Meditations on First Philosophy

Rene Descartes

1641

Copyright: 1996, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This
file is of the 1911 edition of The Philosophical Works of
Descartes (Cambridge University Press), translated by
Elizabeth S. Haldane.1


Prefatory Note To The Meditations.

The first edition of the Meditations was published in
Latin by Michael Soly of Paris "at the Sign of the Phoenix" in
1641 cum Privilegio et Approbatione Doctorum. The Royal
"privilege" was indeed given, but the "approbation" seems to
have been of a most indefinite kind. The reason of the book
being published in France and not in Holland, where Descartes
was living in a charming country house at Endegeest near
Leiden, was apparently his fear that the Dutch ministers might
in some way lay hold of it. His friend, Pere Mersenne, took
charge of its publication in Paris and wrote to him about any
difficulties that occurred in the course of its progress
through the press. The second edition was however published
at Amsterdam in 1642 by Louis Elzevir, and this edition was
accompanied by the now completed "Objections and Replies."2
The edition from which the present translation is made is the
second just mentioned, and is that adopted by MM. Adam and
Tannery as the more correct, for reasons that they state in
detail in the preface to their edition. The work was
translated into French by the Duc de Luynes in 1642 and
Descartes considered the translation so excellent that he had
it published some years later. Clerselier, to complete
matters, had the "Objections" also published in French with
the "Replies," and this, like the other, was subject to
Descartes' revision and correction. This revision renders the
French edition specially valuable. Where it seems desirable
an alternative reading from the French is given in square
brackets.
Elizabeth S. Haldane


TO THE MOST WISE AND ILLUSTRIOUS THE
DEAN AND DOCTORS OF THE SACRED
FACULTY OF THEOLOGY IN PARIS.

The motive which induces me to present to you this
Treatise is so excellent, and, when you become acquainted with
its design, I am convinced that you will also have so
excellent a motive for taking it under your protection, that I
feel that I cannot do better, in order to render it in some
sort acceptable to you, than in a few words to state what I
have set myself to do.
I have always considered that the two questions
respecting God and the Soul were the chief of those that ought
to be demonstrated by philosophical rather than theological
argument. For although it is quite enough for us faithful
ones to accept by means of faith the fact that the human soul
does not perish with the body, and that God exists, it
certainly does not seem possible ever to persuade infidels of
any religion, indeed, we may almost say, of any moral virtue,
unless, to begin with, we prove these two facts by means of
the natural reason. And inasmuch as often in this life
greater rewards are offered for vice than for virtue, few
people would prefer the right to the useful, were they
restrained neither by the fear of God nor the expectation of
another life; and although it is absolutely true that we must
believe that there is a God, because we are so taught in the
Holy Scriptures, and, on the other hand, that we must believe
the Holy Scriptures because they come from God (the reason of
this is, that, faith being a gift of God, He who gives the
grace to cause us to believe other things can likewise give it
to cause us to believe that He exists), we nevertheless could
not place this argument before infidels, who might accuse us
of reasoning in a circle. And, in truth, I have noticed that
you, along with all the theologians, did not only affirm that
the existence of God may be proved by the natural reason, but
also that it may be inferred from the Holy Scriptures, that
knowledge about Him is much clearer than that which we have of
many created things, and, as a matter of fact, is so easy to
acquire, that those who have it not are culpable in their
ignorance. This indeed appears from the Wisdom of Solomon,
chapter xiii., where it is said "Howbeit they are not to be
excused; for if their understanding was so great that they
could discern the world and the creatures, why did they not
rather find out the Lord thereof?" and in Romans, chapter i.,
it is said that they are "without excuse"; and again in the
same place, by these words "that which may be known of God is
manifest in them," it seems as through we were shown that all
that which can be known of God may be made manifest by means
which are not derived from anywhere but from ourselves, and
from the simple consideration of the nature of our minds.
Hence I thought it not beside my purpose to inquire how this
is so, and how God may be more easily and certainly known than
the things of the world.
And as regards the soul, although many have considered
that it is not easy to know its nature, and some have even
dared to say that human reasons have convinced us that it
would perish with the body, and that faith alone could believe
the contrary, nevertheless, inasmuch as the Lateran Council
held under Leo X (in the eighth session) condemns these
tenets, and as Leo expressly ordains Christian philosophers to
refute their arguments and to employ all their powers in
making known the truth, I have ventured in this treatise to
undertake the same task.
More than that, I am aware that the principal reason
which causes many impious persons not to desire to believe
that there is a God, and that the human soul is distinct from
the body, is that they declare that hitherto no one has been
able to demonstrate these two facts; and although I am not of
their opinion but, on the contrary, hold that the greater part
of the reasons which have been brought forward concerning
these two questions by so many great men are, when they are
rightly understood, equal to so many demonstrations, and that
it is almost impossible to invent new ones, it is yet in my
opinion the case that nothing more useful can be accomplished
in philosophy than once for all to seek with care for the best
of these reasons, and to set them forth in so clear and exact
a manner, that it will henceforth be evident to everybody that
they are veritable demonstrations. And, finally, inasmuch as
it was desired that I should undertake this task by many who
were aware that I had cultivated a certain Method for the
resolution of difficulties of every kind in the Sciences¥a
method which it is true is not novel, since there is nothing
more ancient than the truth, but of which they were aware that
I had made use successfully enough in other matters of
difficulty¥I have thought that it was my duty also to make
trial of it in the present matter.
Now all that I could accomplish in the matter is
contained in this Treatise. Not that I have here drawn
together all the different reasons which might be brought
forward to serve as proofs of this subject: for that never
seemed to be necessary excepting when there was no one single
proof that was certain. But I have treated the first and
principal ones in such a manner that I can venture to bring
them forward as very evident and very certain demonstrations.
And more than that, I will say that these proofs are such that
I do not think that there is any way open to the human mind by
which it can ever succeed in discovering better. For the
importance of the subject, and the glory of God to which all
this relates, constrain me to speak here somewhat more freely
of myself than is my habit. Nevertheless, whatever certainty
and evidence I find in my reasons, I cannot persuade myself
that all the world is capable of understanding them. Still,
just as in Geometry there are many demonstrations that have
been left to us by Archimedes, by Apollonius, by Pappus, and
others, which are accepted by everyone as perfectly certain
and evident (because they clearly contain nothing which,
considered by itself, is not very easy to understand, and as
all through that which follows has an exact connection with,
and dependence on that which precedes), nevertheless, because
they are somewhat lengthy, and demand a mind wholly devoted
tot heir consideration, they are only taken in and understood
by a very limited number of persons. Similarly, although I
judge that those of which I here make use are equal to, or
even surpass in certainty and evidence, the demonstrations of
Geometry, I yet apprehend that they cannot be adequately
understood by many, both because they are also a little
lengthy and dependent the one on the other, and principally
because they demand a mind wholly free of prejudices, and one
which can be easily detached from the affairs of the senses.
And, truth to say, there are not so many in the world who are
fitted for metaphysical speculations as there are for those of
Geometry. And more than that; there is still this difference,
that in Geometry, since each one is persuaded that nothing
must be advanced of which there is not a certain
demonstration, those who are not entirely adepts more
frequently err in approving what is false, in order to give
the impression that they understand it, than in refuting the
true. But the case is different in philosophy where everyone
believes that all is problematical, and few give themselves to
the search after truth; and the greater number, in their
desire to acquire a reputation for boldness of thought,
arrogantly combat the most important of truths3.
That is why, whatever force there may be in my
reasonings, seeing they belong to philosophy, I cannot hope
that they will have much effect on the minds of men, unless
you extend to them your protection. But the estimation in
which you Company is universally held is so great, and the
name of SORBONNE carries with it so much authority, that, next
to the Sacred Councils, never has such deference been paid to
the judgment of any Body, not only in what concerns the faith,
but also in what regards human philosophy as well: everyone
indeed believes that it is not possible to discover elsewhere
more perspicacity and solidity, or more integrity and wisdom
in pronouncing judgment. For this reason I have no doubt that
if you deign to take the trouble in the first place of
correcting this work (for being conscious not only of my
infirmity, but also of my ignorance, I should not dare to
state that it was free from errors), and then, after adding to
it these things that are lacking to it, completing those which
are imperfect, and yourselves taking the trouble to give a
more ample explanation of those things which have need of it,
or at least making me aware of the defects so that I may apply
myself to remedy them4 ¥when this is done and when finally the
reasonings by which I prove that there is a God, and that the
human soul differs from the body, shall be carried to that
point of perspicuity to which I am sure they can be carried in
order that they may be esteemed as perfectly exact
demonstrations, if you deign to authorize your approbation and
to render public testimony to their truth and certainty, I do
not doubt, I say, that henceforward all the errors and false
opinions which have ever existed regarding these two questions
will soon be effaced from the minds of men. For the truth
itself will easily cause all men of mind and learning to
subscribe to your judgment; and your authority will cause the
atheists, who are usually more arrogant than learned or
judicious, to rid themselves of their spirit of contradiction
or lead them possibly themselves to defend the reasonings
which they find being received as demonstrations by all
persons of consideration, lest they appear not to understand
them. And, finally, all others will easily yield to such a
mass of evidence, and there will be none who dares to doubt
the existence of God and the real and true distinction between
the human soul and the body. It is for you now in your
singular wisdom to judge of the importance of the
establishment of such beliefs [you who see the disorders
produced by the doubt of them]5 . But it would not become me
to say more in consideration of the cause of God and religion
to those who have always been the most worthy supports of the
Catholic Church.

Preface to the Reader.

I have already slightly touched on these two questions of
God and the human soul in the Discourse on the Method of
rightly conducting the Reason and seeking truth in the
Sciences, published in French in the year 1637. Not that I
had the design of treating these with any thoroughness, but
only so to speak in passing, and in order to ascertain by the
judgment of the readers how I should treat them later on. For
these questions have always appeared to me to be of such
importance that I judged it suitable to speak of them more
than once; and the road which I follow in the explanation of
them is so little trodden, and so far removed from the
ordinary path, that I did not judge it to be expedient to set
it forth at length in French and in a Discourse which might be
read by everyone, in case the feebler minds should believe
that it was permitted to them to attempt to follow the same
path.
But, having in this Discourse on Method begged all those
who have found in my writings somewhat deserving of censure to
do me the favour of acquainting me with the grounds of it,
nothing worthy of remark has been objected to in them beyond
two matters: to these two I wish here to reply in a few words
before undertaking their more detailed discussion.
The first objection is that it does not follow from the
fact that the human mind reflecting on itself does not
perceive itself to be other than a thing that thinks, that its
nature or its essence consists only in its being a thing that
thinks, in the sense that this word only excludes all other
things which might also be supposed to pertain to the nature
of the soul. To this objection I reply that it was not my
intention in that place to exclude these in accordance with
the order that looks to the truth of the matter (as to which I
was not then dealing), but only in accordance with the order
of my thought [perception]; thus my meaning was that so far as
I was aware, I knew nothing clearly as belonging to my
essence, excepting that I was a thing that thinks, or a thing
that has in itself the faculty of thinking. But I shall show
hereafter how from the fact that I know no other thing which
pertains to my essence, it follows that there is no other
thing which really does belong to it.
The second objection is that it does not follow from the
fact that I have in myself the idea of something more perfect
than I am, that this idea is more perfect than I, and much
less that what is represented by this idea exists. But I
reply that in this term idea there is here something
equivocal, for it may either be taken materially, as an act of
my understanding, and in this sense it cannot be said that it
is more perfect than I; or it may be taken objectively, as the
thing which is represented by this act, which, although we do
not suppose it to exist outside of my understanding, may, none
the less, be more perfect than I, because of its essence. And
in following out this Treatise I shall show more fully how,
from the sole fact that I have in myself the idea of a thing
more perfect than myself, it follows that this thing truly
exists.
In addition to these two objections I have also seen two
fairly lengthy works on this subject, which, however, did not
so much impugn my reasonings as my conclusions, and this by
arguments drawn from the ordinary atheistic sources. But,
because such arguments cannot make any impression on the minds
of those who really understand my reasonings, and as the
judgments of many are so feeble and irrational that they very
often allow themselves to be persuaded by the opinions which
they have first formed, however false and far removed from
reason they may be, rather than by a true and solid but
subsequently received refutation of these opinions, I do not
desire to reply here to their criticisms in case of being
first of all obliged to state them. I shall only say in
general that all that is said by the atheist against the
existence of God, always depends either on the fact that we
ascribe to God affections which are human, or that we
attribute so much strength and wisdom to our minds that we
even have the presumption to desire to determine and
understand that which God can and ought to do. In this way
all that they allege will cause us no difficulty, provided
only we remember that we must consider our minds as things
which are finite and limited, and God as a Being who is
incomprehensible and infinite.
Now that I have once for all recognised and acknowledged
the opinions of men, I at once begin to treat of God and the
Human soul, and at the same time to treat of the whole of the
First Philosophy, without however expecting any praise from
the vulgar and without the hope that my book will have many
readers. On the contrary, I should never advise anyone to
read it excepting those who desire to meditate seriously with
me, and who can detach their minds from affairs of sense, and
deliver themselves entirely from every sort of prejudice. I
know too well that such men exist in a very small number. But
for those who, without caring to comprehend the order and
connections of my reasonings, form their criticisms on
detached portions arbitrarily selected, as is the custom with
many, these, I say, will not obtain much profit from reading
this Treatise. And although they perhaps in several parts
find occasion of cavilling, they can for all their pains make
no objection which is urgent or deserving of reply.
And inasmuch as I make no promise to others to satisfy
them at once, and as I do not presume so much on my own powers
as to believe myself capable of foreseeing all that can cause
difficulty to anyone, I shall first of all set forth in these
Meditations the very considerations by which I persuade myself
that I have reached a certain and evident knowledge of the
truth, in order to see if, by the same reasons which persuaded
me, I can also persuade others. And, after that, I shall
reply to the objections which have been made to me by persons
of genius and learning to whom I have sent my Meditations for
examination, before submitting them to the press. For they
have made so many objections and these so different, that I
venture to promise that it will be difficult for anyone to
bring to mind criticisms of any consequence which have not
been already touched upon. This is why I beg those who read
these Meditations to form no judgment upon them unless they
have given themselves the trouble to read all the objections
as well as the replies which I have made to them.6

Synopsis of the Six Following Meditations.

