Descartes' Proof for the Existence of God

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Descartes' Proof for the Existence of God Many readers follow Descartes with fascination and pleasure as he descends into the pit of skepticism in the first two Meditations, defeats the skeptics by finding the a version of the cogito, his nature, and that of bodies, only to find them selves baffled and repulsed when they come to his proof for the existence of God in Meditation III. In large measure this change of attitude results from a number of factors. One is that the proof is complicated in ways which the earlier discourse is not. Second is that the complications include the use of scholastic machinery for which the reader is generally quite unprepared -- including such doctrines as a Cartesian version of the Great Chain of Being, the Heirloom theory of causaltiy, and confusi ng terms such as "eminent," "objective" and "formal reality" used in technical ways which require explanation. Third, we live in an age which is largely skeptical of the whole enterprise of giving proofs for the existence of God. A puzzled student once remaked, "If it were possible to prove that God exists, what would one need faith for?" So, even those inclined to grant the truth of the conclusion of Descartes' proof are often skeptical about the process of reaching it. Philosophers are inclined to evaluate arguments carefully. This page is aimed to help students analyze the complex elements of Descartes' proof into simpler parts and to provide some explanation of how those work, so that the student may grasp the nat ure of the proof and thus be in a much better position to give a reasoned evaluation of it. Such an exercise is both interesting and useful in itself, and also helps the student understand philosophical machinery which Descartes puts... ... middle of paper ... ...ve reality that it could not have been made by him. So, we are probably going to need the list of kinds of i deas. So: 1. Ideas are either innate (inborn or known from one's own nature), adventitious (come from outside me) or made by me. 2. Formal reality is characteristic of things. 3. Some things have more formal reality than others. 4. To exist is to be good. 5. Greater goodness or perfection therefore implies that some things have more existence than others. 6. Substances have a greater amount of formal reality than modes or accidents. 7. Infinite substances have more formal reality than finite substances. 8. Objective reality is the reality characterisic of ideas in virtue of the fact that the idea represents some realtiy. 9. Some ideas have more objective reality than others, depending on the formal reality of the things which they represent.
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