This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Therefore, our mind is much more clearly and distinctly known to us than our body. General Outline of Meditations 3, 4, 5 I. Meditation Three: Descartes proves God's existence and that He is not a deceiver, thereby allowing us to be sure that we are not deceived when we perceive things clearly and distinctly. A. Summary of things of which I am certain and those which I still must doubt. 1. I am certain that I exist as a thinking thing. 2. I must still doubt both my senses and my intuitions concerning mathematical knowledge since God may have constituted me so as to be deceived even about those things I seem most certain. Therefore, in order to become certain of anything else I must inquire into the existence of God and see whether He can be regarded as a deceiver. B. Preliminary Discussion of Ideas 1. I have ideas that are like images of things. The most common cause of error is the judgment that these ideas are similar to things that exist outside of me. 2. There are three possible types of ideas: innate, those that originate in myself, and those that originate from something outside of me. We shall be most interested in the latter group. 3. Even though some ideas of apparent external objects come to me against my will, I cannot regard them as corresponding to external things. This is because: a. I may have some faculty which produces these ideas. b. Even if they come from outside me, I have no guarantee that they are similar to their causes. Therefore, the principle upon which I have judged my ideas to be similar to external objects seems to be mistaken. C. The argument for the existence of God from the fact that I have an idea of Him. 1. Besides its formal reality, which accounts for its mere existence as an idea, every idea also has objective reality according to the reality of the thing which it represents, or its object. 2. There must be as much reality in the cause as there is in the effect. This applies to objective reality as well as formal reality. 3. I need not assume a cause greater than myself for any of my ideas of corporeal substance nor of other people or angels. 4. I have an idea of a perfect God, and this idea has more objective reality than any idea of a finite substance. 5. The idea of God could not have originated in me, since I am a finite substance. Therefore, God must exist as the only possible cause of the objective reality found in my idea of Him. D. Objections to the argument and replies. 1. Perhaps our idea of God is gotten from a negation of our limited properties. Reply - We must have an idea of perfection before we can have an idea of limitation. 2. Perhaps the idea of God is materially false. Reply - The idea of God is the most clear and distinct of our ideas. 3. Perhaps I am more perfect than I think and contain the perfections I attribute to my idea of God potentially. Reply - Potential reality is not enough to cause the objective reality of my idea, and I will never have the actual perfection needed since I am a finite being, always capable of improving E. The argument from my existence: It can also be argued that a cause more perfect than myself must be assumed to explain my coming into being and my continued existence. This cause must be God. F. Objections to the argument from my existence. 1. Why must this more perfect being who is the cause of my idea of God and of my existence be taken to be God? Reply - Any finite cause must itself be caused by something else and the regress must end a some point with an infinite or perfect cause. 2. Why cannot there be several partial causes for my existence? Reply - Unity is one of the main perfections in my idea of God; this must have been caused by a unified being. G. God cannot be seen as a deceiver, since He is perfect and deception depends upon some defect. II. Meditation Four: Descartes explains the possibility of error. A. I know that God is not a deceiver and that God also created me along with all my capacities. I also know that I am often in error. This error cannot be due to the correct operation of any faculty which God has created in me, for this would make God a deceiver. I must inquire, therefore, into how it is possible that I can err even though I am the product of a benevolent God. B. Error is due to the concurrent operation of the will and the intellect. No error is found in the intellect. Error consists in the will, in its judgments, going beyond what the intellect clearly and distinctly perceives to be the case.
Descartes's Arguments for Universal Doubt and the "Cogito" Argument (An Outline of Meditations 1,2) The argument for universal doubt: A. The dream argument: 1. I often have perceptions very much like the ones I usually have in sensation while I am dreaming. 2. There are no definite signs to distinguish dream experience from waking experience. therefore, 3. It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false B. Objection to the dream argument: 1. It could be argued that the images we form in dreams can only be composed of bits and pieces of real experience combined in novel ways. therefore, 2. Although we have reason to doubt the surface perceptual qualities of our perception, we have no reason to doubt the properties that we perceive the basic components of our experience to have. (In particular, there is no reason to doubt the mathematical properties that material bodies in general have.) C. The deceiving God argument: 1. We believe that there is an all powerful God who has created us and who is all powerful. 2. He has i in his power to make us be deceived even about matters of mathematical knowledge which we seem to see clearly. therefore, 3. It is possible that we are deceived even in our mathematical knowledge of the basic structure of the world. D. Objections to the deceiving God argument: 1. We think that God is perfectly good and would not deceive us. 2. Some think that there does not exist such a powerful God. E. Replies: 1. If it were repugnant to God's nature to deceive us, he would not allow us to be deceived at all. 2. If there is no God, we must assume the author of our being to be even less perfect, so that we have even more reason to doubt all our beliefs. F. The demon argument: 1. Instead of assuming that God is the source of our deceptions, we will assume that there exists an evil demon, who is capable of deceiving us in the same way we supposed God to be able Therefore, I have reason to doubt the totality of what my senses tell me as well as the mathematical knowledge that it seems I have. The Argument for our Existence (the "Cogito"): 1. Even if we assume that there is a deceiver, from the very fact that I am deceived it follows that I exist. 2. In general it will follow from any state of thinking (e.g., imagining, sensing, feeling, reasoning) that I exist. While I can be deceived about the objective content of any thought, I cannot be deceived about the fact that I exist and that I seem to perceive objects with certain characteristics. 3. Since I only can be certain of the existence of myself insofar as I am thinking, I have knowledge of my existence only as a thinking thing (res cogitans). The Argument that the Mind is More Certainly known than the Body: 1. It is possible that all knowledge of external objects, including my body, could be false as the result of the actions of an evil demon. It is not, however, possible that I could be deceived about my existence or my nature as a thinking thing. 2. a. Even Corporeal objects, such as my body, are known much more distinctly through the mind than through the body. The wax argument for (2a): i. All the properties of the piece of wax that we perceive with the senses change as the wax melts. ii. This is true as well of its primary properties, such as shape, extension, and size. iii. Yet the wax remains the same piece of wax as it melts. therefore, iv. Insofar as we know the wax, we know through our mind and faculty of judgment, not through our senses or imagination b. Therefore, every act of clear and distinct knowledge of corporeal matter also provides even more certain evidence for the existence and nature of ourselves as thinking things.
