- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Rene Descartes - Existence of God

Essay by   •  September 26, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,033 Words (9 Pages)  •  3,266 Views

Essay Preview: Rene Descartes - Existence of God

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

Rene Descartes' third meditation from his book Meditations on First Philosophy, examines Descartes' arguments for the existence of God. The purpose of this essay will be to explore Descartes' reasoning and proofs of God's existence. In the third meditation, Descartes states two arguments attempting to prove God's existence, the Trademark argument and the traditional Cosmological argument. Although his arguments are strong and relatively truthful, they do no prove the existence of God.

At the start of the meditation, Descartes begins by rejecting all his beliefs, so that he would not be deceived by any misconceptions from reaching the truth. Descartes acknowledges himself as, "a thing that thinks: that is, a thing that doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, is ignorant of many things" He is certain that that he thinks and exists because his knowledge and ideas are both Ð''clear and distinct'. Descartes proposes a general rule, "that whatever one perceives very clearly and very distinctly is true" Descartes discovers, "that he can doubt what he clearly and distinctly perceives is true led to the realization that his first immediate priority should be to remove the doubt" because, "no organized body of knowledge is possible unless the doubt is removed" The best probable way to remove the doubt is prove that God exists, that he is not a deceiver and "will always guarantee that any clear and distinct ideas that enter our minds will be true." Descartes must remove the threat of an invisible demon that inserts ideas and doubts into our minds to fool us , in order to rely on his Ð''clear and distinct' rule.

In constructing his argument for God's existence, Descartes analyzes several aspects of the nature of human thought. He begins by outlining the various types of thoughts we have, which include ideas, thoughts, volitions and judgments. Ideas, or images of ideas can only exist within the mind and are certain of existence. Volitions, or choices are firmly within the mind and are also certain. Emotions, such as love, fear, hate, all exist in the mind and are certain as well. Judgments involve reference to effects outside the mind and are subject to doubt. Therefore, judgments are not certain and distinct. Descartes believes that images, volitions, and emotions are never false but it is our judgments that are misleading.

Descartes states that among ideas, "some appear to be innate, some to be adventitious and others to have been invented by (him)" He is mainly interested in ideas, because ideas exist within the mind and are certain. Descartes is able to examine ideas and gain knowledge form them. Innate ideas mean they are present at birth, in other words we are implanted with certain ideas at our creation. He often uses Ð''innate ideas' to explain the mind's original programming. "An infant's mind is programmed with the rules of logic. Consider as an example the valid rule, modus ponens. Let P and Q stand for variablesÐ'... the rules states that, if P then Q is true and P is true, then it follows that Q is true. We know that we are programmed with this rule because young children, who have never studied logic and have never entertained the rule, when given an argument in which the variables above are replaced by actual sentences, are able to intuit the validity of the argument." Descartes believed our minds are programmed with eternal truths, "Whatever comes into existence must have been brought into existence by something else." He also discovers that the idea of God is only part of his initial programming but also that God, operating through secondary sources such as his parents, is the programmer.

Adventitious ideas are created by outside objects but Descartes, "points out that, even if his adventitious ideas are produced by external objects, he has no reason for believing that his ideas resemble the objects which produced them." Descartes believes adventitious ideas exist due to their causes in physical objects because nature has taught him to think this . He demonstrates this problem with the two ideas of the sun. Our senses display that the sun is a small object. Astronomy projects that the sun is a large object. It is an example of A Priori vs. A Posteriori or Reason vs. Perception. Descartes concludes that the source of our ideas is in the mind using our reason, not our senses.

Almost everything that we believe to be true is through perception. However, the senses are sometimes deceptive. Presume that everything our senses tell us is false. Descartes points out that we have dreams regularly and in those dreams, everything we experience is not real in the physical sense. It is reasonable to doubt everything our senses tell us. Using similar logic, we can say that everything we have learned from physics, astronomy, medicine, and other such fields are all doubtful. Descartes even believed simple logical statements such as 2 + 3 = 5 or a square has 4 sides could be conceived as false.

Through the theory of innate ideas, Descartes believed that God, "eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and the Creator of all things which are in addition to Himself" caused the idea of God in his mind. When a manufacturer creates a product, he stamps his name or logo to the product. At the moment of his creation, God imposed the idea of himself in the mind of Descartes. In other words, God stamped the innate idea of Himself into Descartes' mind at birth. If God caused this idea to be in his mind, and all ideas are clear and distinct, God exists. This argument is referred to as the Trademark argument. This argument is not very convincing. A person does not need to have God implant an idea of Himself into the person's mind to have an idea of God. Anyone can have the idea of God but they lack the details of the existence of God. Descartes defines God as an infinite being and states that people are finite beings. A problem with the argument is Descartes says that the infiniteness can never be fully understood by a finite being, but yet God exists and gave us the idea of him. To suggest that the idea of God is innate and too difficult for people to invent themselves does not remove any doubt. Descartes proof does not allow us to be 100% certain that God exists. I may believe he exists, that God implanted the idea of him in me, but there still remains a fraction of a doubt that it is wrong.

Descartes expanded his argument for the existence of God stating ideas should be observed as modes of consciousness. Since the idea is an effect, the cause of the effect must possess as much reality as the effect. Descartes uses the example of a stone, "which previously



Download as:   txt (11.1 Kb)   pdf (129.5 Kb)   docx (12.7 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on