God in Descartes Meditations

I am having trouble understanding this part of the Meditations.

What is God doing there? Why type of God is it?

In my reading, I don’t see God as the religious God that comes down and helps mankind. I see a God/Creator that just has “created” everything somehow, but I’m quite confused on the subject :confused: I might be interpretating Descartes’ “God” in this way because I’m not a very religious person.

So my question is this: What is God doing in the Meditations?

edit: God = the supremely perfect thing that every other imperfect this comes from right? Is he there to apease the Pope? Gaileo was on trial at this time. What’s the deal, is there some hidden message?

Keeping Descartes in the subject at hand here, you must remember, Descartes was a Jesuit. He had a strong belief in God. From what I’ve heard, the Jesuits hold a lot of beliefs in common with the Catholic beliefs. Both religious sects are known for making string defenses of their beilfs.

This is precisely what I think Descartes was attempting to do. He seemed to write his Meditations to prove the existence of a God by first proving a few things about man. All in all, I’d say his argument was fairly good, :slight_smile:

[Is he there to apease the Pope?]
well the god in the new testament is a loving god I don’t think that god wants to appease the pope considering all the calamities in which other popes have caused

I don’t think he wants man to have power over religion

but you should bring this up in the religious forum and you’ll get more posts guaranty it

To: BMW-guy

Oh, right, I forgot about that.

Why does he prove his existance of God using a circular argument? He must have been aware of it (I’m assuming, he’s a pretty brilliant man).

I mean the Cartesian circle as described here:

from island-of-freedom.com/DESCARTE.HTM

(Is it circular reasoning?)

To: HellRayzer999

Religion forum? I’m not just questioning Descartes proof, but I want to know the nature of his God. I’m not sure if it is a religious god or just a being in Descartes mind from which all is from.

descartes’ metaphysical proofs are lacking, his dualism is infamous, his geometry contradicted the church yet he supplied the church with metaphysical nonsense…

descartes saw what the church did to galileo and took the cowards way out… he denied what he found as true in geometry and embrased what he knew as false in the church…

but that’s only one small dispute with descartes…



Could you please be more specific/direct? :smiley: You brought up some interesting points, but I’m not sure if what I think you are saying is what you are actaully saying. (Especially about the part whre he supplied the Church with “metaphysical nonsense” inorder to protect himself).

What is true geometry and how did he embarass what he knew was false in the Church?

paths and numbers of planets… astronomy…

the church taught anti copernican astronomy…

maths.tcd.ie/pub/HistMath/Pe … artes.html

“…He spend the first four years, 1629 to 1633, of his stay in Holland in writing Le Monde, which embodies an attempt to give a physical theory of the universe; but finding that its publication was likely to bring on him the hostility of the church, and having no desire to pose as a martyr, he abandoned it: the incomplete manuscript was published in 1664…”

oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/ … artes.html

“…In Holland Descartes produced a scientific work called Le Monde or The World which he was about to publish in 1634. At the point, however, he learned that Galileo had been condemned by the Church for teaching Copernicanism. Descarte s’ book was Copernican to the core, and he therefore had it supressed. In 1638 Descartes published a book containing three essays on mathematical and scientific subjects and the Discourse on Method. These works were written in French (rather th an Latin) and were aimed at the educated world rather than simply academics. In 1641 Descartes followed this with the Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (Meditations on First Philosophy). This short work is more metaphysical than scientific, and aims to establish the certain foundations for the sciences which Descartes had announced in his confrontation with Chandoux in 1628. (For a more detailed account of this work see Structure of the Meditations. The work was published together with Objections and Replies from a six (and then seven) philosophers and theologians, including Thomas Hobbes, Pierre Gassendi and Antoine Arnauld…”

and of course as was previously mentioned, the cartesian circle is no proof for anything…


Just to get things clear, from the “supplied the church with metaphysical nonsense” are you suggesting that Descartes’ meditations (/w concern to God) were written to apease the Church?

If the Cartesian Circle is not proof of anything, why did Descartes’ include it in his Meditatoins? Is he showing us something or did he really know know or did he do it out of fear or … :blush:

I’m interested in the reason behind Descartes’ inclusion of God. He should have known that his evidence behind a God was lacking, so why would he pursue it? Why did he have to prove the existance of God?

you see the facts before you… an obviously brilliant mathematical mind proves that the church is wrong (as galileo did before him)… he can publish his findings and be attacked (literally and physically) by the church or he can write a metaphysical manifesto that has no empirical justification and is founded on circular reasoning (which his brilliant mind couldn’t help but know was circular and fallacious) to appease the church…

was rene a true believer? was rene totally ignorant? since we can only go by the evidence history provides, I argue that he took the coward’s way out… did he write meditations out of faith? its possible… could he have been trying to put the church in a better light in his mind when he proved to himself they were wrong? more likely… was he in fear of writing anything that went against the church? definitely…

draw your own conclusions and make your own argument…


Well, I never said that I thought Descartes’ arguments were perfect. I do admit, they contain numerous gaping holes and contradictions. However, one must still acknowledge that a bit of good came from Descartes’ efforts.

Today, we use his Cartesian-Plane to plot coordinates in everything from Engineering cars, to using maps.