but movement is a power only of extended things Therefore. 2. Feelings of pain and pleasure are confused modes of perception arising out of my union with the body. 1.C. No intellection is required for this active sensing. however. It may be possible that I am dreaming. 4. The senses tell us only what is necessary for the welfare of the composite of mind and body. 3. something already within me. I am a thing that thinks and not an extended thing. 2. I am certain that I exist as a thinking thing. 4. In imagination the mind turns toward the body. These objects. A. all that I perceive clearly and distinctly as pertaining to that thing really does pertain to it. The argument from knowledge. Meditation Five: Descartes considers what properties we can know to belong to the essence of material things and also considers another way of proving God's existence by considering what properties we can know to belong to God's essence. 2. Neither do these ideas come to me through the senses: I can form an idea that it is impossible to imagine or sense (such as the thousand sided figure mentioned in Meditation Six) and demonstrate many necessary truths concerning its nature. 9. Therefore. 3. I can understand myself without imagination and sense. C. The Ontological Argument for God's existence. But this is an absurdity. 7. Introduction to the problem of the existence of material things. Reply . There may be some unknown faculty in me that produces these ideas in me even against my will. 2. God is no deceiver. 2. The argument that material objects exist. position. I not only have the power of passive sense. These ideas appeared against my will. the chiligon. or whether there exists any object that corresponds to these ideas. God cannot be blamed for giving us a free or unlimited will which it is possible for us to abuse and thereby fall into error. Mind. B. Reply . B. When I discover particular things about these properties. c.It is impossible in conceiving a supreme being to avoid attributing all perfections to Him. We cannot yet say certainly that a body exists. The relation of Mind and Body. The senses often show things to me about objects hat I know cannot be true. III. 1. including existence. 2. b. For example. The way to avoid error is to refrain from judgment until our intellect sees the truth clearly and distinctly. 6. Therefore. b. but not in objects external to me. This substance must be either God or an external extended body. Therefore. For example.It is the necessity of God's existence that imposes the necessity on our thought. I intuit that thing as present to my mind. Therefore. size. With respect to the essences of things the senses are confused. C. 4. It at least seems to me that I also have an extended body. It does not matter if we are in fact dreaming. but we must now see how we can be certain of this. The poison objection: It would seem that it some cases our senses do not tell us what is best for the welfare of our body. E. Therefore. c. This substance much have as much reality as the objective reality of the ideas it produces. In thought the mind turns on its own ideas. I can think of this even though I cannot form an image of it. They are more vivid than those ideas I imagine. of examining the contents of my mind. the power of originating ideas within my mind. 10. D. 8. what our intellect tells us is wholly true. Material objects exist. then God must be a deceiver. we cannot be deceived as long as we assent only to what we see clearly and distinctly. 3. 1. The distinction of mind and body. The evidence for the existence of corporeal things from the senses. 1. People sometimes fell pain in limbs that have been amputated. the truth and certainty of every science depends upon the knowledge of God. or an ill person may desire something injurious to her. Even though we naturally take those things we perceive clearly and distinctly to be true. 1. hence. 2 . All of the ideas that I form through imagination are composed out of components that come from the senses. II. still our thought does not make him exist. These ideas come to me by active sense against my will. The faculty of Imagination is not essential to me. God exists. Summary of old beliefs that I got from the senses: all of my impressions of the secondary properties of objects. I am not only a thinking thing. Therefore. 1. since I clearly and distinctly perceive the mathematical primary properties of corporeal objects. Therefore. 3. In all other cases we separate existence from essence. The argument from extension. and movement. Movement is a power of mine. Descartes goes on to consider whether our senses tell us the truth about them. When I examine those ideas of corporeal objects that are distinct and not confused. My mind is distinct from my body. D. I may be constituted by nature so as to be deceived about things I think I see clearly. I understand clearly and distinctly that necessary existence belongs to the essence of God. Therefore. A. many poisons seem attractive to the senses. but this is only a probability. It seems that although I am essentially a thinking thing. may not be as they seem to us through the senses. Reasons for doubting that these things show that material objects exist. 2. Synoptic Outline of Meditation Six On the Distinction of Mind and Body and the Existence of Material Objects I. Nothing is in the imagination that was not first in the senses. existence really does belong to the essence of God and. so the feeling of pain in our body gives no evidence for its existence. we must investigate this faculty. I know that material objects exist insofar as they are objects of pure mathematics. Granted that we cannot think of God except as existing. Having established the existence of external objects.It is impossible to conceive a perfect being as lacking a perfection. existence. not the composite of mind and body is capable of knowing truth. D. if I were ignorant of God I could still find reason to doubt these things once my attention was not fixed firmly on their demonstration. V. E. The role of God in making knowledge possible. 1. while it does not seem to be for Thought. but I also have active sense. 5. 5. I have a distinct idea of body as an extended thing. The distinction between Imagination and Intellect. It also seems that my imagination gives me evidence of the existence of external objects. Therefore. I find that these are properties concerned with extension and duration: length. 4. but I cannot understand imagination and sense without attributing them to a thing that thinks. My mind is distinct from my body. B. 3. III. a. a. Imagination is thus distinct from thought since I can think of things without intuiting them as present. A. A. shape. I am intimately joined with my body. b. I can exist without this faculty. D. Effort is required for imagination. a tower in the distance seems round when in fact it is square. 3. 2. We have many ideas from sense. 11. A. 1. If I clearly and distinctly understand one thing as distinct from another it is so. A. B. C. F. An example is a thousand sided figure. Objections to the argument. We have as a general principle that when I consider an idea. Once we are aware of God's existence and that he cannot have made us so as to be deceived about what we see clearly and distinctly. C. We need not assume that God has all perfections. I am not the source of these ideas: they have their own immutable natures which would be the same whether or not I existed. I am a thinking thing and nothing else. In particular I might think that I was constituted so as to be deceived about things that I believe I see quite evidently. When I imagine something. This faculty of active sense cannot be within me for two reasons: a. Therefore. The argument for the distinction of mind and body and the existence of material objects. it seems as if I am recalling something I already knew. B. B. If they do not come from external objects. not the other way around. breadth. C. He created me and gave me a great inclination to believe that these ideas come from corporeal things. Reasons for thinking that these showed the existence of objects. Reply . This faculty is in a substance other than myself. The imagination seems to require the existence of the body. 3. while I am not certain of the existence of my body. depth. I sense pain and pleasure in my body. but our nature does not teach us to conclude anything from these unless there is an inquiry by the intellect. Although they seem to be already in me. IV.
from Descartes. Cogito. Mind and Body are distinct.´ Hence. even if I am being deceived by an evil demon. cold. Now. innate ideas are placed in the mind by God at creation. Geometrical ideas are paradigm examples of innate ideas. Descartes distinguishes intellectual perception and volition as what properly belongs to the nature of the mind alone while imagination and sensation are. no matter how hard one tries. it is possible to be deceived by a cause of a disturbance in our animal spirits within our body rather than outside it. Hence the mind is an immaterial thinking substance. while body is divisible. and. namely an ³I. therefore I am. VII. since extension is the nature of body. Fabricated ideas are mere inventions of the mind. We can return all those beliefs which we formerly took as doubtful. Thus God cannot be blamed for this arrangement. is unwilling. Is God. in order to exist. So. Even though this is the best possible arrangement to protect our body. But does the supposed falsehood of this belief mean that I do not exist? No. So imagination and sensation are faculties of the mind in a weaker sense than intellect and will. adventitious. All sensory beliefs had been found doubtful in the previous meditation. Descartes continues on to distinguish three kinds of ideas at the beginning of the Third Meditation. so all signals from the body must travel up into the brain.´ These Meditations are conducted from the first person perspective. Descartes claims that the mind or ³I´ is a non-extended thing. therefore. E. and also imagines and has sense perceptions´ (AT VII 28: CSM II 19). in the Sixth Meditation. For example. nothing except God¶s concurrence. in addition to God¶s concurrence. 4. part I. Being aware of this arrangement. or innate. the mind can control them so that they can be examined and set aside at will and their internal content can be changed. This just means that the mere fact that I am thinking. I must exist in order to be deceived at all. and the idea of discarding the traditional Scholastic-Aristotelian concept of a human being as God. and therefore all such beliefs are now considered false. ³What am I?´ After like ³what is done cannot be undone. this applies only to God a. Adventitious ideas are sensations produced by some material thing existing externally to the mind. for example. This is especially important in the Second Meditation where the intuitively grasped truth of ³I exist´ occurs. The Nature of the Mind and its Ideas internal content cannot be manipulated so as to cease being the idea of a threesided figure. adventitious ideas cannot be examined and set aside at will nor can their internal content be manipulated by the mind. Minds are substances in that they require In the Second Meditation. The Mind It is also important to notice that the mind is a substance and the modes of a thinking substance are its ideas. D. then surely there must be an ³I´ that was convinced. C. Finally. Finally. while disposing of those which led us astray. But ideas are ³modes´ or ³ways´ of thinking. ideas require. a rational animal due to the inherent difficulties of defining ³rational´ and 3 . it follows that the mind is by its nature not a body but an immaterial thing. to blame for giving us sensory faculties that sometimes lead us into harm? A. regardless of whether or not what I am thinking is true or false. sections 51 & 52). part I. Thus we can get signals in the brain that do not originate in our senses. in some sense. These ideas can be examined and set aside at will but their internal content cannot be manipulated. implies that there must be something engaged in that activity. For example. therefore. ergo sum or ³I think. for if I convinced myself that my beliefs are false. understands. Moreover. unlike fabrications. µI am. B. I can use memory and intellect to avoid error by restricting my judgment to those things I perceive clearly and distinctly. denies.VI. absolutely certain belief that serves as an axiom from which other.¶ is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind´ (AT VII 25: CSM II 16-17). ³I exist´ is an indubitable and. Therefore. the idea of a triangle can be examined and set aside at will. But. namely those that are fabricated. ergo sum whose existence is his essence. what I am is an immaterial thinking thing with the faculties of intellect and will. modes are not substances. but its b. affirms. This can be seen by noting that mind is indivisible.¶ However. if someone is standing next to a fire. faculties of the mind insofar as it is united with a body. So ³I must finally conclude that the proposition. Descartes tries to establish absolute certainty in his famous reasoning: Cogito. This includes the belief that I have a body endowed with sense organs. For Descartes a substance is a thing requiring nothing else in order to exist. since they must be the ideas of some mind or other. she cannot help but feel the heat as heat. he expects his reader to meditate along with him to see how his conclusions were reached.´ the idea of the mind. some created thinking substance in order to exist (see Principles of Philosophy. so the system is like a cord running to the brain which can be pulled at any point along its length. absolutely certain truths can be deduced. is willing. She cannot set aside the sensory idea of heat by merely willing it as we can do with our idea of Santa Claus. ³animal. The body is like a machine. therefore. So the discussion here of this truth will take place from the first person or ³I´ perspective. but the term ³substance´ can be applied to creatures in a qualified sense. sections 32 and 48. but which we perceive as doing so. Strictly speaking. She also cannot change its internal content so as to feel something other than heat±say. Accordingly. Mind is affected only by the brain. Other examples of innate ideas would be metaphysical principles The Second Meditation continues with Descartes asking. since they require a body in order to perform their functions. while its ideas are its modes or ways of thinking. Signals travel to the brain from the periphery of our body by means of animal spirits.¶ µI exist. is a necessary feature of body.´ he finally concludes that he is a thinking thing. Therefore. a mind: ³A thing that doubts. In the Principles.