In the first Meditation I set forth the reasons for which
we may, generally speaking, doubt about all things and
especially about material things, at least so long as we have
no other foundations for the sciences than those which we have
hitherto possessed. But although the utility of a Doubt which
is so general does not at first appear, it is at the same time
very great, inasmuch as it delivers us from every kind of
prejudice, and sets out for us a very simple way by which the
mind may detach itself from the senses; and finally it makes
it impossible for us ever to doubt those things which we have
once discovered to be true.
In the second Meditation, mind, which making use of the
liberty which pertains to it, takes for granted that all those
things of whose existence it has the least doubt, are non-
existent, recognises that it is however absolutely impossible
that it does not itself exist. This point is likewise of the
greatest moment, inasmuch as by this means a distinction is
easily drawn between the things which pertain to mind¥that is
to say to the intellectual nature¥and those which pertain to
body.
But because it may be that some expect from me in this
place a statement of the reasons establishing the immortality
of the soul, I feel that I should here make known to them that
having aimed at writing nothing in all this Treatise of which
I do not possess very exact demonstrations, I am obliged to
follow a similar order to that made use of by the geometers,
which is to begin by putting forward as premises all those
things upon which the proposition that we seek depends, before
coming to any conclusion regarding it. Now the first and
principal matter which is requisite for thoroughly
understanding the immortality of the soul is to form the
clearest possible conception of it, and one which will be
entirely distinct from all the conceptions which we may have
of body; and in this Meditation this has been done. In
addition to this it is requisite that we may be assured that
all the things which we conceive clearly and distinctly are
true in the very way in which we think them; and this could
not be proved previously to the Fourth Mediation. Further we
must have a distinct conception of corporeal nature, which is
given partly in this Second, and partly in the Fifth and Sixth
Meditations. And finally we should conclude from all this,
that those things which we conceive clearly and distinctly as
being diverse substances, as we regard mind and body to be,
are really substances essentially distinct one from the other;
and this is the conclusion of the Sixth Meditation. This is
further confirmed in this same Meditation by the fact that we
cannot conceive of body excepting in so far as it is
divisible, while the mind cannot be conceived of excepting as
indivisible. For we are not able to conceive of the half of a
mind as we can do of the smallest of all bodies; so that we
see that not only are their natures different but even in some
respects contrary to one another. I have not however dealt
further with this matter in this treatise, both because what I
have said is sufficient to show clearly enough that the
extinction of the mind does not follow from the corruption of
the body, and also to give men the hope of another life after
death, as also because the premises from which the immortality
of the soul may be deduced depend on an elucidation of a
complete system of Physics. This would mean to establish in
the first place that all substances generally¥that is to say
all things which cannot exist without being created by God¥are
in their nature incorruptible, and that they can never cease
to exist unless God, in denying to them his concurrence,
reduce them to nought; and secondly that body, regarded
generally, is a substance, which is the reason why it also
cannot perish, but that the human body, inasmuch as it differs
from other bodies, is composed only of a certain configuration
of members and of other similar accidents, while the human
mind is not similarly composed of any accidents, but is a pure
substance. For although all the accidents of mind be changed,
although, for instance, it think certain things, will others,
perceive others, etc., despite all this it does not emerge
from these changes another mind: the human body on the other
hand becomes a different thing from the sole fact that the
figure or form of any of its portions is found to be changed.
From this it follows that the human body may indeed easily
enough perish, but the mind [or soul of man (I make no
distinction between them)] is owing to its nature immortal.
In the third Meditation it seems to me that I have
explained at sufficient length the principal argument of which
I make use in order to prove the existence of God. But none
the less, because I did not wish in that place to make use of
any comparisons derived from corporeal things, so as to
withdraw as much as I could the minds of readers from the
senses, there may perhaps have remained many obscurities
which, however, will, I hope, be entirely removed by the
Replies which I have made to the Objections which have been
set before me. Amongst others there is, for example, this
one, "How the idea in us of a being supremely perfect
possesses so much objective reality [that is to say
participates by representation in so many degrees of being and
perfection] that it necessarily proceeds from a cause which is
absolutely perfect." This is illustrated in these Replies by
the comparison of a very perfect machine, the idea of which is
found in the mind of some workman. For as the objective
contrivance of this idea must have some cause, i.e. either the
science of the workman or that of some other from whom he has
received the idea, it is similarly impossible that the idea of
God which is in us should not have God himself as its cause.
In the fourth Meditation it is shown that all these
things which we very clearly and distinctly perceive are true,
and at the same time it is explained in what the nature of
error or falsity consists. This must of necessity be known
both for the confirmation of the preceding truths and for the
better comprehension of those that follow. (But it must
meanwhile be remarked that I do not in any way there treat of
sin¥that is to say of the error which is committed in the
pursuit of good and evil, but only of that which arises in the
deciding between the true and the false. And I do not intend
to speak of matters pertaining to the Faith or the conduct of
life, but only of those which concern speculative truths, and
which may be known by the sole aid of the light of nature.)
In the fifth Meditation corporeal nature generally is
explained, and in addition to this the existence of God is
demonstrated by a new proof in which there may possibly be
certain difficulties also, but the solution of these will be
seen in the Replies to the Objections. And further I show in
what sense it is true to say that the certainty of geometrical
demonstrations is itself dependent on the knowledge of God.
Finally in the Sixth I distinguish the action of the
understanding7 from that of the imagination;8 the marks by
which this distinction is made are described. I here show
that the mind of man is really distinct from the body, and at
the same time that the two are so closely joined together that
they form, so to speak, a single thing. All the errors which
proceed from the senses are then surveyed, while the means of
avoiding them are demonstrated, and finally all the reasons
from which we may deduce the existence of material things are
set forth. Not that I judge them to be very useful in
establishing that which they prove, to wit, that there is in
truth a world, that men possess bodies, and other such things
which never have been doubted by anyone of sense; but because
in considering these closely we come to see that they are
neither so strong nor so evident as those arguments which lead
us to the knowledge of our mind and of God; so that these last
must be the most certain and most evident facts which can fall
within the cognizance of the human mind. And this is the
whole matter that I have tried to prove in these Meditations,
for which reason I here omit to speak of many other questions
which I dealt incidentally in this discussion.

MEDITATIONS ON THE FIRST PHILOSOPHY
IN WHICH THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
AND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MIND
AND BODY ARE DEMONSTRATED.9

Meditation I.

Of the things which may be brought within the sphere of the
doubtful.

It is now some years since I detected how many were the
false beliefs that I had from my earliest youth admitted as
true, and how doubtful was everything I had since constructed
on this basis; and from that time I was convinced that I must
once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all the
opinions which I had formerly accepted, and commence to build
anew from the foundation, if I wanted to establish any firm
and permanent structure in the sciences. But as this
enterprise appeared to be a very great one, I waited until I
had attained an age so mature that I could not hope that at
any later date I should be better fitted to execute my design.
This reason caused me to delay so long that I should feel that
I was doing wrong were I to occupy in deliberation the time
that yet remains to me for action. To-day, then, since very
opportunely for the plan I have in view I have delivered my
mind from every care [and am happily agitated by no passions]
and since I have procured for myself an assured leisure in a
peaceable retirement, I shall at last seriously and freely
address myself to the general upheaval of all my former
opinions.
Now for this object it is not necessary that I should
show that all of these are false¥I shall perhaps never arrive
at this end. But inasmuch as reason already persuades me that
I ought no less carefully to withhold my assent from matters
which are not entirely certain and indubitable than from those
which appear to me manifestly to be false, if I am able to
find in each one some reason to doubt, this will suffice to
justify my rejecting the whole. And for that end it will not
be requisite that I should examine each in particular, which
would be an endless undertaking; for owing to the fact that
the destruction of the foundations of necessity brings with it
the downfall of the rest of the edifice, I shall only in the
first place attack those principles upon which all my former
opinions rested.
All that up to the present time I have accepted as most
true and certain I have learned either from the senses or
through the senses; but it is sometimes proved to me that
these senses are deceptive, and it is wiser not to trust
entirely to anything by which we have once been deceived.
But it may be that although the senses sometimes deceive
us concerning things which are hardly perceptible, or very far
away, there are yet many others to be met with as to which we
cannot reasonably have any doubt, although we recognise them
by their means. For example, there is the fact that I am
here, seated by the fire, attired in a dressing gown, having
this paper in my hands and other similar matters. And how
could I deny that these hands and this body are mine, were it
not perhaps that I compare myself to certain persons, devoid
of sense, whose cerebella are so troubled and clouded by the
violent vapours of black bile, that they constantly assure us
that they think they are kings when they are really quite
poor, or that they are clothed in purple when they are really
without covering, or who imagine that they have an earthenware
head or are nothing but pumpkins or are made of glass. But
they are mad, and I should not be any the less insane were I
to follow examples so extravagant.
At the same time I must remember that I am a man, and
that consequently I am in the habit of sleeping, and in my
dreams representing to myself the same things or sometimes
even less probable things, than do those who are insane in
their waking moments. How often has it happened to me that in
the night I dreamt that I found myself in this particular
place, that I was dressed and seated near the fire, whilst in
reality I was lying undressed in bed! At this moment it does
indeed seem to me that it is with eyes awake that I am looking
at this paper; that this head which I move is not asleep, that
it is deliberately and of set purpose that I extend my hand
and perceive it; what happens in sleep does not appear so
clear nor so distinct as does all this. 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.
Now let us assume that we are asleep and that all these
particulars, e.g. that we open our eyes, shake our head,
extend our hands, and so on, are but false delusions; and let
us reflect that possibly neither our hands nor our whole body
are such as they appear to us to be. At the same time we must
at least confess that the things which are represented to us
in sleep are like painted representations which can only have
been formed as the counterparts of something real and true,
and that in this way those general things at least, i.e. eyes,
a head, hands, and a whole body, are not imaginary things, but
things really existent. For, as a matter of fact, painters,
even when they study with the greatest skill to represent
sirens and satyrs by forms the most strange and extraordinary,
cannot give them natures which are entirely new, but merely
make a certain medley of the members of different animals; or
if their imagination is extravagant enough to invent something
so novel that nothing similar has ever before been seen, and
that then their work represents a thing purely fictitious and
absolutely false, it is certain all the same that the colours
of which this is composed are necessarily real. And for the
same reason, although these general things, to with, [a body],
eyes, a head, hands, and such like, may be imaginary, we are
bound at the same time to confess that there are at least some
other objects yet more simple and more universal, which are
real and true; and of these just in the same way as with
certain real colours, all these images of things which dwell
in our thoughts, whether true and real or false and fantastic,
are formed.
To such a class of things pertains corporeal nature in
general, and its extension, the figure of extended things,
their quantity or magnitude and number, as also the place in
which they are, the time which measures their duration, and so
on.
That is possibly why our reasoning is not unjust when we
conclude from this that Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and all
other sciences which have as their end the consideration of
composite things, are very dubious and uncertain; but that
Arithmetic, Geometry and other sciences of that kind which
only treat of things that are very simple and very general,
without taking great trouble to ascertain whether they are
actually existent or not, contain some measure of certainty
and an element of the indubitable. For whether I am awake or
asleep, two and three together always form five, and the
square can never have more than four sides, and it does not
seem possible that truths so clear and apparent can be
suspected of any falsity [or uncertainty].
Nevertheless I have long had fixed in my mind the belief
that an all-powerful God existed by whom I have been created
such as I am. But how do I know that He has not brought it to
pass that there is no earth, no heaven, no extended body, no
magnitude, no place, and that nevertheless [I possess the
perceptions of all these things and that] they seem to me to
exist just exactly as I now see them? And, besides, as I
sometimes imagine that others deceive themselves in the things
which they think they know best, how do I know that I am not
deceived every time that I add two and three, or count the
sides of a square, or judge of things yet simpler, if anything
simpler can be imagined? But possibly God has not desired
that I should be thus deceived, for He is said to be supremely
good. If, however, it is contrary to His goodness to have
made me such that I constantly deceive myself, it would also
appear to be contrary to His goodness to permit me to be
sometimes deceived, and nevertheless I cannot doubt that He
does permit this.
There may indeed be those who would prefer to deny the
existence of a God so powerful, rather than believe that all
other things are uncertain. But let us not oppose them for
the present, and grant that all that is here said of a God is
a fable; nevertheless in whatever way they suppose that I have
arrived at the state of being that I have reached¥whether they
attribute it to fate or to accident, or make out that it is by
a continual succession of antecedents, or by some other
method¥since to err and deceive oneself is a defect, it is
clear that the greater will be the probability of my being so
imperfect as to deceive myself ever, as is the Author to whom
they assign my origin the less powerful. To these reasons I
have certainly nothing to reply, but at the end I feel
constrained to confess that there is nothing in all that I
formerly believed to be true, of which I cannot in some
measure doubt, and that not merely through want of thought or
through levity, but for reasons which are very powerful and
maturely considered; so that henceforth I ought not the less
carefully to refrain from giving credence to these opinions
than to that which is manifestly false, if I desire to arrive
at any certainty [in the sciences].
But it is not sufficient to have made these remarks, we
must also be careful to keep them in mind. For these ancient
and commonly held opinions still revert frequently to my mind,
long and familiar custom having given them the right to occupy
my mind against my inclination and rendered them almost
masters of my belief; nor will I ever lose the habit of
deferring to them or of placing my confidence in them, so long
as I consider them as they really are, i.e. opinions in some
measure doubtful, as I have just shown, and at the same time
highly probable, so that there is much more reason to believe
in than to deny them. That is why I consider that I shall not
be acting amiss, if, taking of set purpose a contrary belief,
I allow myself to be deceived, and for a certain time pretend
that all these opinions are entirely false and imaginary,
until at last, having thus balanced my former prejudices with
my latter [so that they cannot divert my opinions more to one
side than to the other], my judgment will no longer be
dominated by bad usage or turned away from the right knowledge
of the truth. For I am assured that there can be neither
peril nor error in this course, and that I cannot at present
yield too much to distrust, since I am not considering the
question of action, but only of knowledge.
I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely good
and the fountain of truth, but some evil genius not less
powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies in
deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth,
colours, figures, sound, and all other external things are
nought but the illusions and dreams of which this genius has
availed himself in order to lay traps for my credulity; I
shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh,
no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to
possess all these things; I shall remain obstinately attached
to this idea, and if by this means it is not in my power to
arrive at the knowledge of any truth, I may at least do what
is in my power [i.e. suspend my judgment], and with firm
purpose avoid giving credence to any false thing, or being
imposed upon by this arch deceiver, however powerful and
deceptive he may be. But this task is a laborious one, and
insensibly a certain lassitude leads me into the course of my
ordinary life. And just as a captive who in sleep enjoys an
imaginary liberty, when he begins to suspect that his liberty
is but a dream, fears to awaken, and conspires with these
agreeable illusions that the deception may be prolonged, so
insensibly of my own accord I fall back into my former
opinions, and I dread awakening from this slumber, lest the
laborious wakefulness which would follow the tranquillity of
this repose should have to be spent not in daylight, but in
the excessive darkness of the difficulties which have just
been discussed.

Meditation II

Of the Nature of the Human Mind; and that it is more easily
known than the Body.

