where we get together and talk about the great works of all these philosophers. truly, its not much fun doing it alone. its nice we have ppl like Mischa and Mark who can guide the group based on their knowledge in the various field of philosophy. what do u ppl think ?

    January 26, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      i think we did fine the first time round when everyone aired their thoughts. mischa's presentation was useful though as it gave more structure to the discussion and added detailed background.

      January 26, 2013

  • Mark

    proof of god, mach 2.0

    January 22, 2013

5 went

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