“But in thinking over this I remind myself that on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream.” (Page 11, Paragraph 3)
Descartes comes from a time where long-winded speech and an extensive vocabulary was indicative of status and education. While taking the long way to make your point with use of words one must peruse a dictionary for the definitions of is still reflective of a difference in education, the aforementioned philosopher could have made his point with less of a monologue. If only he could have taken a page from Tolstoy’s book, the man of forty separate short sentence collections – calling them paragraphs is too generous, though many thanks to Tolstoy’s definition of the arts.
Though Tolstoy is not the philosopher I would choose to relate Descartes’ recollection too – I would instead choose Plato and his ideas that art is nothing more than a false reconstruction of some higher plane of existence. In Descartes Meditation I, he goes on about the lack of certainty that haunts his waking hours, unsure whether the world he exists in is the waking world or the world within his dreams. To put it in simpler terms, our dear philosopher is having an existential crisis because the actions he takes within his dreams also occur within the waking world – deja vu anyone?
Descartes big reveal is his inability to distinguish reality from his dreams with absolute certainty, as there is no way for him to distinguish the two when they mesh together in the manner he recounts. That when he sits in his chair by the fire, a hand extended in front of his face so as to be sure of the actuality of its existence, it has occurred in both his waking hours and dreams. The sense of deja vu he notes in his meditation is the cause of his existential crisis, and should be yours as well. While I understand why he would come to such a conclusion in regards to not being sure of his waking hours or his dreams, he hasn’t proven anything. Nowhere within this piece of his writing can Descartes say with certainty that he is in fact certain that nothing in the waking world as we know it is certain, and that lack of certainty weakens his argument. To some extent.
How am I supposed to be certain that he was certain when the certainty of my understanding of the certainty of his understanding cannot be certain because the certainty of this world cannot be deemed certain? The answer to that can’t even be proven certain so far as Descartes is concerned.
Word Count: 486