My intent in this essay is to illustrate that the arguments regarding the existence of God and the fear of deception in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, are quite weak and do not justify his conclusions. To support these claims, I will begin by outlining two specific meditations and explain the proposed arguments. Later, I will critically analyze his arguments, revealing unjust conclusions. Doubts surrounding the text include the suggested characteristics of God, the condition of perfection, and the nature of deceit. A wrap up will include a discussion on whether or not Descartes (also referred to as Renatus) succeeded in his project.
The bulk of Descartes’ arguments in regards to the existence of God occur within meditation three. Having previously stripped himself of all material knowledge, all that Renatus can be certain of is his own ideas and that he is a “thinking thing” (35). Being a “thinking thing” speaks to his ability to create ideas, and is really all that proves his existence to himself. Although he stresses that the ideas that he conceives in his mind cannot be false, it is determined that his application of those ideas in the form of judgments are subject to error (37). Furthermore, his ideas are categorized as being innate, adventitious, and manmade. Innate ideas are instinctual, uninfluenced truths; which is contrasted by adventitious ideas that are learned through experience. The third process of thought is made-up ideas, such as imagination (38). These forms of ideas are necessary to the text because they are essentially the only things known to exist, and to categorize them is to define their origin. The strain is placed on understanding objective reality: the application of ideas influenced by external factors. To specify, its application to God (an idea within in the realm of objective reality as opposed to finite reality) (40).
The argument Renatus intends to make with this ideology is that every effect must contain the same properties as its cause, and vice versa (41). This point is the precursor to his first proof of the existence of God. The understanding is that a rock could not have been a rock unless the forces, by which it was created, also contained the qualities of a rock (41). Alternatively, as much as a substance can only exist as a result of something of equal perfection, for an idea to be derived from a cause different from its effect, the idea would have been created from nothingness. Therefore, because an idea is not (nor cannot be) nothing, it must always be the case that reality follows this cause and effect relationship (41).
Upon elaboration, Renatus suggests that were he to have an idea that is so objectively real, that its reality is in fact greater than he, than he could not have caused it (42). This implies that a greater being, such as God, must have caused it. Renatus is quick to conclude that, because of God’s characteristics, which are definitely ideas much more...