descartes_guide3 - THIRD MEDITATION The existence of God So...

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THIRD MEDITATION The existence of God So far Descartes’ sceptical arguments have threatened all knowledge but the knowledge of self provided in the cogito . But instead of turning now to the question of how knowledge of material things may be possible, the thinker turns in the Third Meditation to a question about God. ‘I must examine whether there is a God, and, if there is, whether he can be a deceiver. For if I do not know this, it seems that I can never be quite certain about anything else’. He believes he must prove the existence of ‘the true God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and the sciences lie hidden’, as he puts it later in the Meditations. Knowledge of God’s existence is seen as the foundation of , and more certain than , all knowledge other than immediate self-knowledge. The importance of this Meditation is two-fold: firstly in its methodological proposal about clear and distinct ideas, developed in more detail later; and secondly in is in its conclusion that God exists. Clear and Distinct Ideas Descartes reflects on the arguments of the Second Meditation, and asks: what is it about the argument which made me so certain about it? He says that it is the clarity and distinctness of his perception of it. I am certain that I am a thinking thing. ...In this first item of knowledge there is simply a clear and distinct perception of what I am asserting; this would not be enough to make me certain of the truth of the matter if it could ever turn out that something which I perceived with such clarity and distinctness was false. So I now seem to be able to lay it down as a general rule that whatever I perceive very clearly and distinctly is true. If clarity and distinctness are a sure sign of truth, then we have the beginnings of a path out of the sceptical morass. Not only do I know of my own existence, and essential nature. Guided by the principle — 30 —
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of clear and distinct ideas, I can keep to the path of truth by assenting only to those ideas that are clear and distinct. Strictly speaking it is judgments, rather than ideas, that can be true or false. If I were to consider ideas merely as what they are, namely modes of my thought, ‘they could scarcely give me any material for error’. However, my chief error consists in ‘judging that the ideas which are in me resemble, or conform to, things located outside me’. My main source of error is a hasty judgement that some idea corresponds to, resembles, some reality outside me. Then I make judgements that are false. The principle about clear and distinct ideas can help me to avoid these errors. Here we have a hint of things to come: Descartes’ theory of error and judgment, which is the proper topic of Meditation IV. God
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course PHIL 201H1F taught by Professor Derekallen during the Fall '10 term at University of Toronto.

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descartes_guide3 - THIRD MEDITATION The existence of God So...

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