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Doubt in Descartes’
Michael Lacewing
© Michael Lacewing
Into doubt
• We can be deceived
by our senses.
Into doubt (2)
• There are ‘no
certain indications
by which we may
clearly distinguish
wakefulness from
The cogito
• I am certain that I think, I exist. I am a
thinking thing. But I am not certain I have a
The wax argument
• At first, our idea of the wax is of
something defined by its sensory
• But this is muddled: when I melt a
piece of wax, it loses all of its
original sensory qualities, yet I
believe it is the same wax.
• This shows our conception of
material objects, when clear and
distinct, is as changeable and
The external world: two
steps to go
• Meditation V: we can know that clear and
distinct ideas are true; so material objects
really are extended, if they exist at all.
• Meditation VI: We have experiences of an
external world, which must either be caused
by a real external world or God. God is not a
deceiver. Therefore material objects do
Clear and distinct ideas
• On the cogito: ‘In this first item of
knowledge there is simply a clear and
distinct perception of what I am asserting’.
While thinking it, I cannot doubt it.
• In order to be certain of clear and distinct
ideas while we are not considering them, we
must first prove God exists.
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