Cartesian Doubt

Cartesian Doubt

The Meditations on First Philosophy is a very rich and rewarding text and certainly bears up well with further study. But for the purposes of this course–introducing a few eternal questions of epistemology, studying the methodology of thought experiments, and connecting the practice of philosophy to the art of film–the First Meditation is especially significant.

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The Essay Prompt
Explain Descartes’ epistemological project in the First Meditation, covering the Method of Doubt, the Evil Deceiver Thought Experiment, and the Cogito. A good answer will address these points:

What is foundationalism?

How does Descartes employ skepticism in the First Meditation?

What is the cogito and what is its significance?

(In essence, this question asks you to explain the beginning of Descartes’ Meditations, up through the discovery of the cogito.)

(This question is slightly atypical in that you will not be writing a persuasive essay (or an argumentative essay). The task here is explanatory–Why does Descartes do what he does in the First Meditation?–and a narrative style–This is what Descartes did and these are the reasons why he did it!–will work well. Tell the story of the beginning of the Meditations in your own words.


Clear presentation of foundationalism with both requirements.

Clear presentation of the method of doubt, including evil deceiver thought experiment.

A clear explanation of cogito as a culmination of the Meditations to this point and Descartes’ reasoning in accepting the cogito.

The overall impression is excellent; writing shows both academic competence and style. For more information on Cartesian Doubt  read this:

What Is Ethical Judgment?

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