Introduction to Philosophy (Fall '09) - class#7

Introduction to Philosophy (Fall '09) - class#7 -...

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Unformatted text preview: Organizational Information First graded assignment will be handed out in First discussion section this Friday (10/2) and will be due in discussion section the following Friday (10/9). (10/9). handout for today’s lecture. handout You should have downloaded and printed out the You Reading for next time: Rene Descartes’s Reading Meditations on First Philosophy - Meditation 5 Meditations Bartlett 65. Bartlett Midterm Exam October 22nd at 7pm - 9pm in Midterm There will be no class the during the day on the There day of the midterm. Descartes Review From Last Time In Meditation #2 Descartes takes In himself to have established: himself 1. 2. 3. That it is certain that he exists. That it is certain that he is a thing that That thinks. thinks. That, if he has knowledge or That, understanding of the world around him, understanding he has it not in virtue of his senses, but, rather, in virtue of his understanding through his mind alone. through Descartes is a rationalist and not an empiricist. Review From Last Time In Meditation #3 Descartes sets out to prove the In existence of God. existence If he can’t prove the existence of God, then he can’t If rule out the possibility that there is an all-powerful deceiver deceiving him in all that he believes. deceiver Proving the existence of God is a crucial part of Proving Descartes’s anti-skeptical project. Descartes’s Descartes’s argument most famous argument for Descartes’s the existence of God: The Trademark Argument The The Trademark Argument has 3 sub-arguments as parts. Review From Last Time Trademark Argument Part I 1. 2. 3. My idea of God has a cause. If my idea of God has a cause, then the amount of reality in the If cause of my idea of God is infinite. cause Therefore, the amount of reality in the cause of my idea of God is Therefore, infinite. 1,2 MP infinite. Trademark Argument Part II 1. 2. 3. The amount of reality in the cause of my idea of God is infinite. If the amount of reality in the cause of my idea of God is infinite, then If the cause of my idea of God is perfect. the The cause of my idea of God is perfect. 1,2 MP 1,2 Trademark Argument Part III 1. 2. 3. The cause of my idea of God is perfect. If the cause of my idea of God is perfect, then the cause of my idea If of God is God and not me. of Therefore, the cause of my idea of God is God and not me. 1,2 MP 1,2 Therefore, Review From Last Time The argument is known as the Trademark Argument The because Descartes deduces the existence of God from the existence of his idea of God; he takes the idea of God to be an idea that God placed in him as a mark, the way a craftsman leaves a trademark on the things he creates. things The Cartesian Circle In his argument for the existence of God, many critics have In charged Descartes with arguing in a circle. charged A person argues in a circle if she presents an person argues argument in which she relies on an antecedent commitment to the truth of her conclusion in supporting one of the premises of her argument. supporting Review From Last Time Descartes seems to derive from his knowledge that he Descartes exists and that he is a thinking thing, that the following principle holds: principle Vivid and Clear Perception Principle (VCPP): If I perceive something vividly and clearly to be true, then I can be certain that it is true. that After laying down this principle, however, he immediately After goes on to say that he can only be sure that it holds if there is no all powerful God who could deceive him even about what he vividly and clearly perceives to be true. about BUT, iin offering his Trademark Argument he appeals to n certain principles on the grounds that he perceives them vividly and clearly to be true. vividly For instance, Descartes maintains that the Causal Adequacy For Principle is true because it is “obvious by the natural light”. (When natural ”. Descartes says something is obvious by the natural light, he uses that just to mean he perceives something vividly and clearly.) that Review From Last Time So in arguing for the existence of a perfect God, So in order that he can establish that there is no allin powerful deceiving God, he appeals to a powerful principle, VCCP, which he can’t be sure of unless VCCP which there is no such all-powerful deceiving God. there of an all-powerful deceiving God in order to legitimately appeal to VCCP in his argument for VCCP the non-existence of such a God. the Thus, he needs to presuppose the non-existence Thus, CIRCLE! Review From Last Time There is another famous argument for There the existence of God that is intertwined with the Trademark Argument in Meditation #3. Meditation The Cosmological Argument This argument goes back at least to St. This Thomas Aquinas (he is, at least, one of its most famous proponents) famous Meditation 3 The Cosmological Argument For The The Existence of God. Existence There is a first cause of all things. If there is a first cause of all things, then the If first cause of all things is God. first Therefore, the first cause of all things is Therefore, God. God. 1,2 MP 1. 