Descartes used the existence of God as a foundation for all of his thinking. In the time of Descartes, the Catholic Church played a very important role in everyone life, including the life of Descartes. Descartes grew up and remained as a Catholic all his life. So being a Catholic, Descartes has to prove the existence of his belief before he prove anything around him existed. In the fifth meditation, Descartes says the mountain cannot exist without the valley even though we may see the mountain without the valley, the valley still must exist as well as the mountain. Therefore, since Descartes exist and for him to exist perfection is necessary then God must exist for this perfection.
In order to get a better understanding of his relationship between his body and mind, Descartes melts a piece of wax. He observes the wax in two different states, the first in a solid form and the second in a melted form. He questions how his senses can show him two entirely different forms of the same substance; yet he knows that the substance, in both states, although completely different, is wax. The mind was able to understand the essence of the wax. Although the senses were not entirely capable of making the connection between the two forms of wax, the senses assisted the mind in determining what the substance was. This experiment proves to be important to Descartes because he is able to make a link between the senses and the mind.
Using his experiment, Descartes enters his Third Meditation using his general rule of truth that... all things we conceive very clearly and distinctly are true (Descartes 113). However, there is one flaw to his thoughts. If God is an evil deceiver than this cannot be true.
Descartes proceeds to establish that God is good and does not deceive. Descartes uses three points to establish the existence God. These points are ideas. The first one is adventitious ideas; those ideas that come fro outside experiences.
The second is invented ideas; those that are derived from the imagination such as sirens and chimera. The final is innate ideas; those that are within one when they are born. However, Descartes raises a question: If God exists and cannot be an evil deceiver then why are humans imperfect and perpetually making errors Descartes explains this through the explanation of free will. Descartes states that God has given all humans free will. This is the cause of human error. Because we have free will, humans are able to make choices and decisions free from the influence of God.
Descartes uses the ideas of infinite and perfect. These two ideas, Descartes cannot account for. The only way for such things to come about would be from an infinite and perfect being such as God. These ideas have a direct relationship with God. In order for a finite being such as Descartes to have a concept of infinite it must have been planted there by an infinite being such as God.
Descartes concludes this idea to be true because one cannot derive the idea of infinite by negating the finite (Descartes 125). An example of this would be the use of a number line. The number line will never be able to illustrate infinity. One could negate every number on a number line and still not arrive at infinity. Therefore, Descartes concludes that God does exist and therefore is not an evil deceiver. Because God has supplied us with the innate ideas of perfection and infinity, God, therefore, must be infinite and perfect.
Descartes states that, Whence it is clear enough that he cannot be a deceiver, for the natural light teaches us that deceit stems necessarily from some defect (Descartes 131). Although Descartes has the idea of God, he does not quite understand from where he got this idea. In other words, he has an idea of an infinite being, even though he is a finite being. A finite being is not capable of developing an infinite idea, this means that God must of deposit that idea in him; the evil demon in not infinite and the reason for this is that he is a deceiver and that shows a weakness. Descartes logical progression for this proof is as follows: God is a non-deceiver; the idea of God is infinite; Descartes possesses the idea of God; Descartes is not an infinite being; God (an infinite being) deposited the idea of God into him; God must exist. After these contentions are proven by Descartes, he uses the established ground to delve into new topics.
But since God is no deceiver, says Descartes numerous times. Descartes uses the premise that God does not deceive humans to establish other truths. One of the primary points Descartes makes is that because God does not deceive, Descartes must have a body. Because he experiences pain, hunger, love, hate, and other emotions, he must have a body. These feelings cannot be conjured up by his imagination, merely because of the fact that our perfect God does not deceive. By establishing an existence of God, Descartes is able to convince others more thoroughly of his beliefs.
He uses the same logic and meticulousness to prove other truths as he does with God. In a sense, in proving God, Descartes is establishing a trust with his students. He is establishing a trust that he will give all topics the same careful examining, and more importantly for his readers, careful explanation of his beliefs. It is very important for Descartes to prove the existence of God, and uses it as his foundation to his argument about his way of thinking.
Descartes uses everything that he perceives to support his argument. In other words, he asserts that all that he perceives must come from somewhere, and if all that he perceives are falsities of his senses, this is simply another testament to his imperfection. Descartes has proved the existence of a perfect being. Descartes asserts that a Perfect Being must exist, for he knows he is not perfect, therefore something must be perfect. Works Cited Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and the Meditations.
Trans. F. E. Sutcliffe. New York: Penguin, 1996.
Kessler, Gary. Voice of Wisdom- A multicultural Philosophy Reader. California State of University, Bakersfield, 2001 344.