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Answered: - Descartes gives a complicated proof for the existence of G


Descartes gives a complicated proof for the existence of God in Meditation III (see Slideshow for reconstruction of the argument). The importance of this proof is seen in Meditation VI, where Descartes uses the existence of God to prove what about our minds and bodies, and what about our knowledge of objects outside our minds?


Knowledge I

 

Plato and Descartes

 


 

Knowledge

 

!? Plato and Descartes aim at determining what the proper

 

method for arriving at knowledge is.

 


 

!? Both begin with the observation that we claim to ?know? a

 

lot of things. But what marks the differences between

 

opinions, true belief, and knowledge?

 


 

Plato?s Meno

 

!? The Meno begins not with the quetions

 

!? WHAT IS VIRTUE?

 


 

But with the question:

 

!? CAN VIRTUE BE TAUGHT?

 


 

!? This is why many philosophers read Meno as a dialogue

 

not about ethics and virtue, but about knowledge.

 


 

Plato?s Meno

 

!? The problem of knowledge first appears mid-way

 

through the Meno:

 

Socrates (summarizing Meno?s claim): ?Do you not realize

 

what a debater?s argument you are bringing up, that [one]

 

cannot search either for what [one] knows or for what

 

[one] does not know? [One] cannot search for what [one]

 

knows?since [one] knows is, there is is need to search?

 

nor for what [one] does not know, for [one] does not

 

know what to look for.? (p. 70, 80e)

 


 

Plato?s Meno

 

!? Socrates: Perhaps we know by recollection

 

?As the soul is immortal . . .? (p. 71, 81c-d)

 


 

?These opinions have been stirred up like a

 

dream . . .? (p. 77, 85c-d)

 

!? Recollection: ?And he will know if without having been

 

taught but only questioned, and find the knowledge

 

within himself.? (p. 77, 85d)

 


 

Plato?s Meno

 

!? Supposing we have knowledge of something?

 

!? Either we acquired knowledge at some time or we have always

 

possessed knowledge.

 

!? If we have not acquired this knowledge in our present life, then

 

we acquired this knowledge at some other time.

 

!? Recall: Socrates takes it that the slave?s knowledge of

 

geometry was not acquired in his present life.

 

!? If the knowledge was acquired before this present life, then our

 

we acquired it before this life.

 

!? Therefore, (i) the soul is immortal; and (ii) knowledge is always

 

in our soul.

 


 

Descartes on Achieving

 

Knowledge

 

?Suppose [someone] had a basket

 

full of apples and, being worried

 

that some of the apples were

 

rotten, wanted to take out the

 

rotten ones to prevent the rot from

 

spreading. How would he proceed?

 

Would he not begin by tipping the

 

whole lot out of the basket? And

 

would not the next step be to cast

 

his eye over each apple in turn, and

 

pick up and put back in the basket

 

only those he saw to be sound,

 

leaving the others? (con?t)

 


 

Descartes

 

In just the same way, those who have never philosophized

 

correctly have various opinions in their minds which they have

 

begun to store up since childhood, and which they therefore

 

have reason to believe may in many cases be false. They then

 

attempt to separate the false beliefs from the others, so as to

 

prevent their contaminating the rest and making the whole lot

 

uncertain. Now the best way they can accomplish this is to reject

 

all their beliefs together in one go, as if they were all uncertain

 

and false. They can then go over each belief in turn and re-adopt

 

only those which they recognize to be true and

 

indubitable? (Objections and Replies to the Meditations)

 


 

Meditation 1

 

!? Descartes? Method of Doubt

 

?I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to

 

demolish everything completely and start again right from the

 

foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences

 

that was stable and likely to last. . . . I am here quite alone, and at

 

last will devote myself sincerely and without reservation to the

 

general demolition of my opinions.? (17)

 

?Reason now leads me to think that I should hold back my assent

 

from opinions which are not completely certain and indubitable

 

just as carefully as I do from those which are patently false. So, for

 

the purpose of rejecting all my opinions, it will be enough if I find

 

in each of them at least some reason for doubt.? (18)

 


 

Meditation 1

 

!? The Method of Doubt Applied in Three Waves

 

1.?

 


 

Doubting beliefs based on sense experience: ?[F]rom time to time I

 

have found that the senses deceive, and it is prudent never to trust

 

completely those who have deceived us once.? (18)

 


 

2.?

 


 

The dream argument: ?How often, asleep at night, am I convinced of

 

just such familiar events?that I am here in my dressing-gown, sitting

 

by the fire?when in fact I am laying undressed in bed! [?] As I

 

think about this more carefully, I see plainly that there are never any

 

sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from

 

being asleep.? (19)

 


 

3.?

 


 

Evil genius hypothesis: ?I will suppose that . . . some malicious

 

demon [or genius] of the utmost cunning has employed all his

 

energies in order to deceive me.? (22)

 


 

Meditation 1

 

!? Conclusions:

 

!? I have reasons to doubt the beliefs formed on the basis of

 

sense experience are true.

 

!? I have a reason to doubt the laws of the natural sciences

 

and the rules of the applied sciences are true. (dream

 

argument)

 

!? I have a reason to doubt the abstract principles of science

 

and mathematics are true.

 


 

!? What?s left?

 


 

Meditation II

 

!? ?Therefore I suppose that everything I see is false. I believe that

 

none of what my deceitful memory represents ever existed. I

 

have no senses whatsoever. Body, shape, extension, movement,

 

and place are all chimeras. What then will be true? Perhaps just

 

the single fact that nothing is certain.? (24)

 


 

!? Question: Can the evil demon/genius deceive me even

 

regarding my own existence?

 


 

Meditation II

 

!? ?And let him do his best at deception; he will never bring it about

 

that I am nothing so long as I shall think that I am something.

 

Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must

 

finally be established that this pronouncement, ?I think, I exist? is

 

necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind.?

 

!? Question: What kind of thing am I?

 

Descartes: ?Yet I am a true thing and am truly existing; but

 

what kind of thing? I am a thinking thing?But what then

 

am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts,

 

understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and that also imagines and

 

senses.? (28)

 


 

Meditation II

 

!? Recall: We have reason to doubt that we have a body (first

 

wave of doubt).

 

!? But we have no reason to doubt our existence as a thinking

 

thing.

 

?At present I am not admitting anything except what is

 

necessarily true, I am, then, in the strict sense only a thing

 

that thinks; that is, I am a mind, or intelligence, or intellect,

 

or reason ? words whose meaning I have been ignorant of

 

until now.? (27)

 


 

Meditation II

 

!? Question: Why draw the inference from ?I think? to ?I am

 

a thinking thing?? Might there only be thoughts?

 

!? Descartes response: No thoughts without a thinker

 

!? Substance vs. Mode

 

!? Substance: An independent thing

 

!? Mode: A modification of a substance

 

!? So: I (or the mind) am a substance; my thoughts are modes

 

of mind

 


 

Meditation II

 

!? After two meditations, I know:

 

(a) that I exist;

 

(b) that I am a mind (?thinking thing?);

 

(c) that I have thoughts (my thoughts exist)

 


 

!? But what else can I know?

 

!? Stay tuned for Meditations III and VI

 


 

 


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