2. 3. Meditation 3 Justification for premise 1: Descartes takes it to be obvious that there must Descartes be a first cause of all things, for he takes it to be impossible for there to be an infinite chain of causes stretching back in time infinitely causes Justification for premise 2: Descartes takes it to be a definitional truth (or at Descartes least something close to a definitional truth) that God is the first cause of all things. God Meditation 4 In Meditation #4 Descartes confronts In the question of error. the Given that he takes himself to have shown Given not only that he exists and is a thinking thing, but also that there exists an allthing, perfect God, the question arises: error about anything? error How could a perfect God allow him to fall into How Meditation 4 “[F]rom the mere fact that I exist and have [an idea of God], I infer [F]rom that God exists and that every moment of my existence depends on him. This follows clearly; I am sure, indeed, that the human intellect can’t know anything that is more evident or more certain. 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. through To begin with, I see that it is impossible that God should ever To deceive me. Only someone who has something wrong with him will engage in trickery or deception. That someone is able to deceive able others may be a sign of his skill or power, but his wanting to wanting deceive them is a sign of his malice or weakness; and these are not to be found in God. to Next, I know from experience that I have a faculty of judgment; and Next, this, like everything else I have, was given to me by God. Since God doesn’t want to deceive me, I am sure that he didn’t give me a faculty of judgment that would lead me into error while I was correctly using it. correctly That would settle the matter, except for one difficulty: what I have That just said seems to imply that I can never be in error…[but] I know by experience that I am greatly given to errors” by Meditation 4 Descartes makes three observations about Descartes how it could be that an all-perfect and nonhow deceiving God allows him to make mistakes. God’s ways are inexplicable to him, so he can’t God’s presume to know why God allows him to make mistakes mistakes “I realize that it is no cause for surprise if I don’t realize understand why God acts as he does. I may well find other things he has done whose reasons elude me; and that is no reason to doubt his existence.” doubt (1) Meditation 4 (2) It may be that though God is perfect and his It creation is perfect, it is only perfect as a whole, and Descartes’s making mistakes is part of a greater whole that is somehow perfect in virtue of that. whole “In estimating whether God’s works are perfect we should In look at the universe as a whole, not at created things one by one. Something 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…. I have to admit that [God] did or could have made many things in addition to could myself, so that there may be a universal scheme of things in which I have a place. If that is so, then judgments about what is perfect or imperfect in me should be made on the basis not just of my intrinsic nature but also of my role or function in the universe as a whole.” universe Meditation 4 What is the problem with these first two What explanations of how God allows Descartes to sometimes fall into error? Descartes They both seem to undermine his They previous argument (in Meditation 3) for the claim that he can be certain of anything that he vividly and clearly perceives to be true. perceives Meditation 4 Perhaps because he is implicitly aware of Perhaps these problems, Descartes offers a third explanation of how it is that God allows him to fall into error: fall Whenever he falls into error he is to Whenever blame and not God because he chooses to judge something to be true when he does not have sufficient understanding to be warranted in believing it to be true. be (3) Meditation 4 Descartes distinguishes between two of his faculties: His faculty of knowledge (or intellect): His knowledge intellect This faculty “doesn’t affirm or deny anything; its role is only to This present me with ideas regarding which I can make judgments; so strictly speaking it doesn’t involve any error at all.” so decisions, and judgments. decisions, His faculty of will: His will This faculty is the faculty by which he makes choices, This Important point--Descartes is a belief Important voluntarist: voluntarist: A belief voluntarist is one who holds that what we belief believe is a matter of choice. believe According to a belief voluntarist, we only believe the According things we do because we choose to believe them. things Meditation 4 According to Descartes, though our intellect is According limited, our will is not. limited, His intellect is limited in that there are many His ideas that he simply does not have: ideas But, Descartes stresses, the fact that his intellect But, is limited doesn’t show that God is a bad creator. is “Just because I understand someone to be a skilled Just craftsman, I don’t infer that he ought to have put into ought each of his works all the perfections he