Philosophy 202
Great Traditions of Western Thought
The Modern Period


Meditations 3 and 4

At this point in the Meditations, Descartes is in what has been called, "the ego-centric predicament", i.e., he knows that he exists and even what he is, but he does not know anything else. Descartes will now proceed to rebuild his knowledge of the world, step by step, rejecting any aspects of his previous beliefs that he not sees to be in error.

1. The first step in Descartes' program is to inspect the cogito in order to see if he can discover some principle of knowledge that he can follow. What principle does he find? How does it apply to the cogito?

2. Descartes goes on to prove that he has knowledge of God's existence. How does he prove God's existence? What principles does he need to employ in his proof? How does he justify them?

3. Once Descartes has proved that God exists, he confronts the question of why a beneficent God allows human beings to err. What is Descartes' answer to this question? (Note: the full answer to this will only be developed in the Sixth Meditation.)

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