The thinking and acting human subject represents. Blondel argues that this is the Christian God. but that it requires the succor. as those of German Idealism do. the immanent order. but only a being to which all other beings are placed into relation. teleological draw. In terms of this article. every sensation is. Only a greatly adumbrated account can be given here of these five volumes of work. which is not perceivable by the senses but by the mind alone. spirit. Instead. Here. reduce the spiritual to the human. The shape and size of the wax are modes of this extension and can. this is also supposed to show that what is unchangeable in the wax is its extension in length. despite these changes in what the senses perceive of the wax. In L¶être et les êtres. Descartes pauses from his methodological doubt to examine a particular piece of wax fresh from the honeycomb: It has not yet quite lost the taste of the honey. By treating 4 . Second. in some sense. But the extension constituting this wax remains the same and permits the judgment that the body with the modes existing in it after being moved by the fire is the same body as before even though all of its sensible qualities have changed. or an aid to. are better sources of knowledge than extended things. as a consequence. and that the Christian God. merely immanent structures of phenomena. and the constant determination of beings. form a cohesive whole. One final lesson is that Descartes is attempting to wean his reader from reliance on sense images as a source for. Any other ontology. this time as a moment in a much more explicitly worked out metaphysical trilogy. In La Pensée. between Heidegger¶s insistences throughout his works that the question of Being has been reduced in each historical epoch to questions about beings. given this formulation. for the observer. however. Blondel returned to the themes of L¶action (1893). Accordingly. and to discover within it. people should become accustomed to thinking without images in order to clearly understand things not readily or accurately represented by them. In effect. a common occurrence in Modernity. in particular those of various forms of idealism. L¶être et les êtres in 1935. First. he evades some of the difficulties that arise by placing action as the primary category. but perhaps the key points can be made evident. like the first L¶action. God and the mind. and the action that produces this is always insufficient. but also a more systematic structure of the problems. an act that covertly places the willing subject and its experiences as the center and ground of all other than itself. Based on this principle. Blondel elaborates a dialectic of the supernatural that does not. however. this requires a presentation that departs from Blondel¶s explicit structuring of the works and instead places the key points in relation to each other synthetically. Blondel¶s analyses both radically depart from Heidegger¶s claim that all valuation is simply illegitimate projection onto Being on the part of the subject. this takes place in terms of intelligibility . it retains some of the scent of flowers from which it was gathered. However. the color changes. these cannot be strictly separated from each other by a concept of ³ontological difference´ as Heidegger claims. a mental mode. is more than simply a theory about the structure of and essence of beings. 5. This has. thought that has not been thought by any human thinker. rounded out by his more properly theological works. however. the being that supports this. but nonetheless admits partially of being brought to intelligibility in a mediated fashion by human thinkers. it must be figured. such a position inevitably requires dismissing or reducing to another domain central phenomena of human historical existence. something that does not change must have been perceived in the wax. cold and can be handled without difficulty. the shape is lost. smell. and so forth. the mind is better known than the body. all sensation involves some sort of judgment. At the same time. the clearer is our knowledge of that substance´ (AT VIIIA 8: CSM I 196).. for example. This intelligible structure of phenomena does not remain. but let¶s consider his claim that the mind is better known than the body. Blondel denounces various forms of what he calls ³ontologisme´. Nor does the thinking subject alone supply the determination to the reason and order it finds in the cosmos it explores. a dialectic between nature. So. Blondel outlines a doctrine of ³unthought thought´. immaterial. or ³cosmic´ thought. but rather an insufficient acting and thinking being whose action has its intelligibility and whose thought has its power of action only partly on its own basis. The point is that the senses perceive certain qualities of the wax like its hardness. but related. its color shape and size are plain to see. works. and a new version of L¶action (2 vol) in 1936 and 1937. In order to preserve and do justice to both the mysteriousness of Being. however. nor simply a function or product of being or previous human thought. therefore. the same problematic is approached in ontological terms. and ³the more attributes [that is. as in a dialectic of spirit. from the human side. modes] we discover in the same thing or substance. It is for these reasons that the concept of created being is taken by Blondel to be the only truly coherent and consistent one. The central problem with such a position is not. it is also an act of the willing subject.) in 1934 and 1935. breadth and depth. in the end. the effect of arguing against the privileging of epistemology over a metaphysics of the knowing and acting subject. a form of self-idolatry. because it has ideas about both extended and mental things and not just of extended things. ontologies that falsely hypostatize or reify some aspect of being as the ground or essence of all other beings and of Being itself. if you rap it with your knuckle it makes a sound. It is only through a study of being that acknowledges the insufficiency but also the capacity of the creature to know creation and the Creator that the being of the human person can be properly grasped. a dialectic of nature to be discovered and participated within. (AT VII 30: CSM II 20) the categories of thought and being rigorously in two separate. but that it betrays itself and its self-imposed philosophical task. change. but also between beings and Being. determination and solidarity not only between beings and other beings. therefore. and assistance of a greater Being. ³Look: the residual taste is eliminated. and God. it is still judged to be the same wax now as before. In La Pensée. Rather than Being having to be unfigurable. as concept in a philosophicaltheological system (for instance that of Thomas) does not address Being. the ³uniquely necessary´. the size increases. nor simply a greater contact with and comparison to the thoughts of other philosophers. and so it has discovered more modes in itself than in bodily substances. ultimately through the notion of created being. meaning not that it necessarily fails. The later works reflect not only a deepened philosophical conception of the problems Blondel grapples with. To warrant this judgment. all of these sensible qualities change. simply that it is idolatrous. There are striking similarities. it becomes liquid and hot´ (AT VII 30: CSM II 20). which is. the thought of this. there is an exigency within our very relation to Being that requires us to give it. the order of transcendence. The various studies. This reasoning establishes at least three important points. Blondel¶s Metaphysical Trilogy In his later years. and All of them culminate. As he noted in La Pensée and comes to note in both L¶action (1893) and the later L¶action. L¶esprit chrétien and Les exigences philosophiques de chrétienité. knowledge. as it is moved closer to the fire. it is hard. in considerations of the ³option´ and in the relationship to God. which is a mental mode. and in terms of the relationship of the subject to two constituitive types of thought.Descartes¶ idea of God will be discussed momentarily. according to Descartes. But. not the ground of being and thought. La Pensée (2 vol. the smell goes away. which is a dialectic unfinished but not undetermined from the perspective of the human agent. This is the main point of the wax example found in the Second Meditation. mental things are better known and.
