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Descartes - Research Paper by Mfranci5

This result explains why Descartes believes that we cannotproliferate ontological arguments for created substances. It is notthat the relation between essence and existence is any different in Godthan it is in finite things. In both cases there is merely a rationaldistinction. The difference is in the grade of existence that attachesto each. Whereas the concept of an independent being entails that sucha being exists, the concept of a finite thing entails only that it hasdependent existence.

Rene descartes meditations on first philosophy essays

Let us return for a moment to the objection that the ontologicalargument slides illicitly from the mental to the extramental realm. Wehave seen how Descartes responds to it, but it is related to anotherobjection that has come to be associated with Leibniz. Leibniz claimsthat Descartes' version of the ontological argument is incomplete. Itshows merely that if God's existence is possible or non-contradictory,then God exists. But it fails to demonstrate the antecedent of thisconditional (Robert Adams 1998, 135). To reinforce this objection, itis sometimes observed that the divine perfections (omnipotence,omniscience, benevolence, eternality, etc.) might be inconsistent withone another. This objection is related to the previous one in thatthe point in both cases is that Descartes' argument restricts us toclaims about the concept of God and lacks existential import. In orderto redress this issue himself, Leibniz formulates a different versionof the ontological argument (see Adams 1998, 141f).

The French Philosopher Rene Descartes Essay 1068 Words | 5 Pages

The key difference then between the idea of God on the one hand andthe idea of a necessarily existing lion is that the former can beclearly and distinctly perceived. For Descartes, it is just a brutefact that certain ideas can be clearly and distinctly perceived andothers cannot. Some critics have charged him with dogmatism in thisregard. Why should Descartes be allowed to legislate the scope of ourclear and distinct perceptions? Perhaps we can clearly and distinctlyperceive something that he could not.

A natural rejoinder to this reply would be to ask about the idea ofa lion having not possible but wholly necessary existence. IfDescartes' method of reasoning were valid, it would seem to follow fromthis idea that such a creature exists. This formulation of theobjection requires Descartes' second and deeper point, which is onlyhinted at in his official reply. This is that the idea of a lion — letalone the idea of a lion having necessary existence — is hopelesslyobscure and confused. As Descartes says, the nature of a lion is “nottransparently clear to us” (Axiom 10, Second Replies; AT 7:117; CSM2:84). Since this idea is not clear and distinct, the method ofdemonstration employed in the ontological argument does not apply toit. Recall that the geometrical method of demonstration is grounded inthe principle of clear and distinct perception and consists in drawingout the contents of our clear and distinct ideas. If an idea is notclear and distinct then we cannot draw any conclusions from it aboutthings outside thought.

Rene Descartes & Dualism Essay Sample - …

Because of its simplicity, Descartes' version of the ontologicalargument is commonly thought to be cruder and more obviously fallaciousthan the one put forward by Anselm in the eleventh century. But whenthe complete apparatus of the Cartesian system is brought forth, theargument proves itself to be quite resilient, at least on its ownterms. Indeed, Descartes' version is superior to his predecessor'sinsofar as it is grounded in a theory of innate ideas and the doctrineof clear and distinct perception. These two doctrines inoculateDescartes from the charge made against Anselm, for example, that theontological argument attempts to define God into existence byarbitrarily building existence into the concept of a supremely perfectbeing. In the Third Meditation, the meditator discovers that her ideaof God is not a fiction that she has conveniently invented butsomething native to the mind. As we shall see below, these twodoctrines provide the resources for answering other objections aswell.

This result appears to wreak havoc on Descartes' ontologicalargument. One of the most important objections to the argument is thatif it were valid, one could proliferate such arguments for all sorts ofthings, including beings whose existence is merely contingent. Bysupposing that there is merely a rational distinction between essenceand existence abroad in all things, Descartes seems to confirm thisobjection. In general, a substance is to be identified with itsexistence, whether it is God or a finite created thing.

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Rene Descarte's Rationalism Essay Sample

Indications are given here as to how a rational distinction isproduced in our thought. Descartes explains that we regard a singlething in different abstract ways. Case in point, we can regard a thingas existing, or we can abstract from its existence and attend to itsother aspects. In so doing, we have distinguished the existence of asubstance from its essence within our thought. Like scholasticproponents of the theory of rational distinction, however, Descartesis keen to emphasize that this distinction is purelyconceptual. Indeed, he goes on to explain that the essence andexistence of a substance are “in no way distinct” outsidethought (AT 4:350; CSMK 3:280). In reality they are identical.

Papers on rene descartes term papers and research papers

While borrowing much from scholasticism, Descartes' account isdistinguished by its scope of application. He extends the theory ofrational distinction from created substances to God. In general, theessence and the existence of a substance are merely rationallydistinct, and hence identical in reality.

Rene Descartes Essay - 1250 Words - StudyMode

Like Francisco Suárez, his most immediate scholasticpredecessor, Descartes sides with the proponents of a rationaldistinction between essence and existence. His position is unique,however, insofar as it springs from a more general theory of“attributes”. Articulating this theory in an importantpassage in thePrinciples of Philosophy, Descartes claims that there ismerely a distinction of reason between a substance and any one of itsattributes or between any two attributes of a single substance (1:62,AT 8A:30; CSM 1:214). For Descartes' purposes, the most significantinstance of a rational distinction is that which obtains between asubstance and its essence — or what he sometimes refers to as its“principal attribute” (1:53, AT 8A:25; CSM 1:210). Since thought andextension constitute the essence of mind and body, respectively, a mindis merely rationally distinct from its thinking and a body is merelyrationally distinct from its extension (1:63, AT 8A:31; CSM 1:215). ButDescartes insists that a rational distinction also obtains between anytwo attributes of a substance. Since existence qualifies as anattribute in this technical sense, the essence and existence of asubstance are also distinct merely by reason (1:56, AT 8A:26; CSM1:211). Descartes reaffirms this conclusion in a letter intended toelucidate his account of the relation between essence andexistence:

Rene Descarte’s – Discourse On The Method Custom Essay

In the Fifth Meditation and elsewhere Descartes says that God'sexistence follows from the fact that existence is contained in the“true and immutable essence, nature, or form” of asupremely perfect being, just as it follows from the essence of atriangle that its angles equal two right angles. This way of puttingthe a priori argument has puzzled commentators and has led toa lively debate about the ontological status of Cartesian essences andthe objects which are purported to “have” them. Somecommentators have thought that Descartes is committed to a species ofPlatonic realism. According to this view, some objects that fallshort of actual existence nevertheless subsist as abstract, logicalentities outside the mind and beyond the physical world (Kenny, 1968;Wilson, 1978). Another commentator places Cartesian essences in God(Schmaltz 1991), while two recent revisionist interpretations(Chappell, 1997; Nolan, 1997) read Descartes as a conceptualist whotakes essences to be ideas in human minds.

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