thumbnail of From Socrates To Sartre; #9; Proof: God Exists
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We have already encountered run I had to cart the philosopher mathematician gentleman soldier and physicist with his intense desire for absolute certainty and with his grandiose conception that he could build a rational and mathematical philosophy which no one could doubt which no one could be known so far in his meditations 1 and 2. We have seen that he has established only his own existence as a conscious being as a thing that thinks as a thinking thing. The formula was coded so every time I think I exist as a conscious being as a thinking thing. This Descartes established as a self-evident truth that no mind could doubt but he is now afraid and he is afraid that he is stuck trapped in the cold ghetto because the cold that so proof establishes only that I exist as a mind with its own thoughts. Philosophically this is the position that is called
solipsism. Solipsism is the view that my mind with its thoughts is the only thing that exists is the only thing that is real and that you and the physical world are only ideas within my moaning. Solipsism is dangerously close to being a philosophical expression of the form of insanity that is called schizophrenia. One striking feature of the schizo front personality is his withdrawal from the common world of reality into his own private closed in world in which only his mind and its thoughts have reality. Has the koto proof of Descartes that I exist as a thinking thing with my own thoughts. Has this become a trap. Is the cold ghetto trapping me in solipsism. The doctrine that in my own mind with his own thoughts is all that is real is the koto trapping me also in the schizo from Nick's withdrawal into a private closed in world into the scripts of chronics viewpoint of the world as
being a cut off cut off and closed in viewpoint. How can Descartes escape from the strange solitude of solipsism and from the point of view of the withdrawal of the schizo from Nick into a closed in world you can do this only by proving that something else exists. You saw it as his own mind and its thoughts. In that case if something else does exist then my mind is not alone as the only reality but hollow with a court's demand for absolute mathematical certainty. How can you prove that anything exists except his own mind and its ideas what he needs is another true proposition which will show that something else does exist. Something else is real. You saw mind my own mind and so he goes to the COGen back to the CO Giteau it at least is an absolutely true proposition and he thinks I have just in the covert toe
discovered an idea to be true. What makes it true and certain. And his answer is a true proposition is one which is evident to anyone's reason and also is clear and distinct by clear and distinct He means an idea which is precise in itself and different from any other idea. A proposition which is self-evident and clear and distinct is therefore absolutely certain and the mind cannot help accepting this them is de Kautz criterion or a test of certainty. That an idea in order to be certain must be self-evident clear and distinct. But he has already run into a problem with this with regard to mathematical propositions. They are accepted by him as self-evident. Two plus two is four and clear and distinct. But maybe you already point it out. Maybe I am deceived in such. Absolutely certain propositions certain to
line mine. Maybe I am deceived by a malignant or evil demon or God. It would be easy for such an evil demon for such an evil god. So as they card if he wishes it to cause me to fall into ARA or to hold false beliefs even when I believe myself to have the best evidence and absolutely certain propositions. How then can I know that anything else exists. Besides my own mind. A demon could not to see in the in the koto what a demon could deceive in they in anything else that I believe. And so Descartes decides near the beginning of his third meditation. Where he says I must examine whether there is a God. As soon as an opportunity occurs and if I find that there is one I must also investigate whether he can be a deceiver or as long as this is unknown. I do not see that I can ever be certain of anything. They cannot
therefore must prove that God exists and that God is no deceiver. But is it possible to prove that God exists. Do you believe in. Do you think that you can prove that your belief is true and certain. The great Catholic theologians of the Middle Ages such as Saint Anselm and some Thomas tried to prove that God exists. They try to prove this by rational and be ducted arguments from self-evident axioms. They attempted to deduce the existence of God. During the Middle Ages repeated efforts by the school manned lisc elastics use reason to prove that God exists. These proofs are now called the classical rationalist approves of the existence of God and these mediæval proofs have been subjected to devastating criticism. But Descartes who is the first of the modern philosophers cannot at this point in his philosophy use any of their famous proofs of God's existence because he now
knows only that self exist as a thinking thing. He cannot therefore argue as the great son Thomas argued from the existence of the world with its infinite series of causes to the existence of God as the first cause. This argument of sentences is known as the cosmological proof of God's existence and it claims that since everything in the world has a cause there must be a first cause in the series of causes. And to this First Cause of all other causes says and Thomas everyone gives of the name of God. Clearly Descartes cannot argue that God exists as a necessary first cause of all other causes because Descartes has not yet proved that there is a world at all. And so he is not entitled even to the word world in his argument. Similarly they cart cannot use another one of St. Thomas as proof of God's existence which is a so-called argument from design
