Paper Details  

Has Bibliography
5 Pages
1156 Words

    Filter Topics  

Decartes and God

Everywhere in this world there are debates on many things. Logic is often employed in order to understand and come to an agreement on these debated topics. One such topic, which is arguably the greatest topic of debate occurring in modern day, is the existence of God. Sure, many people believe in some sort of higher being, but how many of them try and use logic and rational thought to prove the existence of God. Many probably, however we will only look at one such person. Rene Descartes attempts to use his own logic to come up with the conclusion that a perfect being does exist and that being is in itself God in his book Meditations on First Philosophy. We must first look at the background of Descartes thought process in the first two meditations where he explores the existence of himself and the use of methodic doubt, in order to get a feel on his position of ideas. We must also look at the various problems with Descartes’ logic behind the existence of God to determine whether or not it is a workable and valid argument.
To gain a true understanding of Descartes and his logic process we must quickly examine his first two meditations. In these meditations he looks at the existence of himself and the use of methodic doubt. Descartes' meditations are created in pursuit of certainty meaning true knowledge. He cannot assume that what he has learned is necessarily true, because he is unsure of the accuracy of its initial source. In order to purge himself of all information that is possibly wrong, he subjects all he knows to methodic doubt. This results in a (theoretical) doubt of everything he knows. Anything, he reasons, that can sustain such serious doubt must be unquestionable truth, and knowledge can then be built from that base. Hence he uses methodic doubt, in order not to doubt, this leads him to doubt everything. The only true thing that cannot be doubted is that he himself doubts and thus exists (at the least as a thinking being), hence his "Cogito ergo sum". Through this rational, “cogito ergo sum” meaning, “ I think therefore I am,” and furthermore, “I am, therefore I exist”, Descartes rationalize his own existence. Thus his existence is that of an innate nature, however, Descartes also uses the idea of God as an innate idea as well. Is this possible, can he have an innate idea of an external being?
Descartes begins his argument, of the existence of God, with the only thing he knows to be true; that through doubting, he must exist. By knowing he doubts he therefore does not know everything. This makes him imperfect. However, to know that he is an imperfect being he must therefore have an idea of what is perfection. And by having that idea, because he is finite and cannot come up with such an idea himself, a perfect being must exist- God. Knowing that he has an idea of perfection, Descartes continues to prove God's existence by assuming everything must have a cause. This is known as the Principal of Sufficient Reason. Descartes views God as an innate idea, as is that of his own existence. The problem with thinking that God is an innate idea is that it does not include the ideas which others have of God. One would assume that if God were an innate idea, one that was planted in the mind, then all ideas of God would be the same. An instance where God is very different from the idea that Descartes has of God is in Pagan belief. The Pagans believe that there are two Gods- a God and a Goddess and neither one of them are perfect. Thus Descartes’ idea of God is different then that of others. Nevertheless, Descartes uses this idea, to determine God does exist.
Descartes' second argument for the existence of God is then: 1) By definition, God has all perfection 2) Existence is a perfection 3) Therefore, God exists. Despite his efforts to remove all imprecise information from his thoughts, Descartes' proofs of God have some errors, or at least shortcomings, that have been pointed out over time. One problem with his first proof is his idea of God. To see where the inconsistency lies, we must refer back to Descartes’ understanding of certainty and ideas, mainly methodic doubt. Ideas are things that resemble, or conform to, things outside of oneself and by using Descartes own logic we can see that these ideas can be doubted. So why is God not doubted? Descartes formed an idea of God as an infinitely good being. He would have had to discover this idea within his own mind. According to his principle of universal doubt, he cannot simply know whether his conception of God is correct or incorrect, just that he has it. He would have, as a matter of his own principle, considered it as false until proven otherwise. Therefore, since the idea of God is in doubt, the trustworthiness of one’s reasoning must also be doubtful.
Another problem with his first proof is that he uses his powers of reason without first proving that they are beyond doubt. The validity of Descartes reasoning is supposed to flow as a consequence of the infinite perfection of God. However God's infinite perfection is made certain to Descartes through the very same capacities that he has not proven trustworthy. Descartes accepts the trustworthiness of his ability in proving the existence and infinite perfection of God, and this cannot make sense thus is inaccurate. A doubtful ability would cause a doubtful argument, and in turn, produce a doubtful conclusion. A suspect reasoning process therefore nullifies the entire argument for God’s existence. Descartes reasoning of God's existence hinges on his use of 3 principals: the Principal of Contradiction, the Principal of Adequate Reality, and the Principal of Sufficient Reason. But seeing how these ideas seem to be preconceived in his mind, even before he begins to doubt. Can they be preserved and used in his arguments? Even if they are logical, they must be doubted under Descartes own methodic doubt structure. Without them, he cannot prove the existence of God.
Therefore in the book Meditations of First Philosophy by Rene Descartes we cam look at his thought process in the first two meditations, where he looks at the existence of himself and the use of methodic doubt we can get a feel on his position of ideas. This then allows us to search out the various problems with Descartes reasoning for the existence of God. However, in conclusion to this argument I would like to make it clear that this is not saying that God does not exist, it is simply a critic on Descartes reasoning. Thusly and so, the debate continues in not only the philosophical but rest of the world on the topic of God’s existence.

    More on Decartes and God...

Copyright © 1999 - 2014 All Rights Reserved. DMCA