The Meditation of yesterday filled my mind with so many
doubts that it is no longer in my power to forget them. And
yet I do not see in what manner I can resolve them; and, just
as if I had all of a sudden fallen into very deep water, I am
so disconcerted that I can neither make certain of setting my
feet on the bottom, nor can I swim and so support myself on
the surface. I shall nevertheless make an effort and follow
anew the same path as that on which I yesterday entered, i.e.
I shall proceed by setting aside all that in which the least
doubt could be supposed to exist, just as if I had discovered
that it was absolutely false; and I shall ever follow in this
road until I have met with something which is certain, or at
least, if I can do nothing else, until I have learned for
certain that there is nothing in the world that is certain.
Archimedes, in order that he might draw the terrestrial globe
out of its place, and transport it elsewhere, demanded only
that one point should be fixed and immoveable; in the same way
I shall have the right to conceive high hopes if I am happy
enough to discover one thing only which is certain and
indubitable.
I suppose, then, that all the things that I see are
false; I persuade myself that nothing has ever existed of all
that my fallacious memory represents to me. I consider that I
possess no senses; I imagine that body, figure, extension,
movement and place are but the fictions of my mind. What,
then, can be esteemed as true? Perhaps nothing at all, unless
that there is nothing in the world that is certain.
But how can I know there is not something different from
those things that I have just considered, of which one cannot
have the slightest doubt? Is there not some God, or some
other being by whatever name we call it, who puts these
reflections into my mind? That is not necessary, for is it
not possible that I am capable of producing them myself? I
myself, am I not at least something? But I have already
denied that I had senses and body. Yet I hesitate, for what
follows from that? Am I so dependent on body and senses that
I cannot exist without these? But I was persuaded that there
was nothing in all the world, that there was no heaven, no
earth, that there were no minds, nor any bodies: was I not
then likewise persuaded that I did not exist? Not at all; of
a surety I myself did exist since I persuaded myself of
something [or merely because I thought of something]. But
there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very
cunning, who ever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then
without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him
deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be
nothing so long as I think that I am something. So that after
having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we
must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I
am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce
it, or that I mentally conceive it.
But I do not yet know clearly enough what I am, I who am
certain that I am; and hence I must be careful to see that I
do not imprudently take some other object in place of myself,
and thus that I do not go astray in respect of this knowledge
that I hold to be the most certain and most evident of all
that I have formerly learned. That is why I shall now
consider anew what I believed myself to be before I embarked
upon these last reflections; and of my former opinions I shall
withdraw all that might even in a small degree be invalidated
by the reasons which I have just brought forward, in order
that there may be nothing at all left beyond what is
absolutely certain and indubitable.
What then did I formerly believe myself to be?
Undoubtedly I believed myself to be a man. But what is a man?
Shall I say a reasonable animal? Certainly not; for then I
should have to inquire what an animal is, and what is
reasonable; and thus from a single question I should
insensibly fall into an infinitude of others more difficult;
and I should not wish to waste the little time and leisure
remaining to me in trying to unravel subtleties like these.
But I shall rather stop here to consider the thoughts which of
themselves spring up in my mind, and which were not inspired
by anything beyond my own nature alone when I applied myself
to the consideration of my being. In the first place, the, I
considered myself as having a face, hands, arms, and all that
system of members composed on bones and flesh as seen in a
corpse which I designated by the name of body. In addition to
this I considered that I was nourished, that I walked, that I
felt, and that I thought, and I referred all these actions to
the soul: but I did not stop to consider what the soul was,
or if I did stop, I imagined that it was something extremely
rare and subtle like a wind, a flame, or an ether, which was
spread throughout my grosser parts. As to body I had no
manner of doubt about its nature, but thought I had a very
clear knowledge of it; and if I had desired to explain it
according to the notions that I had then formed of it, I
should have described it thus: By the body I understand all
that which can be defined by a certain figure: something
which can be confined in a certain place, and which can fill a
given space in such a way that every other body will be
excluded from it; which can be perceived either by tough, or
by sight, or by hearing, or by taste, or by smell: which can
be moved in many ways not, in truth, by itself, but by
something which is foreign to it, by which it is touched [and
from which it receives impressions]: for to have the power of
self-movement, as also of feeling or of thinking, I did not
consider to appertain to the nature of body: on the contrary,
I was rather astonished to find that faculties similar to them
existed in some bodies.
But what am I, now that I suppose that there is a certain
genius which is extremely powerful, and, if I may say so,
malicious, who employs all his powers in deceiving me? Can I
affirm that I possess the least of all those things which I
have just said pertain to the nature of body? I pause to
consider, I revolve all these things in my mind, and I find
none of which I can say that it pertains to me. It would be
tedious to stop to enumerate them. Let us pass to the
attributes of soul and see if there is any one which is in me?
What of nutrition or walking [the first mentioned]? But if it
is so that I have no body it is also true that I can neither
walk nor take nourishment. Another attribute is sensation.
But one cannot feel without body, and besides I have thought I
perceived many things during sleep that I recognised in my
waking moments as not having been experienced at all. What of
thinking? I find here that thought is an attribute that
belongs to me; it alone cannot be separated from me. I am, I
exist, that is certain. But how often? Just when I think;
for it might possibly be the case if I ceased entirely to
think, that I should likewise cease altogether to exist. I do
not now admit anything which is not necessarily true: to
speak accurately I am not more than a thing which thinks, that
is to say a mind or a soul, or an understanding, or a reason,
which are terms whose significance was formerly unknown to me.
I am, however, a real thing and really exist; but what thing?
I have answered: a thing which thinks.
And what more? I shall exercise my imagination [in order
to see if I am not something more]. I am not a collection of
members which we call the human body: I am not a subtle air
distributed through these members, I am not a wind, a fire, a
vapour, a breath, nor anything at all which I can imagine or
conceive; because I have assumed that all these were nothing.
Without changing that supposition I find that I only leave
myself certain of the fact that I am somewhat. But perhaps it
is true that these same things which I supposed were non-
existent because they are unknown to me, are really not
different from the self which I know. I am not sure about
this, I shall not dispute about it now; I can only give
judgment on things that are known to me. I know that I exist,
and I inquire what I am, I whom I know to exist. But it is
very certain that the knowledge of my existence taken in its
precise significance does not depend on things whose existence
is not yet known to me; consequently it does not depend on
those which I can feign in imagination. And indeed the very
term feign in imagination10 proves to me my error, for I
really do this if I image myself a something, since to imagine
is nothing else than to contemplate the figure or image of a
corporeal thing. But I already know for certain that I am,
and that it may be that all these images, and, speaking
generally, all things that relate to the nature of body are
nothing but dreams [and chimeras]. For this reason I see
clearly that I have as little reason to say, "I shall
stimulate my imagination in order to know more distinctly what
I am," than if I were to say, "I am now awake, and I perceive
somewhat that is real and true: but because I do not yet
perceive it distinctly enough, I shall go to sleep of express
purpose, so that my dreams may represent the perception with
greatest truth and evidence." And, thus, I know for certain
that nothing of all that I can understand by means of my
imagination belongs to this knowledge which I have of myself,
and that it is necessary to recall the mind from this mode of
thought with the utmost diligence in order that it may be able
to know its own nature with perfect distinctness.
But what then am I? A thing which thinks. What is a
thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands,
[conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also
imagines and feels.
Certainly it is no small matter if all these things
pertain to my nature. But why should they not so pertain? Am
I not that being who now doubts nearly everything, who
nevertheless understands certain things, who affirms that one
only is true, who denies all the others, who desires to know
more, is averse from being deceived, who imagines many things,
sometimes indeed despite his will, and who perceives many
likewise, as by the intervention of the bodily organs? Is
there nothing in all this which is as true as it is certain
that I exist, even though I should always sleep and though he
who has given me being employed all his ingenuity in deceiving
me? Is there likewise any one of these attributes which can
be distinguished from my thought, or which might be said to be
separated from myself? For it is so evident of itself that it
is I who doubts, who understands, and who desires, that there
is no reason here to add anything to explain it. And I have
certainly the power of imagining likewise; for although it may
happen (as I formerly supposed) that none of the things which
I imagine are true, nevertheless this power of imagining does
not cease to be really in use, and it forms part of my
thought. Finally, I am the same who feels, that is to say,
who perceives certain things, as by the organs of sense, since
it truth I see light, I hear noise, I feel heat. But it will
be said that these phenomena are false and that I am dreaming.
Let it be so; still it is at least quite certain that it seems
to me that I see light, that I hear noise and that I feel
heat. That cannot be false; properly speaking it is what is
in me called feeling;11 and used in this precise sense that is
no other thing than thinking.
From this time I begin to know what I am with a little
more clearness and distinction than before; but nevertheless
it still seems to me, and I cannot prevent myself from
thinking, that corporeal things, whose images are framed by
thought, which are tested by the senses, are much more
distinctly known than that obscure part of me which does not
come under the imagination. Although really it is very
strange to say that I know and understand more distinctly
these things whose existence seems to me dubious, which are
unknown to me, and which do not belong to me, than others of
the truth of which I am convinced, which are known to me and
which pertain to my real nature, in a word, than myself. But
I see clearly how the case stands: my mind loves to wander,
and cannot yet suffer itself to be retained within the just
limits of truth. Very good, let us once more give it the
freest rein, so that, when afterwards we seize the proper
occasion for pulling up, it may the more easily be regulated
and controlled.
Let us begin by considering the commonest matters, those
which we believe to be the most distinctly comprehended, to
wit, the bodies which we touch and see; not indeed bodies in
general, for these general ideas are usually a little more
confused, but let us consider one body in particular. Let us
take, for example, this piece of wax: it has been taken quite
freshly from the hive, and it has not yet lost the sweetness
of the honey which it contains; it still retains somewhat of
the odour of the flowers from which it has been culled; its
colour, its figure, its size are apparent; it is hard, cold,
easily handled, and if you strike it with the finger, it will
emit a sound. Finally all the things which are requisite to
cause us distinctly to recognise a body, are met with in it.
But notice that while I speak and approach the fire what
remained of the taste is exhaled, the smell evaporates, the
colour alters, the figure is destroyed, the size increases, it
becomes liquid, it heats, scarcely can one handle it, and when
one strikes it, now sound is emitted. Does the same wax
remain after this change? We must confess that it remains;
none would judge otherwise. What then did I know so
distinctly in this piece of wax? It could certainly be
nothing of all that the senses brought to my notice, since all
these things which fall under taste, smell, sight, touch, and
hearing, are found to be changed, and yet the same wax
remains.
Perhaps it was what I now think, viz. that this wax was
not that sweetness of honey, nor that agreeable scent of
flowers, nor that particular whiteness, nor that figure, nor
that sound, but simply a body which a little while before
appeared tome as perceptible under these forms, and which is
now perceptible under others. But what, precisely, is it that
I imagine when I form such conceptions? Let us attentively
consider this, and, abstracting from all that does not belong
to the wax, let us see what remains. Certainly nothing
remains excepting a certain extended thing which is flexible
and movable. But what is the meaning of flexible and movable?
Is it not that I imagine that this piece of wax being round is
capable of becoming square and of passing from a square to a
triangular figure? No, certainly it is not that, since I
imagine it admits of an infinitude of similar changes, and I
nevertheless do not know how to compass the infinitude by my
imagination, and consequently this conception which I have of
the wax is not brought about by the faculty of imagination.
What now is this extension? Is it not also unknown? For it
becomes greater when the wax is melted, greater when it is
boiled, and greater still when the heat increases; and I
should not conceive [clearly] according to truth what wax is,
if I did not think that even this piece that we are
considering is capable of receiving more variations in
extension than I have ever imagined. We must then grant that
I could not even understand through the imagination what this
piece of wax is, and that it is my mind12 alone which
perceives it. I say this piece of wax in particular, for as
to wax in general it is yet clearer. But what is this piece
of wax which cannot be understood excepting by the
[understanding or] mind? It is certainly the same that I see,
touch, imagine, and finally it is the same which I have always
believed it to be from the beginning. But what must
particularly be observed is that its perception is neither an
act of vision, nor of touch, nor of imagination, and has never
been such although it may have appeared formerly to be so, but
only an intuition13 of the mind, which may be imperfect and
confused as it was formerly, or clear and distinct as it is at
present, according as my attention is more or less directed to
the elements which are found in it, and of which it is
composed.
Yet in the meantime I am greatly astonished when I
consider [the great feebleness of mind] and its proneness to
fall [insensibly] into error; for although without giving
expression to my thought I consider all this in my own mind,
words often impede me and I am almost deceived by the terms of
ordinary language. For we say that we see the same wax, if it
is present, and not that we simply judge that it is the same
from its having the same colour and figure. From this I
should conclude that I knew the wax by means of vision and not
simply by the intuition of the mind; unless by chance I
remember that, when looking from a window and saying I see men
who pass in the street, I really do not see them, but infer
that what I see is men, just as I say that I see wax. And yet
what do I see from the window but hats and coats which may
cover automatic machines? Yet I judge these to be men. And
similarly solely by the faculty of judgment which rests in my
mind, I comprehend that which I believed I saw with my eyes.
A man who makes it his aim to raise his knowledge above
the common should be ashamed to derive the occasion for
doubting from the forms of speech invented by the vulgar; I
prefer to pass on and consider whether I had a more evident
and perfect conception of what the wax was when I first
perceived it, and when I believed I knew it by means of the
external senses or at least by the common sense14 as it is
called, that is to say by the imaginative faculty, or whether
my present conception is clearer now that I have most
carefully examined what it is, and in what way it can be
known. It would certainly be absurd to doubt as to this. For
what was there in this first perception which was distinct?
What was there which might not as well have been perceived by
any of the animals? But when I distinguish the wax from its
external forms, and when, just as if I had taken from it its
vestments, I consider it quite naked, it is certain that
although some error may still be found in my judgment, I can
nevertheless not perceive it thus without a human mind.
But finally what shall I say of this mind, that is, of
myself, for up to this point I do not admit in myself anything
but mind? What then, I who seem to perceive this piece of wax
so distinctly, do I not know myself, not only with much more
truth and certainty, but also with much more distinctness and
clearness? For if I judge that the wax is or exists from the
fact that I see it, it certainly follows much more clearly
that I am or that I exist myself from the fact that I see it.
For it may be that what I see is not really wax, it may also
be that I do not possess eyes with which to see anything; but
it cannot be that when I see, or (for I no longer take account
of the distinction) when I think I see, that I myself who
think am nought. So if I judge that the wax exists from the
fact that I touch it, the same thing will follow, to wit, that
I am; and if I judge that my imagination, or some other cause,
whatever it is, persuades me that the wax exists, I shall
still conclude the same. And what I have here remarked of wax
may be applied to all other things which are external to me
[and which are met with outside of me]. And further, if the
[notion or] perception of wax has seemed to me clearer and
more distinct, not only after the sight or the touch, but also
after many other causes have rendered it quite manifest to me,
with how much more [evidence] and distinctness must it be said
that I now know myself, since all the reasons which contribute
to the knowledge of wax, or any other body whatever, are yet
better proofs of the nature of my mind! And there are so many
other things in the mind itself which may contribute to the
elucidation of its nature, that those which depend on body
such as these just mentioned, hardly merit being taken into
account.
But finally here I am, having insensibly reverted to the
point I desired, for, since it is now manifest to me that even
bodies are not properly speaking known by the senses or by the
faculty of imagination, but by the understanding only, and
since they are not known from the fact that they are seen or
touched, but only because they are understood, I see clearly
that there is nothing which is easier for me to know than my
mind. But because it is difficult to rid oneself so promptly
of an opinion to which one was accustomed for so long, it will
be well that I should halt a little at this point, so that by
the length of my meditation I may more deeply imprint on my
memory this new knowledge.

Meditation III.

Of God: that He exists.

