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I Think, Therefore I Exist; Therefore God Exists, Because I Am Biased

I Think, Therefore I Exist; Therefore God Exists, Because I Am Biased

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Published by MJPhilosopher
A Reflection Paper on Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy
A Reflection Paper on Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

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Published by: MJPhilosopher on Jan 07, 2012
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I Think, Therefore I Exist; Therefore God Exists, Because I amBiased
(A Paper on Rene Descartes’ Meditation on First Philosophy)
MARK JASON FLORESBachelor of Arts in PhilosophyPolytechnic University of the Philippines
 A Paper on Modern Philosophy 
Prologue
The most philosophical work of Rene Descartes is perhaps the Meditations on First Philosophy. Inthis work, he have proven with depth and focus the existence of the ‘cogito’
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, of God, and of thematerial world. He have first proven that doubt is possible, and from doubt he moved in proving thecogito. From the cogito, he had proven God, and the material world. He had also stressed thedifference between the 'soul' and the 'body'. He has done all this, while complying with the methods
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that he formerly made. Although he had tackled the same things on the Discourse on Methods, it wasat the Meditations that he focused on proving the existence of the cogito, God and material things.And because of the philosophical impact of the Meditations during its time, it became an influence,and an object of criticism, for future philosophers to come. Descartes had laid the foundation to whatwe now know as 'Modern Philosophy', and the Meditations is one of his primary tools on building thisfoundation. Thus, it is proper, that the Meditations be subjected in deep scrutiny by scholars andphilosophers alike.The argument for the existence of God is one of the major features of the Meditations. Unlike hisMedieval predecessors, who relied on the Scriptures as the supreme authority, and who weretheologians before they were philosophers, Descartes is in as sense independent from the Scriptures.Although he is a Catholic, as it would inevitable surface in his philosophy, it cannot be denied that heis a philosopher more than anything else. He had his biases, but as he had done his methodic doubt,those biases had lessen (or appeared to be lessen, as would be argued later). On the Meditations, hehad given two proofs for the existence of God – the first is found on the third Meditation, concerningabout perfection and the necessity of a 'perfect being', as would be tackled in the latter part of thepaper; while the second is found on the fifth Meditation, the argument being similar with St. Anselm of Canterbury's Ontological argument. Of course, it is impossible to deal with the Cartesian proofs for God's existence, without going back to 'cogito ergo sum'. Although the exact phrase of 'cogito ergosum' is not given at the Meditation, the flow of argument is evident, and, that argument, is a pre-requisite, for any Cartesian philosophical knowledge. After all, 'cogito ergo sum' is Descartesphilosophical foundation.
1Throughout the paper, the word 'cogito' would be used to refer to the 'self', the 'mind', the 'I', or the 'ego'.2See the second chapter of Discourse on Methods by Rene Descartes. In there, he had outlined 4 methods by which he would followin seeking the truth.
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In this paper regarding Rene Descartes' Meditation on First Philosophy, for the sake of brevity, Iwould tackle only Descartes' proof for the existence of God (but because it is a necessity to firsttackle the existence of the cogito, then it would be tackled partially for that reason). I would first givemy affirmation to his argument regarding the existence of the cogito. After that, I would proceed toDescartes arguments on the existence of God. I would give my views to Descartes' conception aboutcause and effect, and its relation on the argument for God's existence. I would criticize Descartes for abusing 'perfection', its meaning, its implications, and its attribution to God. I would questionDescartes' authority in attributing qualities to God; even more, I would question how Descartes gotthe knowledge of God. I would try to show that Descartes contradicted his own pace of arguments, for he himself is prejudiced, as his concept of God is more of a Christian God than anything else. And,after dealing with Descartes first proof, I will tackle his ontological argument. I would first compare itwith the argument made by St. Anselm, and after that, I'll give my criticisms to it.To conclude the paper, I would give a rather political commentary to it.It can be noted on the first glance that this would be primarily a critic paper to Descartes. And indeedit is. I would examine and challenge Descartes' 'necessary God' and his ways of proving it. Themethod on how Descartes proved the cogito is something I am astonished about, and I believe that itis the reason as to why Descartes is a 'school' in his own rights. But the way on how he handledexternal things, be it God or the material world, is something I'm not satisfied with. And the focus of this paper is his way of handling God.
The Cogito
Descartes is famous for his methodic doubt. Given the fact that he made rules by which he would useto attain truth, and those rules value the importance of certainty among anything else, as it would onlyaccept as true those things that are clear and distinct in his mind, it is thus in the character of Descartes to be a skeptic. But Descartes wasn't the ordinary skeptic that would doubt so that hecould doubt. He used the method of doubting to find a certain starting point for building up hisknowledge.
