Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes's Meditations

By Harry G. Frankfurt | Go to book overview

10
Sum

The epidemic doubt generated in the First Meditation is arrested early in the Second, when Descartes discovers in his own existence a belief that is apparently immune to even the most virulent skepticism. This discovery (and the statement cogito ergo sum that is widely associated with it) has been the subject of innumerable glosses, commentaries, and interpretations. Philosophers and non-philosophical writers have often detached it from its connection to the rest of Descartes's work in order to explore its significance more freely. I shall deal with it, however, only as an episode in the progress of the inquiry that Descartes undertakes in the Meditations.

Descartes begins the Second Meditation with a brief review of the position to which he has so far been led. Then he asks a new question: “I myself, am I not at least something?” He thinks for the first time of himself, having previously focused his attention exclusively on the objects of his awareness. And he is struck by the possibility that in thinking of himself he has come across a belief that the arguments of the First Meditation do not render uncertain. He formulates this belief only in the vaguest way: “I am something,” or sum. But without first seeking to make it more precise or more explicit, he proceeds to confront it with the grounds for doubt that he has already developed in his examination of sensory beliefs.

-123-

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Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes's Meditations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface to the Princeton Edition xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • One - The First Meditation 1
  • 1: Introduction 3
  • 2: The General Overthrow of Belief 19
  • 3: The Criterion of Doubt 32
  • 4: The Perception of the Physical World 43
  • 5: The Strategy of the First Meditation 60
  • 6: Simple and Universal Things 75
  • 7: Mathematics in the First Meditation 84
  • 8: Mathematics and the Omnipotent Deceiver 93
  • 9: Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen 108
  • Two - Reason and Its Validation 121
  • 10: Sum 123
  • 11: Sum Res Cogitans 154
  • Clear and Distinct Perception 175
  • 13: Objections to Descartes's Rule of Evidence 200
  • 14: Memory and Doubt 215
  • 15: The Validation of Reason 235
  • 16: Truth and Reality 250
  • Index 257
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