History of Philosophy I
Critically discuss one of the arguments used by Descartes to demonstrate the existence of God.
"Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not"
This statement by the sophist Protagoras summarizes to an extent (and not regarding the interpretation of Relativism that it was given) the basis of Descartes reasoning and especially the first two Meditations well only if one applies the following change to it: Replace the word man for thought (which in Descartes’ definition of the word represents all consciousness). As a simplified summary, it is through thinking that he comes to the ...view middle of the document...
I claim that even people who call themselves atheists have an idea of God; they just call it or subconsciously think of it as destiny. The simple trust in one owns actions implies that we believe in something that oversees our actions and makes sure that we do the right thing. Humanity instinctively turns and has turned to an infinite being. It seems that with the loss of most of our guiding animal instincts through evolution, with our becoming humans, God has become a new instinct. With the loss of guidance God was a way of ceding our newly achieved responsibility for our actions to a different faculty. The thought of God as an instinct could speak for Descartes’ persuasion of the “Idea of God” being something we didn’t learn or were told but with which we were born with.
But what Descartes doesn’t account for is that humans differ in their exact definition of God. A certain natural group could think of God apart from it being supernatural and infinite as a power which is everywhere and in everything, so that God can be found for example in a tree. Descartes’ idea of God disagrees with this as it names unity as an important and necessary feature of God. In addition to that for Descartes infinity can’t possibly be present or included in a finite and even extended thing like a tree. So how can we explain that although God assumingly is an instinct we were born with, people have different ideas of him? The idea of God must be alterable and is therefore open to additional features we discover depending on our surroundings giving it an adventitious dimension. I claim that Descartes would have a different idea of God if he was brought up in the mentioned “nature society” and he would argue in the same way for this rather animistic definition of God than he now does for his rather “Christian” idea of God. A similar objection was raised in the second set of objections. It questions whether Descartes would have had this idea of God if he spent his life in reclusion. Native Canadians called the Hurons for example do not have any idea of God. Consequently his idea of God might have been formed by former ideas or by his surroundings. Descartes’ reply to this objection is that such native people as the Hurons or every person without this idea of God simply lack the ability to entertain this exact idea of God, but it is still represented in them, though unconsciously. But how can he know that he has the capacity to entertain the right idea of God? There are enough religions and cultures to state, which have a totally different idea of God. Are they all mistaken? Did they all just not meditate thoroughly enough about their idea of God? His capacity reply seems like an easy way out. Hence I abide by my claim that the idea of an infinite being might be innate, but his exact idea of infinity did underlie some external additions.
But if we assume that a perfect being created mankind and that this being placed an idea of him in us, why would...