In human history, the existence of God has been a subject of contention. To date, human beings have been trying to ascertain the legitimacy of God’s existence (Knight, 2008). Rene Descartes and St. Anselm is considered as the greatest philosophers to question the existence of God. The two philosophers’ findings left a lasting impression on the minds of their followers.
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Unlike their predecessors, the two philosophers argued rationally and logically on their positions. This paper focuses on the two philosophers’ positions on the existence of God and highlights their similarities. In the book Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes focuses on epistemic and metaphysical matters (Donald, 2000). Through this, Descartes aimed to shed more light into the being, senses, and answers about God.
In the first part of his book, Descartes argues that as a child he had conformed to false beliefs. According to him, he had to eliminate all these false beliefs for him to be knowledgeable. Through this analysis, Descartes questions the existence of God as a supreme being. In his writings, he questions whether God was deceiving him through physical features.
To him, he wondered whether the sky, colors, earth, and shapes existed or whether there were dreamed illusions. The third part of Meditations on First Philosophy asserts that after Descartes tried to eliminate his thoughts and feelings, he wondered whether God was deceiving him. He argues that though his questions were unanswered, he still had no reason to doubt the existence of God.
According to him, God was a perfect being hence he would not deceive him. Therefore, he perceived that God was all good. According to him, human beings are imperfect while God was perfect. Therefore, he attributed the realities of perfection to God. As such, innate human ideas of perfectionism were derived from Him. Descartes concludes that God’s existence is real as mathematical truths.
Many scholars believe that Descartes’ theistic arguments fit into his epistemology. Through his arguments, Descartes presents two distinct arguments on the existence of God. In the first part of his meditation, he highlights that there is a possibility that God was deceiving. He argues that since God was perfect, he could not tolerate errors. Considered that human being’s actions are full of errors, Descartes asserts that no perfect being exists.
It should be noted that modern foundationalism is attributed to Descartes. Before him, foundationalism was taken for granted. His writings focused more on answering his skeptics the most critical epistemological issues. He asserted that in our pursuit of knowledge and understanding, humans must accept their subjective psychological states.
After that, humans should proceed to argue their perceptions about the external world. Through this, he aimed at defeating his critics by illustrating to them that if they systematically analyze issues, some truths could not be doubted. Equally, through foundationalism theories, Descartes tried to explain the existence of God. In the third part of his meditation, Descartes highlights his beliefs and identifies the beliefs he doubted from those he could not doubt.
For instance, he argued that the fact the evil was deceiving him that he did not exist could not persuade him into believing that he did not exist. In the second part of the meditation, Descartes mentions of Cogito. He uses this term about the philosophical principle that affirms that everyone thinks. The use of the first person in cogito is the reason behind its success.
Over time, heated debates have been generated focusing on whether Cogito should be considered as indefeasible knowledge. According to Descartes, Cogito is a fundamental part of knowledge. Cogito arguments fit into foundationalism when Descartes argues the existence of God and proceeds further to prove his existence. To achieve his conclusion, Descartes analyze his beliefs in an attempt to see if they could overcome his doubts.
Through this, he learned that it was impossible for him to deny the existence of God. At the start of this article, Descartes is skeptical about the external world and other minds. However, after analyzing the nature of God, he realized that some things in nature are different from the way we perceive them. Therefore, with the help of his foundationalism theories, humans can comprehend these issues with clarity.
Another philosopher who questions the existence of God was Anselm of Canterbury. Like Descartes, Anselm suggested that God existed and tried to refute critics’ arguments (Charlesworth, 2000). In his writings, he defines God as a deity that no other being can be conceived. He asserted that if humans believe in their minds that a greater being exists, then there is no doubt that this greater being exists in reality.
According to him, even the fools acknowledge that God exists. In the initial part of his article, he focuses on the dissimilarities between two forms of existences. These existences were mind and reality existences. He argued that if humans perceive that a perfect being exists, then it is absolute that this perfect being existed in reality. In general, his understanding of God was that no other being could be conceived as him and he exists in human minds.
Since God existed both in human minds and in reality, he asserted that God was greater than any being that only existed in human thoughts. In his third chapter, Anselm contradicts his earlier claims by asserting that his analyses are not after proving the existence of God but rather proofing the need for God’s existence. In the chapter, he argues that the lack of God’s existence was impracticable. He reaffirms further that God’s perfection could not be compared with any being’s perfection.
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Similarly, he notes that humans cannot understand God existence. In the same way, he postulated that God could not be thought to be non-existence by humans. If humans tolerated such thoughts, they would have ruled out Gods thoughts.
A comparison between the two philosophers’ analyses illustrates that the two individuals were after proving God’s existence. As such, the two philosophers agree that God exists and that he is perfect than human beings are. From this analysis, it is eminent that Descartes arguments were developed based on Anselm’s arguments. Anselm’s ideas are evident in Descartes writings.
For instance, Descartes argues that God’s existence was perfect just as Anselm had argued that God existence could not be conceived. Equally, it is apparent that the two philosophers try to prove God’s existence from using the grounds of God failing to exist.
In conclusion, it should be noted that their critics have challenged the two philosophers’ arguments greatly. Despite this, it has become very difficult to refute their arguments as they are based on logical and rational findings. Their arguments have stood the test of time due to the two philosopher’s approach to arguing God’s existence from the grounds of his in existence.
Charlesworth, M. J. (2000). St. Anselm’s Proslogion (4 ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Donald, C. (2000). Rene Descartes, Meditations On First Philosophy. Raleigh, N.C.: Alex Catalogue.
Knight, K. (2008). The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Benziger Bros.