On the one hand. thought. and ultimately to God. . and which operate. as in Hegelian Aufhebung. irreducible to diaphanous unity. an opacity. however. So. in its effort to know (connaître). matter is less a thing (chose) than the common condition of the resistances that all things (choses) oppose to us. so that. Here. like all the generations of nature. a recognition of what allows that to take place. the order of phenomena being investigated. and action was successively demonstrated.Materiality is the first level of being that Blondel turns his critical attention to. In his main works. Both of these require the mediation of the other. actually to idealized structures. and by the order of religion in relation ultimately to the Christian God. that penetrates to singularity. absolutely inscrutable. . however. It retains. in darkness and a kind of unconsciousness (Vol. a nature which. or rather of making the grounds of certain errors clear. Just as matter serves to separate them [beings] from Being in-itself . this revelation in turn must nourish reason itself. as well as idealism as reactions against the stultifying effects of materialism. it also permits a participation without possible confusion with it. but at the same time. On the other hand. Thought. which views matter as already inhabited by spirit. but not reduced to practical comportment. the areas where it no longer possess a full competence. first demonstrating that the subject cannot be reduced to any type or order of objectivity. is a very common prejudice of Modernity. having determined general characteristics of being. given the fact that human action and thought does in fact possess a limited sufficiency. including by other levels relatively transcendent to the level treated as transcendent in relation to the immanent order. Indicating the determination of the immanent by the transcendent does not mean referring the order of immanence simply to an order of transcendence or to a single transcendent moment. if it is truly an answer. prime matter is a mere conceptual necessity. a wall. of analysis and description. both thought and action are modes of being. Blondel develops dialectical treatments of a set of levels of the phenomena under investigation. thought that grasps the particular. to be entirely traversed. Thought provides coherent and reflective intelligibility to both being and action. sensation and intellection itself. 65) 6. This recognition. matter likewise does not simply provide the possibility of individuation and differentiation. to will. but also acting as a guiding function of both. namely that of matter. Blondel reiterates his argument made earlier in the article ³L¶illusion idéaliste´ that any form of materialism that takes matter as something absolutely self-sufficient. carried out rigorously and in as much self-honesty as possible. being. but also of the solidarity of phenomena. brought together in the work. All thought is a kind of action as well. to the relationship to the Absolute that is religion. and to perfect itself. Our thought assumes two forms. his concern is to take account of the role of matter. this insufficiency was always in relation to the Absolute. Rather. (EE 80) This thought finds itself split. . This requires that the point of view. which we cannot therefore define either in their separate being or in their conjunction. guided by the structure of mediation. one can attempt to grasp all beings. neither one of them could be completely separated from a general study of being. faced with an obstacle. but is rather conserved and affirmed as an integral part of the larger structure and order. limited by its insufficiencies to fully determine being or action. but the social order is itself mediated by larger social structures of shared history. in which the negation of the thesis. not an absolute insufficiency. the insufficiency of human thought requires that all thought must be placed in relation to. human being. and the task of the management of these introduces new possibilities of error. which views matter and spirit as completely separate. The other form is the pneumatique. First. This introduces two other exigencies. certainly. for Blondel. around which all else is organized. imposing strictures thereby upon what can be considered to be real. 2. and to be already implies. Moral action and speculative knowledge thereby both depend on the use to which the willing subject puts the two types of thought. world. rational thought has revealed exigences and aspirations to which a revelation must answer. neither one of them is simply reducible to a type of being. has been called the ³French Hegel´ and the ³Catholic Hegel´. not least because being material also means at the same time insufficiency and determination. again. senses itself everywhere. Philosophy. not allowing itself to be dominated by either type while it relies upon them for determination of the relationships to self. that grasps universally and abstractly. one of the human relation to self. action. a being of reason. since it hypostatizes a concept. but at all levels of being. To begin with. Jean Lacroix provides an excellent summation of this: On the one hand. without. it is thought that seems to be contained in organized matter. and simply assumes the reducibility of all phenomena to arrangements of matter. and a limited substantiality and consistency. simply recognized as insufficient to itself and as mediated by the transcendent order. neither self-sufficient in isolation nor directly connected. not just for the human. one would have at the same time defined and determined all characteristics of thought and action. At the same time. whether it be of . Le sens chrétien and De l¶assimilation. The metaphysical trilogy is rounded out by the partially unfinished theological work. is not determined by an univocal or single grounding kind of thought. . the social order is transcendent to the order of individual subjects. is analogous to Hegel¶s determinate negation. to act. 41) Blondel calls one of these forms noétique. by which the order of immanence is mediated by the entire structure of the transcendent. even those of different orders. At the same time. towards which all the texts of the trilogy lead. For instance. For Thomas. of the need for transcendence in order for the immanent phenomena to possess their meaning and being. and. emerges from the historical working-out of the truth and meaning of the thesis. but rather means uncovering structures of mediation. but. the type of thought that unifies. must magnify it in some way and enable it to develop in a way that it could not have done on its own. the recognition of such insufficiency also requires. (EE. The analyses of the previous works lead to the point where the insufficiency of solely human thought. He treats the level of the acting subject early on in each of his works. but which never allows itself to be entirely suppressed. Exigences philosophiques du christianisme). which provides the possibility not only for passion and duration. On the other hand. (Maurice Blondel: An Introduction to the Man and his Philosophy. be shifted from the immanent order to the transcendent. This means that the immanent order. and dialectical materialism. The similarities to the Hegelian use of the dialectic lie in Blondel¶s attention to structures of mediation and the role of determinate negation. Second. thought and action primarily through the medium of abstraction. on the other hand. being requires for its part activity as well as duration and determination. . ends up revealing its own limitations. thought being reducible to action. and mediates them in relation to each other and in the relation of the subject to itself. p. the antithesis. our spiritual nature cannot be extricated absolutely from our matter. L¶esprit chrétien (completed by the two studies. because of the systematicity of his work. If we have to speak according to sensible appearances and according to the common imagination. Quite to the contrary. Blondel¶s Methodology Blondel. errors which correctly recognize part of the being that they misunderstand. it is matter that is comprised between two very real faces of imperfect thought. and action possess determinacy. being and action are not three separate categories that could be schematically or deductively arranged apart from one another. of a thought that. his account bears similarities to both the Thomistico-Aristotelean and the Marxist accounts of matter. The exigencies that these two forms of thought necessary for human being and action impose are irreconcilable in any absolute sense for a human being. Blondel does not aim to simply replace the concept of matter with that of thought and generate a new idealist system. For Blondel. not. the other of the human relation to God. treating it 5 . beginning from the requirements imposed by the subject matter itself. Marx makes a distinction between vulgar materialism. from within the process of investigation of the immanent order. namely the supernatural order. one can go to the other extreme and privilege something particular or singular as the sole reality. is not reduced to or nullified by the transcendent now under investigation. and thereby taken into consideration. It is through a full investigation of the immanent order. primarily because materialisms of various sorts. . but also for action. as the ground of which all determinate things are made is actually a covert form of idealism. a capacity for self-determination. a role in relation to the Absolute. and ultimately the creative and loving action of God. and that we ourselves oppose to ourselves.78) Our material nature and the material nature of other beings we are in relation reflects our nature as thinking beings. in particular Catholicism.
