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In his Meditations, René Descartes rejects the scholasticism of his day in favour of a philosophy that fuses science and mathematics with metaphysics and philosophy.

ontological argument
- reflects Anselm but different as o while Anselm derives the existence of God from his definition of God, Descartes goes further in combining this with a theory of innate ideas, as well as the doctrine of clear and distinct perception

god given human intellect = augustinian illuminationist epistemology

but diverges in his use of doubt to realise the certainty of mathematics and existence

The very fact that his work is in the form of a meditation is interesting, for its inherently contemplative and personal focus seems to function as a mask for his potentially radical conclusions


intro - argument and focus of essay

argument: whilst Descartes was inevitably influenced by his philosophical predecessors, his philosophy does represent a break from the classical and medieval tradition

focus of essay: This essay will focus on the following themes: Descartes’ scepticism and cogito; his definition and arguments for the existence of God; and his dualist view of the relationship between the soul and the body.


para 1

Descartes’ cogito could be deemed a break from classical and medieval tradition, since he employs doubt in order to establish the certainty of rational perception.

Gillespie - cogito quells radical doubt

2nd meditation opens with conflict. intensity of doubt in 1st meditation but seeks to remain steady in meditation

theme of deception maintained - I will assume that everything I see is false

secada - intellectual exercise

role of intellect leads to cogito, certainty of thoughts

use of scepticism - platonic ideas of quasi-divine illumination. but divergent in that plato does not specify the role of divinity


para 1 ao2

augustine, city of god. (si fallor, sum)
- idea that existence cannot be mistaken
- human intellect = generally reliable
- Augustine views the human intellect as generally reliable due to its nature as God-given; this idea persists in the work of Descartes. It is through Descartes’ conclusion that ‘(God) cannot be a deceiver’ that he gains certainty of his own existence.
- but Descartes does not present his self-awareness as divinely assisted.
- menn, 'descartes does not fuse faith and reason'
- his tool is doubt as a means to certainty
- uses augustinian ideas of spiritual contemplation
- Although Descartes and Augustine both view metaphysical knowledge as intellectual, Descartes uses Augustinian foundations of spiritual contemplation and doubt to construct a rational philosophy tinged with scientific and mathematical emphasis.


2 - The importance of certainty in the face of doubt is similarly reflected in Descartes’ understanding of God.

- restores belief in concepts other than ego - god = creator of everything
- Descartes adapts his previously established view that an idea must contain as much objective as formal reality and applies it to the concept of God. He concludes that our human (and therefore, lesser) understanding of perfection is causally linked to its greater and more perfect origin, which for Descartes, is God.
- god is therefore ultimate cause
- same in fifth meditation. innate ideas. triangle = three angles. god's existence has the same degree of certainty
- D is applying what he ascertained in M2 and M3 that thinking leads to being (both cogito and God)


2 ao2 - parallels with aquinas. but distinction...

D understanding of God as necessary and perfect parallels Aquinas third way from contingency and necessity: every created item is a compound of what it is (essence) and the fact that it is (existence); but the link sustaining the compound is contingent for every created item. But in the case of God existence and essence are one and the same: it belongs to the essence of God that He exists; he could not ever have failed to exist.

however, divergence: Whilst for Descartes, the a priori certainty of God’s existence is necessary for certainty in any other sphere, Aquinas’ emphasis is more a posteriori, as he emphasises God’s effects (i.e. creatures) as providing an insight into the ultimate cause, namely God.


2 ao2 - but, similarities with Anselm

- notion of perfection
but...Anselm unpacks his argument in terms of conceivability and maximal greatness and does not quite use the notion of the sum of all perfections. Anselm derives the existence of God from his definition of God, Descartes goes further in combining this with a theory of innate ideas, as well as the doctrine of clear and distinct perception


3 - Descartes’ concept of innate ideas can furthermore be seen in his dualist treatment of the relationship between the soul and body

For Descartes, the mind is more ontologically independent of the body than in Aristotle’s hylomorphic account. mind can work without body
but...there is still a relationship between the two e.g. emotions resulting in physical pain.
Gilson - ‘il y a entre l’âme et le corps un rapport naturel’

senses can deceive = phantom limbs
explains this through physics
but still thinks that mind exists and that mind is separate to the body


3 ao2 - distinction from augustinian/platonic dualism

dualism - plato and augustine
plato in phaedo - 3 arguments for soul's immortality
Whilst Descartes does share a dualist vision, it is clear that his view of the soul does in fact diverge from classical and medieval tradition. As Gilson highlights, ‘l’originalité de Descartes fut de repenser (la) distinction (entre le corps et l’âme) en fonction de la physique mécaniste’. (Gilson)
- it is here where he diverges from plato/augustine. describes body mechanistically - also seen in passions of soul, humans as machines with rational soul


3 ao2 - distinction from Aristotelian hylomorphism

Secada, this represents ‘a crucial ontological shift

menn - contemporary dissillusionment with Aristotelian philosophy. but wanted to still explore existence of god/immortality of the soul

descartes diverges from Aristotelian ousia by presenting a more scientific (and Platonic) view of the body as controlled by an immortal soul.