I shall now close my eyes, I shall stop my ears, I shall
call away all my senses, I shall efface even from my thoughts
all the images of corporeal things, or at least (for that is
hardly possible) I shall esteem them as vain and false; and
thus holding converse only with myself and considering my own
nature, I shall try little by little to reach a better
knowledge of and a more familiar acquaintanceship with myself.
I am a thing that thinks, that is to say, that doubts,
affirms, denies, that knows a few things, that is ignorant of
many [that loves, that hates], that wills, that desires, that
also imagines and perceives; for as I remarked before,
although the things which I perceive and imagine are perhaps
nothing at all apart from me and in themselves, I am
nevertheless assured that these modes of thought that I call
perceptions and imaginations, inasmuch only as they are modes
of thought, certainly reside [and are met with] in me.
And in the little that I have just said, I think I have
summed up all that I really know, or at least all that
hitherto I was aware that I knew. In order to try to extend
my knowledge further, I shall now look around more carefully
and see whether I cannot still discover in myself some other
things which I have not hitherto perceived. I am certain that
I am a thing which thinks; but do I not then likewise know
what is requisite to render me certain of a truth? Certainly
in this first knowledge there is nothing that assures me of
its truth, excepting the clear and distinct perception of that
which I state, which would not indeed suffice to assure me
that what I say is true, if it could ever happen that a thing
which I conceived so clearly and distinctly could be false;
and accordingly it seems to me that already I can establish as
a general rule that all things which I perceive15 very clearly
and very distinctly are true.
At the same time I have before received and admitted many
things to be very certain and manifest, which yet I afterwards
recognised as being dubious. What then were these things?
They were the earth, sky, stars and all other objects which I
apprehended by means of the senses. But what did I clearly
[and distinctly] perceive in them? Nothing more than that the
ideas or thoughts of these things were presented to my mind.
And not even now do I deny that these ideas are met with in
me. But there was yet another thing which I affirmed, and
which, owing to the habit which I had formed of believing it,
I thought I perceived very clearly, although in truth I did
not perceive it at all, to wit, that there were objects
outside of me from which these ideas proceeded, and to which
they were entirely similar. And it was in this that I erred,
or, if perchance my judgment was correct, this was not due to
any knowledge arising from my perception.
But when I took anything very simple and easy in the
sphere of arithmetic or geometry into consideration, e.g. that
two and three together made five, and other things of the
sort, were not these present to my mind so clearly as to
enable me to affirm that they were true? Certainly if I
judged that since such matters could be doubted, this would
not have been so for any other reason than that it came into
my mind that perhaps a God might have endowed me with such a
nature that I may have been deceived even concerning things
which seemed to me most manifest. But every time that this
preconceived opinion of the sovereign power of a God presents
itself to my thought, I am constrained to confess that it is
easy to Him, if He wishes it, to cause me to err, even in
matters in which I believe myself to have the best evidence.
And, on the other hand, always when I direct my attention to
things which I believe myself to perceive very clearly, I am
so persuaded of their truth that I let myself break out into
words such as these: Let who will deceive me, He can never
cause me to be nothing while I think that I am, or some day
cause it to be true to say that I have never been, it being
true now to say that I am, or that two and three make more or
less than five, or any such thing in which I see a manifest
contradiction. And, certainly, since I have no reason to
believe that there is a God who is a deceiver, and as I have
not yet satisfied myself that there is a God at all, the
reason for doubt which depends on this opinion alone is very
slight, and so to speak metaphysical. But in order to be able
altogether to remove it, I must inquire whether there is a God
as soon as the occasion presents itself; and if I find that
there is a God, I must also inquire whether He may be a
deceiver; for without a knowledge of these two truths I do not
see that I can ever be certain of anything.
And in order that I may have an opportunity of inquiring
into this in an orderly way [without interrupting the order of
meditation which I have proposed to myself, and which is
little by little to pass from the notions which I find first
of all in my mind to those which I shall later on discover in
it] it is requisite that I should here divide my thoughts into
certain kinds, and that I should consider in which of these
kinds there is, properly speaking, truth or error to be found.
Of my thoughts some are, so to speak, images of the things,
and to these alone is the title "idea" properly applied;
examples are my thought of a man or of a chimera, of heaven,
of an angel, or [even] of God. But other thoughts possess
other forms as well. For example in willing, fearing,
approving, denying, though I always perceive something as the
subject of the action of my mind,16 yet by this action I
always add something else to the idea17 which I have of that
thing; and of the thoughts of this kind some are called
volitions or affections, and others judgments.
Now as to what concerns ideas, if we consider them only
in themselves and do not relate them to anything else beyond
themselves, they cannot properly speaking be false; for
whether I imagine a goat or a chimera, it is not less true
that I imagine the one that the other. We must not fear
likewise that falsity can enter into will and into affections,
for although I may desire evil things, or even things that
never existed, it is not the less true that I desire them.
Thus there remains no more than the judgments which we make,
in which I must take the greatest care not o deceive myself.
But the principal error and the commonest which we may meet
with in them, consists in my judging that the ideas which are
in me are similar or conformable to the things which are
outside me; for without doubt if I considered the ideas only
as certain modes of my thoughts, without trying to relate them
to anything beyond, they could scarcely give me material for
error.
But among these ideas, some appear to me to be innate,
some adventitious, and others to be formed [or invented] by
myself; for, as I have the power of understanding what is
called a thing, or a truth, or a thought, it appears to me
that I hold this power from no other source than my own
nature. But if I now hear some sound, if I see the sun, or
feel heat, I have hitherto judged that these sensations
proceeded from certain things that exist outside of me; and
finally it appears to me that sirens, hippogryphs, and the
like, are formed out of my own mind. But again I may possibly
persuade myself that all these ideas are of the nature of
those which I term adventitious, or else that they are all
innate, or all fictitious: for I have not yet clearly
discovered their true origin.
And my principal task in this place is to consider, in
respect to those ideas which appear to me to proceed from
certain objects that are outside me, what are the reasons
which cause me to think them similar to these objects. It
seems indeed in the first place that I am taught this lesson
by nature; and, secondly, I experience in myself that these
ideas do not depend on my will nor therefore on myself¥for
they often present themselves to my mind in spite of my will.
Just now, for instance, whether I will or whether I do not
will, I feel heat, and thus I persuade myself that this
feeling, or at least this idea of heat, is produced in me by
something which is different from me, i.e. by the heat of the
fire near which I sit. And nothing seems to me more obvious
than to judge that this object imprints its likeness rather
than anything else upon me.
Now I must discover whether these proofs are sufficiently
strong and convincing. When I say that I am so instructed by
nature, I merely mean a certain spontaneous inclination which
impels me to believe in this connection, and not a natural
light which makes me recognise that it is true. But these two
things are very different; for I cannot doubt that which the
natural light causes me to believe to be true, as, for
example, it has shown me that I am from the fact that I doubt,
or other facts of the same kind. And I possess no other
faculty whereby to distinguish truth from falsehood, which can
teach me that what this light shows me to be true is not
really true, and no other faculty that is equally trustworthy.
But as far as [apparently] natural impulses are concerned, I
have frequently remarked, when I had to make active choice
between virtue and vice, that they often enough led me to the
part that was worse; and this is why I do not see any reason
for following them in what regards truth and error.
And as to the other reason, which is that these ideas
must proceed from objects outside me, since they do not depend
on my will, I do not find it any the more convincing. For
just as these impulses of which I have spoken are found in me,
notwithstanding that they do not always concur with my will,
so perhaps there is in me some faculty fitted to produce these
ideas without the assistance of any external things, even
though it is not yet known by me; just as, apparently, they
have hitherto always been found in me during sleep without the
aid of any external objects.
And finally, though they did proceed from objects
different from myself, it is not a necessary consequence that
they should resemble these. On the contrary, I have noticed
that in many cases there was a great difference between the
object and its idea. I find, for example, two completely
diverse ideas of the sun in my mind; the one derives its
origin from the senses, and should be placed in the category
of adventitious ideas; according to this idea the sun seems to
be extremely small; but the other is derived from astronomical
reasonings, i.e. is elicited from certain notions that are
innate in me, or else it is formed by me in some other manner;
in accordance with it the sun appears to be several times
greater than the earth. These two ideas cannot, indeed, both
resemble the same sun, and reason makes me believe that the
one which seems to have originated directly from the sun
itself, is the one which is most dissimilar to it.
All this causes me to believe that until the present time
it has not been by a judgment that was certain [or
premeditated], but only by a sort of blind impulse that I
believed that things existed outside of, and different from
me, which, by the organs of my senses, or by some other method
whatever it might be, conveyed these ideas or images to me
[and imprinted on me their similitudes].
But there is yet another method of inquiring whether any
of the objects of which I have ideas within me exist outside
of me. If ideas are only taken as certain modes of thought, I
recognise amongst them no difference or inequality, and all
appear to proceed from me in the same manner; but when we
consider them as images, one representing one thing and the
other another, it is clear that they are very different one
from the other. There is no doubt that those which represent
to me substances are something more, and contain so to speak
more objective reality within them [that is to say, by
representation participate in a higher degree of being or
perfection] than those that simply represent modes or
accidents; and that idea again by which I understand a supreme
God, eternal, infinite, [immutable], omniscient, omnipotent,
and Creator of all things which are outside of Himself, has
certainly more objective reality in itself than those ideas by
which finite substances are represented.
Now it is manifest by the natural light that there must
at least be as much reality in the efficient and total cause
as in its effect. For, pray, whence can the effect derive its
reality, if not from its cause? And in what way can this
cause communicate this reality to it, unless it possessed it
in itself? And from this it follows, not only that something
cannot proceed from nothing, but likewise that what is more
perfect¥that is to say, which has more reality within
itself¥cannot proceed from the less perfect. And this is not
only evidently true of those effects which possess actual or
formal reality, but also of the ideas in which we consider
merely what is termed objective reality. To take an example,
the stone which has not yet existed not only cannot now
commence to be unless it has been produced by something which
possesses within itself, either formally or eminently, all
that enters into the composition of the stone [i.e. it must
possess the same things or other more excellent things than
those which exist in the stone] and heat can only be produced
in a subject in which it did not previously exist by a cause
that is of an order [degree or kind] at least as perfect as
heat, and so in all other cases. But further, the idea of
heat, or of a stone, cannot exist in me unless it has been
placed within me by some cause which possesses within it at
least as much reality as that which I conceive to exist in the
heat or the stone. For although this cause does not transmit
anything of its actual or formal reality to my idea, we must
not for that reason imagine that it is necessarily a less real
cause; we must remember that [since every idea is a work of
the mind] its nature is such that it demands of itself no
other formal reality than that which it borrows from my
thought, of which it is only a mode [i.e. a manner or way of
thinking]. But in order that an idea should contain some one
certain objective reality rather than another, it must without
doubt derive it from some cause in which there is at least as
much formal reality as this idea contains of objective
reality. For if we imagine that something is found in an idea
which is not found in the cause, it must then have been
derived from nought; but however imperfect may be this mode of
being by which a thing is objectively [or by representation]
in the understanding by its idea, we cannot certainly say that
this mode of being is nothing, nor consequently, that the idea
derives its origin from nothing.
Nor must I imagine that, since the reality that I
consider in these ideas is only objective, it is not essential
that this reality should be formally in the causes of my
ideas, but that it is sufficient that it should be found
objectively. For just as this mode of objective existence
pertains to ideas by their proper nature, so does the mode of
formal existence pertain tot he causes of those ideas (this is
at least true of the first and principal) by the nature
peculiar to them. And although it may be the case that one
idea gives birth to another idea, that cannot continue to be
so indefinitely; for in the end we must reach an idea whose
cause shall be so to speak an archetype, in which the whole
reality [or perfection] which is so to speak objectively [or
by representation] in these ideas is contained formally [and
really]. Thus the light of nature causes me to know clearly
that the ideas in me are like [pictures or] images which can,
in truth, easily fall short of the perfection of the objects
from which they have been derived, but which can never contain
anything greater or more perfect.
And the longer and the more carefully that I investigate
these matters, the more clearly and distinctly do I recognise
their truth. But what am I to conclude from it all in the
end? It is this, that if the objective reality of any one of
my ideas is of such a nature as clearly to make me recognise
that it is not in me either formally or eminently, and that
consequently I cannot myself be the cause of it, it follows of
necessity that I am not alone in the world, but that there is
another being which exists, or which is the cause of this
idea. On the other hand, had no such an idea existed in me, I
should have had no sufficient argument to convince me of the
existence of any being beyond myself; for I have made very
careful investigation everywhere and up to the present time
have been able to find no other ground.
But of my ideas, beyond that which represents me to
myself, as to which there can here be no difficulty, there is
another which represents a God, and there are others
representing corporeal and inanimate things, others angels,
others animals, and others again which represent to me men
similar to myself.
As regards the ideas which represent to me other men or
animals, or angels, I can however easily conceive that they
might be formed by an admixture of the other ideas which I
have of myself, of corporeal things, and of God, even although
there were apart from me neither men nor animals, nor angels,
in all the world.
And in regard to the ideas of corporeal objects, I do not
recognise in them anything so great or so excellent that they
might not have possibly proceeded from myself; for if I
consider them more closely, and examine them individually, as
I yesterday examined the idea of wax, I find that there is
very little in them which I perceive clearly and distinctly.
Magnitude or extension in length, breadth, or depth, I do so
perceive; also figure which results from a termination of this
extension, the situation which bodies of different figure
preserve in relation to one another, and movement or change of
situation; to which we may also add substance, duration and
number. As to other things such as light, colours, sounds,
scents, tastes, heat, cold and the other tactile qualities,
they are thought by me with so much obscurity and confusion
that I do not even know if they are true or false, i.e.
whether the ideas which I form of these qualities are actually
the ideas of real objects or not [or whether they only
represent chimeras which cannot exist in fact]. For although
I have before remarked that it is only in judgments that
falsity, properly speaking, or formal falsity, can be met
with, a certain material falsity may nevertheless be found in
ideas, i.e. when these ideas represent what is nothing as
though it were something. For example, the ideas which I have
of cold and heat are so far from clear and distinct that by
their means I cannot tell whether cold is merely a privation
of heat, or heat a privation of cold, or whether both are real
qualities, or are not such. And inasmuch as [since ideas
resemble images] there cannot be any ideas which do not appear
to represent some things, if it is correct to say that cold is
merely a privation of heat, the idea which represents it to me
as something real and positive will not be improperly termed
false, and the same holds good of other similar ideas.
To these it is certainly not necessary that I should
attribute any author other than myself. For if they are
false, i.e. if they represent things which do not exist, the
light of nature shows me that they issue from nought, that is
to say, that they are only in me so far as something is
lacking to the perfection of my nature. But if they are true,
nevertheless because they exhibit so little reality to me that
I cannot even clearly distinguish the thing represented from
non-being, I do not see any reason why they should not be
produced by myself.
As to the clear and distinct idea which I have of
corporeal things, some of them seem as though I might have
derived them from the idea which I possess of myself, as those
which I have of substance, duration, number, and such like.
For [even] when I think that a stone is a substance, or at
least a thing capable of existing of itself, and that I am a
substance also, although I conceive that I am a thing that
thinks and not one that is extended, and that the stone on the
other hand is an extended thing which does not think, and that
thus there is a notable difference between the two
conceptions¥they seem, nevertheless, to agree in this, that
both represent substances. In the same way, when I perceive
that I now exist and further recollect that I have in former
times existed, and when I remember that I have various
thoughts of which I can recognise the number, I acquire ideas
of duration and number which I can afterwards transfer to any
object that I please. But as to all the other qualities of
which the ideas of corporeal things are composed, to wit,
extension, figure, situation and motion, it is true that they
are not formally in me, since I am only a thing that thinks;
but because they are merely certain modes of substance [and so
to speak the vestments under which corporeal substance appears
to us] and because I myself am also a substance, it would seem
that they might be contained in me eminently.
Hence there remains only the idea of God, concerning
which we must consider whether it is something which cannot
have proceeded from me myself. By the name God I understand a
substance that is infinite [eternal, immutable], independent,
all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself and
everything else, if anything else does exist, have been
created. Now all these characteristics are such that the more
diligently I attend to them, the less do they appear capable
of proceeding from me alone; hence, from what has been already
said, we must conclude that God necessarily exists.
For although the idea of substance is within me owing to
the fact that I am substance, nevertheless I should not have
the idea of an infinite substance¥since I am finite¥if it had
not proceeded from some substance which was veritably
infinite.
Nor should I imagine that I do not perceive the infinite
by a true idea, but only by the negation of the finite, just
as I perceive repose and darkness by the negation of movement
and of light; for, on the contrary, I see that there is
manifestly more reality in infinite substance than in finite,
and therefore that in some way I have in me the notion of the
infinite earlier then the finite¥to wit, the notion of God
before that of myself. For how would it be possible that I
should know that I doubt and desire, that is to say, that
something is lacking to me, and that I am not quite perfect,
unless I had within me some idea of a Being more perfect than
myself, in comparison with which I should recognise the
deficiencies of my nature?
And we cannot say that this idea of God is perhaps
materially false and that consequently I can derive it from
nought [i.e. that possibly it exists in me because I am
imperfect], as I have just said is the case with ideas of
heat, cold and other such things; for, on the contrary, as
this idea is very clear and distinct and contains within it
more objective reality than any other, there can be none which
is of itself more true, nor any in which there can be less
suspicion of falsehood. The idea, I say, of this Being who is
absolutely perfect and infinite, is entirely true; for
although, perhaps, we can imagine that such a Being does not
exist, we cannot nevertheless imagine that His idea represents
nothing real to me, as I have said of the idea of cold. This
idea is also very clear and distinct; since all that I
conceive clearly and distinctly of the real and the true, and
of what conveys some perfection, is in its entirety contained
in this idea. And this does not cease to be true although I
do not comprehend the infinite, or though in God there is an
infinitude of things which I cannot comprehend, nor possibly
even reach in any way by thought; for it is of the nature of
the infinite that my nature, which is finite and limited,
should not comprehend it; and it is sufficient that I should
understand this, and that I should judge that all things which
I clearly perceive and in which I know that there is some
perfection, and possibly likewise an infinitude of properties
of which I am ignorant, are in God formally or eminently, so
that the idea which I have of Him may become the most true,
most clear, and most distinct of all the ideas that are in my
mind.
But possibly I am something more than I suppose myself to
be, and perhaps all those perfections which I attribute to God
are in some way potentially in me, although they do not yet
disclose themselves, or issue in action. As a matter of fact
I am already sensible that my knowledge increases [and
perfects itself] little by little, and I see nothing which can
prevent it from increasing more and more into infinitude; nor
do I see, after it has thus been increased [or perfected],
anything to prevent my being able to acquire by its means all
the other perfections of the Divine nature; nor finally why
the power I have of acquiring these perfections, if it really
exists in me, shall not suffice to produce the ideas of them.
At the same time I recognise that this cannot be. For,
in the first place, although it were true that every day my
knowledge acquired new degrees of perfection, and that there
were in my nature many things potentially which are not yet
there actually, nevertheless these excellences do not pertain
to [or make the smallest approach to] the idea which I have of
God in whom there is nothing merely potential [but in whom all
is present really and actually]; for it is an infallible token
of imperfection in my knowledge that it increases little by
little. and further, although my knowledge grows more and
more, nevertheless I do not for that reason believe that it
can ever be actually infinite, since it can never reach a
point so high that it will be unable to attain to any greater
increase. But I understand God to be actually infinite, so
that He can add nothing to His supreme perfection. And
finally I perceive that the objective being of an idea cannot
be produced by a being that exists potentially only, which
properly speaking is nothing, but only by a being which is
formal or actual.
To speak the truth, I see nothing in all that I have just
said which by the light of nature is not manifest to anyone
who desires to think attentively on the subject; but when I
slightly relax my attention, my mind, finding its vision
somewhat obscured and so to speak blinded by the images of
sensible objects, I do not easily recollect the reason why the
idea that I possess of a being more perfect then I, must
necessarily have been placed in me by a being which is really
more perfect; and this is why I wish here to go on to inquire
whether I, who have this idea, can exist if no such being
exists.
And I ask, from whom do I then derive my existence?
Perhaps from myself or from my parents, or from some other
source less perfect than God; for we can imagine nothing more
perfect than God, or even as perfect as He is.
But [were I independent of every other and] were I myself
the author of my being, I should doubt nothing and I should
desire nothing, and finally no perfection would be lacking to
me; for I should have bestowed on myself every perfection of
which I possessed any idea and should thus be God. And it
must not be imagined that those things that are lacking to me
are perhaps more difficult of attainment than those which I
already possess; for, on the contrary, it is quite evident
that it was a matter of much greater difficulty to bring to
pass that I, that is to say, a thing or a substance that
thinks, should emerge out of nothing, than it would be to
attain to the knowledge of many things of which I am ignorant,
and which are only the accidents of this thinking substance.
But it is clear that if I had of myself possessed this greater
perfection of which I have just spoken [that is to say, if I
had been the author of my own existence], I should not at
least have denied myself the things which are the more easy to
acquire [to wit, many branches of knowledge of which my nature
is destitute]; nor should I have deprived myself of any of the
things contained in the idea which I form of God, because
there are none of them which seem to me specially difficult to
acquire: and if there were any that were more difficult to
acquire, they would certainly appear to me to be such
(supposing I myself were the origin of the other things which
I possess) since I should discover in them that my powers were
limited.
But though I assume that perhaps I have always existed
just as I am at present, neither can I escape the force of
this reasoning, and imagine that the conclusion to be drawn
from this is, that I need not seek for any author of my
existence. For all the course of my life may be divided into
an infinite number of parts, none of which is in any way
dependent on the other; and thus from the fact that I was in
existence a short time ago it does not follow that I must be
in existence now, unless some cause at this instant, so to
speak, produces me anew, that is to say, conserves me. It is
as a matter of fact perfectly clear and evident to all those
who consider with attention the nature of time, that, in order
to be conserved in each moment in which it endures, a
substance has need of the same power and action as would be
necessary to produce and create it anew, supposing it did not
yet exist, so that the light of nature shows us clearly that
the distinction between creation and conservation is solely a
distinction of the reason.
All that I thus require here is that I should interrogate
myself, if I wish to know whether I possess a power which is
capable of bringing it to pass that I who now am shall still
be in the future; for since I am nothing but a thinking thing,
or at least since thus far it is only this portion of myself
which is precisely in question at present, if such a power did
reside in me, I should certainly be conscious of it. But I am
conscious of nothing of the kind, and by this I know clearly
that I depend on some being different from myself.
Possibly, however, this being on which I depend is not
that which I call God, and I am created either by my parents
or by some other cause less perfect than God. This cannot be,
because, as I have just said, it is perfectly evident that
there must be at least as much reality in the cause as in the
effect; and thus since I am a thinking thing, and possess an
idea of God within me, whatever in the end be the cause
assigned to my existence, it must be allowed that it is
likewise a thinking thing and that it possesses in itself the
idea of all the perfections which I attribute to God. We may
again inquire whether this cause derives its origin from
itself or from some other thing. For if from itself, it
follows by the reasons before brought forward, that this cause
must itself be God; for since it possesses the virtue of self-
existence, it must also without doubt have the power of
actually possessing all the perfections of which it has the
idea, that is, all those which I conceive as existing in God.
But if it derives its existence from some other cause than
itself, we shall again ask, for the same reason, whether this
second cause exists by itself or through another, until from
one step to another, we finally arrive at an ultimate cause,
which will be God.
And it is perfectly manifest that in this there can be no
regression into infinity, since what is in question is not so
much the cause which formerly created me, as that which
conserves me at the present time.
Nor can we suppose that several causes may have concurred
in my production, and that from one I have received the idea
of one of the perfections which I attribute to God, and from
another the idea of some other, so that all these perfections
indeed exist somewhere in the universe, but not as complete in
one unity which is God. On the contrary, the unity, the
simplicity or the inseparability of all things which are in
god is one of the principal perfections which I conceive to be
in Him. And certainly the idea of this unity of all Divine
perfections cannot have been placed in me by any cause from
which I have not likewise received the ideas of all the other
perfections; for this cause could not make me able to
comprehend them as joined together in an inseparable unity
without having at the same time caused me in some measure to
know what they are [and in some way to recognise each one of
them].
Finally, so far as my parents [from whom it appears I
have sprung] are concerned, although all that I have ever been
able to believe of them were true, that does not make it
follow that it is they who conserve me, nor are they even the
authors of my being in any sense, in so far as I am a thinking
being; since what they did was merely to implant certain
dispositions in that matter in which the self¥i.e. the mind,
which alone I at present identify with myself¥is by me deemed
to exist. And thus there can be no difficulty in their
regard, but we must of necessity conclude from the fact alone
that I exist, or that the idea of a Being supremely
perfect¥that is of God¥is in me, that the proof of God's
existence is grounded on the highest evidence.
It only remains to me to examine into the manner in which
I have acquired this idea from God; for I have not received it
through the senses, and it is never presented to me
unexpectedly, as is usual with the ideas of sensible things
when these things present themselves, or seem to present
themselves, to the external organs of my senses; nor is it
likewise a fiction of my mind, for it is not in my power to
take from or to add anything to it; and consequently the only
alternative is that it is innate in me, just as the idea of
myself is innate in me.
And one certainly ought not to find it strange that God,
in creating me, placed this idea within me to be like the mark
of the workman imprinted on his work; and it is likewise not
essential that the mark shall be something different from the
work itself. For from the sole fact that God created me it is
most probable that in some way he has placed his image and
similitude upon me, and that I perceive this similitude (in
which the idea of God is contained) by means of the same
faculty by which I perceive myself¥that is to say, when I
reflect on myself I not only know that I am something
[imperfect], incomplete and dependent on another, which
incessantly aspires after something which is better and
greater than myself, but I also know that He on whom I depend
possesses in Himself all the great things towards which I
aspire [and the ideas of which I find within myself], and that
not indefinitely or potentially alone, but really, actually
and infinitely; and that thus He is God. And the whole
strength of the argument which I have here made use of to
prove the existence of God consists in this, that I recognise
that it is not possible that my nature should be what it is,
and indeed that I should have in myself the idea of a God, if
God did not veritably exist¥a God, I say, whose idea is in me,
i.e. who possesses all those supreme perfections of which our
mind may indeed have some idea but without understanding them
all, who is liable to no errors or defect [and who has none of
all those marks which denote imperfection]. From this it is
manifest that He cannot be a deceiver, since the light of
nature teaches us that fraud and deception necessarily proceed
from some defect.
But before I examine this matter with more care, and pass
on to the consideration of other truths which may be derived
from it, it seems to me right to pause for a while in order to
contemplate God Himself, to ponder at leisure His marvellous
attributes, to consider, and admire, and adore, the beauty of
this light so resplendent, at least as far as the strength of
my mind, which is in some measure dazzled by the sight, will
allow me to do so. For just as faith teaches us that the
supreme felicity of the other life consists only in this
contemplation of the Divine Majesty, so we continue to learn
by experience that a similar meditation, though incomparably
less perfect, causes us to enjoy the greatest satisfaction of
which we are capable in this life.

