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Descartes and Gods Existence

In the Third Meditation, Rene Descartes presents his first proof regarding existence of God via the use of his self-awareness concept. He linked his thinking capability to being alive, and, therefore, thought that there existed a God Who has placed thoughts into his mind. Descartes’ pursuit of the truth led him to come up with the idea that the things he considers clear and distinct are true. He claims that all human beings have an innate idea that God is infinite and perfect. Since Descartes believes that the cause of an idea has to be real, like an idea itself, there must be something perfect that is causing humans to think of God as perfect. Descartes considers himself as imperfect, and as a result, he cannot cause the idea of God’s perfection. Therefore, there exists an infinite and perfect being that caused this idea, and this being is God. To Descartes, God is infinite, omnipotent, independent and omniscient.

 

Descartes presents his second proof of the existence of God in the Fifth Meditation. His idea of God is that of a perfect being, Who does not lack anything, including existence. According to Descartes, “necessary persistence is perceived in the idea of God” (30), therefore, God and existence are inseparable, just like a mountain and a valley. Since necessary existence is a perfection, it cannot be caused by imperfect human beings; a proof that a perfect God exists. This paper analyses Descartes’ two proofs of God’s existence, and discusses the difference between these two proofs, and why he needed them among others.

Analysis of Descartes' Two Proofs of the Existence of God

I believe that Descartes’ proofs regarding existence of God are fairly sound since he managed to bring to light some key truths on the issue. If we were to believe Plato’s argument in the Phaedo, which states that everything is generated from its opposite, then it means that perfect things must be generated from imperfect things. As such, a perfect idea must arise from something imperfect and vice versa. In describing what he knows about himself, Descartes says, “I am a thing that thinks, that is to say, a thing that doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, is ignorant of many things, wills, refrains from willing, and also imagines and senses” (34). This description is clear and distinct, and; therefore, Descartes’ argument is right in claiming that clear and distinct ideas in a man’s mind about himself have to be caused by a perfect being i.e. God.

Descartes’ arguments have some inconsistencies which I will highlight. In his first proof Descartes claims that all human beings have an innate idea (clear and distinct) about God as an infinite and perfect being. I completely disagree with this notion. Not every human being has an inherent distinct and clear idea of God as an infinite and perfect being. It is my opinion that only persons who were raised in cultures and environments where the idea of one perfect being (supreme) prevailed have that idea. Descartes also claims that there must be something perfect (God) that is causing humans to have the idea of God's perfection. Supposing that this argument is correct, how sure are we that God is the sole probable cause of this idea?

The Difference between the Two Proofs

Descartes’ two proofs in the third and fifth meditation of his book are aimed at proving God’s existence. Despite their shared purpose, the proofs differ. In the first proof, Descartes claims that there exists a supreme being (God) that causes all humans to think of God as infinite and perfect. In his second proof, on the other hand, Descartes claims that the things he considers clear and distinct are true, and since he has a distinct and clear perception, “that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God” (34), then God exists. From these two proofs it is clear, that the first one is based on the cause, while the second one is based on perception.

Whether One Proof Is More Convincing Than the Other

From my opinion, I think the second proof convinces me more about God’s existence than the first one. This is because of the various loopholes in his initial proof. It is very wrong to make a general assumption that all human beings have an inherent idea of God as perfect and infinite being, as he believes in the first proof. In addition, there might be other things, other than God, that are responsible for causing mankind to think of God as perfect. As a result, this proof is not very convincing. Descartes’ second proof, on the other hand, is very clear and easy to understand.

Why Descartes Thought He Needed Two Proofs

Descartes’ quest for truth regarding existence of God is evident in his two proofs. I feel that Descartes finds his proofs essential in ascertaining that his distinct and clear perceptions are accurate. He feels that even if there are other probable causes of all ideas like other ideas, there must be an initial cause i.e. something out of this world that is behind human ideas.

Whether the Proofs Do Different Work for Descartes

I do not think that Descartes’ proofs work differently for him. Remember, that his initial intention was to prove that God exists, and the two proofs together help him to achieve his goal, even if the first proof has some loopholes. The proofs show that Descartes was committed to searching the truth about God’s existence; something which he managed to attain, even if not entirely.

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Whether Descartes Provides A Satisfactory Account of Human Errors, Given A Perfect and Divine Creator

In the Fourth Meditation, Descartes explains that God is perfect and that He made human beings as perfect as possible. The fact that humans make mistakes, therefore, ought not to be viewed as limitation in God’s creation. In addition, God cannot deceive us or cause us to err because He is perfect. According to Descartes, God gave mankind a free will to act voluntarily (i.e. human beings are free to prefer the truth or falsehood), hence making us in charge of our actions. Error, therefore, results merely when we make decisions on perceptions which are not vivid and distinct. So long as people agree only with perceptions that are clear and distinct, falling into error will be defeated. I completely agree with Descartes’ account of human error; it is very convincing.

Whether Descartes’ Arguments Are Convincing or They Seem Unnecessary and Less Than Perfect That God Created Us with Flaws
Descartes’ claims regarding human errors are very convincing. God created mankind in a perfect manner, and gave them a freedom to make their life choices. Therefore, we should not blame God if we make mistakes; it is our wrong choices that lead us into committing errors. Descartes’ arguments are very true and convincing.

Conclusion

Apart from a few inconsistencies in Descartes’ proofs, he does a good job in trying to prove God’s existence through his two proofs, as well as the causes of human errors. He manages to unearth some significant truths regarding existence of God and self, and why people make mistakes. That is why I believe that Descartes did a wonderful work and ought to be appreciated.

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