Descartes' Arguments for the Existence of God

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Student Name: |Grace Pavey | |
|Student No: |PAV10137547 |
|Course: |Access to HE |
| | |
|Lecturer: |Jim Mawby |
|Subject: |Philosophy |
|Date: |7 Feb 2010 |

Explain and assess one or more Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God

Descartes applies the ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’) argument from the second meditation to prove another foundational truth, which is the existence of God. He uses his personal Christian belief and definition of God to build upon this proposition and tries to prove that something besides him exists by contemplating his idea of God. This essay will explain and assess Descartes’ aetiological and cause of existence arguments for the existence of God by identifying the meaning of existence in this context and the clear and distinct rule, as well as examining each premise and conclusion of the proofs. Finally, this essay shall attempt to evaluate Descartes’ arguments.

The Third Meditation begins with Descartes’ affirmation of his own existence. He is a thinking thing which exists by clear and distinct perception, and it is therefore impossible to be doubtful of knowledge that he completely understands. Certainty and truth are equated. In order to establish the clear and distinct rule, Descartes must prove the existence of a perfect and undeceiving God:

“Since I am a thinking thing, and have in me an idea of God, whatever finally the cause may be to which my nature is attributed, it must necessarily be admitted that the cause must equally be a thinking thing, and possess within it the idea of all the perfections that I attribute to the divine nature.”

Descartes has an idea of God and perceives that God would not deceive him since deception would mean imperfection, and God is infinite and perfect. Descartes also presents the idea that with God’s perfection comes His existence. This can be summarised as:

|(P1) |Descartes exists because he thinks. | |(P2) |He exists by clear and distinct perception of things. | |(C1) |Descartes exists as a thinking thing. | |(P3) |As a thinking thing, he has an idea of an infinite and perfect God (which is clear and distinct). | |(C2) |God is infinite and perfect in his idea. | |(P4) |Existence is perfection. | |(C3) |An infinite and perfect God exists in his idea. |

This is an argument considering the idea of God alone and does not rely on experience to prove his point. This relies on the ‘Casual Adequacy Principle’[1]. Descartes argues: “There must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause as in its effect.” He claims that his idea of a perfect God must itself be caused by something perfect. Descartes also defends this argument by insisting that: “….certainly not nothing, and so it cannot come from nothing.” For example, the existence of a stone (which previously did not exist) must be produced by something which contains the components of a stone. The cause must have more reality than its effect. The flaw here is that there is no definite connection between the cause of an object (something perfect) and its effect (idea of a perfect God). If there were, then it would follow that perfection created God, and...
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