Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy
Rene Descartes’ third meditation from his book Meditations on First Philosophy, examines Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God. The purpose of this essay will be to explore Descartes’ reasoning and proofs of God’s existence. In the third meditation, Descartes states two arguments attempting to prove God’s existence, the Trademark argument and the traditional Cosmological argument. Although his arguments are strong and relatively truthful, they do no prove the existence of God.
At the start of the meditation, Descartes begins by rejecting all his beliefs, so that he would not be deceived by any misconceptions from reaching the truth. Descartes acknowledges himself as, “a thing that thinks: that is, a thing that doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, is ignorant of many things” He is certain that that he thinks and exists because his knowledge and ideas are both ‘clear and distinct’. Descartes proposes a general rule, “that whatever one perceives very clearly and very distinctly is true” Descartes discovers, “that he can doubt what he clearly and distinctly perceives is true led to the realization that his first immediate priority should be to remove the doubt” because, “no organized body of knowledge is possible unless the doubt is removed” The best probable way to remove the doubt is prove that God exists, that he is not a deceiver and “will always guarantee that any clear and distinct ideas that enter our minds will be true.” Descartes must remove the threat of an invisible demon that inserts ideas and doubts into our minds to fool us , in order to rely on his ‘clear and distinct’ rule.
In constructing his argument for God's existence, Descartes analyzes several aspects of the nature of human thought. He begins by outlining the various types of thoughts we have, which include ideas, thoughts, volitions and judgments. Ideas, or images of ideas can only exist within the mind and are certain of existence. Volitions, or choices are firmly within the mind and are also certain. Emotions, such as love, fear, hate, all exist in the mind and are certain as well. Judgments involve reference to effects outside the mind and are subject to doubt. Therefore, judgments are not certain and distinct. Descartes believes that images, volitions, and emotions are never false but it is our judgments that are misleading.
Descartes states that among ideas, “some appear to be innate, some to be adventitious and others to have been invented by (him)” He is mainly interested in ideas, because ideas exist within the mind and are certain. Descartes is able to examine ideas and gain knowledge form them. Innate ideas mean they are present at birth, in other words we are implanted with certain ideas at our creation. He often uses ‘innate ideas’ to explain the mind’s original programming. “An infant’s mind is programmed with the rules of logic. Consider as an example the valid rule, modus...