Meditation IV.

Of the True and the False.

I have been well accustomed these past days to detach my
mind from my senses, and I have accurately observed that there
are very few things that one knows with certainty respecting
corporeal objects, that there are many more which are known to
us respecting the human mind, and yet more still regarding God
Himself; so that I shall now without any difficulty abstract
my thoughts from the consideration of [sensible or] imaginable
objects, and carry them to those which, being withdrawn from
all contact with matter, are purely intelligible. And
certainly the idea which I possess of the human mind inasmuch
as it is a thinking thing, and not extended in length, width
and depth, nor participating in anything pertaining to body,
is incomparably more distinct than is the idea of any
corporeal thing. And when I consider that I doubt, that is to
say, that I am an incomplete and dependent being, the idea of
a being that is complete and independent, that is of God,
presents itself to my mind with so much distinctness and
clearness¥and from the fact alone that this idea is found in
me, or that I who possess this idea exist, I conclude so
certainly that God exists, and that my existence depends
entirely on Him in every moment of my life¥that I do not think
that the human mind is capable of knowing anything with more
evidence and certitude. And it seems to me that I now have
before me a road which will lead us from the contemplation of
the true God (in whom all the treasures of science and wisdom
are contained) to the knowledge of the other objects of the
universe.
For, first of all, I recognise it to be impossible that
He should ever deceive me; for in all fraud and deception some
imperfection is to be found, and although it may appear that
the power of deception is a mark of subtilty or power, yet the
desire to deceive without doubt testifies to malice or
feebleness, and accordingly cannot be found in God.
In the next place I experienced in myself a certain
capacity for judging which I have doubtless received from God,
like all the other things that I possess; and as He could not
desire to deceive me, it is clear that He has not given me a
faculty that will lead me to err if I use it aright.
And no doubt respecting this matter could remain, if it
were not that the consequence would seem to follow that I can
thus never be deceived; for if I hold all that I possess from
God, and if He has not placed in me the capacity for error, it
seems as though I could never fall into error. And it is true
that when I think only of God [and direct my mind wholly to
Him],18 I discover [in myself] no cause of error, or falsity;
yet directly afterwards, when recurring to myself, experience
shows me that I am nevertheless subject to an infinitude of
errors, as to which, when we come to investigate them more
closely, I notice that not only is there a real and positive
idea of God or of a Being of supreme perfection present to my
mind, but also, so to speak, a certain negative idea of
nothing, that is, of that which is infinitely removed from any
kind of perfection; and that I am in a sense something
intermediate between God and nought, i.e. placed in such a
manner between the supreme Being and non-being, that there is
in truth nothing in me that can lead to error in so far as a
sovereign Being has formed me; but that, as I in some degree
participate likewise in nought or in non-being, i.e. in so far
as I am not myself the supreme Being, and as I find myself
subject to an infinitude of imperfections, I ought not to be
astonished if I should fall into error. Thus do I recognise
that error, in so far as it is such, is not a real thing
depending on God, but simply a defect; and therefore, in order
to fall into it, that I have no need to possess a special
faculty given me by God for this very purpose, but that I fall
into error from the fact that the power given me by God for
the purpose of distinguishing truth from error is not
infinite.
Nevertheless this does not quite satisfy me; for error is
not a pure negation [i.e. is not the dimple defect or want of
some perfection which ought not to be mine], but it is a lack
of some knowledge which it seems that I ought to possess. And
on considering the nature of God it does not appear to me
possible that He should have given me a faculty which is not
perfect of its kind, that is, which is wanting in some
perfection due to it. For if it is true that the more skilful
the artizan, the more perfect is the work of his hands, what
can have been produced by this supreme Creator of all things
that is not in all its parts perfect? And certainly there is
no doubt that God could have created me so that I could never
have been subject to error; it is also certain that He ever
wills what is best; is it then better that I should be subject
to err than that I should not?
In considering this more attentively, it occurs to me in
the first place that I should not be astonished if my
intelligence is not capable of comprehending why God acts as
He does; and that there is thus no reason to doubt of His
existence from the fact that I may perhaps find many other
things besides this as to which I am able to understand
neither for what reason nor how God has produced them. For,
in the first place, knowing that my nature is extremely feeble
and limited, and that the nature of God is on the contrary
immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, I have no further
difficulty in recognising that there is an infinitude of
matter in His power, the causes of which transcend my
knowledge; and this reason suffices to convince me that the
species of cause termed final, finds no useful employment in
physical [or natural] things; for it does not appear to me
that I can without temerity seek to investigate the
[inscrutable] ends of God.
It further occurs to me that we should not consider one
single creature separately, when we inquire as to whether the
works of God are perfect, but should regard all his creations
together. For the same thing which might possibly seem very
imperfect with some semblance of reason if regarded by itself,
is found to be very perfect if regarded as part of the whole
universe; and although, since I resolved to doubt all things,
I as yet have only known certainly my own existence and that
of God, nevertheless since I have recognised the infinite
power of God, I cannot deny that He may have produced many
other things, or at least that He has the power of producing
them, so that I may obtain a place as a part of a great
universe.
Whereupon, regarding myself more closely, and considering
what are my errors (for they alone testify to there being any
imperfection in me), I answer that they depend on a
combination of two causes, to wit, on the faculty of knowledge
that rests in me, and on the power of choice or of free
will¥that is to say, of the understanding and at the same time
of the will. For by the understanding alone I [neither assert
nor deny anything, but] apprehend19 the ideas of things as to
which I can form a judgment. But no error is properly
speaking found in it, provided the word error is taken in its
proper signification; and though there is possibly an
infinitude of things in the world of which I have no idea in
my understanding, we cannot for all that say that it is
deprived of these ideas [as we might say of something which is
required by its nature], but simply it does not possess these;
because in truth there is no reason to prove that God should
have given me a greater faculty of knowledge than He has given
me; and however skillful a workman I represent Him to be, I
should not for all that consider that He was bound to have
placed in each of His works all the perfections which He may
have been able to place in some. I likewise cannot complain
that God has not given me a free choice or a will which is
sufficient, ample and perfect, since as a matter of fact I am
conscious of a will so extended as to be subject to no limits.
And what seems to me very remarkable in this regard is that of
all the qualities which I possess there is no one so perfect
and so comprehensive that I do not very clearly recognise that
it might be yet greater and more perfect. For, to take an
example, if I consider the faculty of comprehension which I
possess, I find that it is of very small extent and extremely
limited, and at the same time I find the idea of another
faculty much more ample and even infinite, and seeing that I
can form the idea of it, I recognise from this very fact that
it pertains to the nature of God. If in the same way I
examine the memory, the imagination, or some other faculty, I
do not find any which is not small and circumscribed, while in
God it is immense [or infinite]. It is free-will alone or
liberty of choice which I find to be so great in me that I can
conceive no other idea to be more great; it is indeed the case
that it is for the most part this will that causes me to know
that in some manner I bear the image and similitude of God.
For although the power of will is incomparably greater in God
than in me, both by reason of the knowledge and the power
which, conjoined with it, render it stronger and more
efficacious, and by reason of its object, inasmuch as in God
it extends to a great many things; it nevertheless does not
seem to me greater if I consider it formally and precisely in
itself: for the faculty of will consists alone in our having
the power of choosing to do a thing or choosing not to do it
(that is, to affirm or deny, to pursue or to shun it), or
rather it consists alone in the fact that in order to affirm
or deny, pursue or shun those things placed before us by the
understanding, we act so that we are unconscious that any
outside force constrains us in doing so. For in order that I
should be free it is not necessary that I should be
indifferent as to the choice of one or the other of two
contraries; but contrariwise the more I lean to the
one¥whether I recognise clearly that the reasons of the good
and true are to be found in it, or whether God so disposes my
inward thought¥the more freely do I choose and embrace it.
And undoubtedly both divine grace and natural knowledge, far
from diminishing my liberty, rather increase it and strengthen
it. Hence this indifference which I feel, when I am not
swayed to one side rather than to the other by lack of reason,
is the lowest grade of liberty, and rather evinces a lack or
negation in knowledge than a perfection of will: for if I
always recognised clearly what was true and good, I should
never have trouble in deliberating as to what judgment or
choice I should make, and then I should be entirely free
without ever being indifferent.
From all this I recognise that the power of will which I
have received from God is not of itself the source of my
errors¥for it is very ample and very perfect of its kind¥any
more than is the power of understanding; for since I
understand nothing but by the power which God has given me for
understanding, there is no doubt that all that I understand, I
understand as I ought, and it is not possible that I err in
this. Whence then come my errors? They come from the sole
fact that since the will is much wider in its range and
compass than the understanding, I do not restrain it within
the same bounds, but extend it also to things which I do not
understand: and as the will is of itself indifferent to
these, it easily falls into error and sin, and chooses the
evil for the good, or the false for the true.
For example, when I lately examined whether anything
existed in the world, and found that from the very fact that I
considered this question it followed very clearly that I
myself existed, I could not prevent myself from believing that
a thing I so clearly conceived was true: not that I found
myself compelled to do so by some external cause, but simply
because from great clearness in my mind there followed a great
inclination of my will; and I believed this with so much the
greater freedom or spontaneity as I possessed the less
indifference towards it. Now, on the contrary, I not only
know that I exist, inasmuch as I am a thinking thing, but a
certain representation of corporeal nature is also presented
to my mind; and it comes to pass that I doubt whether this
thinking nature which is in me, or rather by which I am what I
am, differs from this corporeal nature, or whether both are
not simply the same thing; and I here suppose that I do not
yet know any reason to persuade me to adopt the one belief
rather than the other. From this it follows that I am
entirely indifferent as to which of the two I affirm or deny,
or even whether I abstain from forming any judgment in the
matter.
And this indifference does not only extend to matters as
to which the understanding has no knowledge, but also in
general to all those which are not apprehended with perfect
clearness at the moment when the will is deliberating upon
them: for, however probable are the conjectures which render
me disposed to form a judgment respecting anything, the simple
knowledge that I have that those are conjectures alone and not
certain and indubitable reasons, suffices to occasion me to
judge the contrary. Of this I have had great experience of
late when I set aside as false all that I had formerly held to
be absolutely true, for the sole reason that I remarked that
it might in some measure be doubted.
But if I abstain from giving my judgment on any thing
when I do not perceive it with sufficient clearness and
distinctness, it is plain that I act rightly and am not
deceived. But if I determine to deny or affirm, I no longer
make use as I should of my free will, and if I affirm what is
not true, it is evident that I deceive myself; even though I
judge according to truth, this comes about only by chance, and
I do not escape the blame of misusing my freedom; for the
light of nature teaches us that the knowledge of the
understanding should always precede the determination of the
will. And it is in the misuse of the free will that the
privation which constitutes the characteristic nature of error
is met with. Privation, I say, is found in the act, in so far
as it proceeds from me, but it is not found in the faculty
which I have received from God, nor even in the act in so far
as it depends on Him.
For I have certainly no cause to complain that God has
not given me an intelligence which is more powerful, or a
natural light which is stronger than that which I have
received from Him, since it is proper to the finite
understanding not to comprehend a multitude of things, and it
is proper to a created understanding to be finite; on the
contrary, I have every reason to render thanks to God who owes
me nothing and who has given me all the perfections I possess,
and I should be far from charging Him with injustice, and with
having deprived me of, or wrongfully withheld from me, these
perfections which He has not bestowed upon me.
I have further no reason to complain that He has given me
a will more ample than my understanding, for since the will
consists only of one single element, and is so to speak
indivisible, it appears that its nature is such that nothing
can be abstracted from it [without destroying it]; and
certainly the more comprehensive it is found to be, the more
reason I have to render gratitude to the giver.
And, finally, I must also not complain that God concurs
with me in forming the acts of the will, that is the judgment
in which I go astray, because these acts are entirely true and
good, inasmuch as they depend on God; and in a certain sense
more perfection accrues to my nature from the fact that I can
form them, than if I could not do so. As to the privation in
which alone the formal reason of error or sin consists, it has
no need of any concurrence from God, since it is not a thing
[or an existence], and since it is not related to God as to a
cause, but should be termed merely a negation [according to
the significance given to these words in the Schools]. For in
fact it is not an imperfection in God that He has given me the
liberty to give or withhold my assent from certain things as
to which He has not placed a clear and distinct knowledge in
my understanding; but it is without doubt an imperfection in
me not to make a good use of my freedom, and to give my
judgment readily on matters which I only understand obscurely.
I nevertheless perceive that God could easily have created me
so that I never should err, although I still remained free,
and endowed with a limited knowledge, viz. by giving to my
understanding a clear and distinct intelligence of all things
as to which I should ever have to deliberate; or simply by His
engraving deeply in my memory the resolution never to form a
judgment on anything without having a clear and distinct
understanding of it, so that I could never forget it. And it
is easy for me to understand that, in so far as I consider
myself alone, and as if there were only myself in the world, I
should have been much more perfect than I am, if God had
created me so that I could never err. Nevertheless I cannot
deny that in some sense it is a greater perfection in the
whole universe that certain parts should not be exempt from
error as others are than that all parts should be exactly
similar. And I have no right to complain if God, having
placed me in the world, has not called upon me to play a part
that excels all others in distinction and perfection.
And further I have reason to be glad on the ground that
if He has not given me the power of never going astray by the
first means pointed out above, which depends on a clear and
evident knowledge of all the things regarding which I can
deliberate, He has at least left within my power the other
means, which is firmly to adhere to the resolution never to
give judgment on matters whose truth is not clearly known to
me; for although I notice a certain weakness in my nature in
that I cannot continually concentrate my mind on one single
thought, I can yet, by attentive and frequently repeated
meditation, impress it so forcibly on my memory that I shall
never fail to recollect it whenever I have need of it, and
thus acquire the habit of never going astray.
And inasmuch as it is in this that the greatest and
principal perfection of man consists, it seems to me that I
have not gained little by this day's Meditation, since I have
discovered the source of falsity and error. And certainly
there can be no other source than that which I have explained;
for as often as I so restrain my will within the limits of my
knowledge that it forms no judgment except on matters which
are clearly and distinctly represented to it by the
understanding, I can never be deceived; for every clear and
distinct conception20 is without doubt something, and hence
cannot derive its origin from what is nought, but must of
necessity have God as its author¥God, I say, who being
supremely perfect, cannot be the cause of any error; and
consequently we must conclude that such a conception [or such
a judgment] is true. Nor have I only learned to-day what I
should avoid in order that I may not err, but also how I
should act in order to arrive at a knowledge of the truth; for
without doubt I shall arrive at this end if I devote my
attention sufficiently to those things which I perfectly
understand; and if I separate from these that which I only
understand confusedly and with obscurity. To these I shall
henceforth diligently give heed.

