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  1. Descartes' Meditation on First Philosophy Paper - David Mills Daniel : Westminster John Knox Press!
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Skip to content Skip to search. Daniel, David Mills, author. Published London, U. Language English. Also Titled Descartes' Meditations on first philosophy Meditationes de prima philosophia. Author Daniel, David Mills, author.

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Meditationes de prima philosophia. What are the Meditations on first philosophy? Some issues to consider Suggestions for further reading Detailed summary of Rene Descartes' Meditations on first philosophy Letter of dedication Preface to the reader Synopsis of the following six meditations Meditation one : concerning those things that can be called into doubt Meditation two : concerning the nature of the human mind : that it is better known than the body Meditation three : concerning God, that He exists Meditation four : concerning the true and the false Meditation five : concerning the essence of material things, and again concerning God, that He exists Meditation six : concerning the existence of material things, and the real distinction between mind and body.

View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Melbourne Library. Macquarie University Library. Open to the public ; B Moore Theological College Library. Open to the public Book English Somerset College. If one concentrates carefully, all this is quite evident by the natural light. But when I relax my concentration, and my mental vision is blurred by the images of things I perceive by the senses, I lose sight of the reasons why my idea of more perfect being has to come from a being that really is more perfect.

My hope is that the answer to this will yield a new proof of the existence of a perfect being — a proof that it will be easier for me to keep in mind even when I relax my concentration. It would have to come from myself, or from my parents, or from some other beings less perfect than God a being more perfect than God, or even one as perfect, is unthinkable. If I had derived my existence from myself, I would not now doubt or want or lack anything at all; for I would have given myself all the perfections of which I have any idea. So I would be God. Here is a thought that might seem to undercut that argument.

Perhaps I have always existed as I do now. No, it does not follow. Anyone who thinks hard about the nature of time will understand that what it takes to bring something into existence is also needed to keep it in existence at each moment of its duration. Thus there is no real distinction between preservation and creation — only a conceptual one — and this is one of the things that the natural light makes evident.

So I have to ask myself whether I have the power to bring it about that I, who now exist, will still exist a minute from now. For since I am nothing but a thinking thing — or anyway that is the only part of me that I am now concerned with — if I had such a power I would undoubtedly be aware of it.

But I experience no such power, and this shows me quite clearly that I depend for my continued existence on some being other than myself. Perhaps this being is not God, though. Perhaps I was produced by causes less perfect than God, such as my parents.

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No; for as I have said before, it is quite clear that there must be at least as much reality or perfection in the cause as in the effect. And therefore, given that I am a thinking thing and have within me some idea of God, the cause of me — whatever it is — must itself be a thinking thing and must have the idea of all the perfections that I attribute to God. What is the cause of this cause of me? If it is the cause of its own existence, then it is God ; for if it has the power of existing through its own strength, then undoubtedly it also has the power of actually possessing all the perfections of which it has an idea — that is, all the perfections that I conceive to be in God.

If on the other hand it gets its existence from another cause, then the question arises all over again regarding this further cause: Does it get its existence from itself or from another cause? Eventually we must reach the ultimate cause, and this will be God. One might think this: Several partial causes contributed to my creation; I received the idea of one of the perfections that I attribute to God from one cause, and the idea of another from another. Lastly, as regards my parents, even if everything I have ever believed about them is true, it is certainly not they who keep me in existence.

Insofar as I am a thinking thing, indeed, they did not even make me; they merely brought about an arrangement of matter that I have always regarded as containing me that is, containing my mind, for that is all I now take myself to be. Thus, I conclude that the mere fact that I exist and have within me an idea of a most perfect being — that is, God — provides a clear proof that God does indeed exist.

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It remains for me only to ask how I received this idea from God. The only remaining alternative is that my idea of God is innate in me, just as the idea of myself is innate in me. It is no surprise that God in creating me should have placed this idea in me, to serve as a mark of the craftsman stamped on his work not that he needed any mark other than the work itself. But the mere fact that God created me is a good reason for thinking that I am somehow made in his image and likeness, and that I perceive that likeness in the same way that I perceive myself.

This shows clearly that it is not possible for him to be a deceiver, since the natural light makes it clear that all fraud and deception depend on some defect.

But before examining this point more carefully and investigating other truths that may be derived from it, I want to pause here and spend some time contemplating God; to reflect on his attributes and to gaze with wonder and adoration on the beauty of this immense light, so far as the eye of my darkened intellect can bear it. For just as we believe through faith that the supreme happiness of the next life consists in contemplating the divine majesty, so experience tells us that this same contemplation, though much less perfect, provides the greatest joy we can have in this life.

Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy (SCM Briefly)

In these past few days I have become used to keeping my mind away from the senses; and I have become strongly aware that very little is truly known about bodies, whereas much more is known about the human mind and still more about God. So now I find it easy to turn my mind away from objects of the senses and the imagination, towards objects of the intellect alone; these are quite separate from matter, whereas the objects of sense and imagination are mostly made of matter.

Indeed, none of my ideas of corporeal things is as distinct as my idea of the human mind, considered purely as a thinking thing with no size or shape or other bodily characteristics. Now, when I consider the fact that I have doubts — which means that I am incomplete and dependent — that leads to my having a clear and distinct idea of a being who is independent and complete , that is, an idea of God.

And from the mere fact that I exist and have such an idea, I infer that God exists and that every moment of my existence depends on him. And now that I can take into account the true God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hidden, I think I can see a way through to knowledge of other things in the universe. To begin with, I see that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. Only someone who has something wrong with him will engage in trickery or deception. That someone is able to deceive others may be a sign of his skill or power, but his wanting to deceive them is a sign of his malice or weakness; and those are not to be found in God.

Next, I know from experience that I have a faculty of judgment; and this, like everything else I have, was given to me by God. That would settle the matter, except for one difficulty: what I have just said seems to imply that I can never be in error. Well, I know by experience that I am greatly given to errors; but when I focus on God to the exclusion of everything else, I find in him no cause of error or falsity. In looking for the cause of my errors, I am helped by this thought: as well as having a real and positive idea of God a being who is supremely perfect , I also have what you might call a negative idea of nothingness that which is furthest from all perfection.

I realize that I am somewhere in between God and nothingness, or between supreme being and non-being. Now, the positive reality that I have been given by the supreme being contains nothing that could lead me astray in my beliefs. I make mistakes, not surprisingly, because my nature involves nothingness or non-being — that is, because I am not myself the supreme being, and lack countless perfections. There is, therefore, nothing positively error-producing in the faculty of judgment that God gave me.

That is still not quite right. I have lacks of that kind too, mere negations such my lack of the ability to fly, or to multiply two digit prime numbers in my head. Rather, it is a privation , that is, a lack of some knowledge that I should have, which means that I still have a problem about how it relates to God. When I think hard about God, it seems impossible that he should have given me a faculty that lacks some perfection that it should have. The more skilled the craftsman, the more perfect the thing that he makes; so one would expect something made by the supreme creator to be complete and perfect in every way.

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It is clear, furthermore, that God could have made me in such a way that I was never mistaken; and there is no doubt that he always chooses to do what is best. Does this show that my making mistakes is better than my not doing so? Thinking harder about this, three helpful thoughts come to me. I may well find other things he has done whose reasons elude me; and that is no reason to doubt his existence. Something that might seem very imperfect if it existed on its own has a function in relation to the rest of the universe, and may be perfect when seen in that light.