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Rene Descartes' Proof of God's Existence

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Words: 585 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 585|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Descartes' Ontological Argument
  3. Criticisms of Descartes' Ontological Argument
  4. Descartes' Response to Criticisms
  5. Conclusion

Introduction

Rene Descartes, a prominent philosopher and mathematician of the 17th century, is known for his contributions to the field of rationalism and his famous statement, "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). Descartes sought to establish a foundation for knowledge based on reason and evidence, and one of the central questions he addressed was the existence of God. In this essay, I will explore Descartes' proof of God's existence and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

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Descartes' Ontological Argument

Descartes' proof of God's existence is based on his ontological argument, which he presents in his work "Meditations on First Philosophy." The ontological argument rests on the premise that the concept of God, as a supremely perfect being, includes the attribute of existence. In other words, if we can conceive of a perfect being, then that being must exist in reality, because existence is a necessary attribute of perfection.

Descartes argues that our clear and distinct idea of God as a perfect being implies his existence, as it would be contradictory to conceive of a perfect being that does not exist. He writes, "From this it is indeed manifest that the existence can no more be separated from the essence of God, than the idea of a mountain from that of a valley, or the equality of its three angles to two right angles, from the essence of a [rectilineal] triangle."

Criticisms of Descartes' Ontological Argument

Descartes' ontological argument has been the subject of intense debate and criticism since its formulation. One of the main criticisms is that the argument relies on the assumption that existence is a predicate, or a property that can be attributed to a being. However, many philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, have argued that existence is not a true predicate, but rather a necessary condition for the instantiation of predicates.

Another criticism of Descartes' argument is that the mere conception of a perfect being does not necessarily entail its existence in reality. Just because we can conceive of a perfect island or a perfect unicorn does not mean that such entities actually exist. Therefore, the jump from the concept of a perfect being to the existence of that being is not necessarily valid.

Descartes' Response to Criticisms

In response to these criticisms, Descartes maintains that existence is indeed a predicate of God's essence. He argues that existence is not a contingent attribute that can be added to or subtracted from a being, but rather an essential aspect of a supremely perfect being. Descartes also emphasizes the distinction between contingent and necessary existence, asserting that God's existence is necessary rather than contingent.

Regarding the objection that the mere conception of a perfect being does not entail its existence, Descartes argues that the concept of God is unique in that it includes necessary existence. He writes, "When I think of a mountain, it is not necessary that a mountain exists; when, on the other hand, I think of God, it is necessary that God exists."

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Conclusion

In conclusion, Descartes' proof of God's existence through the ontological argument is a complex and controversial topic in the history of philosophy. While Descartes presents a compelling case for the existence of a supremely perfect being based on the concept of God, his argument has faced significant criticism and debate. Whether one finds Descartes' ontological argument convincing or not, it remains a thought-provoking and influential contribution to the philosophical discourse on the existence of God.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Rene Descartes’ Proof of God’s Existence. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/rene-descartes-proof-of-gods-existence/
“Rene Descartes’ Proof of God’s Existence.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/rene-descartes-proof-of-gods-existence/
Rene Descartes’ Proof of God’s Existence. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/rene-descartes-proof-of-gods-existence/> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
Rene Descartes’ Proof of God’s Existence [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/rene-descartes-proof-of-gods-existence/
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