who remains outside of the order of description of the relations and structures of the phenomena. such as tables and chairs. the acting subject. his use of the method of immanence has as its purpose and aim to indicate the interpentration of those higher-level structures transcendent to the individual in the very structures by which the individual. ultimately guided by the value of the Holy that at the same time recognizes the relative sufficiency and absolute insufficiency of the other orders (utility. which does not the same time. the mediations of human action that remains irreducible to unreflective practice. The philosophy Locke presents in his Essay is best understood as a direct response to the two schools of philosophical thought dominating the intellectual scene of the late 17th century: the Aristotelian-influenced Scholasticism. which conflicted with the Scholastic conception of the natural world. get beyond representation (Vorstellung) and assume the condition of Absolute Spirit conscious of itself in relation to its Other. one that retained the positive features of each. On the other hand. Blondel¶s use of the ³method of immanence´ (a term taken originally from Eduoard Le Roi¶s works) bears a strong resemblance to methods used by other philosophical movements of the time. Then he proceeds to develop these doctrines or theses to their fullest extent. Merleau-Ponty places a constant emphasis upon the dialectic of the present and the absent. as pointed out earlier. perhaps most closely with Theodore Adorno. that I employed are. Like the other rationalists who came after him. The goal of such a reading is to allow a doctrine or philosophical position to provide evidence of its own inadequacy on its own grounds. one can say that both subject and object have an ontological insufficiency. The Essay can be read as an attempt to ground all of Locke's further inquiries into politics. following Aristotle. This involves Blondel in a sort of return to a realism about universals and about social structures. The aim is to assess the adequacy of the doctrines as the representation of a philosophical position. the System found its unity in the subject of Absolute Knowing. rejects Hegel¶s insistence that the relation to the Absolute must. However. Ontologically." Scholastic philosophers. In terms of subject and object. and that it is only by properly utilizing our faculty of reason that we can come to know the world. socialized and oriented towards transcendence. Blondel¶s way of getting at the phenomena bears a closer relationship to the phenomenologies of Max Scheler and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Whereas. but the structures in which they take place do not have full being either. electing instead to focus his energies on questions of politics. the 6 . W. which is not simply a hierarchy of meanings relative to each other. while. Locke wanted to chart a middle course between these two views. In fact. both in the aim and the method of the reading. I no longer admit. and ontologically prior to the other levels of structure. pleasure." Descartes believed that the senses systematically deceive us. not first in the senses. Therefore. in relation to the Absolute. of there is a place. he set out to determine what we could and could not hope to understand by analyzing the human mind and the nature of knowledge. which had ruled the Universities since the Middle Ages. however. (L¶action. attempted to revolutionize epistemology. and the constant interpenetration of these other orders by the transcendent as Holy. thinks. Descartes' primary reason for asserting that the senses systematically deceive was his commitment to the new mechanistic science.xix) Scheler develops a hierarchy of values. in particular of its capacities and limits. Blondel¶s attention to the structures of the individual subject in the beginnings of his works does not at all therefore reflect a commitment to an ontology which would take those individuals as primary.provisionally as if it were fully self-sufficient and adequate to itself. Rene Descartes. I could restitute to them their fullness. negate their reality or their existence. that the order indicates its own negativity. and by thereby indicating to us the extent to which it is only relatively true and insufficient. There are some major differences." Descartes' position can be summed up as "no trusting the senses until they have been verified by the intellect. or the virtual. for Blondel. The usual words of good and evil. from that moment on. all difference is no longer difference of form but only of content. by indicating to us the extent to which it is true and able to provide an account of itself immanently. life. religion. From the moment when I pose the theoretical problem of action and when I claim to discover the scientific solution. and this consists in two parts. mediated by structures of affectivity and the human body. such as Baruch Spinoza and G. If the senses tell us that there are enduring objects. In a famous paragraph in the Essay's. and the Cartesian rationalism. disparage. believed that all of our knowledge comes through our sense organs. of culpability. and science. Descartes believed that the entire natural world is explicable in terms of a chain of logical connections. which he later turns to. denuded of meaning. their empiricism was of a very naïve form. Blondel also rejects Hegel¶s doctrine that at the end of the process of development. For the acting human subject. If the senses tell us that there are colors. History has not come to an end. First. and culture). exists. therefore. in a very obscure sense. which was challenging Scholastic authority with a radical new picture of how the mind comes to know. and is. Although Blondel does not use the term until his later works. economics. its requirement for transcendence. Individuals and individual things do not have full being. p. Leibniz. the ultimate unity comes in the Christian God as creator. acting as if they were true in order too see what sort of consequences they would have for the thinking and acting subject. he is intent upon critiquing reified consciousness and ideology. at its best. There is no indication that Locke showed any interest in epistemology prior to 1671. without thereby being simply false. in particular the social and the religious. because it makes an unwarranted assumption of the possibility of suspension of claims to existence as well as a disengagement from practical and moral comportment. the value of any practical solution. Second there is the question of the adequacy of the developed philosophical position itself. for Hegel. Blondel¶s style of reading is to read a text through fully. by drawing the boundaries that demarcate where a search for answers should begin and end. and that all we need do is use our reason to trace these connections to know everything there is to know. "Epistle to the Reader. getting ³back to the things themselves´ Blondel¶s readings of other philosophical figures also bears a striking resemblance to the type of reading carried out under the rubric of Deconstruction. They were empiricists. at the same time. On the Scholastic view. purports to require. of duty. Philosophical Context ( LOCKE) The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is the only work on epistemology and metaphysics in a lifetime collection dominated by religious and political writings. they believed that our senses are incapable of systematically deceiving us about the kinds of things that are in the world. religion. one can put this in the following way. like the object of perception. and humanity is still involved in processes that also involve development and difference in form as well as content. education and the like. at least provisionally and to that different point of view. not first in the senses. in so far as it is a human body. in the end. who acts. which is it the same time. which in tunr does not allow the meanign of moral and practical phenomena to be grasped. The trustworthiness of the senses was built into the theory of how perception operated: on this view. eschewing polemics and taking of reified positions until the doctrines advanced in a text have been adequately understood. in his Meditations of First Philosophy. meaning that no speculative or theoretical body of doctrine can legitimately claim full adequacy. then there are enduring objects. the perceiver took on the form of the thing perceived and became. the process of development remains one inhabited by and guided by a rationality which humanity and the acting subject can participate within fully. but also an order of constitution. until. there is the question of the adequacy of the representation. Blondel. like Locke. In his focus upon and demonstration of the inadequacy of the various philosophical positions and theses Blondel considers in his works. Blondel can also be brought into a continuity with certain Western Marxist figures. and the necessary requirement of a transcendence which the philosophical positions and doctrines attempt to efface. Blondel¶s insistence upon engaging with the phenomenon as the condition for knowledge of it does bear much in common with what Phenomenology. then there are colors." Locke explains what drew him suddenly to the study of human understanding: while discussing an unrelated subject with friends (he does not mention what this subject was). If the Aristotelian view can be summarized as "nothing in the intellect. however. a realism. The Scholastic picture of how the mind works can be summed up the phrase "nothing in the intellect. later treated as the philosophical subject or as Absolute Spirit. or force into forgetfulness. whose objects remain constrained by the same unfinished . In that Blondel explicitly rejects anything like the Husserlian epoche. he came to the conclusion that no significant headway could be made in any field until there was an understanding of understanding itself.
or bits of knowledge. He argues that everything in our mind is an idea. Once he feels secure that he has sufficiently argued the Cartesian position. like the Scholastics. one consistent with science. Locke begins to construct his own theory of the origins of knowledge. we are not conscious of memories but they are in the mind. He also points out that it does not really qualify as a theory of innate principles. This claim is often referred to as Locke's thesis of the "Transparency of the Mental. size and shape) and our ideas of them is one of resemblance. and then further classifies these basic types into more specific subcategories. the relation between secondary qualities (e. The dialogue opens with the nativist's statement of his position in unqualified form: There are certain principles that are universally agreed upon and the only way to explain this is to suppose that these principles are innate. to be mental. (In reply to these objections Locke would most likely argue that in order to get into the mind we had at one time to be conscious of these memories and truths. rather we have tacit knowledge of the principles in question. I am tempted to say that I still know it. The short answer is: from experience. (Whereas Descartes believed that all matter was continuous. Locke dismisses this position. Locke. in the form of certain innate 7 . there is nothing out in the world that resembles our sensations. Book I. but once Locke began the search for a plausible empiricism. but for him substances came in only three types. cold. according to which the natural world is composed of indivisible bits of matter called corpuscles. dry. By making extension the essence of body. and these came in an innumerable variety. and then moves on to an argument against the possibility of innate ideas (such as the idea of God).most basic units of existence were substances. building on the foundation that their predecessor had so meticulously laid. simple and complex (with simple ideas being the building blocks of complex ideas). but that we have an innate capacity or disposition. color and odor) and our ideas of them is one of mismatch. It is impossible for something to be in the mind without our being aware of it. claiming that the doctrine is empty because it ends up saying that everything we know is innate (since we obviously have the capacity to know everything we come to know). The natural world that he posited--one that was explicable exclusively in terms of the size. he claimed. while the essence of body--of matter. propositions. Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. there is a nativist position very close to the one stated here that escapes Locke's criticism. and motion of matter--sounded nothing like the world our senses represent to us. Innate categories of thought. of the natural world. air. the thing that made them what they were. odor. Though experience is necessary to trigger knowledge on these models of the mind. is to be conscious. Even when I am not thinking that two plus two equals four. wet." is an attack on the Cartesian view of knowledge. and there were bodies. both can be seen as real nativist claims. On his view. and water. In addition. Locke tries to give an account of substance that allows most of our intuitions without conceding anything objectionable. This is the position held by the philosophers G. Taken together. to a certain extent. or else they come in through the mind's reflection on its own operation. This justification must somehow be supplied by the mind. There was God. each with their own distinct essence. as did their nemesis W.V. starting from ideas innate to the human mind. In contrast. Chapter VIII contains Locke's argument for a distinction between primary and secondary qualities. He too called the basic units of existence substances. and Leibniz claims that the justification is supplied through innate dispositions toward knowledge. While experience may be required to discover truths. and it is by reasoning that we can come to know everything else about the way the world really is. the categories act as innate molds into which we form our experience in order to arrive at knowledge. The nativist then refines his position: Our knowledge of these principles does not start out as explicit and conscious knowledge. rather than in an innumerable variety. George Berkeley and David Hume made the first significant endeavors after Locke. It is not really that we have tacit knowledge. and it takes some work to make this tacit knowledge explicit. is). resisted accepting Descartes' epistemology because he held. however. This is exactly the point that the nativist next makes. In the 20th century the Logical Positivists gave it a worthy shot as well. shape. such as the fact that whatever is. therefore. The essence of mind was thought. but epistemology is still largely guided by the questions originally posed by Locke and his empiricist followers. The best way to understand the argument is by breaking it up into dialogue form. was a proponent of the new science.g. The Essay. Like Descartes. contrary to what Locke argues. We could never arrive at claims about all objects through experience since we never experience anything but a very limited number of objects. Locke ascribed to Boyle's Corpuscular Hypothesis. Book II lays out Locke's theory of ideas. There is also the issue of non-conscious principles. The vast majority of this book is spent analyzing the specific subcategories of our ideas. The long answer is Book II. they comprise an extremely long and detailed theory of knowledge starting from the very basics and building up. Locke.W. we know something if and only if we know what to do with it once it comes into awareness.) He had to admit. He attempts to show that there are two very different sorts of relations that can hold between the qualities of the outside world and our ideas about those qualities. therefore. is an attempt to reconcile his empiricism with his commitment to the new science. to be in the mind.g. innate knowledge of fact. Descartes' solution to this apparent problem was to give more power to the intellect and less to the senses. The attempt had never been made before. According to Leibniz. It is by reasoning with these innate ideas. he says. and sound and see nothing to indicate that the essence of body is extension. It is not at all clear that Locke's response here is adequate to disprove the nativist position. size. This was where Descartes' new epistemology came in. Quine. Descartes simplified this picture considerably." It is by no means an incontrovertible claim. though the particulars of the view he ascribed to were somewhat different from the Cartesian picture. All substances were composed of some mixture of the four elements: earth. only tangentially related to the subject of the origin of ideas. we have a disposition toward knowing certain things and we can find the basis for this knowledge in ourselves through introspection. He also classifies our ideas into two basic types. and motion of matter.hot. His aim was to defend an empiricist model of the mind. Locke's primary reply is that there are no such principles.) It is because of cases like these that many philosophers have been tempted to say that knowledge is dispositional. giving both the nativist and Locke chances to speak in turn. At the very least. an inborn ability to entertain certain ideas and arrive at certain principles. experience is not sufficient for knowledge. the problem of memory. we come to understand the world not by observing it. which holds that human beings are born with certain ideas already in their mind. that he arrived at the discovery that the essence of body is extension. Kant's notion of the categories of thought plays a similar role. He too believed that the natural world was explicable exclusively in terms of shape. The relation between primary qualities (e. Descartes was able to simplify the study of the natural world: it no longer involved the complex and obscure charting of primary qualities flowing in and out of elements. and that all ideas take one of two routes to arrive in our mind: either they come in through the senses. what we sense is roughly what is out there. that nothing came into the mind except via the senses. Even the principles whatever is is and nothing can be and not be at the same time are not agreed upon by idiots. Empiricism has. "Of Innate Ideas" begins with an argument against the possibility of innate propositional knowledge (that is. Analysis Because the argument for the claim that there is no universal consent for any theoretical principles is long and arduous and also extremely important historically. "Of Innate Ideas. There is. has never really ended. while clearing the way for new ideas about the nature of reality. fire. To explain why anything happened in the natural world. Though Book II is primarily an attempt to account for the origin of all our ideas. The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is sectioned into four books. it also includes two other very important discussions. He appeals to the distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification in order to make this claim. We perceive a world filled with things like color. Neither Kant's nor Leibniz's formulation of the nativist position is empty in the way that Locke claims. In chapter XXIII. it cannot be the basis for our knowing them. the study of the natural world was simply the study of geometry. there were minds. first of all. fallen out of fashion as of late. Instead. Locke's response is to call this position incoherent. of all we see around us--was extension. the Scholastic would appeal to these four elements and the four primary qualities by which they were characterized . it demands some detailed analysis. that Descartes was right about that the senses do systematically deceive us. but by reasoning about it. since it admits that experience is required to trigger any and all knowledge.
we form abstract general ideas by attending to the similarities between particular ideas and abstracting these out (e. actual existence). On the contrary. as are questions about God. Epistemological questions include: What is knowledge? How do we form beliefs based on evidence? Can we know anything? Essence .principles. the question of whether there are any natural kinds out in the world or whether all classifications are purely conventional). Argument from Parsimony . which is the best we can hope for from nearly all our intellectual endeavors. Within the mechanistic camp. a mode was a way of being a certain substance (e. and thus that it was human thought that makes things the types of things that they are. and sensitive knowledge as a sort of pseudo. and more abstract concepts such as "gratitude". "Of Knowledge and Opinion.The branch of philosophy concerned with asking what there is in the world. Plato and Rene Descartes are most famous for holding a theory of innate ideas. Intuitive knowledge is much the same thing as what later philosophers would call analytic truths. square or red).The branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. David Hume. Moore. since the nativist is simply Locke playing devil's advocate with himself) the nativist tries once again to reformulate his position. Book I fails. All events and states in the natural world can be explained with reference to the size. Descartes tried to demonstrate that there are only two essences in the world--thought. that we should be satisfied with this level of certitude and that we should continue collecting scientific data with gusto. he failed to do so in the Essay. "Of Words. invisible. New Mechanistic Science .A abstract general ideas are the pieces of our mental geography that correspond to our general terms. the essence of mind.An important concept in *Scholastic* philosophy. the essence of body. Questions about *substance* are metaphysical questions. Thomas Reid. of course. one which renders most sciences (all but mathematics and morality) ineligible. we should not. he is not really justified in believing that he defeated the nativist. coexistence. would be impossible. and thought. Demonstration . but so are numbers. Examples of intuitive knowledge would be the knowledge that I exist and the knowledge that A=A. He lists four sorts of relations between ideas that would count as knowledge (identity/diversity. Innate ideas . that we be aware that as good as our opinions become. is unaware that he has not yet lost this particular argument. Locke identifies abstract general ideas with what the *Scholastics* and *Cartesians* would call *essence*. For Locke. 8 . as opposed to "Socrates" and "Garfield". According to Locke. Rudolph Carnap. are still an important part of the picture. Properties such as square and red are modes for Locke. so demonstrative knowledge depends upon intuitive knowledge. Whether or not he might have been able to think up an objection to the position as formulated by Leibniz and Kant.The Corpuscular Hypothesis was a particular formulation of the *new mechanistic science* of the 17th century. and one that he shares. In Book III. attempts to give an account of how we form general terms from a world of particular objects. Locke believed strongly in this view of reality. a mode is something that depends on substances for its existence. He does ask. Rather than prove conclusively that something does not exist. and then distinguishes between three grades of knowledge (intuition as the highest. relation.E. some famous empiricists have been George Berkeley. Empiricists generally believe that knowledge comes exclusively through experience and that human beings are born completely without knowledge. and so.g. the mind perceives the connections between ideas as soon as the ideas are understood. According to the theory of meaning that Locke presents. and W. the similarities between Felix and Garfield yield our idea of cat). Knowledge.Demonstration is the middle grade of knowledge according to Locke. for example.V. therefore. In addition to John Locke. however. Locke and the nativist continue to wrangle for a few more pages before Locke considers the battle won.knowledge). the conclusion rests on the suppressed premise that it is best to posit as few existents in the world as possible. belief. are needed if human beings are to arrive at any knowledge through experience. G. and extension. Gaining a better and better opinion of the world is a worthy goal.Gaining immense popularity in the 17th century. and so as an argument against innate knowledge. there were a wide variety of competing theories regarding what those principles should be. Locke's nativist. however. Cartesians . he claimed that it was only human thought that imposed categories on the world. and it had a powerful influence on the ideas he expounds in his Essay. shape. not as good as *Intuition* but still a legitimate form of knowledge. and "hour". is the perception of strong internal relations that hold among the ideas themselves. Each step of the proof in demonstration must be an intuition. all explanation can be given in terms of the principles of matter and motion. Demonstration is knowledge that proceeds by reasoning out a proof. which leads him into a lengthy discussion of the ontology of types (that is. propounded by Locke's mentor Robert Boyle. Corpuscular Hypothesis . Locke.In an argument from parsimony. words do not refer to things in the external world but to the ideas in our heads. Empiricism . by the suppressed premise.g. however. Epistemology ." Locke turns from philosophy of mind to philosophy of language. Locke's argument against the existence of secondary qualities in the world is an argument of this form. called corpuscles. See also *real essence* and *nominal essence*. The essence of man.According to Descartes. Rather than pointing out that Locke misunderstood his claim (which.Innate ideas are ideas that are present in the mind at birth. Book IV. Quine. such as "man" and "cat". Locke is very careful to refrain from speaking as if opinion is "mere opinion. According to the mechanistic view. There is no need. Ideas. to posit the thing's existence. this movement sought to replace the messy and complicated *Scholastic* model of the world with a simpler picture." finally gives us the long awaited theory of knowledge. he is very eager to claim in the last chapters of theEssay. and motion of these corpuscles. an essence was supposed to be the quality that made something the type of thing that it was. matter is composed entirely of tiny. demonstration as a middling level. Locke expands considerably upon this definition. Locke's first book of the Essay is an attack on the doctrine of innate ideas. indivisible bits. Given his crucial mistake in characterizing the nativist claim regarding dispositions. without any reference to the external world. See also *rationalists*. Locke begins with a strict definition of knowledge. In intuition. Intuition . Important Terms Abstract general idea . Locke attempted to demolish the concept of an essence as anything objectively existing out in the world." he is not a skeptic and does not believe that science is futile. Metaphysics . they are never going to reach the level of knowledge. an argument from parsimony just shows that any puzzle that might be solved by positing the existence of the thing in question can also be solved (better) without positing the thing's existence. The remainder of the book is spent discussing opinion or belief. something that cannot exist independently. The essence of a knife would be the ability to cut. According to this theory. relying heavily on his theory of ideas. Our general terms refer to these abstract general ideas rather than to anything in the world. "beauty". however. Mode .Intuition is the highest grade of knowledge according to Locke. Instead.Followers of Rene Descartes. was believed to be rational thought because it is rational thought that distinguishes man from all other beings."Empiricism" is a collective name given to a variety of philosophical doctrines concerned with human knowledge. according to Locke.
