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Philosophical Comparison: Descartes and Moore on the External World

In comparing the philosophical ideas of Descartes and Moore, one is able to understand the varying ideas surrounding the concept of the external world. Both philosophers put forth ideas about what it means to be in a state of being awake versus a state of dreaming as well as what it means to have a mind versus a body. Descartes makes the case that there is no certainty in his absolute separation from the external world as an absolute individual, drawing attention to the idea that his dreams are a way of exploring the existing mind of the holistic universe.

On the other hand, Moore is skeptical of the notion of rejecting the existence of the individual and the external world, drawing attention to the reality of his own body and senses. In drawing contrast between these dimensions of life, or rather, supposed life, Descartes and Moore are able to establish convincing arguments both against and for the idea of the existence of the external world. Awake versus Dreaming

The idea of being awake versus the idea of being dreaming are central to the works of both philosophers, in that these concepts call attention to various meanings connected to the state of wakefulness and dreaming as they relate to reality. Descartes puts forth the idea of God as a trustful guide and “fountain of truth” from which all reality springs, although he stresses that it is vital to question the ideas of others “and it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.

” He claims that there in no way that the state of dreaming is separate from reality, due to the fact that his dreams capture meaningful ideas about the truth of the world. With dreams being an integrated part of reality, the existence of the external world in comparison to the internal world is shattered, because he is able to transcend the state of wakefulness. According to Moore, he is staunch in his assertion that the physical world of himself as an individual is a reality which necessitates the existence of an external world.

He states, “I do know I am standing up, then I do know that I am not dreaming”, placing significance on the waking state as being separate from the dreaming state and therefore emphasizing the existence of the external world. Mind versus Body Descartes and Moore both refer to ideas concerning the mind versus ideas concerning the body in their philosophical analysis of the concept of an external world, in that the mind has the capacity to overtake reality completely while the body calls attention to a separation between the reality of the individual world and the reality of the external world.

Descartes places tremendous significance on his mental existence, stating that he “can’t grasp anything more easily or plainly than (his) mind. ” This mental capacity is also the capacity for truth, which is God, which should not be swayed by the deceit of mankind. With attention given to the supremacy of the mind, the need to delineate between an internal and external world becomes unnecessary, and, in a very real sense, a mistake. On the other hand, Moore places emphasis on the existence of the internal versus external world by calling attention to the “evidence of (his) senses”.

By the knowledge that he is standing and not dreaming, he is able to state that he is present within himself and awake. Sensing himself is the assertion that he is conscious of his own existence as an individual being. Quite literally, Moore calls attention to his own body as evidence for the idea of his own personal existence within a larger external world. This external world is known as God, and man resides within this state of existence as a separate and sensual being. Conclusion

Both philosophers make important points in denying and supporting the existence of the external world, and the best conclusion is that both philosophers are correct in their varying ideas of reality. Descartes makes important points about the significance of the dreaming and mental processes as being actual functions of reality which support the idea of an integrated and holistic universe, undermining the idea of the individual which is completely separate from the external world.

On the other hand, Moore makes important claims about the rational ability to differentiate between waking and dreaming, between the mind and body. He notes that the ability of the human being to sense his environment and draw conclusions about the world around him is itself a testament to the reality of the external world. However, both authors are describing truths about the state of existence with regard to humanity. Although human beings are living things moving about within the world, they are also closely connected to the world around them, in fact inseparable from it.

Also, the very concept of a human being supports the idea that people have distinct bodies and lives which are separate from everything around them. Perhaps the best explanation for the existence of humanity and the external world is the idea of the Trinitarian God in that God is at once a whole and unified being as well as the creator of beings which existence within Him. In this way, humanity is both an assimilated being as well as a defined being, the individual within an external world as well as a member of one unified and holistic expression of life. Works Cited Descartes. “Meditations”. Moore, G. E. “Certainty”.

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