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Third Meditation, by Rene Descartes

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In the Third Meditation, Descartes forms a proof for the existence of God. He begins by laying down a foundation for what he claims to know and then offers an explanation for why he previously accepted various ideas but is no longer certain of them. Before he arrives at the concept of God, Descartes categorizes ideas and the possible sources that they originate from. He then distinguishes between the varying degrees of reality that an idea can possess, as well as the cause of an idea. Descartes proceeds to investigate the idea of an infinite being, or God, and how he came to acquire such an idea with more objective reality than he himself has. By ruling out the possibility of this idea being invented or adventitious, Descartes concludes that the idea must be innate. Therefore, God necessarily exists and is responsible for his perception of a thing beyond a finite being.

Descartes affirms that he is certain that he is a thinking thing. His reasoning, however, seems to be a circular argument. Descartes knows he is a thinking thing because “in this first instance of knowledge, there is nothing but a certain clear and distinct perception of what I affirm” (Descartes, 24). He concludes, “everything I very clearly and distinctly perceive is true” (Descartes, 24). Descartes could only know that what he clearly and distinctly perceives is true if he can be certain he is a thinking thing. Throughout this proof, Descartes is trying to use God’s existence as a way of affirming that which he clearly and distinctly perceives. However, he is also trying to prove God’s existence by claiming that the idea of God is a clear and distinct perception. Without inquiring into the existence of God, “it appears I am never capable of being completely ...

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...hat God too exists" (Descartes, 34).

Descartes proof of the existence of God is derived from his establishment that something cannot come from nothing. Because God is a perfect being, the idea of God can be found from exploring the different notions of ideas. Descartes uses negation to come to the conclusion that ideas do not come from the world or imagination; because the world contains material objects, perfection does not exist.

Descartes emphasizes the idea that his idea of God's existence does not originate from his senses. Rather than having created the idea himself, he states that God himself imprinted the idea on him. “Thus the only option remaining is that this idea is innate in me just as the idea of myself is innate in me” (Descartes, 34). If a person is to believe that innate ideas exist, it follows that the existence of innate ideas is a truth.
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