which also is like the cosmological argument that the world exists and which reasons that the harmony and order and beauty of physical nature. Why would you think is provided the student will temperature a light air of water and shelter. This benevolent and beautiful order and arrangement could not be accidental The argument goes but must have been planned or designed for the well-being and edification of humans by an intelligent being. Therefore God exists as a necessary designer the planner and governor of the world. But they caught cannot argue from how wonderfully planned the order of the world is to serve the needs of humanity to the existence of God as the Master Intelligence who designed such a world. Because Descartes has not yet proved that the world exists nor can any argue from the beauty of the world who is not still a mountaintop and felt the beauty or the valley below. And at that moment I knew that God exists. They caught cannot
use that argument from the beauty of the world to God who provided that beauty because he does not at this point know that the world exists. How then will he make use of the go ghetto out of the knowledge the only knowledge that he has that I myself exist out of that to prove that God exists. You can prove God's existence only by reasoning from the only proposition he has established as absolutely true that I Descartes exist as a thinking thing as a conscious substance having ideas. What is an idea by idea. Descartes means anything one is conscious of feelings of joy or pain. These are ideas. Sense perceptions of the son or of the tree or of the crowds of people on a city street. These are also ideas recollections or memories of one's childhood or of a recent war of a public scandal. These are ideas and
thoughts of the intellect or reason such as scientific philosophical or mathematical statements. These also are ideas. All of these are ideas. And so once again he looks at his ideas and phone that he can only make three main points about ideas where they come from. What kind of reality they have and what they refer to is first point with regard to where ideas come from is that when we are asked what the source of our ideas is where do they come from. How do we happen to have them. We find that there are three kinds of ideas. There are those ideas which he claims are born with every one and which he calls innate and appear to come from our own nature and to be known by the light of our own reason. Such is the idea of substance or thing. This is innate in everyone he says. Because existence Time-Space the basic principles of mathematics and logic are innate in us all. Born with us.
Secondly there are those ideas that appear to be invented by human beings and which he calls factitious such as ideas of mermaids unicorns or utopias ideas that we make up. And thirdly there are those ideas which appear to come from outside us and which natures seem to suggest to us and which come to us despite our will reside IAS he calls adventitious for example hearing a noise seeing the sun and trees or colors. And so Descartes has shown the ways in which ideas differ with respect to this source with respect to how we come to have them. Innate ideas of those that come from the very nature of human reason itself and unnatural to human beings like the idea of substance or cause. Factitious ideas come from human imaginative inventiveness like at the present time ideas of science fiction and adventitious ideas seem to be caused by things outside us in the world. But now
Descartes makes his second point about ideas but in so far as ideas are simply present in our minds they exist actually in our minds and have what he calls actual or formal reality. And now Descartes goes on to make his third and last point with regard to ideas here Descartes is not concerned with where ideas come from or what kind of reality they have but with what they are ideas what are they a boat What objects do they represent. Ideas are always ideas of something they are ideas of objects. Ideas represent or refer to objects. This feature of ideas Descartes calls their object to the reality the object of reality of ideas consists in their referring to objects there being objects as the idea of God refers to God. The idea of an oak tree refers to an oak tree. The idea of an omni refers to an army. Now all of these ideas he says could possibly have been
caused by need be made up by me. You my inventions. That is be factitious ideas except for one. The idea of God. And now he gets around to talking about his idea of God. It is a clear and distinct idea. He claims self evident. But what is our idea of God. God is an existence substance possessing positive qualities in their most eminent degree. That is in the fullest degree of reality in their perfect form. And again Descartes says God is the infinite perfect being. He has in himself and the infinite perfection for good that is unlimited by any imperfection. The positive qualities of God such as goodness knowledge of all such qualities God has to the perfect degree. And so Descartes by the name of God I understand a substance which is infinite independant all knowing all powerful and by which I mean
myself and everything else that does exist have been created. Day cards point will be that we can think this idea of God only because God Himself exists and has caused us to have this idea he is going to argue that what makes it possible for us to have this idea can only be God himself whose existence causes us to have it. How does Descartes prove this. First of all he says we have a clear and distinct idea of God. But all ideas of the effects of causes then there must be some cause of our idea of God. Furthermore he says we must remember three self-evident propositions about causes. First there must be as much reality in the cause as in its effect for Pray whence came the effect. Derive its reality if not from its cause and
