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Raza

René Descartes' Main Question: Does God Exist?

It's pretty cool


Who was René Descartes'?
His leading work in physics, mathematics, optics, physiology, geometry and astronomy would have been quite enough to mark out Descartes as one of the founders of the Western way of thinking.
His meditations begin by attempting to doubt everything, and to build up from that to those few things which we can know with certainty. The result is an idea of the human as essentially spiritual, but temporarily connected to a material body, which knows that its perceptions are valid because God is no deceiver. And how do we know about God? Because we couldn't have even the concept of so perfect a being unless God had put it into us, like the mark of the craftsman on his work.
But isn't this no more than saying that "I know what I know", and justifying this by saying "one of the things I know is a benevolent God" in a pointlessly circular process of introspection? Possibly so, but the Meditations may still be seen as a foundation of modern philosophy inasmuch as it, as with all the best philosophy, properly asks the right questions for its time, questions which we are only now discovering how to answer.

Descartes was extraordinarily honest, at least by the standards of his time, in circulating the manuscript of The Meditations for comment and publishing these "Objections and Replies" alongside the text.

This is one of his meditations:


MEDITATION ONE

Of the Things which may be brought within the Sphere of the Doubtful.

So many of the opinions I held so firmly in my youth were false, that I must admit how doubtful is everything I have since constructed. Thus, I have become convinced that, if I ever want to establish firm structure for the sciences, I must build anew from the foundation. To-day, since I have a leisurely retirement, I shall at last seriously address myself to this problem. To examine each opinion would take forever; so I shall begin by attacking those principles upon which all others rest.

I have formerly accepted as true and certain those things I learn through the senses. Like the fact that I am seated by this fire, in a dressing gown, with this paper in my hands. And how could I deny that this body is mine, unless I was as mad as those whose cerebella are so clouded by black bile that they believe they have an earthenware head or a glass body? Yet, I must remember that I have dreams, which are almost as insane. Often I have dreamt that I was dressed and seated near this fire, whilst I was lying undressed in bed! It seems to me that I am now awake, but I remind myself that I have dreamt that too. Yet even dreams are formed out of things real and true. Just as a painter represents sirens or satyrs from a medley of different animals; even quite novel images are still composed of real colours.

For the same reason, although general things may be imaginary, we are bound to confess that there are simpler objects which are real and true; such as colours, quantity or magnitude and number. That is why Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and those sciences which consider composite things, are dubious; but Arithmetic, Geometry and sciences which treat of things very simple and general contain some certainty. For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three always form five, and a square has four sides. It does not seem possible that truths so clear and apparent can be uncertain.

Now, I have long believed in an all-powerful God who made me. I can imagine that other people deceive themselves, but how do I know that I am not deceived when I add two and three, or count the sides of a square? If God is good, how can it be that he sometimes permits me to be deceived?

Let us, for the present, imagine that God is a fable. Whether I have come about by fate or accident or by a continual succession of antecedents - since to deceive oneself is a defect, it is clear that the author of my skills must be a greater deceiver still.

I confess that there is nothing in all that I formerly believed, which I cannot doubt in some measure. We must be careful to keep this in mind, and fear not that there is peril or error in yielding to distrust, since I am not considering questions of action, but only of knowledge.

So, I intend to attach myself to the idea that some evil genie is deceiving me; that the heavens, the earth, colours, figures, sound, even my body and senses are nought but illusions and dreams. This task is a difficult one, for just as a prisoner who dreams of liberty, when he begins to suspect that it is but a dream, fears to awaken, so I may fall back into my former opinions



Read his "squashed" version of his book. Quite amazing.
http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/descartes.htm
All_Brains

I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.
Raza

I like that guy too. He also did a lot of work in Math.
Always_Faithful

I'm one of those that dislike Descartes' philosophies, unfortunately. I studied him in University philosophy, and his arguments were very hasty and desparate, despite his unhealthy obsession with certainty (something a true philosopher should never expect to gain). I won't deny that he was influencial and innovative (both in philosophy and the sciences), but I also consider him to have been quite arrogant and far too hasty and biased.

