Critically examine the argument for the existence of God which Descartes advances in The Third Meditation.
In this essay I am going to attempt to critically examine Descartes argument as to the existence of God, as set out in the Third Meditation, in Descartes “Meditations on First Philosophy”. Descartes definition of God is a being that is infinite and perfect, “the possessor of all the perfections which I cannot grasp, but can somehow reach in my thought”. To do this I must set out his premises and look at them individually to see if they are sound and valid.
Descartes premises put simply are as follows:.
I.I have an idea of God,.
II.Everything has a cause,.
III.My idea of God has a cause,.
IV.The cause of an idea must contain as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality,.
V.My idea of God has infinite objective reality,.
VI.But the only being who has infinite formal reality is God,.
Therefore God exists.
Descartes says that he has an idea of God as “eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent and the creator of all things that exist apart from him”. Descartes reasons that as “there must be at least as much in the efficient and total cause as in the effect of that cause”, and that his formal idea, must be an effect. .
He follows this by saying that something cannot arise from nothing, and also that something which is more perfect, containing more reality cannot come from something which is less perfect. This means that because the conception of the idea of God in Descartes mind is an effect, that has infinite properties and perfection there must have been a cause outside of himself, as Descartes argues that something more perfect cannot come from something less perfect. Descartes demonstrates this using the example of heat, which he says cannot be produced from something that was not already hot, or at least has the same kind of heat. .