Meditation V.

Of the essence of material things, and, again, of God, that He
exists.

Many other matters respecting the attributes of God and
my own nature or mind remain for consideration; but I shall
possibly on another occasion resume the investigation of
these. Now (after first noting what must be done or avoided,
in order to arrive at a knowledge of the truth) my principal
task is to endeavour to emerge from the state of doubt into
which I have these last days fallen, and to see whether
nothing certain can be known regarding material things.
But before examining whether any such objects as I
conceive exist outside of me, I must consider the ideas of
them in so far as they are in my thought, and see which of
them are distinct and which confused.
In the first place, I am able distinctly to imagine that
quantity which philosophers commonly call continuous, or the
extension in length, breadth, or depth, that is in this
quantity, or rather in the object to which it is attributed.
Further, I can number in it many different parts, and
attribute to each of its parts many sorts of size, figure,
situation and local movement, and, finally, I can assign to
each of these movements all degrees of duration.
And not only do I know these things with distinctness
when I consider them in general, but, likewise [however little
I apply my attention to the matter], I discover an infinitude
of particulars respecting numbers, figures, movements, and
other such things, whose truth is so manifest, and so well
accords with my nature, that when I begin to discover them, it
seems to me that I learn nothing new, or recollect what I
formerly knew¥that is to say, that I for the first time
perceive things which were already present to my mind,
although I had not as yet applied my mind to them.
And what I here find to be most important is that I
discover in myself an infinitude of ideas of certain things
which cannot be esteemed as pure negations, although they may
possibly have no existence outside of my thought, and which
are not framed by me, although it is within my power either to
think or not to think them, but which possess natures which
are true and immutable. For example, when I imagine a
triangle, although there may nowhere in the world be such a
figure outside my thought, or ever have been, there is
nevertheless in this figure a certain determinate nature,
form, or essence, which is immutable and eternal, which I have
not invented, and which in no wise depends on my mind, as
appears from the fact that diverse properties of that triangle
can be demonstrated, viz. that its three angles are equal to
two right angles, that the greatest side is subtended by the
greatest angle, and the like, which now, whether I wish it or
do not wish it, I recognise very clearly as pertaining to it,
although I never thought of the matter at all when I imagined
a triangle for the first time, and which therefore cannot be
said to have been invented by me.
Nor does the objection hold good that possibly this idea
of a triangle has reached my mind through the medium of my
senses, since I have sometimes seen bodies triangular in
shape; because I can form in my mind an infinitude of other
figures regarding which we cannot have the least conception of
their ever having been objects of sense, and I can
nevertheless demonstrate various properties pertaining to
their nature as well as to that of the triangle, and these
must certainly all be true since I conceive them clearly.
Hence they are something, and not pure negation; for it is
perfectly clear that all that is true is something, and I have
already fully demonstrated that all that I know clearly is
true. And even although I had not demonstrated this, the
nature of my mind is such that I could not prevent myself from
holding them to be true so long as I conceive them clearly;
and I recollect that even when I was still strongly attached
to the objects of sense, I counted as the most certain those
truths which I conceived clearly as regards figures, numbers,
and the other matters which pertain to arithmetic and
geometry, and, in general, to pure and abstract mathematics.
But now, if just because I can draw the idea of something
from my thought, it follows that all which I know clearly and
distinctly as pertaining to this object does really belong to
it, may I not derive from this an argument demonstrating the
existence of God? It is certain that I no less find the idea
of God, that is to say, the idea of a supremely perfect Being,
in me, than that of any figure or number whatever it is; and I
do not know any less clearly and distinctly that an [actual
and] eternal existence pertains to this nature than I know
that all that which I am able to demonstrate of some figure or
number truly pertains to the nature of this figure or number,
and therefore, although all that I concluded in the preceding
Meditations were found to be false, the existence of God would
pass with me as at least as certain as I have ever held the
truths of mathematics (which concern only numbers and figures)
to be.
This indeed is not at first manifest, since it would seem
to present some appearance of being a sophism. For being
accustomed in all other things to make a distinction between
existence and essence, I easily persuade myself that the
existence can be separated from the essence of God, and that
we can thus conceive God as not actually existing. But,
nevertheless, when I think of it with more attention, I
clearly see that existence can no more be separated from the
essence of God than can its having its three angles equal to
two right angles be separated from the essence of a
[rectilinear] triangle, or the idea of a mountain from the
idea of a valley; and so there is not any less repugnance to
our conceiving a God (that is, a Being supremely perfect) to
whom existence is lacking (that is to say, to whom a certain
perfection is lacking), than to conceive of a mountain which
has no valley.
But although I cannot really conceive of a God without
existence any more than a mountain without a valley, still
from the fact that I conceive of a mountain with a valley, it
does not follow that there is such a mountain in the world;
similarly although I conceive of God as possessing existence,
it would seem that it does not follow that there is a God
which exists; for my thought does not impose any necessity
upon things, and just as I may imagine a winged horse,
although no horse with wings exists, so I could perhaps
attribute existence to God, although no God existed.
But a sophism is concealed in this objection; for from
the fact that I cannot conceive a mountain without a valley,
it does not follow that there is any mountain or any valley in
existence, but only that the mountain and the valley, whether
they exist or do not exist, cannot in any way be separated one
from the other. While from the fact that I cannot conceive
God without existence, it follows that existence is
inseparable from Him, and hence that He really exists; not
that my thought can bring this to pass, or impose any
necessity on things, but, on the contrary, because the
necessity which lies in the thing itself, i.e. the necessity
of the existence of God determines me to think in this way.
For it is not within my power to think of God without
existence (that is of a supremely perfect Being devoid of a
supreme perfection) though it is in my power to imagine a
horse either with wings or without wings.
And we must not here object that it is in truth necessary
for me to assert that God exists after having presupposed that
He possesses every sort of perfection, since existence is one
of these, but that as a matter of fact my original supposition
was not necessary, just as it is not necessary to consider
that all quadrilateral figures can be inscribed in the circle;
for supposing I thought this, I should be constrained to admit
that the rhombus might be inscribed in the circle since it is
a quadrilateral figure, which, however, is manifestly false.
[We must not, I say, make any such allegations because]
although it is not necessary that I should at any time
entertain the notion of God, nevertheless whenever it happens
that I think of a first and a sovereign Being, and, so to
speak, derive the idea of Him from the storehouse of my mind,
it is necessary that I should attribute to Him every sort of
perfection, although I do not get so far as to enumerate them
all, or to apply my mind to each one in particular. And this
necessity suffices to make me conclude (after having
recognised that existence is a perfection) that this first and
sovereign Being really exists; just as though it is not
necessary for me ever to imagine any triangle, yet, whenever I
wish to consider a rectilinear figure composed only of three
angles, it is absolutely essential that I should attribute to
it all those properties which serve to bring about the
conclusion that its three angles are not greater than two
right angles, even although I may not then be considering this
point in particular. But when I consider which figures are
capable of being inscribed in the circle, it is in no wise
necessary that I should think that all quadrilateral figures
are of this number; on the contrary, I cannot even pretend
that this is the case, so long as I do not desire to accept
anything which I cannot conceive clearly and distinctly. And
in consequence there is a great difference between the false
suppositions such as this, and the true ideas born within me,
the first and principal of which is that of God. For really I
discern in many ways that this idea is not something
factitious, and depending solely on my thought, but that it is
the image of a true and immutable nature; first of all,
because I cannot conceive anything but God himself to whose
essence existence [necessarily] pertains; in the second place
because it is not possible for me to conceive two or more Gods
in this same position; and, granted that there is one such God
who now exists, I see clearly that it is necessary that He
should have existed from all eternity, and that He must exist
eternally; and finally, because I know an infinitude of other
properties in God, none of which I can either diminish or
change.
For the rest, whatever proof or argument I avail myself
of, we must always return to the point that it is only those
things which we conceive clearly and distinctly that have the
power of persuading me entirely. And although amongst the
matters which I conceive of in this way, some indeed are
manifestly obvious to all, while others only manifest
themselves to those who consider them closely and examine them
attentively; still, after they have once been discovered, the
latter are not esteemed as any less certain than the former.
For example, in the case of every right-angled triangle,
although it does not so manifestly appear that the square of
the base is equal to the squares of the two other sides as
that this base is opposite to the greatest angle; still, when
this has once been apprehended, we are just as certain of its
truth as of the truth of the other. And as regards God, if my
mind were not pre-occupied with prejudices, and if my thought
did not find itself on all hands diverted by the continual
pressure of sensible things, there would be nothing which I
could know more immediately and more easily than Him. For is
there anything more manifest than that there is a God, that is
to say, a Supreme Being, to whose essence alone existence
pertains?21
And although for a firm grasp of this truth I have need
of a strenuous application of mind, at present I not only feel
myself to be as assured of it as of all that I hold as most
certain, but I also remark that the certainty of all other
things depends on it so absolutely, that without this
knowledge it is impossible ever to know anything perfectly.
For although I am of such a nature that as long as22 I
understand anything very clearly and distinctly, I am
naturally impelled to believe it to be true, yet because I am
also of such a nature that I cannot have my mind constantly
fixed on the same object in order to perceive it clearly, and
as I often recollect having formed a past judgment without at
the same time properly recollecting the reasons that led me to
make it, it may happen meanwhile that other reasons present
themselves to me, which would easily cause me to change my
opinion, if I were ignorant of the facts of the existence of
God, and thus I should have no true and certain knowledge, but
only vague and vacillating opinions. Thus, for example, when
I consider the nature of a [rectilinear] triangle, I who have
some little knowledge of the principles of geometry recognise
quite clearly that the three angles are equal to two right
angles, and it is not possible for me not to believe this so
long as I apply my mind to its demonstration; but so soon as I
abstain from attending to the proof, although I still
recollect having clearly comprehended it, it may easily occur
that I come to doubt its truth, if I am ignorant of there
being a God. For I can persuade myself of having been so
constituted by nature that I can easily deceive myself even in
those matters which I believe myself to apprehend with the
greatest evidence and certainty, especially when I recollect
that I have frequently judged matters to be true and certain
which other reasons have afterwards impelled me to judge to be
altogether false.
But after I have recognised that there is a God¥because
at the same time I have also recognised that all things depend
upon Him, and that He is not a deceiver, and from that have
inferred that what I perceive clearly and distinctly cannot
fail to be true¥although I no longer pay attention to the
reasons for which I have judged this to be true, provided that
I recollect having clearly and distinctly perceived it no
contrary reason can be brought forward which could ever cause
me to doubt of its truth; and thus I have a true and certain
knowledge of it. And this same knowledge extends likewise to
all other things which I recollect having formerly
demonstrated, such as the truths of geometry and the like; for
what can be alleged against them to cause me to place them in
doubt? Will it be said that my nature is such as to cause me
to be frequently deceived? But I already know that I cannot
be deceived in the judgment whose grounds I know clearly.
Will it be said that I formerly held many things to be true
and certain which I have afterwards recognised to be false?
But I had not had any clear and distinct knowledge of these
things, and not as yet knowing the rule whereby I assure
myself of the truth, I had been impelled to give my assent
from reasons which I have since recognised to be less strong
than I had at the time imagined them to be. What further
objection can then be raised? That possibly I am dreaming (an
objection I myself made a little while ago), or that all the
thoughts which I now have are no more true than the phantasies
of my dreams? But even though I slept the case would be the
same, for all that is clearly present to my mind is absolutely
true.
And so I very clearly recognise that the certainty and
truth of all knowledge depends alone on the knowledge of the
true God, in so much that, before I knew Him, I could not have
a perfect knowledge of any other thing. And now that I know
Him I have the means of acquiring a perfect knowledge of an
infinitude of things, not only of those which relate to God
Himself and other intellectual matters, but also of those
which pertain to corporeal nature in so far as it is the
object of pure mathematics [which have no concern with whether
it exists or not].

