In Descartes Meditation VI Of the existence of material things, and of the real distinction between the real soul and body of man, he explains he reasoning for believing that the mind is better known than any body.
Descartes states his reasoning through various assumptions that he has made in his search for knowledge. Descartes is a philosopher, who through thinking comes to these conclusions.
In the reading of Descartes he interprets his understanding of how and why the mind is better known than the body. He states that, “Myself in my entirety in as much as I am formed of body and soul (mind) taught by nature, sun, stars, and sky. Descartes realized that he could learn things from his body. Things like pain if he touches a flame or pleasure if he drinks a cup of wine. With senses Descartes could see textures and beautiful landscapes. This made Descartes realize that from this generalization that he has made, what he learns from his body does not exceed what he already knows in his mind. I think Descartes point is well made in his quote above. I come to understand this though, through the fact that the minds common sense is what tells me I should not touch a flame, because of the pain it will bring me.
Through Descartes studies of himself, he also came to the conclusion that, “Mind alone, not mind and body in conjunction, is a requisite to a knowledge of the truth in regard to such things.”(376) He explains this premise with the analogy, “Although stars make no larger an impression on my eye than the flame of a little candle there is yet in me no real or positive propensity impelling me to believe that it is not greater than the flame; but I have judged it to be from my earliest years, without any rational foundation.” This analogy interprets that, just because there is no direct effect upon his the body or physical senses it does not mean that nothing exists. The mind is more important to think and realize the possibilities even though his body cannot sense them. So even though the flame looks the same size as the star his mind know it in fact is not. I can only understand so much of this statement by Descartes. I understand that that his mind can differentiate the star from the star, but this is not preconceived knowledge given to him at birth. I disagree with the fact that he new this fact since he was a child. I believe that you learn any knowledge from either watching others or being taught it from someone. To disprove Descartes I use the analogy, “If I were born and no on spoke any kind of language to me I would not know how to speak.”
The next philosophy Descartes comes up with deals with the actual difference between mind and body. He explains this principal with this knowledge, “There is a great difference between mind and body in as much as body is by nature always divisible and the mind is entirely indivisible.” Descartes clearly explains this analogy by saying that, “he is only a thinking thing, he cannot distinguish in himself any parts, but apprehend himself to be clearly one and entire; although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, yet if a foot, or an arm, or some other part, is separated from his body, he is aware that nothing has been taken away from the mind.” I agree with these facts that the mind (soul) is not indivisible. To me it seems very unlikely that I could separate my soul from my actual body. Also Descartes brings up a great point that if someone cut our foot off, this would not affect our inner being. So for instance if you lost a toe, this would not mean you lose a piece of your soul.
I believe Descartes states well the ideas of how the mind is better known then the body. He does this through many analogies with feasible thoughts that I can understand. His arguments presented are well defended and supported.
Descartes makes clear most of his principles and premises by using logic. In logical thought one can understand how the mind can tell the difference between a star and flames size and distance. Descartes is unclear about is the fact that not certain common knowledge is known from the time we are children. This is a pretty hard to comprehend considering the premises I have been taught by the sciences. If I see a star when I’m a kid I cannot perceive that I know what it is if I have never seen one before. I would have to ask someone who new what that object was and learn that this object I saw was in fact a star.
I think this is the only problem with this meditation by Descartes. His idea of knowing an object in your mind just because seeing it is ludicrous to me. Logically, it is impossible to know something you never seen before. I say that any of his philosophies are supported well enough to come to this conclusion.