The book which I am going to review is the Meditations on First Philosophy of Descartes with selections from the objections and replies. The book was translated and edited by John Cottingham. The introductory essay was written by Bernard Williams and the introduction to this edition was written by John Cottingham. This book was published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. It was first published on 1986 in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge. This book consists of four parts; first is the introductions which are containing introductory essay, general introduction, chronology, further reading, and note on the text and the translation. Second is the meditation on the first philosophy itself which are containing dedicatory letter to the Sorbonne, preface to the reader, and synopsis. The third part is the six meditations itself and the last part of this book is the selections from the objections and replies to the six meditations. The Meditation, one of the key texts of Western philosophy, is the most widely studied of all Descartes’ writings.
According to John Cottingham, this Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy is, indisputably, one of the greatest philosophical classics of all time. The challenge it offers is in many ways definitive of the philosophical enterprise: to leave behind the comfortable world of inherited prejudice and preconceived opinion; to take nothing for granted in the determination to achieve secure and reliable knowledge. Descartes talks of ‘demolishing everything completely and starting again right from the foundations’, and for this purpose he famously uses doubt, stretched to its limits, as an instrument which self-destructs, impelling him forwards on the journey towards certainty and truth. In the words of the famous metaphor which he deployed some six years after the publication of the Meditation, ‘the whole of philosophy is like a three. The roots are metaphysics; the trunk is physics, and the branches . . . all other sciences.’ The main purpose of the book is to prove the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and the body.
In this book Bernard Williams gave first his introductory essay which talks about the purpose of the meditations of Descartes. He gave a brief summary and gave also some questions like, “How do we, with our thoughts and our bodies, fit into our picture of the natural world?” In his introductory he is trying to give a guide or idea to the reader on how they will interpret this meditation of Descartes. Next to that is the general introduction of John Cottingham. Where he explained what is this book or the meditation all about. In this book they also gave the synopsis of the following six meditations. After the six meditations there are objections and replies where we are able to find out what are the objections to the meditations of Descartes and the replies.
This book is very organized. It is not hard to read even an ordinary person can understand this. When read it on the first time I don’t really understand it but when I read it again for several times I found how helpful it is. In meditation one he talks about doubt where said the he will reject all his beliefs for which there is even a possibility of doubt, and whatever truths are left will be absolutely certain. On the meditation two is about the human mind and how it is better than the body. He said here that the only evidence we have that we are exist is that we are thinking, and then it is also absolutely certain that we are a thing that thinks, that, is, a mind. He said here that he is not sure that the physical world is true, but he exists, it follows that he is not his body. He concluded that he is only a mind. The meditation three is all about the existence of God. Since we are finite and imperfect there must be something is infinite and perfect being which is God. On the meditation four is about truth and falsity which he said the only an imperfect being could practice deliberate deception. Therefore, God is no deceiver. On meditation five is the essence of material things, and the existence of God considered a second time. To the meditation six is the existence of material things, and the real distinction between mind and body. If you are going to read this book I assure you that you will find it good. Because of the objections and replies in the six meditations readers are able to understand it easily. Actually in the introduction readers were able to understand what the meditations all about. The format also of this book is good because they started from the introductory essay which gives an idea about the topic. Before the six meditations they put a dedicatory letter to the Sorbonne and preface to the reader which is one of the important parts of the book. One of the best things that I saw in the meditations is, it is like telling a story. It is like he is talking to you personally which gives you interest and excitement in reading. He put also a concrete example in every meditation which helps the reader understand the topic in the easy way. There’s only one thing that I can’t understand, the chronology. For me there’s no need to include the chronology and I’m sure that readers didn’t care about it. I don’t know why do we need to read about this chronology, maybe I am ignorant in this case but from now on I will say that it is not important for us reader to know about it. The wholeness of this book is good not because it is the first time I read this meditation but because I understand it through the help of this book. The author achieved its purpose because he convinced me about the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and the body.