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This is where the uniqueness of Descartes start. Whereas other philosophers startedtheir philosophies assuming that there is certainty, and even fighting 'skeptics', Descartes started hisphilosophy by doubting. The foundation of his philosophy was because of doubt. While other systemsof philosophy crumble because of the stinging effect of doubt, Descartes utilized doubt to make a newphilosophical system.Descartes wants to break away with all his former knowledge. Admitting that they are most probablyerroneous, he wants to remove all those prejudice and bias that schooling, culture, tradition andsense perception brought him. His rules instruct him to label as false anything that has least groundof doubt. In that way, ideas on his mind would be refined, and only the clear and distinct, viz. truth,would remain. And after a laborious task of doubting, he had realized that it is probable that nothing istrue. After all, he could doubt everything; that being said, his rules would compel him to reject as falsethose that has least amount of doubt. But because of that doubting, he had formulated one simpletruth, that is, he exists. Because he doubts, it follows that he exist.For the process of doubt to happen, an agent doing the doubting necessarily exists. And sinceDescartes doubts, then he is certain, at least, of his own existence. In the Discourse on the Method,he used the famous phrase 'cogito ergo sum', I think, therefore I am. But on the Meditations, he didn'tuse the exact words, though he used the exact argument. “I exist, since I am deceived” - that was hisexact words. Nevertheless, it has the same argument as the cogito ergo sum. Since there is athinking process, there necessarily must be a thinker. Another thing is that it cannot be doubted. You
3Stumpf, Samuel Enoch & Fieser, James.
Socrates to Sarte and Beyond 
. (New York: Mc Graw Hill), 209.
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cannot doubt about your own existence, for that would be a contradiction, since it is necessary for youto exist first before you can doubt. Descartes even has this malignant demon, in which he assumes tobe messing up with his thinking, and that it is causing him to be erroneous. Even if there is amalignant demon existing, he still has the guarantee that he exists. He was so confident that he evensaid “
Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something.
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” The existenceof the cogito is now accepted as true, since it is clear and distinct, and it cannot be doubted.But in so doing, Descartes can only prove the existence of the cogito – nothing more (at least for themoment). He couldn't prove, using the 'cogito ergo sum' argument, the existence of the materialworld, of God, and even of his own body. Only the cogito, the mind, the rational entity can be proved.This is the beginning of the dualism of Descartes. There is a distinct separation of the material andthe spiritual. By doing such, Descartes separated Theology and the Sciences, and because of thatthere should be no conflict between the two. Sciences are isolated with the physical, and Theologywith the spiritual. Nonetheless, Descartes used the truth of the existence of the cogito as thefoundation of his philosophy. We can remember that it's among the rules of Descartes that he wouldstart from the simplest and easiest to know, going to the knowledge of the more complex. And fromthis simple, yet clear and distinct truth, he would proceed to complex knowledge.Solipsistic the doctrine might be, nevertheless, it is a sound argument. As long as it concerns onlywith this primary Cartesian philosophy, I have no problem about it. The existence of the cogito is soevident, that to doubt it is foolish! The problem with Descartes begins when he moves to prove theexternal world, including God. The method of how Descartes proved things is something I do notagree with.
The Existence of God
From the existence of the cogito, Descartes moves to prove the external world. In the Meditations, itwas God whom he tackled first, and the material world came next. His first argument, the 'perfectionargument', was given at the third Meditation. On the other hand, his version of the Ontologicalargument is given at the fifth Meditation. As we would progress our learning with Descartes ways of proving God's existence, we can observe that his method of proving God is a priori – withoutreference to the external world. At the level of 'knowledge' that Descartes had, it's proper to havesuch an argument. “
I am a thinking ( conscious ) thing, that is, a being who doubts, affirms, denies,knows a few objects, and is ignorant of many,-- who loves, hates, wills, refuses, who imagineslikewise, and perceives... And in the little I have said I think I have summed up all that I really know,or at least all that up to this time I was aware I knew.
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Because he removed all of is former knowledge – as they are subject to doubt, and things subject to doubt are regarded as false – theonly thing he knows at the moment is that his cogito exists. With that, it would be disastrous for him tohave an a posteriori argument for God's existence, since he is not certain about the existence of theexternal world.In the latter parts of the paper, it would be shown that even if the external world is proven, Descarteswould still reject it as a reference for God's existence. He would still insist on proving God a priori.Even on the Discourse on the Method, Descartes proved God's existence a priori. His argument onthe Discourse
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is further elaborated in the third Meditation. The argument he used was the 'perfectionargument', wherein he stressed the necessity of God's existence because of the ideas of perfectionthat we have on our minds. That argument would be dealt with later. On the other hand, the version of 
4Descartes, Rene.
Meditations on First Philosophy
. Trans. John Veitch (1901), 14.5Ibid, 20.6See Discourse on the Method by Rene Descartes, chapter 4.
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