descartes_guide5 - FIFTH MEDITATION The essence of material...

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FIFTH MEDITATION The essence of material things, and the existence of God considered a second time We have seen that Descartes carefully distinguishes questions about a thing’s existence from questions about its essence, and answers these questions separately. With respect to the ‘I’ of the Second Meditation, Descartes argued, first, that the self exists; and second, that its essence is to be a thinking thing. With respect to the wax, in the Second Meditation, Descartes argued that essence of matter (of which the wax is an example) is simply to be extended and changeable. With regard to God, in the Third Meditation, Descartes argued first that the essence of God is of a being who is supremely perfect, infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, powerful, and so forth. The idea of God captures the essential nature of God. Descartes then argued that God exists, by arguing that the idea of God that captures this essence must have God himself as its cause. In the Fifth Meditation Descartes returns again to the topics of matter, and God. Notice the title: ‘The essence of material things, and the existence of God considered a second time’. As in the Second Meditation, Descartes considers the essence of matter, without yet addressing the question of whether material things exist. As in the Third Meditation, Descartes considers both the essence and existence of God, but with a new twist. Descartes argues that the essence of God cannot be known without knowing that God exists: God is a being whose essence implies his existence. This is the Ontological Argument for God’s existence. The essence of matter Descartes promises in the title that he will tell us the essence of material things. He asks ‘whether any certainty can be achieved regarding material objects’, and the certainties he proceeds to discover in this Meditation concern geometry. He has a distinct idea of — 47 —
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continuous quantity: something extended in space that can be measured in length, breadth, depth. He can clearly imagine ‘various sizes, shapes, positions and local motions’. All of these ideas of extension are amenable to mathematical treatment. Various properties
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descartes_guide5 - FIFTH MEDITATION The essence of material...

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