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Descartes Proofs of GodDeception and Error

From the beginning of the third meditation, Descartes seeks to establish the existence of god using his initial concept of self awareness. Descartes argued that because he thought, then he lived. Thinking ability at this time was linked to being alive and thought that there must be a god who puts the thoughts in his mind. In his quest for indubitable truth, Descartes came up with the theory of ideas, which classified those things that he considered distinct and clear to be true. Descartes argued that the idea of god should be coming from within him since he cannot experience god himself directly or find any perfection in himself.

Firstly, Descartes in the third meditation sets out to prove that God does indeed exist. To begin with, he considered that the source of an idea must be as real as the idea itself.  He thought that since his idea of god had overwhelmingly unlimited content, then the one who caused the idea must be infinite and that it must be god, and thus asserted that what is more perfect cannot arise from what is imperfect.  In his conclusion, Descartes says that god is a substance that is omnipotent, omniscient, independent and infinite. He argued that if the objective reality of an idea could not come from him, then it could have come from something else. The basis for the arguments he put forward lies in the origin of these ideas.  He claimed that the ideas were suggestive that they did not come from inside him, making him to conclude that they must have come from god and therefore, God exists.

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.

The difference between the two proofs is that the first proof is based on the premise of objective reality and the consideration that the source of an idea must be as real as the content of the idea itself. The second prove is based on causality; that the power and action that preserves lives is capable of creating something new.

Both of these proofs of God’s existence are not convincing since they are founded on arguments that can be challenged. The method used by Descartes to come up with the reality he termed as objective reality is not clear.  The proof based on causality has been criticized as being circular (Doney Willis, 2010). This means that it is not possible to claim  that one is proving the existence of God, yet that person is using knowledge he terms as distinct and clear from God to know that God. Descartes claimed to perceive some things distinctly and clearly on the grounds of God’s existence. In addition, the argument that Descartes fronts that to be alive is to be perfect is not true since it will mean then that we are either perfect as humans, or God is also imperfect.

Descartes required two proofs of the existence of God so as to appeal both to the religious beliefs of the church during his time as well as a scientific proof of god’s existence in order to appeal to fellow contemporary scientists. These were the two categories of people in Descartes’ society who formed the popular opinions and criticized every new development. Descartes wanted an idea that could be generally accepted by the society. The two proof worked well for Descartes since from his time until today, his ideas are still being used and referred to both in religion and in the scientific fields.

In the fourth meditation it is indicated that an error is a moral failing that can be committed when one willfully exercise the powers of believe in excess of their ability to perceive truth. According to Descartes, the ideas, also called judgments can either be true or false, because it is simply about making judgment that likens to the things that are accepted or denied (Descartes, Cottingham and Murdoch 88).  Therefore, if one affirms that an idea corresponds to a thing itself, yet it does not, then an error is said to have occurred.  ‘I do make mistakes by misusing my free will to assent on occasions that my understanding does not have a clear and distinct ideas’  the open influence by God on our thoughts, personal misuse and evil demon renders the account on human error unsatisfactory. The argument that all that thinks is perfect implies that God is also imperfect.

In conclusion, the arguments that Descartes presents have several weaknesses that are subject to challenge, for example the fact that one of which is the circular nature of the causality proof.  Doubting of senses and thoughts is also evident in the meditations, indicating that the arguments may not be credible. The imperfect beings arising from the perfect and the god perfect being in the imperfect man invalidates the argument.

Works Cited

Descartes, R, Murdoch, D. & Cottingham, and J.  Descartes: selected philosophical writings Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Descartes, R, Murdoch, D. & Cottingham, J.The philosophical writings of Descartes, Volume 2. Reprint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.


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