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Descartes: 1st Meditation concerning skeptical doubts....no Sparknotes answer please!

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HELLO: I have just read the First Meditation where Descartes talks about the possibility that we are all dreaming....this stuff is soooooooo confusing! Even supposing that I might be dreaming, what sorts of truths are not doubtful? If anyone is good at this kinda stuff could you explain it to someone like me who is totally confused. Please don't send me the SparkNotes or CliffNotes answer...I just want a clear, plain, concrete, easy to understand answer that makes sense without alot of gobblelegook.... If you understand Descartes, please help me...this philosopher is really hard for me to grasp. Please...no Sparknotes.... Thanks!

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Hi there. Yup, Descartes is notoriously difficult the first time around. Part of grasping the material is simply living with it for a while. There are no real shortcuts. Though I don't recommend the easy-to-read knock-offs that you mention, sometimes they help you get a way into the material, like a key. Of course, apart from that, they're terribly superficial. The reason I mention this is that there is no clear and concrete answer. This stuff isn't simple, and you're already realizing that the simple answer does not resolve confusions.
<br>Okay, on to your predicament. Meditation I does not get into certainty. Think of the Meditations as a continual process of Descartes taking one intellectual step forward, and then falling three intellectual steps back. (this is especially the case with Meditation II and the wax example, in which Descartes 'lets his mind roam freely' such that he supposes he can know about objects external to himself when all he knows is that he's a 'thinking thing.')
<br>Have you seen "The Matrix"? If so, you know that Neo learns that what he thought was real was only illusion. It was as if he had been dreaming. In fact, he finds out that what he thought was real was only a computer program.
<br>Now, take Descartes in Meditation I. He has not even got that far, that is, he hasn't realized that he's not experiencing reality. He just DOUBTS.
<br>So, Meditation I. My first question to you is, why does Descartes come to think that his lifelong beliefs are doubrtful? What is the significance of his isolating himself to contemplate (as opposed to Socrates, who goes around having conversations)?
<br>Well, his former beliefs, to put it too superficially, come from the Church (dogmatism) and experience (what the senses provide). The problem is that he can't be certain about either. In the case of the Church, taking something on authority is not ...

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