For centuries, the idea of God has been a part of humanity’s history. Past and present, there has always been a different integration consisting of the believers and the non-believers of God. The group of those who have “faith” in God tends to be related to one religion or another. On the other hand, the skeptics find the existence of God somewhat puzzling and try to seek the answers through scientific methods.
Even as of today with all the modern technologies and the development of sciences, we still do not have a definitive answer to the question “does God exist?”
Among many philosophers and scholars who have tried to answer this question, we shall look upon Rene Descartes’ theory on the existence of God. In terms of believers and non-believers, Descartes would be one of the believers. Before we go any further, we must ponder upon several questions.
What is God? Does God exist? If such God does exist, then where does this being come from? Why do believers and non-believers hold on to their beliefs as they do? What significance does the existence of God have upon mankind? These are only the tip of the iceberg amongst the vast array of unanswered questions related to God.
Though there are so many uncertainties as we have just mentioned, the existence of all other uncertainties in our world may explain why the existence of God is so real to many people. For the believers, God provides a convenient answer to all these questions except for the answers regarding God itself. The following are some of the general arguments for the existence of God.
The first argument comes from the theory of design; there are orders in the universe that can’t be occurring by mere chance. Secondly, the existence of God explains the arguments regarding efficient causality; as the world exhibits orderly causal sequences, something had to start it all up. Thirdly, God provides an answer to the question of the origin of life and its destination after death.
( For the sake of convenience, we shall borrow some theological ideas from Christianity, the Christian God, to exemplify our comparisons.) As an example, God is the creator of all, and there is a place in heaven, a kingdom of God, for those who have faith in God. This helps believers understand their identity and alleviate the fear of death.
Now then, let us look upon how Descartes responds to the question of what God is? Descartes’ hypothesis on his theory starts with the idea of a God who is eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, and perfect. In his earlier Meditations, he claims that God may be a deceiver; he, however, concludes later that God is a non-deceiver because an act of deceit would be an attribute of moral imperfection.
According to Descartes, this idea of a supremely intelligent and supremely powerful being, who created everything that exists, can not and does not come from within him who is imperfect. Moreover, this perception did not originate from the experiences of the world, nor was this drawn from the senses.
Rather, he believes that this perception of God is prior to his own perception, and it could only actually arise from a perfect being. Thus Descartes concludes the only remaining option to be that this perception was innate in him.
If we assume that God is perfect, then we may wonder why human beings, a creation of God, are created imperfect and liable to make mistakes? Since an imperfect creation was made by God, doesn’t this mean that he is imperfect? Yet, Descartes claims that God gave humans no faculty for making mistakes, and we are constituted as a mediator between God and nothingness.
The reasoning behind the justifications made by Descartes is related to “free will.” Descartes states that the faculty of judgment is not infinite in human beings; human error is not dependent upon God but is rather a mere defect. On the other hand, free will is a freedom to choose which is infinite. Furthermore, he implies that the fact that the boundaries of will extending further than the finite intellect is the very source of human error.
From this discussion, it is clear that humans do have the capacity to err. Even if we considered that the above statements were true, couldn’t we make an argument about why God has created such an imbalance between the magnitudes of the will and the intellect?
Then this imbalance can be accounted as a defect no matter what the justification may be; moreover, this implies that God did indeed make a mistake by creating a being that has faculties that lack perfection. From this, we can derive the possibility that God may be imperfect, and this is a contradiction to Descartes’ argument of God as a perfect being.
In the ” Meditation Five,” Descartes attempts to prove his hypothesis of the existence of God based on the theory of clarity and distinctness of perception. He begins this theory by mentioning that ideas of certain things which are outside of him have their own truth and natures. These ideas were not fabricated by him, and they have not entered him through the sense experience.
Since he knows these ideas clearly, he claims that they are something and are true. Descartes states that those that he can clearly and distinctly perceive are the only things that fully convince him as being true. From this concept, he constructs a logic that supposedly proves his hypothesis; the clear and distinct perception of the undoubted existence of God means that existence is inseparable from God.
From this assumption, Descartes jumps to the conclusion that God does indeed exist; however, can this be considered as legitimate reasoning and be accepted as proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Must everything that Descartes perceives be true as long as it is clear and distinct? Isn’t he revolving in a loop of circular reasoning by assuming as true the very point that he is trying to prove?
Let us ponder upon what Descartes has said before for the sake of argument. In “Meditation Four,” he clearly states that ” the will extends further than the intellect ” (p85.) He also stated that the faculty of choosing, his will, is finite. If this is so, then the faculty of knowing the truth, his intellect, must also be finite. Furthermore, Descartes himself acknowledges the fact that he is not perfect.