« Philosophize This!

Episode #030 ... Descartes pt. 3 - God Exists

2014-08-05 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast we conclude our three-part installment on Rene Descartes. First we discuss what the concept of God meant to Descartes. Then we discuss why the concept of God was crucial for his system to be received well. Finally we imagine how it would feel to be lambasted by the most annoying/brilliant Jehovah's Witness in the history of the world. All this and more on this episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this or any episode of the podcast check out the website at philosophize this work. We have additional content further reading. Transcripts of every show all pre. Of course, But if you value the shows an educational resourcing, you wanna help keep it going. You can not more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alternatively you're buying something from listen this week anyway, consider clicking Our banner it's at the bottom centre of the landing page philosophize, this dot org, small percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up there. Thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you love the show one of the most frequently recurring emails. That comes my way. Is people asking me to help them respond to people that are trying to convert them? We've all been through this before you know there used to be a door to door vacuum salesman. Well, in today's world there are-
Or tat door, spokespeople of God, it is their duty when living on this planet to kind of spread. The word when they see somebody walking along the street that She hasn't heard about how easy it to get into heaven all you have to, it was believed they want to tell them about these. People are not bad people. Most of them have great intentions, are some of the greatest people met they genuinely care about people, but I think the reason why so many people ask me for responses to their typical questions is because they put people in a really weird spot, it's kind of their job to put people in a weird spot. When somebody comes to your door and ask you about what you think happens when you die, the situation gets awkward pretty fast. But why really? Why? Are things so awkward when these people come to your door? You know, I think situations are awkward when there were some level of dishonesty present theirs.
I think that one person knows that the other person doesn't know and that feeling of awkwardness is one person trying to find a politically correct way to break the news to them or to just avoid having the conversation altogether, for example, when some super nerdy guy comes up to you at work, and he has some of knocking catch phrase. It it keeps saying you feel awkward in that situation, because now you have to think of, non brazen way of breaking it to him that you don't think is little catchphrase is funny and to leave you alone will the same thing applies with the aggressive conversion experts that come to your door. This person, comes into your house. You pour them a glass of lemonade like they're on to catch a predator, and they just start. They just lead with the conversation. So how do you think all of this got here? How do you think the whole universe got here.
Well, that's a little bit like walking into somebody's house and saying so. Why did you break up with that ex girlfriend that you were with for ten years. The answer is always the same. It's complicated just like you, have a decade of history in a long term relationship and to try to sum it up in a single sentence is an impossible task. You have decades of contemplations about them. Nature of of existence and their basically asking you to do. The same thing is a very difficult task, I absolutely love being tested. Personally, it's just. I seek out these sorts of conversations with random people. I love it. So my friends tell me that when they hear a knock on the door and they look through the people- and they see a guy weren't like a bicycle helmet and a suit that they just instantly drop down on the floor, the clothes all their blinds and pretend that they're not home. Why always answer the door and one thing I've learned about the way that they asked quest,
Over the years is that there are two main avenues. This conversation can go down typically and the onus is on them to breach one of em. They usually asked a question: do you believe in God, outright or the last EU how you think the universe was created in the first place, one of those two, some variation of that and the point of this kind So that they know where their efforts need to be focused on. So, if you answer yes to this question that you believe in God than their task becomes to try to move you from one book of behavioral restrictions to another
So? If you say something like while I was raised a Muslim, then their task becomes to try to convince you into accepting their rule book as opposed to your old one. If you say something like yeah, I was raised a catholic, but I stopped going to church because I felt like it started not to be aligned with what I believe and I just haven't, found a new church. We moved when you say that you believe in God these are the sorts of conversations that they have with you. But what, if you say? No, what? If you say that you aren't sure whether God exists well, this is the other avenue that these conversations typically go
and if I were one of these people, this would definitely be the conversation that I was least excited to have and the reason why is something that we ve touched on in the past and its something that's very relevant to understanding Descartes and his argument for the existence of God? Let's imagine that we need a cart. Was one of these door to door salvation salesman as we're talkin about? Let's imagine what Renee Descartes would say to you. If you told him that you just aren't sure whether God exists, Your agnostic make no mistake. Renee Descartes would be the most annoying Jehovah's witnesses than ever knocked on your door. He would be brilliant, but he would also be arguing for the existence of something just a little bit different than your typical Jehovah's witnesses. As we do.
