The Analysis and Evaluation of Descartes Two Proofs of Gods Existence

Descartes introduces his first proof of Gods existence in the Third Meditation. This proof is based on his  Causal Adequacy Principle  regarding the causes of effects. According to this principle, no effect can exist without a cause, and this cause must possess at least as much reality as the effect (Skirry 1). Descartes applies this principle to track the causes of ideas. According to his philosophy, ideas are what connect the mind to the world because there are two types of reality contained in them    

1. Objective reality Its the reality that the idea of the thing represents. For instance, the objective reality contained in the idea of an apple is what the idea of an apple represents (Skirry 1  Theory of Ideas  1).      

2. Formal reality Its the actual reality contained in the thing or the reality that the thing has in the world. For instance, the formal reality contained in an apple is its physical  existence in the world (Skirry 1  Theory of Ideas  1).      

Descartes argues that in order for an idea to be caused, the cause must have as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality. In this world, substances have affections, and those affections are either attributes or modes. There are two types of attributes Primary  (i.e., essential properties) and omni-generic (e.g., duration, number). Modes are related to primary attributes they are modifications of those attributes. Substances are more real than modes because the latter are caused by substances substances can cause or be caused by other substances, but cant be caused by modes. For instance, a piece of wood is a finite substance and could be caused by a tree which is a more-real finite substance, but wood cant be caused by modes such as colors ( Theory of Ideas  1).      

Descartes is a finite substance he can cause ideas of other finite substances and of modes. So, how is it possible that Descartes causes the idea of God which is an infinite substance and, thus, more real than a finite substance The only possible answer to that question is that Descartes doesnt cause the idea of God, but there is actually an existing infinite substance who causes that idea and, therefore, God exists (Skirry 1).      

Descartes second proof of Gods existence is found in his Fifth Meditation. Descartes builds this proof upon his assumption that whatever he  clearly and distinctly  perceives is necessarily true (God guarantees these perceptions truth because he is no deceiver). For instance, one of a triangles attributes is to have three sides this attribute is inseparable from its nature because Descartes perceives this attribute clearly and distinctly. Hence, the nature of a triangle with more or less than three sides cant be unintelligible ( The Essence of Material Things  1 Skirry 1).      

The idea of God is an idea of an infinite substance or a being that possesses all perfections, and actual existence is one of those perfections. Without containing actual existence, the idea of God is unintelligible because its impossible to conceive of an infinite substance with an imperfection. Conceiving of God as an imperfect being is like conceiving of a triangle with more or less than three sides. Therefore, God exists because existence is one of his attributes ( The Essence of Material Things  1 Skirry 1  Clear and Distinct  1).        

So, how are Descartes two proofs of Gods existence different from each other The main difference is that the first proof relies on logical reasoning regarding the relationship between substances and modes to come up the the conclusion that God exists, while the second proof relies on (a) the already-established first proof of Gods existence, and (b) the assumption that clear and distinct perceptions are always true, and that their truth is guaranteed by God. The second proof cant be established without presuming that God exists, which makes this proof weak. Therefore, the first proof is more convincing.    

Descartes didnt state that he needed to establish a second proof of Gods existence. Since thats the case, what does this proof add to Descartes arguments regarding Gods existence The answers is simple It reinforces Descartes claims by classifying the idea of God as a clear and distinct perception ( The Essence of Material Things  1).                

 Does Descartes Give a Satisfactory Account of Human Error, Given a   Perfect and Divine Creator Are Descartes Arguments Convincing   In the Fourth Meditation, Descartes aims to establish the conclusion that God is no deceiver. Descartes argues that the willingness to deceive is evidence of weakness or malice. Since God is proven to possess all perfections, its impossible to conceive of him as a deceiver because deceiving is an imperfection. Moreover, as the creator of humans, God is responsible for their judgments, and since he is perfect he will create humans with an infallible faculty of judgment ( Fourth Meditation  1 Skirry 1).

If God really creates humans with an infallible faculty of judgment, whats the appropriate explanation of the fact that humans sometimes err Descartes answers that question by arguing that the reason is that humans are finite substances, which means that they are likely to err because they lack perfection. Therefore, God is imperfect because he creates humans imperfectly. However, Descartes aims to refute this conclusion by providing an analysis of humans faculty of judgment, this faculty results from the interaction of two other faculties, intellect and will (Skirry 1). Humans faculty of intellect is finite and, thus, they have limited knowledge and understanding of the world. Conversely, the faculty of will is infinite and, thus, their freedom of choice and making judgments is unlimited. Humans err when their will exceeds the limits of their intellect in other word, humans err when their judgments arent based on their knowledge and understanding. Correct judgments must be built upon clear and distinct perceptions because those perceptions truth is guaranteed by God who is no deceiver. Here, Descartes concludes that there is no clash between the assumption that God is perfect and the fact that humans err. He argues that God is perfect because he has creates humans with an infallible faculty of judgment, and that means that error can only be caused by humans own mistakes ( Fourth Meditation  1 Skirry 1).      

Descartes account of human error isnt satisfactory because it implies that God is perfect despite creating imperfect humans, which isnt convincing. Therefore, Descartes provides another argument regarding that issue. In this second argument, he concludes that humans imperfection doesnt necessarily indicate that God is imperfect, and thats because Gods creation must be seen as a whole rather than a number of independent substances and modes. Humans seem imperfect on their own because they err, but as a part of Gods creation they are vital to the universes perfection. A steering wheel seems absolutely imperfect as an independent object, but to a whole car its a vital part ( Fourth Meditation  1).      

The second argument is convincing it shows how God can be a perfect creator despite creating imperfect humans. In fact, Descartes conclusion is a general rule in Gods creation. For example, body organs are useless on their own, but together they comprise a complete and useful body.                                                            


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