His meditations were, at times, quite interesting. I liked his tendency to question everything, but by that virtue one could just as easily doubt his so-called indubious foundation (cogito ergo sum), since he doesn't go on to consider if thoughts truly are his, or if they even exist. If you are going to be a die-hard skeptic, at least be intellectually honest enough not to simply stop when you lack the capacity to keep going. Although I concede that, as humans, we are unable to keep regressing ad infinitum, he too should have conceded this in his meditation. He instead trusts the very mind that he conceded could easily be fooling him.

His evidence for God, I found, was quite innovative but non-the-less folds quickly to logical scrutiny. He claimed that we are too limited as corpereal, imperfect beings to imagine something as perfect as God, as this idea could not have orignally come from any source. However, what he fails to appreciate is that we cannot conceive of God, because infinity and perfection are concepts we have simply infered from the idea of unending extropolation of the finite. We are unable to conceive of them at all; they are merely concepts we have considered but that we know to be impossible, just as with a round square. They hence belong in Descarte's bottom group of existence - the impossibles!
Tvebak

Always_Faithful wrote:
I'm one of those that dislike Descartes' philosophies, unfortunately. I studied him in University philosophy, and his arguments were very hasty and desparate, despite his unhealthy obsession with certainty (something a true philosopher should never expect to gain). I won't deny that he was influencial and innovative (both in philosophy and the sciences), but I also consider him to have been quite arrogant and far too hasty and biased.

His meditations were, at times, quite interesting. I liked his tendency to question everything, but by that virtue one could just as easily doubt his so-called indubious foundation (cogito ergo sum), since he doesn't go on to consider if thoughts truly are his, or if they even exist. If you are going to be a die-hard skeptic, at least be intellectually honest enough not to simply stop when you lack the capacity to keep going. Although I concede that, as humans, we are unable to keep regressing ad infinitum, he too should have conceded this in his meditation. He instead trusts the very mind that he conceded could easily be fooling him.

His evidence for God, I found, was quite innovative but non-the-less folds quickly to logical scrutiny. He claimed that we are too limited as corpereal, imperfect beings to imagine something as perfect as God, as this idea could not have orignally come from any source. However, what he fails to appreciate is that we cannot conceive of God, because infinity and perfection are concepts we have simply infered from the idea of unending extropolation of the finite. We are unable to conceive of them at all; they are merely concepts we have considered but that we know to be impossible, just as with a round square. They hence belong in Descarte's bottom group of existence - the impossibles!


Hi A_F

I also studied Descartes briefly, but that was in highschool, so I should assume that it was on a lower level. And I also dislike his reasoning, if I did understand correctly. And this is the question?
You wrote "He instead trusts the very mind that he conceded could easily be fooling him" and as far I have understood this makes him conclude that there might be some evil agent that could influence him and if there is a evil agent there must also be a good agent that could influence him. Is that correct? It some years now Smile
But if that is the case his whole reasoning makes a desperate move to get further than the "cotigo ergo sum", and assuming a "higher" agent without any reasonable argument.

Cheers and peace
Always_Faithful

Tvebak wrote:
Hi A_F

I also studied Descartes briefly, but that was in highschool, so I should assume that it was on a lower level. And I also dislike his reasoning, if I did understand correctly. And this is the question?


I'm unaware of what philosophy is like pre-degree level, I'm afraid I jumped straight into it at university (my primary disciplines were biology and English, I chose philosophy last-minute for my Combined Honours).

Quote:
You wrote "He instead trusts the very mind that he conceded could easily be fooling him" and as far I have understood this makes him conclude that there might be some evil agent that could influence him and if there is a evil agent there must also be a good agent that could influence him. Is that correct? It some years now Smile


Close. Descartes posited that an evil entity could be producing an illusion word, and originally maintained this for the first couple of Meditations. He said, however, that the daemon must be tricking something, therefore he must still exist. What he does not consider is that the daemon might simply be simulating hostless thought, therefore cogito ergo sum is not indubitable.

Descartes does not say that a good agent must be influencing the evil agent, he simply dismissed the idea of an deceitful agent because he declared deceitfulness to be contrary to the perfection he claimed God possesed. That is why he subsequently insulted his own wave of scrutiny in the first few meditations.