Scholastics strictly followed the doctrines of Aristotle.In attempting to come up with a theory of *substance*. As we move from a table it gets smaller. Rationalists tend to believe that reason is extremely powerful. Ontology is a subcategory of *metaphysics*. and examine consequences accurately. where he mocks both the Scholastic and Cartesian views. See also *real essence*. odor. Baruch Spinoza. shiny. At least the knights of old who sought to remove dragons had no doubt in their existence. What is a sceptic? There are several species -Universal doubt : (that of Descartes and others) of all former opinions. and you find that it cannot be done. mind.According to Locke the real essence of an object is the object's microstructure of corpuscles.made *nominal essence*. The most famous Rationalists are Rene Descartes. principles and faculties. But how can it be proved that perceptions of the mind are caused by external objects and not by the mind itself as in a dream or in madness. As a consequence. This is the only method for reaching truth. Here experience is silent. might include qualities like yellow. espoused in Books I and II of the Essay.Another name for an *abstract general idea*. but he reduced the types of substances in the world from an innumerable mass to only three . Further. The substratum is what those qualities are "of". smell. Real Essence . According to Locke. Veil of Perception . Sensitive knowledge is our knowledge that there is an external world corresponding roughly to our perception of it. cold. soft. and motion. and taste. imperceptible. Extension is acquired from the senses of sight and feeling. Of course our sense organs can be fallacious by providing the crooked appearance of an oar in water.The branch of philosophy concerned with questions of existence. absurd opinion. for such a Being would not deceive. Transparency of the Mental . A chemist's nominal essence for gold. indescribable basis to which all the qualities of a substance belong. Opinion . but fails to come to any strong conclusions of his own. W. Ontology . and G. But because we cannot avoid making and reacting to decisions 9 . Rationalism (Rationalists) . for instance. The Sceptic is another enemy of religion who provokes the indignation of all divines. Scholasticism . for instance. advance carefully. Obviously the sense alone cannot be depended upon and our senses require reason as a corrective. the table itself is unaffected. shape. that nothing can be in the mind without our being aware of it. Sensitive knowledge . by their particular size. and white are acknowledged as secondary qualities existing not in an object but in the mind. though commentators have argued against this reading. Substratum . The nominal essence for gold. and the double image of a pressed eye. have the power to produce in us the sensation of redness. which gives rise to the observable properties. Opinion differs from knowledge in that it is only probabilistic and not certain. Secondary Qualities ."Transparency of the Mental" is a phrase used to describe Locke's assertion. Descartes agreed. However. Even all sceptics would have to agree. To take recourse to a Supreme Being is to make our senses infallible. We must begin with clear and self-evident principles. This is a dictate of reason: our images are copies of an independently existing object that does not change with the perceptions of it. and that by using it we can come to know almost everything that there is to know. Leibniz. or malleable. SECTION XII: on the Academic or Sceptical Philosophy 116-23. black.The lowest grade of knowledge according to Locke. But such doubt is plainly impossible and incurable. Part II 124. it does not even count as a wholly legitimate form. Substance . See also *Secondary Qualities*. Consequential doubt : to find through science and enquiry the fallaciousness of the mind and the senses questioning even the maxims of common life. But even scepticism must be driven to the use of reason. is really just a colorless arrangement of corpuscles.Secondary Qualities include qualities of color. Nominal essences can be relative. hot. filtered through the medium of our ideas. And yet most religious philosophers believe that no one can be so blind as to be an atheist."Veil of Perception" is a phrase used to refer to the notion that our perception of the world is indirect. shape. According to Locke these qualities really exist in the external world in a way that roughly corresponds to how we perceive them. Qualities such as hard. The image made by the senses is not the external object and can merely represent it.Qualities such as size. Although these microstructures do exist out in the world. a piece of metal might count as gold for one person and not for another. It must be concluded that the ideas of these primary qualities are attained by abstraction.According to the *Scholastics* a substance was the most basic unit of existence. but this is an unintelligible. then extension is to be found there. to call into question an external world in this way would reject the possibility of proving the existence of such a Being. Locke grapples with the notion of substance in Book II of the Essay.God."Rationalism" is a collective name given to several philosophical systems marked by similar strains. If all qualities perceived by the senses are in the mind. The assertion is based on Locke's identification of thought with consciousness. Reasoning can never lead any conviction. for the mind only receives perceptions and cannot gain experience of their connection with objects. a total sceptic is not to be found because everyone has opinions and principles by which he thinks and lives.The dominant school of thought in Western Europe from the Middle Ages through the Age of Enlightenment. and motion. the misleading perceptions of a view from a distance. for instance. but this is from our perspective. but is more akin to pseudoknowledge. and Body. There are not to be found more philosophical reasonings on any subject than those refuting the Atheists by proving the existence of a Deity. real essences do not generate natural kinds the way the *Scholastics* and Descartes thought that essences did.According to Locke. However. Sceptical objections to moral evidence or to reasonings concerning matters of fact are derived from the natural weakness of human understanding. But this must also follow with the supposed primary qualities of extension and solidity. might include its atomic number while a layperson's might will not. Remove from matter its primary and secondary qualities and you annihilate it. Locke's doctrine of ideas suggests that he subscribes to the veil of perception. there is nothing in the world that corresponds to our ideas of these qualities. Try to conceive of an abstract triangle that is neither Isosceles nor Scalene and of no particular size or shape. most of the facts of science and everyday life are correctly classified under this heading. a more moderate form of this species of scepticism is necessary for the study of philosophy by bringing impartiality to our judgement and by removing prejudice. What we see as "red". Locke reluctantly adopts the notion of a substratum as an unknowable. This distinction arises because Locke held that the determination of what part of the microstructure is included in a thing's real essence is based wholly on the man. Sceptics attempt to destroy reason by argument. which. Primary qualities . including the existence of conflicting opinions and our own changing judgements over the years. Thus sceptics themselves must become sceptical of their scepticism. review regularly.Nominal Essence . A nominal essence is the set of qualities that men have decided to use in order to pick out a particular type.
