The goal of this essay is to explain and evaluate the two arguments for the existence of God formulated by Descartes in Meditations. The first argument is the cosmological argument. In essence, Descartes argues that the world was created by God because a person cannot create their own existence nor could have the world spontaneously come into existence. I clearly understand that there is more reality in an infinite substance than there is in a finite one. Thus, the perception of the infinite substance, that is, my perception of God is prior to my perception of myself. (pg. 51) Descartes wants to show that God exist as a superior being to prove that his ideas come from a greater power. Descartes argues that because he has this notion of God, who is a perfect entity this idea can not be own. Therefore, this idea could not originate from me but from God. Which proves that God is the sum of all creation and also exists. For how would I understand that I doubt and that I desire, that is, that I lack something and that I am not wholly perfect, unless there was some idea in me of a more perfect being, by comparison with which I might recognize my defects? (pg.51) This is an example of Descartes conducting a small thought experiment. Basically, his argument is that he understands that he doubts and desires as a human. In other words, he lacks something and realizes that he exists as an incomplete being. This brings him to the conclusion that there is an idea of a more perfect being in him, a greater power and being, and that being is God.
I believe that Descartes argument is successful. Descartes talks about this idea of God in his thoughts and wonders how this idea could have arisen. He makes a good point when he articulates that any cause must have at least as much reality as the effect it has on the world. One of the strongest points I believe that Descartes brings up is that another real being is less real than God so therefore only God, as an all-powerful, being could be the source of this thought. This is Descartes premise 1. I conclude than that this proves that God exists and it real. Additionally, we could not exist if the idea of God in our minds was not there. We already know that imperfect beings such as ourselves cannot bring each other into existence out of thin air, for only a perfect being such as God could accomplish such an act. Descartes know that he himself could not achieve this. One objection to this argument could be that you parents brought you into creation. I believe that Descartes’s counter argument regarding this objection would be that it would make us ask the question as to how did our parents come into creation then. When it comes down to it, in the end we have to acknowledge some entity or power that is greater than ourselves. Basically, there has to be somebody or something at the top of the food chain, and at the very top is the creator of all existence, God. I do not believe that God is a figment of our imagination because as Descartes stated we are not perfect beings and therefore our ideas and thoughts are limited. But Gods mind and ideas are not which makes him a perfect entity. I think it is safe to say that we are born with this notion of Gods in our minds. As an infant grows older they will come to realize that they are imperfect but carry this idea of perfection that only one true being could achieve. It is like God is such a perfect entity that his radiance and power washes over everything in creation, leaving an imprint on all other imperfect beings.
Descartes second premise focuses on two types of reality. The first is called formal reality, which is the presence or existence of a thought and or idea. The second form of reality is called objective reality. This reality refers to the content of a thought or an idea. The existence of two different realities are arbitrary, however in his third meditation Descartes uses them to prove god’s existence with success. He argues that all ideas and thoughts have the same level of formal reality. Each one is a state of the mind, but they are separate under objective reality. The lowest form of objective reality is a property or 2-dimensional feature about something or someone. For example, an apple is round or basketball player are tall. The second highest objective reality is a finite substance, this refers to the state of self as being and existing. Finally, the highest is an infinite substance, Descartes saves this designation for God. By categorizing objective reality Descartes shows us the separation between God and the rest of creation. More specifically he proves the existence of God by labeling him/her as an infinite substance, or in other words an infinite power. The infinite stands as a substance that holds no limitations or restraints in any of its abilities. The example for this in the eyes of Descartes would be a perfect entity, who would possess every piece of knowledge, and power. Descartes believes no other power could possible surpass this one, and that power is God. I understand by the name God’ a certain substance that is infinite, supremely intelligent, and supremely powerful, and that created me along with everything else that exists- if anything else exist. (pg.51) I deduct that we as individuals hold our own values, ideas, concerns, and feelings and yet among all of those expressions and thoughts there is doubt that we are our own creators and the worlds creator. However, the substance of God in us is powerful enough to prove that God exists.
Formal reality and objective reality seal the argument for myself and Descartes. He articulates that the ideas or thoughts of these things were hovering before my mind (pg. 24), instead of appearing or coming to him from outside of his mind. I believe this is accurate since Descartes argues that an individual cannot gain knowledge simply through the senses but that it must have already existed within. The formal notion is that all ideas are the same. The objective concept is that all ideas are different. In the formal sense, ideas are the outcome of the process of thinking and are involved in the cogito. These ideas are straightforward and unique. When ideas are considered objective however, they are representatives of things that exist. Therefore, the connections between ideas result in truths when they match up to the realities of the world in which we exist. Ideas do not come from experience, but are found within intellect itself. Descartes, however, states that these clear and distinct ideas do not necessarily correspond to realities, as there may be an omnipotent deceiver. In Meditation Three, Descartes describes three different notions of ideas and states that ideas can be adventitious, entering the mind from the outside world by external forces. These ideas include hearing a noise or feeling the heat of a fire. Ideas can also be innate, manufactured by the mind itself. If you are to learn anything from Descartes it is that an persons idea of what something is and the actuality of that same thing must come from his or her own nature and mind.