About before there is a huge logical leak from believing that God exists and believing that the Christian or Muslim God exists. There are dozens of it takes on it. You know, God is simply a master craftsman. He just built all of this and that's it. God is a collective mind stream. God is the universe itself, there's tons of examples and there's a big difference between believing that some thing, some being brought this universe into.
existence and believing that that thing also exalts humans as a species, above all the other ones, and cares about whether you get that job that you just applied, for there are fifty shades of God. You know so to speak, to convince somebody that God exists is not to convince them that Jesus died for their sins. So, when Decart set out to prove the existence of God, his task was not to convert people into Christians. He was referencing, some infinite first cause from which all things initially sprang. Date. Cart was a Christian, but the reason he was proving the concept of God was to have a basis for his rationalist philosophical system, not to get more more
money thrown into the collection played on Sunday. You know there are several instances in his work where he echoes a sentiment that maintain talks about a lot. He says it if you live in a society or a culture where something very important to the culture is widely accepted as true that, even if you could destroy it with argument, maybe its best for you to just go along with it. If you want to be active in other areas. I mean, if you walk around all day, long looking for things that you don't agree with and whenever you see one then you assign yourself the burden of correcting that person or correcting that group of people. Can you really ever get anything substance, done aside from that in your life now I could spend every second of every day, supposedly correcting people around me and what has changed at the end of the day,
There needs to be a line drawn somewhere. If we want to get anything real done and de card isn't saying, you should just blindly trumpet the status quo, but with decart living in a world where people are being prosecuted and brutally punished for going against the pre. Teachings of the church as listeners of this show, we can be empathetic. We can put ourselves in decart shoes and under and why he might adopt certain appearances in the interest of keeping the powers that be happy- and this is not conjecture- I mean we see it in his work very clearly. He wrote a treaties and he actually never finished it. But for years of his life he was researching and constructing a treaties arguing for the validity of Copernicus and several others. Scientific findings that directly challenge what the church had been teaching for so long and then right when he was rapid things up right them, of writing. It
hold Galilee, o thing happens and day cart says. I write well non word, an upward. Those are some productive years. I just spent of my life. He never finish the work. It's not too big of a loss, really wasn't that crucial in the grand scheme of things anyway, so
one day, current knocks on your door, and you tell him that you're not sure whether God exists or not? This is a big roadblock form, at least in that personal engagement will. This is an equally big road block for him back in his time, but why does Descartes need for a god to exist? Why does he need this infinite? Being that gave rise to the universe ass? We know it will to understand that we need the reference. What we talked about a couple episodes ago, COG Ito Ergo soon. I think, therefore I am- or I think, therefore, I exist remembered Descartes started by subjecting everything in the world to the most rigorous doubt imaginable. He did this in order to find some irrefutable truth about it. Some mathematical axiom for the world, if you will the reason I say mathematical axiom is because he needed a foundation that he could use as a basis for making all future claims that he could absolute
rely on now, he talks about how he doesn't know for certain that anything around him truly exists, because after all, an evil demon could be constantly deceiving. Him constantly tricking him into believing that these things actually exist. But there's one thing: if that is true, that he can't deceive him about, and that is that he is thinking, because, even if he's having a deceptive thought, he still has
having a thought. So he can be sure that he is a thinking thing that exists. The mathematical axiom, the basis from which Decart is trying to build a full philosophical system is that he exists so from here. He asked okay. Well, if I know that I exist, then, because something cannot come from nothing, something must have caused my existence. So what was it well for me? Personally, it was my parents when they were about twenty years old and they had too much to drink one night, my parents caused my existence and this begs the question: what caused their existence? Well, it was their parents and when you look at every single thing that exists, every rock every tree every planet, every moose frolicking around in the woods they eventually come back to the same point. What caused that point.
Now, no bigger, isn't even necessarily talking about the beginning of this universe. If there is a creator of this universe, what caused that creator to come into existence? What caused the creator of that creator to come into existence, and so on this infinite thing that he's referencing, this infinite being perhaps is what did, heart, called God. That is the mainstay of philosophy at the time of day card we ve talked about it before with Aquinas and a couple of Persian in Islam. Philosophers it's what's known as the cause. Milan Chicle argument and day cart needs this God as part of his picture for many reasons, one they car wasn't satisfied to stop with the
demons, I mean, although we can never stop doubting what's around us and just say that an evil demon is constantly deceiving us. They are obviously doesn't want to stop the discussion there. May, let's be real, we can be pretty certain that all of this stuff actually exists, even if we can't prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt and by saying that this infinitely great God is responsible for our perceptions of the world, it takes out that possibility of the evil demon. They cart says that as an infinite perfect. Being God would never deceive us. So therefore we can be certain that what we see about the world is the way that it actually is now if you're scoffing at that logic, please reserve your objections to this for later. On, the point of me saying this is to explain why God is so important in day carts worldview now another big reason- God is important because date,
part is a rationalist and a mathematician he's setting out on a pretty daunting task. I mean to prove that the universe and everything in it is connected to each other causal relationships, logical relationships. There are lines connecting everything and everyone now the problem with that is that if that is a possibility, then there must be an end point. It can't go on into infinity. There has to be a book end from which everything is derived from, or else all these connections might be invalid. These connections can't go on into infinity. This is a problem that not just day cart will run into, but we'll see it in the other continental rationalist, Enos and liveness. The book end that Decart uses as a starting point. Is this infinite perfect?