can give to some of them. So all I can say is that there are some ideas that I don’t have; this is purely a negative fact about me, like the fact that I can’t fly; it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with my nature.” anything Meditation 4 Unlike our intellect, Descartes maintains, our Unlike will is not limited. will There is nothing I can’t will to do. There will True, there are many things I can’t do, but so far True, as the matter purely of willing is concerned, there is nothing I can’t will to do. is For example: I can’t fly, but I can will to fly. In this one respect, Descartes maintains, one In of my faculties--my faculty of willing--is just as great as God’s. great Meditation 4 “I can’t complain that God gave me a will or freedom of can’t choice that isn’t extensive or perfect enough, since I know by experience that will is entirely without limits. My will is so perfect and so great that I can’t conceive of its becoming even greater and more perfect; it is a striking fact that this is true of my will and not of any other aspect of my nature…. It is only the will, or freedom of choice, which I experience as so great that I can’t make sense of the idea of its being even greater; indeed, my thought of myself as being somehow like God depends primarily upon my will. God’s will is incomparably greater than mine in two respects: it is accompanied by, and made firm and effective by, much more knowledge and power than my will does…. But these comparisons--having to do with the amount of knowledge that accompanies and helps the will, or with the number of accompanies helps states of affairs to which it is applied--do not concern the will applied--do in itself, but rather its relations to other things. When the will is considered not relationally, but strictly in itself, God’s will in God’s does not seem any greater than mine.” does Meditation 4 So how does this explain how we So sometimes make mistakes? sometimes Since the will is capable of affirming or Since denying anything, a person can anything person sometimes choose to affirm something that her understanding does not fully understand. understand. Meditation 4 “So the power of willing that God has given me, being So extremely broad in its scope and also perfect of its kind, is not the cause of my mistakes. Nor is my power of understanding to blame: God gave it to me, so there can be no error in its activities; when I understand something I undoubtedly understand it correctly. Well, then, where do my mistakes come from? There source is the fact that my will has a wider scope than my intellect has, so that I am free to wider so form beliefs on topics that I don’t understand. Instead form of behaving as I ought to, namely by restricting my will to the territory that my understanding covers, that is, suspending judgment when I am not intellectually in control, I let my will run loose, applying it to matters that I don’t understand.” that Meditation 4 So how, according to Descartes, can we be So assured of never making mistakes? assured We should only ever believe something if we We perceive, via our understanding, it vividly and clearly. clearly. If we do believe something even though through If our understanding we don’t perceive it vividly and clearly, then it’s our fault, not God’s, iif we get f not something wrong. something Meditation 4 “If when I don’t perceive the truth vividly and If clearly enough I simply suspend judgment, suspend it’s clear that I am behaving correctly and avoiding error. It is a misuse of my free will to have an opinion in such cases: if I choose the wrong side I shall be in error; and even if I choose the right side, I shall be at fault because I’ll have come to the truth by sheer chance and not through a perception of my chance intellect.” intellect Meditation 4 But one last question: Why doesn’t God prevent me from straying into Why error by giving me a vivid and clear perception about everything I was every likely to think about? To this question, Descartes simply punts and To reverts to a version of his second explanation of his making mistakes: of “But the universe as a whole may have some perfection that But requires that some parts of it be capable of error while others are not, so that it would be a worse universe if all its parts were exactly alike in being immune from error. I am not entitled to complain about God’s giving me a lower role in his scheme of things by selecting me as one of the creatures that isn’t protected from error.” that Meditation 4 At the end of this meditation, Descartes takes At himself to have found the way to arrive at truth about himself and the world around him. truth avoid error but also how to arrive at the truth. It is beyond question that I shall reach the shall truth it I think hard enough about the things that I perfectly understand, keeping them separate from all other matters in which my thoughts are more confused and obscure.” “So today I have learned not only how to So ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/12/2010 for the course PHIL 100 taught by Professor Jeremy during the Spring '08 term at UMass (Amherst).

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