The starting point of Descartes’ proof of God’s existence is the principle that the cause of any idea must have at least as much reality as the content of the idea itself. He argued that the cause of his idea that God had an absolutely unlimited content must in itself be infinite and only the true God can be infinite (Prevos 2). He believes that his idea of God can not be false and that since he could not experience God face to face, then the idea must have originated from God himself pointing to the existence of God. This formed the basis of his first proof of God’s existence (Prevos 2).
As a back up to this he offered the second proof of Gods existence. The proof has been seen by different scholars as a traditional version of the general argument explaining the existence of God’s existence. He states that from the his innate ideas he knows that he exists and that since himself he is not perfect, there was no way he could have created himself. This to him means that something else must have caused his existence (Prevos 4). He never concentrated on knowing what the thing was but what he wanted to know is the origin of the thing. He noted that this would lead to a chain of causes from him to his parents and so on which would eventually end somewhere. According to him, the end of these causes will be with the ultimate perfect self caused being, or God (Prevos 4).
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Scholars have argued that the Descartes’ Ontological argument is the most fascinating and poorly understood aspects of his philosophy. In this prove, he tried to prove God’s existence from simple but powerful basic foundational truths. He derived the idea of God’s existence from the idea of a supremacy perfect being (Prevos 5). However, his production of two versions led to some form of confusion. The argument from his innate ideas that God is a supreme perfect being is found in his fifth mediation. Some scholars have also argued that this argument is a mere modification of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas which had faced traditional objections.
His ideas are seen to be grounded in both his the theory of innate ideas and the doctrine of clear and distinct perception. His version is also extremely simplified. It is based on the fact that God’s existence is contained in the clear and distinct idea of a supreme perfect being. He denied the influence of philosophical reasoning in the ontological argument. To him, the idea fully originated from his mind (Spark Notes Editors 1).
He argued that the idea on God can no longer be separated from God’s own existence. To him God’s existence is so obvious and self evident. He argued that the various contradictions that face the attempt to separate God’s existence from the essence of supremely perfect being is something expected (Prevos 3). Descartes believed in God’s essence and never questioned himself whether he really existed. This argument finds its strong basis in the law of truth, that “whatever one can clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.” He noted that the existence of such a being as he had clearly perceived is not questionable. This was the basis of his first prove of God’s existence in mediation three (Spark Notes Editors 1).
Why Descartes needed two Proofs
Although he seemed to be sure of the existence of God, he never just explained the existence of God as it happens through intuition. He admitted that he also had to present the formal versions of the ontological argument (Spark Notes Editors 1). This was because he recognized that he was also writing for a 17th century audience which required him to provide the scholastic logic for a high level of argument and reasoning (Prevos 6). He therefore presented two separate versions of the ontological argument. One of the arguments simply takes into account the psychological process by which one internalizes the existence of God. He often employed a traditional arguments strategy to help him present his evidences in the simplest version. He achieved this when he used devices like the geometry and a circle to demonstrate his views in a more simple and clear manner (Prevos 6).
Why God is not to Blame for the Human Error
Descartes discussed two reasons for believing that God is not to blame for the errors that are made by human beings. According to him human beings obtain their knowledge from a perfect God who is not a deceiver (Sperring, 6). The question is therefore why human beings still make errors in executing their judgment and why God allows human beings to be deceived (Prevos 7). He says that this does not show that God is imperfect or limited in any way. He said remarked that only God is perfect and human beings can not know God’s hidden purposes. In his mediation, Descartes talks of “Method of Doubt.” He proposed that if human beings could observe this principle, then they would never go wrong (Sperring, 6).
Descartes however gave an exception to the law of method of doubt. Such situations as beyond the control of an individual may just leave on with the option of trying his best which may be wrong because man is imperfect (Sperring, 6). He argued that God could not arrange the world in a way that enables man to be perfect in judging others. He explained that there are various causes and effects that intervene between an object to be judge and the perception of the judge. Man’s knowledge of the object may therefore be influenced by such factors. These arguments can thus provide a basis for the solution of the problem of evil (Prevos 8).