Descartes then goes on to assume that there is a God, who is all powerful, and created this world; yet he asks, "How do I know that He has not brought it to pass that there is no earth, no heaven, no extended body, no magnitude, no place, and that nevertheless they seem to me to exist just exactly as I know see them?" (Descartes, p.76, par.5) Without a guarantee of reality, maybe all of his previous beliefs are false. Descartes doubts the supreme goodness of a God that would let him be deceived even occasionally. Moreover, if a perfect God does not exist then it becomes probable that Descartes himself is increasingly imperfect and therefore is constantly being misled. "If, however, it is contrary to His goodness to have made me such that I constantly deceive myself, it would also appear contrary to His goodness to permit me to be sometimes deceived, and nevertheless I cannot doubt that he does permit this." (Descartes, p.76, par.5) Descartes assumes the scenario that God is really an "evil demon".
After giving his first proof for the existence of God Descartes concludes by mentioning that this proof is not always self-evident. When he is absorbed in the world of sensory illusions it is not quite obvious to him that God’s existence can be derived from the idea of God. So to further cement God’s existence Descartes begins his second proof by posing the question of whether he could exist (a thinking thing that possesses the idea of an infinite and perfect god) if God itself did not exist.
Descartes’s attempt to prove the existence of God begins with the argument that he has the clear and distinct idea of God as the “most perfect being and that there must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause in the effect of that cause” (40). Therefore, this idea of God can’t be from himself, but its cause must be God. So God exists. In what follows I’ll explain these terms and why the premises seemed true to him.
Secondly, to come up with the second proof of Gods existence, Descartes thought that the power and action that is needed to preserve something is capable of creating something new. He argued that there must be as much power in the cause just as it is in the effect. According to the philosophical writings of Descartes, upon knowing that he did not have power to preserve his own existence because he was just a thinking thing; Descartes concluded that the power must have come from outside him (Descartes, Cottingham and Murdoch 26) And since he is a thinking thing, he claims that the one who created him must also be a thinking thing, possessing all the ideas and attributes of god. In addition, he observed that his parents could not be responsible for creating and preserving his life. Descartes therefore concludes that the one who created him and gave him ideas of a perfect God must be God, therefore God exists.
This then leads him to question the existence of God, and then whether he himself truly exists as well. Descartes concludes his claim in stating, “So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind,” (25). Therefore, in spite of everything he is skeptical of, Descartes manages to believe that his true existence is not something worthy of doubt.
Descartes reasoning shows that as part of his a posteriori claim, God’s existence depends on our idea of God as a perfect being. However, he writes that “From this I knew I was a substance whose whole essence or nature is solely to think, and which does not require any place, or depend on any material thing, in order to exist” (Descartes, Discourse on the Method, page 36). As per Descartes, the existence of his mind is partially based on the notion that it’s (his minds) existence is independent of any other being. His causal proof of God, however, depends entirely on the human mind and its ideas of what God is. Aside from these flaws in his reasoning, Descartes also mistakenly links his proofs together, attempting to propagate them and champion their creditability.
Descartes’ attempts to prove the existence of God are arguably very flawed and they are more so in a modern, post-Darwin era where the watchmaker analogy has generally been reversed in its use. What is interesting though is Descartes’ position on God in Part V of Discours sur la méthode. He suggests that in another, imaginary world, God would not need to exist and this imaginary world could be exactly the same as ours with its creation and continuation being dictated by laws of nature born of chaos rather than the influence of a Supreme Being. It would appear then as though Descartes’ view on God is that he is not necessary but he is certain, based on his adherence to the Bible, Genesis in particular, and his own reasoning.