Meditation VI.

Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the real
distinction between the Soul and Body of Man.

Nothing further now remains but to inquire whether
material things exist. And certainly I at least know that
these may exist in so far as they are considered as the
objects of pure mathematics, since in this aspect I perceive
them clearly and distinctly. For there is no doubt that God
possesses the power to produce everything that I am capable of
perceiving with distinctness, and I have never deemed that
anything was impossible for Him, unless I found a
contradiction in attempting to conceive it clearly. Further,
the faculty of imagination which I possess, and of which,
experience tells me, I make use when I apply myself to the
consideration of material things, is capable of persuading me
of their existence; for when I attentively consider what
imagination is, I find that it is nothing but a certain
application of the faculty of knowledge to the body which is
immediately present to it, and which therefore exists.
And to render this quite clear, I remark in the first
place the difference that exists between the imagination and
pure intellection [or conception23]. For example, when I
imagine a triangle, I do not conceive it only as a figure
comprehended by three lines, but I also apprehend24 these
three lines as present by the power and inward vision of my
mind,25 and this is what I call imagining. But if I desire to
think of a chiliagon, I certainly conceive truly that it is a
figure composed of a thousand sides, just as easily as I
conceive of a triangle that it is a figure of three sides
only; but I cannot in any way imagine the thousand sides of a
chiliagon [as I do the three sides of a triangle], nor do I,
so to speak, regard them as present [with the eyes of my
mind]. And although in accordance with the habit I have
formed of always employing the aid of my imagination when I
think of corporeal things, it may happen that in imagining a
chiliagon I confusedly represent to myself some figure, yet it
is very evident that this figure is not a chiliagon, since it
in no way differs from that which I represent to myself when I
think of a myriagon or any other many-sided figure; nor does
it serve my purpose in discovering the properties which go to
form the distinction between a chiliagon and other polygons.
But if the question turns upon a pentagon, it is quite true
that I can conceive its figure as well as that of a chiliagon
without the help of my imagination; but I can also imagine it
by applying the attention of my mind to each of its five
sides, and at the same time to the space which they enclose.
And thus I clearly recognise that I have need of a particular
effort of mind in order to effect the act of imagination, such
as I do not require in order to understand, and this
particular effort of mind clearly manifests the difference
which exists between imagination and pure intellection.26
I remark besides that this power of imagination which is
in one, inasmuch as it differs from the power of
understanding, is in no wise a necessary element in my nature,
or in [my essence, that is to say, in] the essence of my mind;
for although I did not possess it I should doubtless ever
remain the same as I now am, from which it appears that we
might conclude that it depends on something which differs from
me. And I easily conceive that if some body exists with which
my mind is conjoined and united in such a way that it can
apply itself to consider it when it pleases, it may be that by
this means it can imagine corporeal objects; so that this mode
of thinking differs from pure intellection only inasmuch as
mind in its intellectual activity in some manner turns on
itself, and considers some of the ideas which it possesses in
itself; while in imagining it turns towards the body, and
there beholds in it something conformable to the idea which it
has either conceived of itself or perceived by the senses. I
easily understand, I say, that the imagination could be thus
constituted if it is true that body exists; and because I can
discover no other convenient mode of explaining it, I
conjecture with probability that body does exist; but this is
only with probability, and although I examine all things with
care, I nevertheless do not find that from this distinct idea
of corporeal nature, which I have in my imagination, I can
derive any argument from which there will necessarily be
deduced the existence of body.
But I am in the habit of imagining many other things
besides this corporeal nature which is the object of pure
mathematics, to wit, the colours, sounds, scents, pain, and
other such things, although less distinctly. And inasmuch as
I perceive these things much better through the senses, by the
medium of which, and by the memory, they seem to have reached
my imagination, I believe that, in order to examine them more
conveniently, it is right that I should at the same time
investigate the nature of sense perception, and that I should
see if from the ideas which I apprehend by this mode of
thought, which I call feeling, I cannot derive some certain
proof of the existence of corporeal objects.
And first of all I shall recall to my memory those
matters which I hitherto held to be true, as having perceived
them through the senses, and the foundations on which my
belief has rested; in the next place I shall examine the
reasons which have since obliged me to place them in doubt; in
the last place I shall consider which of them I must now
believe.
First of all, then, I perceived that I had a head, hands,
feet, and all other members of which this body¥which I
considered as a part, or possibly even as the whole, of
myself¥is composed. Further I was sensible that this body was
placed amidst many others, from which it was capable of being
affected in many different ways, beneficial and hurtful, and I
remarked that a certain feeling of pleasure accompanied those
that were beneficial, and pain those which were harmful. And
in addition to this pleasure and pain, I also experienced
hunger, thirst, and other similar appetites, as also certain
corporeal inclinations towards joy, sadness, anger, and other
similar passions. And outside myself, in addition to
extension, figure, and motions of bodies, I remarked in them
hardness, heat, and all other tactice qualities, and, further,
light and colour, and scents and sounds, the variety of which
gave me the means of distinguishing the sky, the earth, the
sea, and generally all the other bodies, one from the other.
And certainly, considering the ideas of all these qualities
which presented themselves to my mind, and which alone I
perceived properly or immediately, it was not without reason
that I believed myself to perceive objects quite different
from my thought, to wit, bodies from which those ideas
proceeded; for I found by experience that these ideas
presented themselves to me without my consent being requisite,
so that I could not perceive any object, however desirous I
might be, unless it were present to the organs of sense; and
it was not in my power not to perceive it, when it was
present. And because the ideas which I received through the
senses were much more lively, more clear, and even, in their
own way, more distinct than any of those which I could of
myself frame in meditation, or than those I found impressed on
my memory, it appeared as though they could not have proceeded
from my mind, so that they must necessarily have been produced
in me by some other things. And having no knowledge of those
objects excepting the knowledge which the ideas themselves
gave me, nothing was more likely to occur to my mind than that
the objects were similar to the ideas which were caused. And
because I likewise remembered that I had formerly made use of
my senses rather than my reason, and recognised that the ideas
which I formed of myself were not so distinct as those which I
perceived through the senses, and that they were most
frequently even composed of portions of these last, I
persuaded myself easily that I had no idea in my mind which
had not formerly come to me through the senses. Nor was it
without some reason that I believed that this body (which be a
certain special right I call my own) belonged to me more
properly and more strictly than any other; for in fact I could
never be separated from it as from other bodies; I experienced
in it and on account of it all my appetites and affections,
and finally I was touched by the feeling of pain and the
titillation of pleasure in its parts, and not in the parts of
other bodies which were separated from it. But when I
inquired, why, from some, I know not what, painful sensation,
there follows sadness of mind, and from the pleasurable
sensation there arises joy, or why this mysterious pinching of
the stomach which I call hunger causes me to desire to eat,
and dryness of throat causes a desire to drink, and so on, I
could give no reason excepting that nature taught me so; for
there is certainly no affinity (that I at least can
understand) between the craving of the stomach and the desire
to eat, any more than between the perception of whatever
causes pain and the thought of sadness which arises from this
perception. And in the same way it appeared to me that I had
learned from nature all the other judgments which I formed
regarding the objects of my senses, since I remarked that
these judgments were formed in me before I had the leisure to
weigh and consider any reasons which might oblige me to make
them.
But afterwards many experiences little by little
destroyed all the faith which I had rested in my senses; for I
from time to time observed that those towers which from afar
appeared to me to be round, more closely observed seemed
square, and that colossal statues raised on the summit of
these towers, appeared as quite tiny statues when viewed from
the bottom; and so in an infinitude of other cases I found
error in judgments founded on the external senses. And not
only in those founded on the external senses, but even in
those founded on the internal as well; for is there anything
more intimate or more internal than pain? And yet I have
learned from some persons whose arms or legs have been cut
off, that they sometimes seemed to feel pain in the part which
had been amputated, which made me think that I could not be
quite certain that it was a certain member which pained me,
even although I felt pain in it. And to those grounds of
doubt I have lately added two others, which are very general;
the first is that I never have believed myself to feel
anything in waking moments which I cannot also sometimes
believe myself to feel when I sleep, and as I do not think
that these things which I seem to feel in sleep, proceed from
objects outside of me, I do not see any reason why I should
have this belief regarding objects which I seem to perceive
while awake. The other was that being still ignorant, or
rather supposing myself to be ignorant, of the author of my
being, I saw nothing to prevent me from having been so
constituted by nature that I might be deceived even in matters
which seemed to me to be most certain. And as to the grounds
on which I was formerly persuaded of the truth of sensible
objects, I had not much trouble in replying to them. For
since nature seemed to cause me to lean towards many things
from which reason repelled me, I did not believe that I should
trust much to the teachings of nature. And although the ideas
which I receive by the senses do not depend on my will, I did
not think that one should for that reason conclude that they
proceeded from things different from myself, since possibly
some faculty might be discovered in me¥though hitherto unknown
to me¥which produced them.
But now that I begin to know myself better, and to
discover more clearly the author of my being, I do not in
truth think that I should rashly admit all the matters which
the senses seem to teach us, but, on the other hand, I do not
think that I should doubt them all universally.
And first of all, because I know that all things which I
apprehend clearly and distinctly can be created by God as I
apprehend them, it suffices that I am able to apprehend one
thing apart from another clearly and distinctly in order to be
certain that the one is different from the other, since they
may be made to exist in separation at least by the omnipotence
of God; and it does not signify by what power this separation
is made in order to compel me to judge them to be different:
and, therefore, just because I know certainly that I exist,
and that meanwhile I do not remark that any other thing
necessarily pertains to my nature or essence, excepting that I
am a thinking thing, I rightly conclude that my essence
consists solely in the fact that I am a thinking thin [or a
substance whose whole essence or nature is to think]. And
although possibly (or rather certainly, as I shall say in a
moment) I possess a body with which I am very intimately
conjoined, yet because, on the one side, I have a clear and
distinct idea of myself inasmuch as I am only a thinking and
unextended thing, and as, on the other, I possess a distinct
idea of body, inasmuch as it is only an extended and
unthinking thing, it is certain that this I [that is to say,
my soul by which I am what I am], is entirely and absolutely
distinct from my body, and can exist without it.
I further find in myself faculties imploying modes of
thinking peculiar to themselves, to wit, the faculties of
imagination and feeling, without which I can easily conceive
myself clearly and distinctly as a complete being; while, on
the other hand, they cannot be so conceived apart from me,
that is without an intelligent substance in which they reside,
for [in the notion we have of these faculties, or, to use the
language of the Schools] in their formal concept, some kind of
intellection is comprised, from which I infer that they are
distinct from me as its modes are from a thing. I observe
also in me some other faculties such as that of change of
position, the assumption of different figures and such like,
which cannot be conceived, any more than can the preceding,
apart from some substance to which they are attached, and
consequently cannot exist without it; but it is very clear
that these faculties, if it be true that they exist, must be
attached to some corporeal or extended substance, and not to
an intelligent substance, since in the clear and distinct
conception of these there is some sort of extension found to
be present, but no intellection at all. There is certainly
further in me a certain passive faculty of perception, that
is, of receiving and recognising the ideas of sensible things,
but this would be useless to me [and I could in no way avail
myself of it], if there were not either in me or in some other
thing another active faculty capable of forming and producing
these ideas. But this active faculty cannot exist in me
[inasmuch as I am a thing that thinks] seeing that it does not
presuppose thought, and also that those ideas are often
produced in me without my contributing in any way to the same,
and often even against my will; it is thus necessarily the
case that the faculty resides in some substance different from
me in which all the reality which is objectively in the ideas
that are produced by this faculty is formally or eminently
contained, as I remarked before. And this substance is either
a body, that is, a corporeal nature in which there is
contained formally [and really] all that which is objectively
[and by representation] in those ideas, or it is God Himself,
or some other creature more noble than body in which that same
is contained eminently. But, since God is no deceiver, it is
very manifest that He does not communicate to me these ideas
immediately and by Himself, nor yet by the intervention of
some creature in which their reality is not formally, but only
eminently, contained. For since He has given me no faculty to
recognise that this is the case, but, on the other hand, a
very great inclination to believe [that they are sent to me
or] that they are conveyed to me by corporeal objects, I do
not see how He could be defended from the accusation of deceit
if these ideas were produced by causes other than corporeal
objects. Hence we must allow that corporeal things exist.
However, they are perhaps not exactly what we perceive by the
senses, since this comprehension by the senses is in many
instances very obscure and confused; but we must at least
admit that all things which I conceive in them clearly and
distinctly, that is to say, all things which, speaking
generally, are comprehended in the object of pure mathematics,
are truly to be recognised as external objects.
As to other things, however, which are either particular
only, as, for example, that the sun is of such and such a
figure, etc., or which are less clearly and distinctly
conceived, such as light, sound, pain and the like, it is
certain that although they are very dubious and uncertain, yet
on the sole ground that God is not a deceiver, and that
consequently He has not permitted any falsity to exist in my
opinion which He has not likewise given me the faculty of
correcting, I may assuredly hope to conclude that I have
within me the means of arriving at the truth even here. And
first of all there is no doubt that in all things which nature
teaches me there is some truth contained; for by nature,
considered in general, I now understand no other thing than
either God Himself or else the order and disposition which God
has established in created things; and by my nature in
particular I understand no other thing than the complexus of
all the things which God has given me.
But there is nothing which this nature teaches me more
expressly [nor more sensibly] than that I have a body which is
adversely affected when I feel pain, which has need of food or
drink when I experience the feelings of hunger and thirst, and
so on; nor can I doubt there being some truth in all this.
Nature also teaches me by these sensations of pain,
hunger, thirst, etc., that I am not only lodged in my body as
a pilot in a vessel, but that I am not only lodged in my body
as a pilot in a vessel, but that I am very closely united to
it, and so to speak so intermingled with it that I seem to
compose with it one whole. For if that were not the case,
when my body is hurt, I, who am merely a thinking thing,
should not feel pain, for I should perceive this wound by the
understanding only, just as the sailor perceives by sight when
something is damaged in his vessel; and when my body has need
of drink or food, I should clearly understand the fact without
being warned of it by confused feelings of hunger and thirst.
For all these sensations of hunger, thirst, pain, etc. are in
truth none other than certain confused modes of thought which
are produced by the union and apparent intermingling of mind
and body.
Moreover, nature teaches me that many other bodies exist
around mine, of which some are to be avoided, and others
sought after. And certainly from the fact that I am sensible
of different sorts of colours, sounds, scents, tastes, heat,
hardness, etc., I very easily conclude that there are in the
bodies from which all these diverse sense-perceptions proceed
certain variations which answer to them, although possibly