to another self-evident proposition we must remember something cannot come from nothing. And three what is more perfect cannot proceed from the less perfect and therefore nothing could cause my idea of God as a perfect substance. That is not as perfect as the idea. Although I could be the cause of my idea of physical objects or animals or men since there is nothing so great to a perfect in these ideas that I could cause them. I could not however have cause the idea of God because I am only a finite imperfect being whereas the idea of God is of a perfect and infinite being. So something else something greater than me must have caused my idea of God. What cause my idea of God must be something which is at least as great at least as perfect as the effect namely my idea of God. Therefore because of my idea of God as it must be as
perfect and as great as the effect can only be an infinite perfect being namely the cause of my idea of God can only be God Himself. Therefore God exists as the only possible cause of my idea of him. Having proved that God exists we can now know says Descartes that God cannot be a deceiver since fraud and deception he says have their origin in some defect whereas God as perfect being has no defects. And finally Descartes claims that my idea of God is innate in me native to my mind. God is the cause of the this idea in us. God has imprinted it in us as the mark of himself as the workman who has fashioned us innate ideas are imprinted in us. Such as. Our knowledge of the idea of substance of gone. The ideas of logic and mathematics and these ideas are absolutely certain. Moreover they are not
derived by extension from our observations of particular things. There were a great flurry of objections by critics to this proof of God that Descartes presented. The critics argued. That an individual person could indeed have cause the idea of this infinite being. The idea of an infinite being is merely a negative idea and a Geisha Navar finiteness in defending himself against these critics. Descartes argues that the idea of the infinite is not merely the negation of the finite imperfection final in knowledge or goodness requires a car a standard of perfection. How would I know that I am imperfect. How would I know that I lack something unless I had within me for comparison. And as a standard the idea of a perfect being caught is here identical in his view with Plato in insisting that knowledge of the ideal the
pure form the standard is necessary in order to judge the imperfections of the world. Do you agree with the critics of Descartes. Most moderns would disagree with a car and say that the idea of God as he defines it is not universal and therefore cannot be innate in all human beings. God has not a power only imprinted this idea upon humans in the Oriental world. Buddhism for example has no idea of a supernatural god such as Descartes claims is innate in all human beings. Neither do many African American Indian tribes have such an idea. The idea is clearly the product. Most moderns would say of being socialized into cultures that are Judeo-Christian and which have this idea as Descartes. Thomas and St. Augustine and the scholastics were socialized into the Judeo-Christian religion war although most moderns would challenge the claim that the concept of perfection is necessary for
the concept of imperfection. Instead they would say perfection. The idea of an infinite being is simply the product of reasoning extending and magnifying the qualities of a finite and imperfect being. And finally moderns would argue against a cart's rationalistic view of causality in which as he says the effect can be no greater than the cause the more perfect cannot come from the less perfect. And that something cannot come from nothing. Modern empiricism means by cause only a relationship in space and time only an invariant relationship between what is prior and what is subsequent. But they cannot offer us two of the proofs of God as well. He was afraid that his first proof might be too complicated for his readers as indeed it may have turned out to be. And so we turned to his second proof of the existence of God. I also asked he says
whether I ought to have the idea of an infinite and perfect being can I exist. If this being does not exist. Notice that the second proof is like the first proof based on the CO Giteau on my existence as a conscious being having ideas. What then are the possible causes of my existence as a conscious being. Having ideas. Now remember his question is whether all I will have the idea of a finite and perfect being can exist if this infinite and perfect being does not exist. What then are the possible causes of my existence. You knew words all the possibilities myself my parents or some other source less perfect than God and finally God Himself and Descartes moves along in his argument by a process of elimination. First of all not myself I cannot have caused myself to exist because if I were
indeed the author of my own being and independent of everything else nothing would be lacking to me. I would don't nothing and desire nothing. I would have everything so also says the twentieth century philosopher John Paul stopped it. He says to be with lack is what we all desire and can never have. If I could says Descartes I would have given myself all perfections. But I lack the power. Therefore I cannot be the cause of myself. Not my parents or any other cause less perfect than God. My parents have caused me to exist. This is true but one must then ask who cause them to exist. And one limb falls back into an infinite series of causes Going back further and further over the generations. Therefore God exists as the only possible cause of my existence as a thinking thing. And so we go on then to Descartes third proof of the existence of God. This is not presented until the fifth
