Introduction to Philosophy: Meditations

  • October 26, 2013 · 4:00 PM

Descartes' Meditations is one of the classic philosophy texts, laying the foundations for subsequent inquiry of all kinds.

In this short book there are 6 Sections, of which Descates calls Meditations, each containing an argument that is increasingly more complex than the previous one. 

In each Meditation Descartes replies to the arguments each Meditation presents (written by himself), then moves on to the next one, presenting new challenges. 

In this meet we'll discuss about what these ideas, such as his famous Mind - Body dualism, entail and are so interesting about, and discuss them in general, as well as the possibilities they present. 

Note: The venue is tentative, and will most likely change to a more conducive place.

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  • Tim B.

    A good start. Descartes, as Aloysius said, is the best starting point for modern European/Western philosophy.
    My main question, hoping this will provoke comments, was: Descartes appears to show that the mind/soul exists before anything else; he later justifies a real world (using appearance backed by reason) and through a non-deceiving God. But what he really does is show that undoubtable statements can be made by a person about their mental state without reference to anything else. This does not entail the existence of a soul which is independent of matter-energy. It only appears to if you bring along an assumption (as he does) that mental states can exist independent of material ones. A self-verifying statement like "Cogito" is just a true statement; it doesn't carry any entailment about existence.

    October 27, 2013

    • Joe G.

      are u saying "Cogito" is the equivalent of "2+2=4" ? and ultimately, Descartes could only have concluded that "all that I can be sure of - is - I am a thinking thing", rather than to stretch from "Doubt" to "God" & "existence" ? I probably misunderstood Tim. hopefully others can help clarify too - thanks !

      October 27, 2013

  • Aloysius

    It was a good cosy meetup overall. We managed to cover the key ideas of the text and to probe further and relate it to other things, for example, to the question whether computers can have minds or consciousness, or whether thoughts can be separate from material reality (Dualism vs. Monism). These were all raised as a result to questioning about some of Descartes' presumptions.

    It was also agreed that for future meetups, there will be less focus on complete texts. Rather, we will be reading from excerpts, very short pieces of interesting, stimulating texts of philosophical value, and perhaps videos as well. *On a sidenote, it is not an expectation that everything posted online here in the group should be read. As long as there is understanding of the main pieces for the meetup, it shouldn't be a problem going w/o reading everything. Preferably however, those reading will help with self-understanding and learning. That is really the main purpose here! See you for the next meetup!

    1 · October 27, 2013

    • Joe G.

      thanks for that brief summary :) I think the meetup had a nice balance of ppl - ppl who majored in philosophy, ppl who are beginning to take an interest in philosophical ideas, and ppl who are wondering how philosophy is relevant to their lives. hence, the discussions were also free-flowing - sometimes, we talked about the text a bit, other times, we talked about how relevant it is, to us. abit of something for everyone. looking forward to the next one.

      October 27, 2013

  • Lim Joo C.

    it was an enjoyable and relaxing discussion. less daunting than I expect. I think I will get down to read the text.

    1 · October 26, 2013

  • Aloysius

    hi everyone, the meeting tomorrow is on. I have called the venue and the place will be available. See you there!

    October 25, 2013

    • Silvia

      Cool! Thank you.

      October 26, 2013

  • Aloysius

    Here's a pretty neat writeup on analytic philosophy, the strand of philosophy that is common in english speaking universities:

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

    October 11, 2013

  • Aloysius

    Hi everyone, I hope your reading is going well, and that you are making some progress, reading at least 2 or more of the meditations, if you have.

    I've uploaded 4 readings into the 'Files' section. 2 of which are brief accounts of Descartes' life. 1 is a brief summary of the God arguments, and the last is a clear, highly interesting exposition on the 'cogito', self, parts of the Meditations.

    Do have a look, and hope they are helpful!!

    October 4, 2013

  • Joe G.

    Hi Mark ! good to know u r still around :) in some ways, im glad there are several types of philosophy-related meetup groups. each will have its own audience. after the previous group ended, I was a little disappointed cos there was no other meetup groups that was serving the same function. I guess in some ways, we could have all taken ownership and gotten the next round started, but guess life took over. I hope ppl don't get too caught up in trying to make clever arguments to prove a point, although I understand the early philosophers were also trying to teach ppl the fine art of winning an argument.

    September 29, 2013

    • Joe G.

      im hoping to learn more about the thinking behind the various philosophers thru this meetup. I think in some ways, to me, philosophy traces the evolution of how ppl are trying to understand existence, & the human condition. and even today, I think the questions Descartes ask are still relevant - can we trust our senses ? is our rational mind more dependable ? im guessing some ppl here would have more knowledge in philosophy, compared to others. so look forward to learning from these seniors :)

      and yes, please, if u have friends interested in these sorta stuff, gather them here ! we don't need an assembly, but hopefully, we get some critical mass going. lol.

      September 29, 2013

  • Aloysius

    Oh one interesting task while you are reading the Meditations. Betrand Russell once said in his 'The Problems of Philosophy' that if you are reading Descartes for the first time, try to work out the arguments on your own first, and try to figure out what arguments he is making. For example, what reasons is he giving for saying what he says so, and what he concludes does he arrive at?

    The first time I read it I tried doing this and it was tough. For those very new to Philo itself I will post some short links to arguments and how to discover, deal with them in a post.

    September 29, 2013

    • Aloysius

      For instance, his arguments for the existence of God.

      September 29, 2013

  • Aloysius

    Hi all, thanks for letting me know! Actually I think I was in the other group as well, but only after it was defunct. I wanted to start a group that would follow closely the philosophy texts, and have expansive discussions move on from there. I hope you all join in and discuss actively! Later, I will post some reading guides and other secondary articles related to the Meditations, so that everyone can gain a wholesome, insightful, fruitful understanding which will lead to a more enriching, lively discussion. If you find any material, do post it here!

    Don't worry, I really have a good vibe about this group, and plan to make it a permanent fixture. I have many ideas about how to move it forward, such as having a Philo dinner later this year, presentations/lectures by outside philosophers (if I can get them!), other more casual events. But before all this happens I need your help to spread the word out to more people about this group!

    Keep reading, and see you all very soon!!!

    September 29, 2013

  • Mark

    I was also in the small group Joe mentioned. We did Descartes, a bit of Searle, and then presumably the organiser got busy and the group stopped meeting. This is my interpretive summary of Meditations 3 and 4 that I wrote up for the group:

    http://www.meetup.com/hungryhundred/messages/boards/thread/30547152

    The first two Meditations are accessible and neat, but to me the other four get rather tedious and tangled in their presentation and arguments. Maybe it was the translation...

    September 28, 2013

  • Joe G.

    Thanks for organizing ! :) I was in a previous group that did a similar thing. in fact, we went thru the same text - Descartes's meditations. we broke it up over a few sessions. it was usually a small group of ppl who attended. here is hoping this group survives beyond this text ! the group I was in - dissolved after the 6 days of meditations. lol. looking forward to catching u ppl :)

    September 15, 2013

  • Aloysius

    Hi all, here is the text of the entire book that you can download and read at your own time, free, by a well known translator and philosopher:

    http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/de.html

    Later on I will post some guides to help along with this book. The great thing about Descartes' is that his writing is so clean, neat and easily accessible. Do start ahead if you can!

    September 11, 2013

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