Thomas More: Utopia
Descartes: Discourse on Method

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes3Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647.

The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days.  The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. 

In the later meditations, Descartes arrives at conventional opinions about God and the world, while more subtly introducing the foundations of his own system of physics. It is however, the first two meditations which have more often been seen as a foundational influence on modern philosophy, although the 'Cartesian dualism' which they introduced between mind and matter has been a target of persistent criticism.

Alongside the Meditations, Descartes published seven sets of objections by distinguished scholars along with his replies. These were 1. Johannes Caterus 2. Marin Mersenne 3. Thomas Hobbes 4. Antoine Arnauld 5. Pierre Gassendi 6. Further objections collected by Mersenne. 7. Pierre Bourdin.

Meditations on First Philosophy at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

The Classical Library: The Meditations, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

Gallica: Méditations métaphysiques. French text (1690). Image file format. 

Gutenberg: Meditationes de prima philosophia - Latin text. Multiple formats.

Early Modern Texts: Meditations on First Philosophy - adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Meditationes - Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats. Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham. HTML format.

Philosophy-Index: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

University of Leeds (Internet Archive): Hobbes' Objections to Descartes' Meditations. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text, French and English translations. HTML and other formats.

Wright State University: Descartes' Meditations. English, French and Latin texts. HTML format.

Other Resources

Arc Digital: Meditations by René Descartes, audio talk and article by Kurt Smith.

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: Cogito Ergo Sum. Melvyn Bragg with Susan James, John Cottingham and Stephen Mulhall.

California State University Sacramento: Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy - lecture notes, by Dan Gaskill.

Columbia College: Historical Context for Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy by Descartes, by Daniel Leonard.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: René Descartes

Librivox: Meditations on First Philosophy - public domain audiobook

1,000 Word Philosophy: Meditations 1-3 | Meditations 4-6, by Marc Bobro.

Philosophy Pages: Descartes, Starting with Doubt, by Garth Kemmerling.

PhilPapers: René Descartes - search philosophy papers. Includes open source option.

Squashed Philosophers: Meditations on First Philosophy - summary by Glyn Hughes.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Rene Descartes - Descartes' Life and Works - Descartes' Epistemology - Descartes' Modal Metaphysics - Descartes' Ontological Argument - Descartes' Theory of Ideas

University of Edinburgh: Study Guide to Descartes' Meditations, by Rae Langton.

Wikipedia: Meditations on First Philosophy

YouTube: Introduction and Descartes' Radical Methodological Doubt | Meditations I-II | Meditations II-III | Meditations IV-VI. Lectures by Adam Rosenfeld.

Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Montaigne: Essays - An important precedent for Descartes' sceptical method.

Descartes: Discourse on Method - An earlier formulation of many of the Meditations' key ideas.

Hobbes: Leviathan - A major philosophical work by one of Descartes' key correspondents.

John Aubrey: Brief Lives- includes a short life of Descartes.

French Language resources


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