Descartes' First Argument of God's Existence in Third Mediation

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In this paper, I would like to critically discuss paragraph 24 in Descartes’ third meditation. First of all, I would like to give an explanation of the proposal that Descartes’ criticizes in this paragraph. Secondly, I will evaluate Descartes’ response to this proposal. Finally, I will give considerations that support the “finite first” and “infinite first” pictures and analyze which picture I think is more plausible.

Firstly, I want to give the background of the proposal that Descartes criticizes in paragraph 24. In Third Meditation, Descartes argues the existence of God for the first time. His argument is known as the cognitive causal principle and goes like this: 1) The cause of an idea must contain formally (or eminently) as much reality as the idea contains objectively. 2) My idea of God contains infinite reality objectively. 3) My idea of God is caused by something that contains infinite (unlimited) reality, eminently or formally. 4) Only God has unlimited reality. 5) Therefore, God exists. In this argument, Descartes means that the reality that exists in the world has formal reality, and the reality that exists in our mind as an idea has objectively reality. In order for an idea to contain objective reality, it has to have a cause that contains as much or more reality formally. For example, we have an idea of a chair objectively, and chair that exists in the world has to contain as much or more formal reality to cause my idea of a chair. In the case of God’s existence, Descartes’ main idea of his argument is that we can understand God exists through our idea of God, because our idea of God contains infinite objective reality that is caused by God who has infinite formal reality. Descartes’ argument is striking and controversial. By looking at this argument on the surface, it is natural to question why we should think the cause of an idea has to have as much reality as the idea being caused, and why our idea of God has infinite objective reality....
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