What was the role of God in the writings of Descartes and Pascal?

1764 Words Oct 29th, 2013 8 Pages
What is the role of God in the writings of Descartes and Pascal?

Both the idea of God and the existence of God play a major role in the writings of Descartes and Pascal. Both certainly appear to believe in him though they argue the case for his existence very differently and they also give Him a very different sort of role in their works. Whilst Descartes claims that he is certain of the existence of God, using a large part of his Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire la raison, et chercher la verité dans les sciences to prove the supreme being’s existence, Pascal’s approach to philosophy cannot allow anything to be certain. He instead asserts that he knows God and that, through the use of his famous Wager, it is better for anyone
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Descartes’ second supposed proof for God’s existence also appears to be flawed, according to many of his contemporaries and later, Kant. Descartes likens the property of a triangle that stipulates that the sum of its angles must be 180 degrees to the supposed property of God that he must exist. This is not so according to Kant who remarks that existing is not a property in the real world so therefore for God to exist in the real world, the world must also exist, a certainty that Descartes dismisses. He is therefore contradicting himself.

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.

Undisputed belief in the Scripture and its ability to provide knowledge of Gods is one similarity that can be drawn between the two

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