Quote:
But if that is the case his whole reasoning makes a desperate move to get further than the "cotigo ergo sum", and assuming a "higher" agent without any reasonable argument.


I'll try and summarise his argument as best I can, it's certainly more complex than that.

His argument was caste-based. He believed that the idea of something more complex (containing more reality than) one's self could not be conceived by the lower entity. For example, you can get the idea of an animal from a human (i.e. it is like a human that [arguably] lacks a soul and lacks human intellect), but not the other way round (i.e. how could one describe the idea of a human from a beast if the ideas of intelligence and soul are not manifest in something existing?). Even our imagination of greater things involve the amalgamation of existing qualities (angels are humans with wings; a chimaera is taken from the amalgamation of existing animal parts; etc).

His question hence is, from what entity in which the quality of perfection is manifest can we conceive of perfection (a quality far greater than ourselves, as perfection contains more reality than anything else)? He believes this to be a mark impressed on our minds by the creator.
Tvebak

Always_Faithful wrote:


I'll try and summarise his argument as best I can, it's certainly more complex than that.

His argument was caste-based. He believed that the idea of something more complex (containing more reality than) one's self could not be conceived by the lower entity. For example, you can get the idea of an animal from a human (i.e. it is like a human that [arguably] lacks a soul and lacks human intellect), but not the other way round (i.e. how could would describe the idea of a human from a beast if the ideas of intelligence and soul are not manifest in something existing?). Even our imagination of greater things involve the amalgamation of existing qualities (angels are humans with wings; a chimaera is taken from the amalgamation of existing animal parts; etc).

His question hence is, from what entity in which the quality of perfection is manifest can we conceive of perfection (a quality far greater than ourselves, as perfection contains more reality than anything else)? He believes this to be a mark impressed on our minds by the creator.


ahh yes it's some sort of the "ontological proof" that he used. Thanks for the reminder. I think you summarised it good.

Cheers and peace
Mutley

Re: René Descartes' Main Question: Does God Exist?

cooolway wrote:
It's pretty cool


Who was René Descartes'?
His leading work in physics, mathematics, optics, physiology, geometry and astronomy would have been quite enough to mark out Descartes as one of the founders of the Western way of thinking.
His meditations begin by attempting to doubt everything, and to build up from that to those few things which we can know with certainty. The result is an idea of the human as essentially spiritual, but temporarily connected to a material body, which knows that its perceptions are valid because God is no deceiver. And how do we know about God? Because we couldn't have even the concept of so perfect a being unless God had put it into us, like the mark of the craftsman on his work.
But isn't this no more than saying that "I know what I know", and justifying this by saying "one of the things I know is a benevolent God" in a pointlessly circular process of introspection? Possibly so, but the Meditations may still be seen as a foundation of modern philosophy inasmuch as it, as with all the best philosophy, properly asks the right questions for its time, questions which we are only now discovering how to answer.

Descartes was extraordinarily honest, at least by the standards of his time, in circulating the manuscript of The Meditations for comment and publishing these "Objections and Replies" alongside the text.

Read his "squashed" version of his book. Quite amazing.
http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/descartes.htm


Descarte was extordinairily honest, granted, but was extrordinarily stupid at thei same time. He put God on to his own terms. Why woyld he assume that? Yes, god is not this and that based on what my professor says, or what Decarcte has said. Are you honestly willing to judge the mystery of life based on what these people say? Do you honestly think they know??
Mutley

All_Brains wrote:
I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.


Agreed brainiac, so how come you deny my claims of logic? Laughing
All_Brains

Mutley wrote:
All_Brains wrote:
I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.


Agreed brainiac, so how come you deny my claims of logic? Laughing


I never did! I just like to mess with people sometimes, just like you! Laughing

Hey, still having trouble with loading your avatar!?
Raza

Always_Faithful wrote:
I'm one of those that dislike Descartes' philosophies, unfortunately. I studied him in University philosophy, and his arguments were very hasty and desparate, despite his unhealthy obsession with certainty (something a true philosopher should never expect to gain). I won't deny that he was influencial and innovative (both in philosophy and the sciences), but I also consider him to have been quite arrogant and far too hasty and biased.