In the meditations, Descartes evaluates whether or not everything we know is a reality or a dream. Descartes claims that we can only be sure that our beliefs are true when we clearly and distinctively perceive them to be true. As the reader analyzes the third meditation, Descartes has confirmed that some of his beliefs are in fact true. The first is that Descartes himself exists. This is expressed in what has now become a popular quote known as the “Cogito” which says, “I think therefore I am. His second conclusion is that God exist and that he is not a deceiver. Descartes then presents his arguments to prove the existence of God. He argues that by nature humans are imperfect beings. Furthermore, humankind could not possibly be able to comprehend perfection or infinite things on their own. He writes, “By the name of God I understand a substance that is infinite, independent, all-knowing, all powerful, and which myself and everything else…have been created.”(16) Descartes uses this description of God to display the distinction between God and man.
He cannot say that God exists, because there remains the possibility that his thoughts are in fact originating from himself (in which case there would be no need for God). Since he has abandoned all notions of existence and certainty, which includes his own body and senses, is it possible that he himself does not exist? To think a thought is bound to existence by definition; one must exist first before having the ability to think. Even if an all-powerful deceiver made it so that I do not exist, it would generate a contradiction since I cannot think that I exists if I don't. (25) Thinking about existing requires existence as a prerequisite. Descartes has arrived at his first truly tangible and useful element of truth: that it is necessarily true that he exists.
Rene Descartes is a modern French philosopher, who is famous for his line, “I think, therefore I am.” The meaning of this quote is that he must exist because he has the ability to think. In Descartes most famous work, The Meditations, he starts off by doubting everything, which is known as the Method of Doubt. He believes that our senses are always deceiving us in some way and so our senses are unreliable in proving anything. By this, he means that when we use our senses, such as our vision, to look at something, the way that the object looks from afar is different from the way it looks upfront, thus, deceiving us. However, Descartes
Descartes defines senses as a part of the process of thinking. He also explains that we can use our senses to help us understand the true nature of things. Descartes struggled with doubt and his senses when he used his ontological proof that God existed. For example, he explains that he is aware that he is not perfect and he makes mistakes. He understands that he must know what perfect is in order to give someone the title. He knew that something perfect lead him to have these ideas and that it must exist. His definition of perfect is unique without the knowledge of anyone else and he defined it as God. For example, Descartes believes that God is perfect and deception is a sign of imperfection. Therefore, Descartes came to the conclusion that God cannot deceive. This example shows that Descartes did struggle to accept his own belief without doubting himself. His ontological argument proved, to Descartes, that through God everything
Descartes believes that God's existence is clear and distinct. God exists because the thought of God is derived from a "completely clear and distinct" idea from within his being (which he concedes is a thinking being). Having come from distinct thoughts, the idea of God can therefore never be considered a falsity. From this very distinct idea of God comes everything else that one grasps distinctly and clearly.
Descartes’ first meditation, his main objective is to present three skeptical arguments to bring doubt upon what he considers his basic beliefs. Descartes believes this to be an intricate part of his complete epistemological argument. Descartes skeptical arguments are not intended to be a denial of his basic beliefs. On the contrary, he uses these arguments to help prove one of his main theses, which is the existence of God. One of the main premises that Descartes uses in his proof for the existence of God comes from the evil demon argument, which he proposed, in the first meditation. It is this evil demon argument, which will be the topic of the following discussion.
Descartes was incorrect and made mistakes in his philosophical analysis concerning understanding the Soul and the foundation of knowledge. Yes, he coined the famous phrase, “I think therefore I am,” but the rest of his philosophical conclusions fail to be as solid (Meditation 4; 32). Descartes knew that if he has a mind and is thinking thoughts then he must be something that has the ability to think. While he did prove that he is a thinking thing that thinks (Meditation 3; 28), he was unable to formulate correct and true philosophical arguments and claims. For instance, his argument for faith that a non-deceiving God exists and allows us to clearly reason and perceive was a circular argument. Another issue with Descartes' philosophy
He reasons that, through these principals, his idea of God cannot have come from himself, as he is an imperfect being. He does not have the capability of thinking of an infinite substance or a perfect substance, such as God, because he has lesser reality than these ideas and cannot be the cause of them. The only way these ideas could exist is if they were created by something of equal (greater being impossible, as infinite perfection cannot have a superior) reality. Because God is the only infinite Descartes can recognize at this state, it must be God that planted the idea in his mind.