Descartes and Knowing with Certainty of God's Existence
Descartes, Pascal, and the Rationalist Credo Pascal asserts that we can know only by the heart, whereas Descartes would have us believe through his truths that we can know with certainty
of Gods existence. The factors that go into their views on reason will be compared and accented within this essay. The order of the universe is knowable to Descartes. He proves these by
using certain truths. To arrive at these truths Descartes doubted everything and especially could not trust authoritarian knowledge. This was known in the four "D's" as doctrine. The other three "D's" included the deceiving senses (empiricism), dreams (intuition), and demons (innate putting wrong ideas into our minds). Originally he doubted empirical thought because he could not even trust his senses. He used his senses only as a tool for doubting. Through doubting he felt that he could clear prejudices, which would allow him to arrive at certain truths. The goal of this destructive process was to find one clear and evident intuition that could be 100 percent certain. What he originally arrived at for a conclusion, was that everything could be doubted except doubting. However, to arrive at a truth he had to begin with a clear, evident intuition (an innate idea). This would be followed by moving from universals to particulars through deductive reasoning. He moved from the simple onto the complex incrementally, or step by step. He discovered the "I" to be the only certain truth, as his mind had to exist for him to be able to doubt. As stated earlier, Descartes truths had to begin with intuition, or an innate idea. This was the beginning of his constructive program of certainties. The first certainty was "Cogito ergo sum," or
I think therefore I am. This is the "I" or his starting point which emphasizes the importance of the individual. The second certainty is that god exists. The third certainty is that the perfect God would not deceive. So the senses that God has given us can be trusted. He ties together the innate idea and certainty of "I" with empirical sense data that must apply and be subject to Gods reason, thus giving him a mixed epistemology. As shown here, reason can know God and give us an understanding of the universe. Descartes would say we can know the world best ! through God. He sums this up in his statement, "Certainty and truth of all knowledge depend alone on the knowledge of the true God. Without this knowledge we cannot have a perfect knowledge of any other thing."Pascal views the universe as knowable but in a very limited sense. As he says, we are lost between two infinites that of the microscopic and that of astronomy, or the telescopic. Pascal had a respect for reason, but reason alone does not go far enough because of its imitations. Pascal has a positive outlook on reason in that he sees thought is our glory. He views us as thinking reeds. Pascal trusts and uses reason though he sees another...