His meditations were, at times, quite interesting. I liked his tendency to question everything, but by that virtue one could just as easily doubt his so-called indubious foundation (cogito ergo sum), since he doesn't go on to consider if thoughts truly are his, or if they even exist. If you are going to be a die-hard skeptic, at least be intellectually honest enough not to simply stop when you lack the capacity to keep going. Although I concede that, as humans, we are unable to keep regressing ad infinitum, he too should have conceded this in his meditation. He instead trusts the very mind that he conceded could easily be fooling him.

His evidence for God, I found, was quite innovative but non-the-less folds quickly to logical scrutiny. He claimed that we are too limited as corpereal, imperfect beings to imagine something as perfect as God, as this idea could not have orignally come from any source. However, what he fails to appreciate is that we cannot conceive of God, because infinity and perfection are concepts we have simply infered from the idea of unending extropolation of the finite. We are unable to conceive of them at all; they are merely concepts we have considered but that we know to be impossible, just as with a round square. They hence belong in Descarte's bottom group of existence - the impossibles!


I didn't read about him at school but from reading, he questions EVERYTHING and he is not sure of some of the decisions he makes.
Always_Faithful

cooolway wrote:
I didn't read about him at school but from reading, he questions EVERYTHING and he is not sure of some of the decisions he makes.


Decisions, perhaps, but not conclusions. Descartes believed in only producing conclusions that are indubitable - that is the basis of his entire work. He begins by doubting everything, but he reaches conclusions based on "the light of nature", and states quite bluntly that one cannot deny his conclusions. He is not just sure of his conclusions, he is absolutely certain of them.
Mutley

All_Brains wrote:
Mutley wrote:
All_Brains wrote:
I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.


Agreed brainiac, so how come you deny my claims of logic? Laughing


I never did! I just like to mess with people sometimes, just like you! Laughing

Hey, still having trouble with loading your avatar!?


No, but the pages are wider than 1024 so you get a horizontal scroll when reading posts. Could you thin it down a little?
All_Brains

Mutley wrote:
All_Brains wrote:
Mutley wrote:
All_Brains wrote:
I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.


Agreed brainiac, so how come you deny my claims of logic? Laughing


I never did! I just like to mess with people sometimes, just like you! Laughing

Hey, still having trouble with loading your avatar!?


No, but the pages are wider than 1024 so you get a horizontal scroll when reading posts. Could you thin it down a little?


Which browser are you using?
Mutley

It doesn't matter. Browsers do not vary in screen width. System desktops do. The question is, what desktop resolution are you viewing it from? THAT varies in width. So others might have their computer reading something more than 1024 by 768 and not see a problem, but 1024 is the current defacto standard and that's what I'm reading it from, and 1024 is the average standard, so there isn't any need for me to adjust my screen resolution. But if I'm the only one that has brought this up. then please don't touch a thing, as you'll, only run into more problems by fixing a non broken wheel
Ariel

All_Brains wrote:
Mutley wrote:
All_Brains wrote:
Mutley wrote:
wrote:
I like Descartes a lot. One of the fathers of logic.


Agreed brainiac, so how come you deny my claims of logic?  Laughing


I never did! I just like to mess with people sometimes, just like you! Laughing

Hey, still having trouble with loading your avatar!?


No, but the pages are wider than 1024 so you get a horizontal scroll when reading posts. Could you thin it down a little?


Which browser are you using?


I have got the same problem All_Brains
All_Brains

Ariel wrote:
I have got the same problem All_Brains


Hi Ariel

Which theme/style are you using?
brainout

Descartes' typo:  he said "Cogito ergo sum", but should have said "CogitA ergo sum."  That's why he goes in circles about whether God exists, for he starts and ends with himself.

He should have first started top-down, with the premise God exists, Cogita ergo sum, and then he'd have a full-spectrum answer.  Whether he'd believe in it or not afterwards, is still up for grabs.  I notice that people decide on God's existence based on whether they LIKE the idea of an Omnipotent creator in the first place, not really based on what objective evidence potentially demonstrates or proves.  But, it's all about what you want, anyway.  It's YOUR life to do with as you please.

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