In his fifth meditation, Descartes attempts to prove that God exists outside of his mind in the external world, through the use of reduction ad absurdum. Reduction ad absurdum: attempt to prove a claim by assuming its opposite, and then deriving a contradiction. Descartes explains that he has an idea of God. God is the “being-than-which-no-greater-can-be-conceived.” This means that God exists inside the mind. Now assume the statement is false: the “being-than-which-no-greater-can-be-conceived” does not exist outside of the mind. If this is true, then there can be another being greater than the “being-than-which-no-greater-can-be-conceived.” One attribute that would be “greater” is if the being actually existed outside of the mind. Therefore there must be a being that is greater than the “being-than-which-no-greater-can-be-conceived,” but this is not possible: it is a contradiction. Therefore the idea that assuming the being does not exist outside of the mind is a contradiction as well and so God must exist outside of the mind as well. Again, Descartes has failed to prove anything because the logic does not follow. Just because a being exists in the mind does not mean it exists in the real world. How does Descartes make the jump? Could not one just think of a “unicorn-than-which-no-greater-can-be-conceived” and follow the same logic to conclude that unicorns exist outside the mind? The problem with Descartes’ arguments is that they are too personal to him. He believes that within his mind he is correct, but to the person that does not believe in God, the arguments lack proof that God is evident to all.
Descartes also says that God is perfect because he is all knowing, all powerful, all perfect, and all good. Existence, according to Descartes is a quality of perfection, therefore: God must exist, however God’s qualities contradict. If God is all perfect, he is the perfect evil. Also, God is all good. How can a being be good and evil? If God is all powerful he must control what happens in the world. God must cause natural disasters, and yet he is also all good. How can good come from disasters that kill so many people? It seems that Descartes has no concrete proof of God’s existence, so he decides to make up “qualities of perfection.” Because people exist, does that mean that people are perfect? The idea of perfection is difficult to prove. Nothing on earth is perfect; it can only exist in the mind; not in the actual world.
By incorporating logic into his argument, Pascal has appealed to everyone. Each and every person either believes in God or does not believe in him. Pascal then takes the two possibilities and decides the outcome. It is hard to argue with his reasoning because his argument is not driven through emotion like Descartes’. This is not to say, however that Pascal’s argument could not be incorrect. Some Religions have different Gods. Who is to say that the Christian God is the correct one to worship? Would the real God, assuming he exists, be angry with someone if they worshiped something else or something false? Pascal would argue that one should pick a religion that gives reward with heaven and damnation with hell to take full advantage of his chances. Even if forty different people worship different Gods, and only one is the true God, each of those forty will have a better chance of getting into heaven than a person who refuses to believe. Mathematically Pasqual’s Wager is air tight. What exactly does “belief” mean? If someone goes to church every week, is this good enough to get into heaven? What if a man accepts God as his savior ten seconds before he dies; does the man get into heaven? The questions are too tough to answer because no one knows for sure which is the true God or what constitutes a life that is worthy of heaven or hell. One thing is certain: if there is a God and one decides not to believe in any God at all, the chances are that he will end up in an infinitely bad situation. Perhaps proving God is too difficult of a task. Each individual has a bias against those who believe different. Descartes tries to tell people that his ideas are correct, so he does not show moral competence. The ideas he comes up with can easily be disproven. Descartes barely tries to refute opposing points of view. Pascal approaches the problem with appeals to emotion and logic. He uses all points of view and gives positive and negative values to the after life. Looking closely at both arguments, it is obvious that Pascal’s Wager provides a more solid argument than Descartes’ Meditations concerning God.