Pascal vs Descartes Paper
Pascal’s argument is fallible because he reaches the conclusion that we should “wager” God’s existence, rather than coming up with “proof” by using deductive reasoning like Descartes provides in his argument. These early 17th century philosophers both provided writings defending the validity of the Christian religion and of God’s existence. After the Protestant Reformation of 1517, the Catholic Church’s sanctity was questioned. Different religions sprouted across Europe and citizens of Western Europe began questioning religion itself and the existence of God. Blaise Pascal and Rene Descartes each claimed to have a strong belief in Catholicism (or a denomination of), and because of this strong belief, they sought to defend the validity of the existence of God. Pascal wrote a collection of aphorisms which he started to revise into a writing he would call the “Apology of Christian Religion”. However, Pascal died before he was able to complete it. In Pascal’s Pensees (his writings were collected and organized in the 19th century and 20th century), Pascal systematically dismantles the notion that we, the people, can trust reason to validate God’s Existence. Pascal rambles on about what “we” can’t do to prove God, instead of finding his own proof of God’s existence. His approach to persuade us into believing God is to use mathematical equations and odds to reach the conclusion that it is worth it to a person to wager on God’s existence. Descartes on the other hand, uses deductive reasoning and a systematic approach in a philosophical treatise he called “Meditations on First Philosophy”. In “Meditations”, Descartes provides six meditations each provided a separate argument proving God’s existence and reaches the conclusion that God’s existence in undeniable (I will only use two and sum up the other three in my argument). Obviously neither was able to accomplish their goal, however I will show how and why Descartes’ argument is more persuasive than Pascal’s.
In Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy”, Descartes tries to undermine his own beliefs on religion, thus forming a skeptical hypothesis, or a “methodic doubt”. He tries to connect with the reader by understanding their skepticism and suspending his own beliefs and judgment about religion in order to be objective. It is in Descartes’ “Meditation II: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind: That is Better Known Than the Body” that he provides his thought process in response to his own doubts he forwarded in Meditation I. Descartes allows the reader to follow exactly how he comes to the conclusion he reaches at the end of the meditation by identifying five steps he uses.
The first point he makes is that all people doubt certain things that exist in the world. Descartes states this by saying that: “I [he] believe that none of what my deceitful memory represents ever existed. I have no senses whatever (Meditations 17)”. He then continues with the statement: “Perhaps [there is] just the single fact that nothing is certain (Meditations 17)”. Secondly, he explains how this idea includes all contents of the mind including images, memories, concepts, beliefs, intentions and even decisions. Descartes is trying to explain how our senses can be deceiving. Well, if our senses can deceive us, then how do we know what is real? How do we know if we are being deceived? Descartes sets us (the reader) up by putting out these points so he can show that he is being objective, and that he has doubts of his own. Thirdly, Descartes continues to ask a series of questions on how he/we can be sure when/what we are being deceived of. Descartes eventually reaches a conclusion: “Here I make my discovery: thought exists; it alone cannot be separated from me. I am; I exist (Meditations 19)”. Descartes states that ideas and the things they represent are separate from each other. However, the thoughts we all have are the only things that we can be certain of which we know...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document