Repetitions in relationships in the past guarantee nothing for the future. Morality is not something to be understood but to be evaluated by taste and sentiment. A closely related necessity for a definition is that it cannot use the term to be defined within the definition itself. As soon as sceptical philosophers leave the shade of their cloisters and enter the world of real objects and sentiments. Think of one number at a time. Mankind is often too dogmatic and unwilling to consider more than one side of an issue. The same is true with the term "Number" or the idea of quantity. on the pretense of determining what virtue is. in any case. and you will conclude that "Number" cannot be infinitely divisible. If we ask the Sceptic. The situation of nature before the origin of the world and beyond to eternity is outwith the remit of the philosopher. too. influencing incorrect judgements by not keeping enquiry to common life and within the confines of experience. the Meno is particularly so. which seeks to clear the ground of received. A Stoic and Epicurean have principles which effect behaviour. Socrates then dissects these to show that they do not meet the requirements of a definition. Imagination and speculation can run out of control. Thus. Beauty is a feeling more than a perception. Reasoning beyond this boundary is sophistry. All other enquiries regard matters of fact and existence and are incapable of demonstration.whether of divinity or metaphysics or whatever -. The main objection to excessive scepticism is this: nothing durable and good can ever result from it. A Copernician and a Ptolemaic have different systems of astronomy. For we cannot conclude that what has been conjoined together in the past will be in the future. though is unlikely to admit it. all activity would cease and the world would perish. Our actions subvert extreme scepticism.we should ask: Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. what is your intention?" -. This simplicity and inconclusiveness. All need to become aware of weaknesses in human understanding and be more modest and less prejudicial against those who differ. The sciences concerned with causes and effects of general facts include politics. the dialogue seems to proceed quite clearly (albeit with a few somewhat involuted sections. natural philosophy. A degree of doubt must accompany every decision. Its best foundation is faith and divine revelation. At first glance. We could reason that a falling pebble could extinguish the sun or that a person's wish could control the planets. unconsidered knowledge in favor of the pursuit of truth. Thus the term "Horse" brings to mind a creature of a particular shape. This paradox and contradiction can only be avoided if there are no abstract or general ideas but only particular ones attached to a general term. priests and politicians. an extreme sceptic. to the embellishments of poets. All his arguments are sceptical in that they admit of no answer and produce no conviction. That the nature of virtue could even be a question is remarkable to Meno (and presumably to Plato's early readers)--indeed. Meno has basically defined virtue as the acquisition of beautiful things in the context of a type of virtue). Pyrrhonian doubt should also warn mankind to limit enquiries to within the narrow capacity of human understanding. Existence of any object can only be proven by arguments. Indeed. or excessive scepticism. This is truly an awesome project--Socrates (and Plato after him) is trying to convince a world that has always been confident in its knowledge that it in fact knows nothing about the things of which it is most certain. Does it contain any reasoning based on experience concerning matter of fact and existence? No. physics and chemistry. but each of them merely cobbles together various aspects of Greek cultural custom.if any -. But Pyrrhonism. their principles vanish like smoke.reached moment by moment. Then commit it to the flames for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. we must evaluate the general taste of mankind or seek another fact as the object of our reasoning and enquiry. Arguments based upon à priori reasoning could conclude that anything could be able to produce anything else. and variances can be easily recalled afterwards. a concept quite new in Socrates' time and largely at odds with the received wisdom of ordinary Greek citizens. it cannot be used in the definition of virtue (i.they may have over their fellows is little when contrasted with the confusion inherent in human nature. If we hold a book -. "What are you talking about. and that this conjoining is actually a connection. Socrates actually pursues the prior project of showing what fundamental virtue is not. Speculation is not the task of the philosopher and belongs. Socrates makes no 10 . Experience alone teaches the relationship of cause and effect. Where they had grounds for their scepticism is that all reasoning concerning cause and effect concludes that two objects can be experienced as conjoined together but not connected. What is within the circle of appropriate investigation for philosophical enquiry? Demonstration by the abstract sciences should be limited to quantity and number. Socrates makes Meno admit that such acquisition is virtuous only if it is just. A small tincture of Pyrrhonism might help the intellectually arrogant to understand that any advantage -. Meno confidently offers a number of definitions of virtue. he opens the dialogue not by asking what virtue is. however. but rather if and how virtue can be taught. much of the initial dialogue is devoted to the idea that virtue must be rigorously defined before we can deal with subsequent questions about it. Theology has a foundation in reason only as far as it is supported by experience. MENO Overall Analysis and Themes If Plato's dialogues in general are notable for their depth within a relatively straightforward framework. And this also applies to moral reasoning which concerns most of human knowledge and is the source of all human action and behaviour. that if his principles were universally accepted. such as the geometrical quiz given to Meno's slave)." Meno's most common error involves naming various examples of virtue instead of naming what is common to all the examples. The argument against the Pyrrhonian principle of total scepticism is that one must act and reason and believe if one is to live. What is really accomplished in the Meno is not a theory about virtue but rather a theory about what is necessary to frame a good theory about virtue.he is silent. Socrates makes this point in the context of Meno's idea that virtue is the ability to acquire beautiful things. from its cause to its effect. Berkeley and most of the writings of that ingenious author form the best lessons of scepticism to be found anywhere.. he must acknowledge. but also that it does not even know how to know. This argument comes from Dr. Yet he professes in a title page (and truthfully) to have written against the atheists and free-thinkers. It also seems to settle or establish very little--in the end. This point is at the heart of the Socratic elenchus. It is just as conceivable that something does not exist as that it does. And if we reason concerning morality to set a standard. no definitive answer is given to the text's central question of what virtue is. But if justice is a virtue. but they are at one in seeking conviction. This seems to destroy conviction but does not remove the need for action. What is even more striking is that he is trying to convince the world not only that it does not know. The first such project we encounter concerns the nature of a definition. founded on experience. expects no influence on the mind. size and colour. were present in our mind. But a Pyrrhonian. can help yield a durable and useful scepticism. Both ideas are clear and distinct. The first such necessity is attention to what is truly universal about "virtue.e. Part III 130. later experience and argument is irrelevant and not a reason for total scepticism. Thus. hide an extremely ambitious set of goals. but we reason as if they. if corrected by common sense and reflection.
The Meno only pursues the first part of this project. this is not stated clearly. In the end. we would no longer need to test out opinions blindly (as is done throughout the Meno). this radical destabilization of everybody's most heartfelt knowledge about goodness is a painful and disorienting process for Socrates' interlocutors. 11 . it is meant to clear the ground for an inversion of the whole sequence of right opinion and truth. Secondly. but he does claim to know the basic form that such an answer would take. If the requirements for a definition of virtue can be filled. "as a whole or in part. There is a lingering conflict between the conclusion that virtue is. ends in happiness. Right opinions lead us to the same ends as knowledge. This dilemma brings us back to Socrates' (and Plato's) original purpose--the mode of dialogic analysis Socrates pursues with Meno is meant first of all to show up wrong opinions. How are we to look for virtue without first knowing what it looks like? This question inspires Socrates to introduce an early version of his idea of anamnesis--the idea that learning truth is really a matter of the soul recollecting what it has learned before its current human birth.claim to know the real answer to the question of virtue. The theory of anamnesis seems to be a glaringly positive piece of theory amongst a heap of negatives and deconstructions. This idea has always been a major focal point for readers of Plato. if directed by wisdom." This will be a recurring theme in the rest of Plato's work-true virtue is not a matter of custom." a kind of wisdom and the conclusion that no one can teach it (so that it cannot be knowledge). The Meno leaves us hanging between defining virtue as straight knowledge or as a kind of mysterious wisdom revealed to us by the gods "without understanding. we would have an account of virtue first--an idea of virtue that is "tied down"--and could determine the details from there. The most important such point is that the good or virtuous depends on wisdom: "All that the soul undertakes and endures. however. but rather of knowledge. which Meno brings up after one of Socrates' unforgiving deconstructions." It is seen as likely that most virtuous men are so by holding "right opinions" rather than true knowledge. but it lays a great deal of groundwork for the second. but do not stay with us because they are not "tied down" by an account of why they are right. who are repeatedly flabbergasted by what they now seem not to know. partly because it seems to be a radical departure from Socrates' constant claims that he knows he knows nothing. Nonetheless. In the Meno. Rather. Socrates has in fact made a few substantive points about virtue besides the point that to learn it (if it were knowledge) would actually be to recall it. This uncertainty comes to a head in the paradox about seeking what one does not know. Thus. we can only depend on semi-divine inspiration to keep us focused on right opinions rather than wrong ones.
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