these are not really at all similar to them. And also from
the fact that amongst these different sense-perceptions some
are very agreeable to me and others disagreeable, it is quite
certain that my body (or rather myself in my entirety,
inasmuch as I am formed of body and soul) may receive
different impressions agreeable and disagreeable from the
other bodies which surround it.
But there are many other things which nature seems to
have taught me, but which at the same time I have never really
received from her, but which have been brought about in my
mind by a certain habit which I have of forming inconsiderate
judgments on things; and thus it may easily happen that these
judgments contain some error. Take, for example, the opinion
which I hold that all space in which there is nothing that
affects [or makes an impression on] my senses is void; that in
a body which is warm there is something entirely similar to
the idea of heat which is in me; that in a white or green body
there is the same whiteness or greenness that I perceive; that
in a bitter or sweet body there is the same taste, and so on
in other instances; that the stars, the towers, and all other
distant bodies are of the same figure and size as they appear
from far off to our eyes, etc. But in order that in this
there should be nothing which I do not conceive distinctly, I
should define exactly what I really understand when I say that
I am taught somewhat by nature. For here I take nature in a
more limited signification than when I term it the sum of all
the things given me by God, since in this sum many things are
comprehended which only pertain to mind (and to these I do not
refer in speaking of nature) such as the notion which I have
of the fact that what has once been done cannot ever be undone
and an infinitude of such things which I know by the light of
nature [without the help of the body]; and seeing that it
comprehends many other matters besides which only pertain to
body, and are no longer here contained under the name of
nature, such as the quality of weight which it possesses and
the like, with which I also do not deal; for in talking of
nature I only treat of those things given by God to me as a
being composed of mind and body. But the nature here
described truly teaches me to flee from things which cause the
sensation of pain, and seek after the things which communicate
to me the sentiment of pleasure and so forth; but I do not see
that beyond this it teaches me that from those diverse sense-
perceptions we should ever form any conclusion regarding
things outside of us, without having [carefully and maturely]
mentally examined them beforehand. For it seems to me that it
is mind alone, and not mind and body in conjunction, that is
requisite to a knowledge of the truth in regard to such
things. Thus, although a star makes 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 that flame; but I have judged it to be so
from my earliest years, without any rational foundation. And
although in approaching fire I feel heat, and in approaching
it a little too near I even feel pain, there is at the same
time no reason in this which could persuade me that there is
in the fire something resembling this heat any more than there
is in it something resembling the pain; all that I have any
reason to believe from this is, that there is something in it,
whatever it may be, which excites in me these sensations of
heat or of pain. So also, although there are spaces in which
I find nothing which excites my senses, I must not from that
conclude that these spaces contain no body; for I see in this,
as in other similar things, that I have been in the habit of
perverting the order of nature, because these perceptions of
sense having bee placed within me by nature merely for the
purpose of signifying to my mind what things are beneficial or
hurtful to the composite whole of which it forms a part, and
being up to that point sufficiently clear and distinct, I yet
avail myself of them as though they were absolute rules by
which I might immediately determine the essence of the bodies
which are outside me, as to which, in fact, they can teach me
nothing but what is most obscure and confused.
But I have already sufficiently considered how,
notwithstanding the supreme goodness of God, falsity enters
into the judgments I make. Only here a new difficulty is
presented¥one respecting those things the pursuit or avoidance
of which is taught me by nature, and also respecting the
internal sensations which I possess, and in which I seem to
have sometimes detected error [and thus to be directly
deceived by my own nature]. To take an example, the agreeable
taste of some food in which poison has been intermingled may
induce me to partake of the poison, and thus deceive me. It
is true, at the same time, that in this case nature may be
excused, for it only induces me to desire food in which I find
a pleasant taste, and not to desire the poison which is
unknown to it; and thus I can infer nothing from this fact,
except that my nature is not omniscient, at which there is
certainly no reason to be astonished, since man, being finite
in nature, can only have knowledge the perfectness of which is
limited.
But we not unfrequently deceive ourselves even in those
things to which we are directly impelled by nature, as happens
with those who when they are sick desire to drink or eat
things hurtful to them. It will perhaps be said here that the
cause of their deceptiveness is that their nature is corrupt,
but that does not remove the difficulty, because a sick man is
none the less truly God's creature than he who is in health;
and it is therefore as repugnant to God's goodness for the one
to have a deceitful nature as it is for the other. And as a
clock composed of wheels and counter-weights no less exactly
observes the laws of nature when it is badly made, and does
not show the time properly, than when it entirely satisfies
the wishes of its maker, and as, if I consider the body of a
man as being a sort of machine so built up and composed of
nerves, muscles, veins, blood and skin, that though there were
no mind in it at all, it would not cease to have the same
motions as at present, exception being made of those movements
which are due to the direction of the will, and in consequence
depend upon the mind [as apposed to those which operate by the
disposition of its organs], I easily recognise that it would
be as natural to this body, supposing it to be, for example,
dropsical, to suffer the parchedness of the throat which
usually signifies to the mind the feeling of thirst, and to be
disposed by this parched feeling to move the nerves and other
parts in the way requisite for drinking, and thus to augment
its malady and do harm to itself, as it is natural to it, when
it has no indisposition, to be impelled to drink for its good
by a similar cause. And although, considering the use to
which the clock has been destined by its maker, I may say that
it deflects from the order of its nature when it does not
indicate the hours correctly; and as, in the same way,
considering the machine of the human body as having been
formed by God in order to have in itself all the movements
usually manifested there, I have reason for thinking that it
does not follow the order of nature when, if the throat is
dry, drinking does harm to the conservation of health,
nevertheless I recognise at the same time that this last mode
of explaining nature is very different from the other. For
this is but a purely verbal characterisation depending
entirely on my thought, which compares a sick man and a badly
constructed clock with the idea which I have of a healthy man
and a well made clock, and it is hence extrinsic to the things
to which it is applied; but according to the other
interpretation of the term nature I understand something which
is truly found in things and which is therefore not without
some truth.
But certainly although in regard to the dropsical body it
is only so to speak to apply an extrinsic term when we say
that its nature is corrupted, inasmuch as apart from the need
to drink, the throat is parched; yet in regard to the
composite whole, that is to say, to the mind or soul united to
this body, it is not a purely verbal predicate, but a real
error of nature, for it to have thirst when drinking would be
hurtful to it. And thus it still remains to inquire how the
goodness of God does not prevent the nature of man so regarded
from being fallacious.
In order to begin this examination, then, I here say, in
the first place, that there is a great difference between mind
and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and
the mind is entirely indivisible. For, as a matter of fact,
when I consider the mind, that is to say, myself inasmuch as I
am only a thinking thing, I cannot distinguish in myself any
parts, but apprehend myself to be clearly one and entire; and
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 my body, I am aware that nothing has been taken away from
my mind. And the faculties of willing, feeling, conceiving,
etc. cannot be properly speaking said to be its parts, for it
is one and the same mind which employs itself in willing and
in feeling and understanding. But it is quite otherwise with
corporeal or extended objects, for there is not one of these
imaginable by me which my mind cannot easily divide into
parts, and which consequently I do not recognise as being
divisible; this would be sufficient to teach me that the mind
or soul of man is entirely different from the body, if I had
not already learned it from other sources.
I further notice that the mind does not receive the
impressions from all parts of the body immediately, but only
from the brain, or perhaps even from one of its smallest
parts, to wit, from that in which the common sense27 is said
to reside, which, whenever it is disposed in the same
particular way, conveys the same thing to the mind, although
meanwhile the other portions of the body may be differently
disposed, as is testified by innumerable experiments which it
is unnecessary here to recount.
I notice, also, that the nature of body is such that none
of its parts can be moved by another part a little way off
which cannot also be moved in the same way by each one of the
parts which are between the two, although this more remote
part does not act at all. As, for example, in the cord ABCD
[which is in tension] if we pull the last part D, the first
part A will not be moved in any way differently from what
would be the case if one of the intervening parts B or C were
pulled, and the last part D were to remain unmoved. And in
the same way, when I feel pain in my foot, my knowledge of
physics teaches me that this sensation is communicated by
means of nerves dispersed through the foot, which, being
extended like cords from there to the brain, when they are
contracted in the foot, at the same time contract the inmost
portions of the brain which is their extremity and place of
origin, and then excite a certain movement which nature has
established in order to cause the mind to be affected by a
sensation of pain represented as existing in the foot. But
because these nerves must pass through the tibia, the thigh,
the loins, the back and the neck, in order to reach from the
leg to the brain, it may happen that although their
extremities which are in the foot are not affected, but only
certain ones of their intervening parts [which pass by the
loins or the neck], this action will excite the same movement
in the brain that might have been excited there by a hurt
received in the foot, in consequence of which the mind will
necessarily feel in the foot the same pain as if it had
received a hurt. And the same holds good of all the other
perceptions of our senses.
I notice finally that since each of the movements which
are in the portion of the brain by which the mind is
immediately affected brings about one particular sensation
only, we cannot under the circumstances imagine anything more
likely than that this movement, amongst all the sensations
which it is capable of impressing on it, causes mind to be
affected by that one which is best fitted and most generally
useful for the conservation of the human body when it is in
health. But experience makes us aware that all the feelings
with which nature inspires us are such as I have just spoken
of; and there is therefore nothing in them which does not give
testimony to the power and goodness of the God [who has
produced them28]. Thus, for example, when the nerves which
are in the feet are violently or more than usually moved,
their movement, passing through the medulla of the spine29 to
the inmost parts of the brain, gives a sign to the mind which
makes it feel somewhat, to wit, pain, as though in the foot,
by which the mind is excited to do its utmost to remove the
cause of the evil as dangerous and hurtful to the foot. It is
true that God could have constituted the nature of man in such
a way that this same movement in the brain would have conveyed
something quite different to the mind; for example, it might
have produced consciousness of itself either in so far as it
is in the brain, or as it is in the foot, or as it is in some
other place between the foot and the brain, or it might
finally have produced consciousness of anything else
whatsoever; but none of all this would have contributed so
well to the conservation of the body. Similarly, when we
desire to drink, a certain dryness of the throat is produced
which moves its nerves, and by their means the internal
portions of the brain; and this movement causes in the mind
the sensation of thirst, because in this case there is nothing
more useful to us than to become aware that we have need to
drink for the conservation o our health; and the same holds
good in other instances.
From this it is quite clear that, notwithstanding the
supreme goodness of God, the nature of man, inasmuch as it is
composed of mind and body, cannot be otherwise than sometimes
a source of deception. For if there is any cause which
excites, not in the foot but in some part of the nerves which
are extended between the foot and the brain, or even in the
brain itself, the same movement which usually is produced when
the foot is detrimentally affected, pain will be experienced
as though it were in the foot, and the sense will thus
naturally be deceived; for since the same movement in the
brain is capable of causing but one sensation in the mind, and
this sensation is much more frequently excited by a cause
which hurts the foot than by another existing in some other
quarter, it is reasonable that it should convey to the mind
pain in the foot rather than in any other part of the body.
And although the parchedness of the throat does not always
proceed, as it usually does, from the fact that drinking is
necessary for the health of the body, but sometimes comes from
quite a different cause, as is the case with dropsical
patients, it is yet much better that it should mislead on this
occasion than if, on the other hand, it were always to deceive
us when the body is in good health; and so on in similar
cases.
And certainly this consideration is of great service to
me, not only in enabling me to recognise all the errors to
which my nature is subject, but also in enabling me to avoid
them or to correct them more easily. for knowing that all my
senses more frequently indicate to me truth than falsehood
respecting the things which concern that which is beneficial
to the body, and being able almost always to avail myself of
many of them in order to examine one particular thing, and,
besides that, being able to make use of my memory in order to
connect the present with the past, and of my understanding
which already has discovered all the causes of my errors, I
ought no longer to fear that falsity may be found in matters
every day presented to me by my senses. And I ought to set
aside all the doubts of these past days as hyperbolical and
ridiculous, particularly that very common uncertainty
respecting sleep, which I could not distinguish from the
waking state; for at present I find a very notable difference
between the two, inasmuch as our memory can never connect our
dreams one with the other, or with the whole course of our
lives, as it unites events which happen to us while we are
awake. And, as a matter of fact, if someone, while I was
awake, quite suddenly appeared to me and disappeared as fast
as do the images which I see in sleep, so that I could not
know from whence the form came nor whither it went, it would
not be without reason that I should deem it a spectre or a
phantom formed by my brain [and similar to those which I form
in sleep], rather than a real man. But when I perceive things
as to which I know distinctly both the place from which they
proceed, and that in which they are, and the time at which
they appeared to me; and when, without any interruption, I can
connect the perceptions which I have of them with the whole
course of my life, I am perfectly assured that these
perceptions occur while I am waking and not during sleep. And
I ought in no wise to doubt the truth of such matters, if,
after having called up all my senses, my memory, and my
understanding, to examine them, nothing is brought to evidence
by any one of them which is repugnant to what is set forth by
the others. For because God is in no wise a deceiver, it
follows that I am not deceived in this. But because the
exigencies of action often oblige us to make up our minds
before having leisure to examine matters carefully, we must
confess that the life of man is very frequently subject to
error in respect to individual objects, and we must in the end
acknowledge the infirmity of our nature.


1Copyright: 1996, James Fieser (jfieser@utm.edu), all rights
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2For convenience sake the "Objections and Replies" are
published in the second volume of this edition.
3The French version is followed here.
4The French version is followed here.
5When it is thought desirable to insert additional readings
from the French version this will be indicated by the use of
square brackets.
6Between the Praefatio ad Lectorem and the Synopsis, the Paris
Edition (1st Edition) interpolates an Index which is not found
in the Amsterdam Edition (2nd Edition). Since Descartes did
not reproduce it, he was doubtless not its author. Mersenne
probably composed it himself, adjusting it to the paging of
the first Edition. (Note in Adam and Tannery's Edition.)
7intellectio.
8imaginatio.
9In place of this long title at the head of the page the first
Edition had immediately after the Synopsis, and on the same
page 7, simply "First Meditation." (Adam's Edition.)
10Or "form an image" (effingo).
11Sentire.
12entendement F., mens L.
13inspectio.
14sensus communis.
15Percipio, F. nous concevons.
16The French version is followed here as being more explicit.
In it "action de mon esprit" replaces "mea cogitatio."
17In the Latin version "similitudinem."
18Not in the French version.
19percipio.
20perceptio.
21"In the idea of whom alone necessary or eternal existence is
comprised." French version.
22"From the moment that." French version.
23"Conception," French version. "intellectionem," Latin
version.
24intueor.
25acie mentis.
26intellectionem.
27sensus communis.
28Latin version only.
29spini dorsae medullam.