A Review Of A Reading Guide to Descartes Meditations

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Emanuela Scribano’s guide to Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy is extremely insightful to understanding 17th century philosophy, and the adaptation of Aristotelian Scholastic philosophy to Descartes’ practical philosophy. Scribano’s vivid comprehension of Meditations is apparent through her rich analyses and ability to reference Descartes directly to aid her claims.

Clearly and effectively writing in the Genesis of the Work, Scribano credits Descartes to delving into metaphysics in a way previous philosophers regretted to do. In the Meditations, she explains, Descartes is firm in establishing God and the mind on a purely scientific foundation. Scribano credits the Cartesian decision to make oneself as a purely thinking thing apart of the foundation of the new science. Accordingly, the self in the Meditations is the author of the narration (Scribano 21) where truths are discovered before the eyes of the reader. The Metaphysical work Scribano insists is ordering apart from the infinite, pivoting on what one can know to be absolutely true, starting from the finite subject The self, then, is both the protagonist and the center of the Cartesian system of metaphysics (21).
Scribano flows through the development of Cartesian physics, beginning with the First Meditation, which lays the foundations and establishes firm and lasting discoveries in the new sciences. In order to carve a precise foundation for the new sciences to lay on, Descartes must prove his findings to be indubitable and purely objective. To arrive at a distinction of what is to all and what is to an individual (subjective), Descartes proves the composite things to be doubtful, such as astronomy, physics, medicine, time, and matter. In his findings, and eloquently explained by Scribano, the simple natures or indubitable truths, are only arithmetic and geometry. In order to arrive at an unshakeable foundation, the meditator is left with no other means than to doubt everything they had accepted to be true. Now, if there is any inclination to doubt a statement, readers become forced to set these notions aside as if it were false. Scribano’s ability to personify the Cartesian doubt is helpful in gaining insight on the senses ability to deceive even those who are the masters or proprietors of their studies.

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The main character of the Cartesian scenario is split in two; an old self and a meditating self, in which the meditating self conducts an investigation, subjecting the old self into question the grounds of her beliefs. The old self attempts to chastise the meditating self, but in turn is left with fewer opinions that she can continue to believe because of the meditating self’s ability to convince. Scribano effectively transcribes the transitional point in Descartes philosophy, where I think, therefore I exist, morphs into I am, I exist. By exempting the therefore in this claim, there is no reliance on the action of thought in order to exist.

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