René Descartes is a famous philosopher of the Enlightenment, whose work became a breakthrough of rational thinking for his time. Confident that the existence of God and the soul could not be proved by the usual theological arguments from holy scripture, he began to look for natural causes (Descartes 1641, 1). In Meditations on First Philosophy, through six reflections, Descartes seeks to destroy the existing foundations of human knowledge and find a reliable justification for them. He comes to the thesis that the doubt in the reality of perception testifies to the consciousness and existence of a person and that the features of human nature evidence God’s existence.
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Beginning his work with questioning everything that can be doubted even a little, Descartes develops his arguments to prove God’s presence. The philosopher is confident that all the information that people receive with the senses’ help is doubtful. This argument demonstrates the weakness of the foundations of human knowledge. However, even in order to make a mistaken judgment and be deceived by an evil demon, there must be a mind, which evidences the existence of a person. At the same time, what people accept by the senses cannot be part of the mind, and therefore exist outside of it, which proves the existence of the universe. Returning to doubts as part of human nature, Descartes sees them as an argument for human imperfection. Nevertheless, the very idea of perfection indicates its existence, that is, the concept of God – a thought created by God. Thus, for his time, the philosopher found a balance between science and religion.
A strong objection to Descartes’ arguments may be the assumption that the clarity of the mind can also be doubted in addition to the outside world. If people cannot be sure of the intelligibility of judgment, they also cannot be confident in the validity of the idea of God. People suffering from mental disorders can be certain in the clarity of their consciousness. Moreover, Descartes’ statement that humans could not independently develop the concept of God can also be questioned since the possibilities of mind are still being studied.
Descartes, R. 1641. Meditations on First Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.