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Arnauld's Objections to Descartes

Arnauld's Objections to Descartes

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Published by cory_ruda
Arnauld's Objection to Descartes, written last semester.
Arnauld's Objection to Descartes, written last semester.

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Published by: cory_ruda on Dec 05, 2011
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Cory RudaArnauld’s Objections to Descartes’
After finishing the first draft of his
, Rene’ Descartes, a French NaturalPhilosopher renowned for his works in many fields of mathematics, and other modern daysciences
sent a copy to numerous peers, scholars of many nationalities and interests. Hisgoal, in doing so, was nothing more than to complete and solidify the work he had beenworking on for so long by having those whom he sent his work reply with their objections andcriticisms, in that, if those who he had sent them to (considered highly learned and intellectualmen) couldn’t stump him with an objection, who could? One of those who Descartes askedadvice of is a French Theologian and Philosopher by the name of Antoine Arnauld. Arnauld,who had for long respected Descartes and his views, took this opportunity to study his worksfurther, and provided not just a philosophical view, but also a theological one, givingDescartes opinions by not just a great thinker, but also by a man of God, one whom thediscourse was based. Arnauld replies to Descartes with two main groups of objections. Truly,there are three written in his letters, but the third does not really argue anything, just giveminor comments on how Descartes explains and presents his ideas.
Firstly, he sets out by questioning the legitimacy of Descartes’ complete view of howthe mind and the body interact, yet that they are separate entities. Descartes centers much of the first few Meditations on this view, and justifies it by pointing out that since he knowsindubitably that he exists as a thinking being (as demonstrated by the Second
) andyet that he can also question the existence of his body, it only leads to the idea that the bodyand the mind are separate entities. Since this is fact, I can assess that there are no bodieswhatsoever, thus I am something but not a body. Through this, Arnauld restates a previousobjection that Descartes himself raises: How can you surmise that there are no bodies even if 
you have doubts about yours or any other? Further more, through another reading of Descartes’ text, Arnauld questions another of Descartes finding related to the aforementioned:How can Descartes surmise that, since he isn’t aware of anything else belonging to hisessence, there is nothing else belonging to it? He follows up by citing another of Descartes’works, this time in the sixth
which states that (1) if Descartes has a vivid and clear thought of something, God could have created it to exactly correspond to what Descartes’thought is. (2) Since he can have both a clear thought of one thing as well as another, theyare indeed two, since they can be separated by God and yet maintain their individualidentities.Here is where Arnauld’s arguments truly begin. Arnauld argues that, if premise (1) istrue, the knowledge had must be adequate, a tough task. He points out another conclusionfrom Descartes. This one states that (3) Descartes maintains the thought of his mind, which isa “things that doubts, understands, wills, and so on” thus there is no way it could be indistinctfrom the body. For this ( premise (2) and conclusion (3)) to be entirely true, Descartes wouldhave to have the one and only true view of the mind, and how it relates to the body. Arnauld isnot entirely swayed by Descartes assumption that that information is undeniable, and needn’tbe proven.To argue against the idea that the body is but a shell that facilitates the mind’sfunctions (thus making this shell unmoving or thinking on its own) and that, to understand thisas well as that the mind is the only thinking nature is to know the truth, Arnauld brings forwardthe concepts of species and genus. He uses these as relations to the body and mind, sayingthat body relates to mind as genus to species. By using this analogy, he claims that if onewere to think of the genus, he could forget about the species, since the species is embodiedin the genus (IE: In reference to the genus
one need not specify horse, as it is already
assumed.) Arnauld follows with the idea that, since nowhere in
does Descartesfully prove otherwise and state so completely and adequately, he can not be sure that it iswrong to say the body is not a part of the thinking being, or vice versa. He restates this sameconcept by relating the mind and body to a triangle inscribed within a semi circle. The angle inthe semi circle is a right angle. This being so forms, with the diameter of the circle, a right-angled triangle. A person may know this, but not be sure of the fact that the square on thehypotenuse equals the sum of the squares on the right sides, or, as put, (P). By arguing theway Arnauld claims Descartes does, the man is completely confirmed that (P) is not so, eventhough he can’t be completely sure.Finally, to end this section, Arnauld tells of the analogy Augustine wrote, whoDescartes based his ideas off of. It tells of how Augustine had likened his senses (sight,sound, etc.) to a ship. This is because, once those senses had brought Augustine to hisdestination, they were of no more use to him. He used them all he wanted up until now.However, now that the ships were gone and he was on dry land, he could tell that seeingtruths through those senses was just about as useless as sailing on dry land.Basically, Arnauld likens the senses, in his view of Descartes’ view, to training wheels.
The next section of Arnauld’s arguments question Descartes’ outlooks and proofs for God’s existence. He starts out questioning the way Descartes goes about proving Hisexistence which are: (A) God exists if there is such an idea of God in me, and (B) Given that Ipossess an idea of God, the only source of my existence must be God. Arnauld questionsthis, wondering how Descartes can claim that falsity can be both in judgments and in ideas,but only “materially false” in ideas. Thus, he claims that Descartes wishes to say, “an infinitebeing (God) must exist since I can tell a story without such a being, yet I cannot tell a storywithout the concept representing something real to me.” Arnauld likens this to the concept of 

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