Objection To Descartes' View On Senses

1074 words - 5 pages

Objection to Descartes’ View on Senses

In René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy he comes to the conclusion in his sixth meditation “On the Existence of Material Objects and the Real Distinction of Mind and Body” that our senses and their operations ought to be mistrusted, and that our own mind - our intellect - is more reliable than any perceived senses. I will investigate the validity of Descartes’ sixth meditation with respect to modern scientific views, particularly those of neuroscience which study the way the physical brain and nervous system is related to perceptions which a mind can have. I assert that the mind is not greater than the senses. This assumes that the senses ...view middle of the document...

How does Descartes account for these “wrong” perceptions when he claims that anytime he perceives something clearly and distinctly he can trust that there is no way he can be wrong. When upon viewing the tower from afar and it appearing cylindrical, without doubt in his mind because he views it clearly and distinctly, how then can he claim that he is being deceived? With the study of angles, optics, and physics it would become apparent why the square tower would look cylindrical from a distance. His perception is not necessarily wrong, and the way he literally views the tower with his eyes does not distort reality. The intellect, believing that the tower is cylindrical, is actually proven wrong when he observes the tower at a closer distance.
Descartes must take into account how mistakes are corrected when there is a new sense. It is not the intellect which discovers that the tower is actually square, it is the sense one receives when they look at it closer and the image is transferred from the retina, to the optic nerve, to the brain. Similarly, one can look at a reflection of themselves in a mirror and perceive it to be a twin of themselves. But it is not until one touches the mirror and realizes it is not human skin that it is then understood that the mirror is merely a construction of light rays which are shined into the retina.
Therefore, if one appeals to all of his senses and takes into account all new or “correctional” sensations, and they all agree with each other, this will give one the most justified knowledge that man can be capable of. By only trusting in the mind, one will fall short of reality when only looking into first-glance perceptions, as the mind is known to wander in areas where it believes there is no doubt.
Descartes, however, may argue that even with these “correctional” senses (touching the mirror to understand that it is merely a reflection of oneself) we are at the very end relying on the intellect to distinguish the best possible...

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