meditation. He's still there a bases his argument on the comatose but by this time in the fifth meditation he has already established God's existence and the truth of all my clear and distinct ideas since God guarantees them as a good God. In the first proof in the third meditation Descartes had asked What is the cause of my idea of a perfect being namely God. In the second proof he had I asked What is the cause of my own existence as a conscious being having this idea of God here in the fifth meditation. He focuses upon his idea of God as a clear and distinct idea and having established that his clear and distinct ideas. True he sees now that he may use this for a third proof of God. He says all the properties clearly and distinctly conceive him to have truly belong to him just as the properties of a triangle. That I clearly and distinctly perceive
a triangle to have belonged to it for example. But the sum of its internal angles is 180 degrees. They cart argues that just as the clear and distinct idea of a triangle includes that the sum of its angles is 180 degrees necessarily so of a clear and distinct idea of a Perfect Being includes necessarily the perfection of existence. To exist belongs to the nature of God as a Perfect Being ferreted to exist would be an imperfection. But God has no imperfection. Descartes is here offering what is called the ontological proof of God which argues from our idea of God as a perfect being to the claim that as a perfect being he must therefore exist. This argument was developed by St. Anselm in the eleventh century in opposition to this ontological argument on Descartes
part. They karts polite above hostile critic the empiricist Piya Gesell indeed who had been sent a copy of the meditations will result in comments made this comment that the idea of God's perfection has nothing whatever to do with the actual existence of such a being. And later a cond and other philosophers claim with a guess Andy the same point against a car. And now to mention what many regard as the most serious criticism of Descartes Meditations This is commonly called the Cartesian circle Cartesian as you know is the adjective derived from Descartes sinning. We have seen that Descartes strategy is to use the proof that a perfect non deceiving God exists in order to establish that I can go beyond the code Ditto in that I can trust my clear and distinct self evident ideas. But is this not a vicious circle.
Because in order to prove that God exists. Descartes has had to use the very clear and distinct ideas that God's existence was supposed to guarantee. And so God guarantees my clear and distinct ideas but my clear and distinct ideas are what guaranteed the existence of God. This is the Cartesian circle in proving that God exists. Descartes relies on the truth of the clear and distinct ideas that God's existence was supposed to guarantee to be true. Very few scholars believe that a car can avoid this vicious circle in de cartes own time. His critics are no perceive the Cartesian circle immediately and he said God's existence is guaranteed by the clear and distinct ideas that his existence was supposed to guarantee such ideas as of the effect cannot be greater than the cause. The more perfect cannot come from the less perfect something cannot come from nothing. When we turn to
meditation for Descartes is finding it necessary to explain to us how it is possible that we fall into our own since Descartes as prove the existence and the truthfulness of God and the certainty of all my clear and distinct ideas. Then how is it possible for us to make arroz to make false judgments. God is not responsible for my errors. Rather says Descartes era is the result of the imbalance between my understanding and my will. My understanding enables me to have clear and distinct ideas only about a very limited number of things but my will then choose boldly into claims about all manner of things. The way to keep from falling into a car is to restrain the will from making judgments about what the understanding does not clearly and distinctly know. Here again we see the proof of a car. So it is proven only that he himself exists as a thinking and that God exists and that my clear and
distinct ideas are true. How can he show that the physical world exists what the physical world is what an exciting new science was all about. The new science of physics and astronomy but which Galileo had been punished until he died. How can they prove that the physical world exists and that it is so centered as the new science. Without being punished by the church's Inquisition and dying miserably in prison as Galileo had. Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
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Proof: God Exists
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Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Descartes III: Proof of the Existence of God. The Cartesian Circle - From the proof of my existence to the proofs of the existence of God. How to prove that God exists and that He is not a deceiver. Three kinds of ideas; innate, invented and from external world. Cosmological proof of God's existence: My idea of God's perfection is clear and distinct and could have as its cause only God himself, not something less perfect. (Presuppositions of this proof.) Second proof; God exists as the only possible cause of my existence as a thinking substance. Third Proof: ontological proof of God's existence: from the clear and distinct idea of God, to the necessity of existence as one of his attributes. Criticism; "The Cartesian Circle."
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"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Copyright Holder: MPT
Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television
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Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #9; Proof: God Exists,” 1978-08-04, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #9; Proof: God Exists.” 1978-08-04. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #9; Proof: God Exists. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from