Also, I feel that up to a certain point, DesCartes was more of a “Presuppositional-ist” than a circular-reasoner…but not in all cases. :slight_smile:

descartes :

dubito ergo cogito
cogito ergo sum
sum ergo deus est [or rather since i am, there must have already been a god]

in this you see his desperate situation, he was a man of reason, but he was a man of faith. yet faith in his time abhorred reason. credo quia absurdum est [i belive precisely because it is absurd].

so he tries to show that doubt, the most horrible of all abominations in the eyes of the clergy, is really the only fundament on which we can prove god exists, with any degree of certainty.

this is why descartes is in fact very important for the history of modern tought. with this daring leap, he gave some heart to other rationalists, and he put the scholastics in a worse position when they tried to argue the newly born “science” was evil. without this, we might be still struggling today with kings and religious rule all over.

and for all the principle-ruled folks out there, bear in mind that one word that your enemy can understand is more valuable than a cannon that he can fear. he tried to rationalize the church, when fighting the church was simply impossible, and for that he is still fondly remembered.

Descartes had a good orginal idea, but he took it a little bit too far. He tried to make an almost “axio-matic” rational argument to defend the exsistence of God based purely on reason. He totally disregarded any of the Biblical presuppositional arguments.

While I allways encourage those who attempt to give a rational defense for the exsistence of God, I must say: I think that there will never be a fully convincing rational argument to defend any faith; since all religions usually require you to belive something without any obvious evidence (i.e. this is what we call “faith”).

Descartes, however, was inisitant on the belif that he could somehow find some rational argument that would adequetly support all his religious belifs.

He never was able to provide a convioncing argument for all aspects of his faith by means of reason (and not ny presuppositional faith-based arguments). Hence, his many arguments are shoddily done, anf hence, they don’t make the Christian or Catholic faiths look very vallid…even if they (the religions) really are vallid, they still tend to look kinda invallid because Descartes failed to adequately defend them.

Sorry if this was kinda confussing…I allways have a hard time putting some of my thoughts into words. :wink:

“De omnibus dubitandum” was rene’s original mistake…

and he never actually did doubt everything because rene’s mind was infected a priori with a version of st. anselm’s ontological argument…

things taken on faith appear invalid because they are invalid…

if they were valid, why would one have to take a leap of faith?


imp you have an odd take on faith/religious belief.

nobody said any religious system of belief is an asset to the rational mind. indeed they could not, for it is not. that however does not mean it is not, or can not be valuable to the happy owner of that rational mind, who happens to be more than just his logic.

your manifest illuministic/mecanicist approach to matters of faith, ie mysticism is the cloud that prevents logical thought from conquering the world is keeping you from seeing that it is in fact possible to have a sane faculty for reason and still be a man of faith.

so yes faith requires a leap of faith, just as logical thought requires leaps now and again. (for instance why the P implies Q. not Q. so not P argument is valid ? takes a definite leap for most people)

so, they are perfectly valid, religiously. to ask them to be valid universally is nonsense.

Being a Christian, I take the side that Descartes beifs were vallid. Where I disagree is that Descartes thought he could use “extra-biblical” arguments to sufficently defend each of his beliefs. This is, in my opinion, not really possible to do, and hence, whenever one tries to do this, failure all to often is the result.

All in all, Descartes made at least a few oustanding defenses towards God’s existence. I think he went a litle overboard with the geometry stuff in his Discourses on the Method.

However, it is ntirely possible to have vallid religious beliefs, and yet still find a need to defend their vallidity. :wink:

no odder than Hume’s take…


I put a different value on faith… both types…

as does inductive reasoning and most of science. the leap is required because it is based on the error of induction…

validity is a condition of arguments… if it is religiously valid because of a circle like rene’s, the “validity” is quite suspect…


validity is not a condition on the arguments alone. validity is a condition on the arguments and the system in which the arguments are made and the validity estimated.

the leap is required because we are in fact required to accept a system. much like when playing a computer game, you are required to accept the rules of that game. you dont have to, but you can only be meaningfull in that game if you do. just because one rule is part of one game you enjoy does not imply it has to be a part of any other game, nor does it mean that any game without that rule is in any absolute, or objective sense, stupid.

if you really insist, i suppose i could rephrase and say your position is just as odd as hume’s. however if you pay attention he does not discuss matters of faith with an apparatus of science.

fair enough… I suppose that an argument based in fuzzy logic could be valid in some fuzzy way…

and I don’t think I said it was and it was not my intent to imply such… but like the systems of morality, arguing across different systems or games is futile…

no, he disregards matters of faith as so much nonsense… but he also disregards matters of inductive science as so much nonsense…


a warm, fuzzy way :slight_smile:

This topic is pitiful. We did Descartes in college, i hope this helps. (…and i hope i remember right.)

Shadow: Descartes has to prove God from his inner experience, so he can prove everything else (everything else!) starting with God. This is similar to something he does in his Geometry.

And his argument is not circular. He shows his existence is evident (the cogito), then goes to God from there, and everywhere else, from there…so as to prove God from consciousness, and the universe from God.

and BMW: Descartes was a Jesuit? I thought he was a member of the French army when he worked on this stuff.

Now BMW, it is a Catholic teaching that God’s existence can be proven from reason; so in his faith, Decartes is perfectly licit*, i think, in trying a new way to appreciate the logical interconnections of God’s existence – not that he would necessarily need to.

As for Jesuits, they are a religious order of the Catholic Church (like Franciscans, for example) obedient to the Pope. They are well known for their scholarship and their spiritual exercises.

Have you hugged your Jesuit today?

*(according to Wikipedia, Descartes’ works were put on the Index after he died, so apparently his works were not licit, after all)