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Philosophers have engaged in arguments to prove the existence or non-existence of God. Some of these arguments have followed the ontological perspective whereby God’s existence is based entirely on reason. From this perspective of reasoning, there is no need for one to go out searching for existence of God: the only way out is just to think about it. Priori arguments are engaged in this kind of reasoning. The basis of this reasoning is that there some claims which we can clearly declare as either false or truths without necessarily demonstrating anything. For instance, claims like the car was being driven at a speed of around 60 kilometers per hour but below 30 kilometers per hour are false and actually outright contradictions. It is a fact which does not need to be proved that 60 can not be below 30. The ontological arguments claims that assuming that God does not exist is as absurd as assuming a two sided rectangle. This argument assumes that knowing the meaning of God is enough to avoid self and absurd contradictions. This essay examines whether Descartes is right to claim that there must be an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, simple, unitary and supremely benevolent God. This essay explains and critically evaluates his argument to that effect in Meditation Three.
This part examines the reviews Descartes’ theory of ideas with respect to clear and distinct perception. The third meditation has a general title “the existence of God.” Here Descartes doubts existence of bodily things but he is sure that he exists and that he is a thinking thing with clear perceptions, that is, he doubts, wills senses, understands, and imagines among other things. He is very sure of his thinking capacity and perceives this fact in a very clear way. He claims that he could not be sure unless all the perceptions are clear and distinct. This leads him to making a conclusion that whatever is perceived clearly and distinctly must be true (Spark 1).
Early on, Descartes was sure of the things which he now doubts. These things were only understood in the senses and not the things themselves. He only perceived the ideas and thought of those things. He conceded that it was wrong to infer ideas of objects and assume that they could inform him of the objects. He is quite sure of arithmetic and geometry but because God might be deceiving him he is completely not sure. To be assured that God is not deceiving him, he sets out to know the nature of God. He claims that ideas are as the images those ideas are of. He also talks about emotions and judgment as the object of thought. He further claims that it is not possible to mistaken the ideas or volitions or emotions on their own. He however claims possibilities of making mistakes with the judgments. The most common mistake is considering ideas in one’s mind to conform to the things outside the mind (Spark 1).
Three sources of ideas are brought to light: innate, adventitious and those invented by us. Descartes argues that one can not be sure of the source of the ideas but seems concern about the adventitious ideas which he believes comes from outside. Concerning the adventitious ideas, his will has no effect, for instance, if the outside is hot he can not whatsoever prevent himself from feeling hot just through his will. This leads him to make a conclusion that whatever the adventitious ideas transmit then it is surly the likeness of whatever is being transmitted. However it should be noted that this assumption may not be true in all the circumstances. Looking at the sun the feeling one gets is that it is very small but astrologically this is wrong. Thus this means that there are situations in which our will surely affect the image of the object whose feelings are being transmitted (Descartes 143).
Descartes after proving that he exists and that he is thinking, he tries to apply the same means to prove that other things really do exists. Descartes makes a conclusion that his knowledge of cogito and the sum res cogitans are distinct and clear perceptions which means that they are certain. This brings up the question of whether the reasoning is not circular. This is because the certainty of the cogito is due to its clarity and distinct in perception. At the same time clarity and distinction of perceptions must be certain since that is the only way to achieve the certainty of the cogito. Questions of our certainty of geometry and arithmetic are brought to the surface. Though we seem to be very sure of arithmetic there are possibilities that we might be deceived with respect to them. Then if it is possible that we are being deceived concerning issues such as arithmetic which we are we are certain of then even the cogito should be cast back into doubt (Spark 2).
It can be argued that Descartes is implicating the existence of God with the clear and distinct perceptions. In this manner Descartes is trying to prove that the existence of God is a clear and distinct perception. Descartes’ suggestions seem to equate ideas to images of things of those ideas. This brings an implication that ideas are visual representations. According to Descartes, God is a finite substance all powerful, all knowing and independent to which there is nothing more perfect which can be imagined (Descartes 149; 151). According to Descartes something which is perfect is one which contains more reality (Descartes 146). Descartes argues that our ideas of God are of absolute perfection. He also claims that existent thoughts contain more reality than the nonexistent reality than the nonexistent thoughts. These two claims, that is, ideas of God being absolute perfection and existence thoughts being more real than nonexistence thoughts makes Descartes make two conclusions. In a logics way Descartes’ argument follows this order: ideas of the most perfect being are experienced in our thoughts and since existence in reality is more perfect as compared to existence in thoughts he concludes that the most perfect being exists in reality.
Descartes’ argument is that existence is perfection and as such it belongs in the group of divine nature characteristics. Descartes further argues that existence is a necessary predicate of God due to the fact that existence forms a section of the true essence of any perfect thing. Descartes argues that it is not possible to possess the idea of the most perfect being if existence lacks in this being: existence is the most important attribute. Descartes assumes the task of demonstrating the perfect being. It is not right to assume that which is being attempted to be concluded on. Descartes predicates the existence of God thus in a way that which is restarted in the conclusion is already concluded. If only one gets to agree with the foundational premise that “existence is a predicate of a most perfect thing” then the only conclusion which can be made is that God exists and nothing else (Still par. 3).
One does not provide the existence of a being by just predicating its existence to the attributes of that being: this does not successfully provide existence of that being. Other more characteristics can be added to Descartes’ divine attributes but it should be noted that they will just be the descriptions of what that being ought to be. According to the argument of Kant, it is not right to predicate existence of a being. Kant further argues that no matters the number of predicates which might be made on a thing, it does not make the least to the being when a step is taken to declare the being is (Kant 505). Saying that “God is” simply means that for all for all p if p is God then God exist (Barnes 51).
It should be noted that existence ought not to be properly seen as perfection. Existence rather should be a prerequisite of any being capable of being perfect. Another point to note is that Descartes’ way of arguing builds into his premises the conclusion that is to be demonstrated, that is, in order for the most perfect thing to be then it a must that the most perfect being exist. In the real sense Descartes’ predication of the existence of God as a divine attribute is quite unhelpful in the addressing of his actual existence. There is a paramount need to show God’s existence by means of empirical means without going round the problem inform of restating the problem as a solution to the actual existence of God. Therefore, it should be said that Descartes is not right to claim that that there must be an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, simple, unitary and supremely benevolent God.