Superphysics Superphysics
Section 3


by Rene Descartes Icon
4 minutes  • 847 words

45 What constitutes clear and distinct perception?

There are many persons who, through their whole lifetime, never perceive anything in a way necessary for judging of it properly. The knowledge upon which we can establish a certain and indubitable judgment must be both clear and distinct.

“Clear” is present and manifest to the mind giving attention to it.

This is the same we clearly see objects when they stimulate the eye with sufficient force which then makes the eye regard them.

“Distinct” is that which is so precise and different from all other objects as to comprehend in itself only what is clear.

[Footnote: “what appears manifestly to him who considers it as he ought."— FRENCH.]

46 A perception may be clear without being distinct, but that it cannot be distinct unless it is clear.

For example, when any one feels intense pain, the knowledge of this pain is very clear. But it is not always distinct.

Men usually confound it with the obscure judgment they form regarding its nature, and think that there is in the suffering part something similar to the sensation of pain of which they are alone conscious.

Thus, perception may be clear without being distinct. But it can never be distinct without being clear.

47 To correct the prejudices of our early years, we must consider what is clear in each of our simple [Footnote: “first."— FRENCH.] notions.

In our early years, the mind was so immersed in the body, that, although it perceived many things with sufficient clearness, it yet knew nothing distinctly; and since even at that time we exercised our judgment in many matters, numerous prejudices were thus contracted, which, by the majority, are never afterwards laid aside.

But that we may now be in a position to get rid of these, I will here briefly enumerate all the simple notions of which our thoughts are composed, and distinguish in each what is clear from what is obscure, or fitted to lead into error.

48 Things or the affections of things

The objects that we know are either:

  1. Things or the affections of things

The most general of this kind are substance, duration, order, number, and others which have notions that apply to all the kinds of things.

I do not recognise more than 2 highest kinds (SUMMA GENERA) of things:

  • intellectual things, or such as have the power of thinking, including mind or thinking substance and its properties;
  • material things, embracing extended substance, or body and its properties.
  1. Eternal truths possessing no existence beyond our thought

[Footnote: Things and the affections of things are (in the French) equivalent to “what has some (i.e., a REAL) existence,” as opposed to the class of “eternal truths,” which have merely an IDEAL existence.]

Perception, volition, and all modes as well of knowing as of willing, are related to thinking substance.

on the other hand, to extended substance we refer magnitude, or extension in length, breadth, and depth, figure, motion, situation, divisibility of parts themselves, and the like.

There are, however, besides these, certain things of which we have an internal experience that ought not to be referred either to the mind of itself, or to the body alone, but to the close and intimate union between them, as will hereafter be shown in its place.

Of this class are the appetites of hunger and thirst, etc., and also the emotions or passions of the mind which are not exclusively mental affections, as the emotions of anger, joy, sadness, love, etc.; and, finally, all the sensations, as of pain, titillation, light and colours, sounds, smells, tastes, heat, hardness, and the other tactile qualities.

49 The eternal truths cannot be thus enumerated, but that this is not necessary.

What I have already enumerated we are to regard as things, or the qualities or modes of things. We now come to speak of eternal truths.

When we apprehend that it is impossible a thing can arise from nothing, this proposition, EX NIHILO NIHIL FIT, is not considered as somewhat existing, or as the mode of a thing, but as an eternal truth having its seat in our mind, and is called a common notion or axiom.

Of this class are the following:—It is impossible the same thing can at once be and not be; what is done cannot be undone; he who thinks must exist while he thinks; and innumerable others, the whole of which it is indeed difficult to enumerate, but this is not necessary, since, if blinded by no prejudices, we cannot fail to know them when the occasion of thinking them occurs.

50 These truths are clearly perceived, but not equally by all men, on account of prejudices.

These common notions can be clearly and distinctly known.

Yet some of them are not known by all men because they are not equally admitted by all.

This is because some have prejudices* which make men not ready to embrace them, even if others, who are free from those prejudices, can clearly apprehend them.

*Superphysics Note: This is part of samskara in Hinduism.

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