being known as God, so famously Descartes uses two main arguments to prove the existence of God, one we we've already heard about before. It's called the ontological argument. Saint Anselm talked a lot about this. If we define God as that, then which nothing greater can be conceived and we can conceive of an infinite. Perfect. Being then, because something existing in reality as at least marginally great something that exists only in thought that infinite, perfect being must exist in reality. Therefore, God exists. We ve talked about that one and it really isn't worth talking about how Descartes uses it because he uses it later on in his meditations, and it seems like more of a supplementary argument. It's like its compensating
his first argument, which gets a little sketchy. You know he would be saying this is the if you didn't buy. My first argument here is the one that seems to be rock solid in the annals of history, but his first argument, the one we're gonna go into detail right now is the Tory asleep confused. I think philosophy. Professors around the world are forced to teach this argument and all of them struggle to find a way to convey in some sort of memorable way. It's kind of difficult, it's also notoriously oversimplified for the record. For the record long time ago, I took possibly one hundred and one class, where I needed to write a paper on this argument and in the book it explained the argument, and I thought that I understood it. I wrote my paper. I got a good grades.
And then six months later I actually read day cards meditations and I went back to the book and I realized that it was completely wrong. Now this is in a textbook, so you can imagine how many different interpretations of this argument there are and as a podcaster, I'm going to do my best to give you a well rounded unbiased account of it so would be sitting in your house sipping your lemonade. You know, and he would begin his proof of God's existence by talking about an important distinction when it comes, comes to existence. He would look round. Your house probably find something but say a table that table has two forms of reality. Today: cart, formal reality and of joy
Of reality, and even breaks it down more than this, but let's not go there. Each thing has a different level of formal reality. If God existed, he would have an infinite level of formal reality. That's what day, cart says that table sitting there, that he's pointing that that has a finite level of formal reality and a few other obscure things like the qualities of things, and I, is of things, has what Descartes calls modal formal reality, mobile being and even less or form a formal reality than finite, so we have infinite finite and modal now. The point of this is that everything has varying degrees of this thing called formal reality. But what about things that exist as thoughts? I mean if I have an idea, something in my head, does that idea exist while yeah does in some way, but the idea of a table in my head,
does not exist as much as that table actually existing in physical form. For example, I can imagine the idea of an absolutely perfect triangle, but that perfect triangle doesn't exist anywhere in the physical world. I mean why would it I mean I'd, be kind of random, just a triangle floating around somewhere, well, Dakar talks about things that exist as ideas or objects of thought, and he gives him something he calls objective reality ideas now, just like everything that exists has varying levels of formal reality. All ideas have varying levels of objective reality and what determines their level of objective reality is the thing that they're representing, if you have an idea of God, that idea has an infinite level of objective reality. If you have an idea of that table, it has a degree
Of finite objective reality, and if you're thinking of qualities of things like blueness or sharpness or treat minus two reference, something terrible is it a long time ago than they have a modal objective reality now Descartes says that all humans have an innate idea of this thing we called God is being infinite. I mean to create everything in the universe. This thing called, God, need to be on caused in itself, so therefore necessarily existing, always on cost. This thing needed to be outside the boundaries of time, so therefore eternal and timeless to give rise to everything, physical, it itself cannot be a physical thing, or else physical things existed before that. So therefore it must be incorporeal
or spiritual, so big art says that we all have an innate understanding of God being an infinite being, and because of that, the idea of God in our head has an infinite objective reality. He says that every idea that we have everything with objective reality was created by something with a higher level of formal reality. For example, we have ideas of tables, we have ideas of rocks, chairs, mousses frolicking around. We are able to create those ideas because we have a higher level of formal. reality than these things. Yes, ass humans, we have a finite level of formal reality, but we have more formal reality than the rock. So therefore we can create ideas about that rock it. This logic seems confusing. It's me because he's deriving from the laws of cause and effect that he studied endlessly in his life that there must be as
reality in the cause of something as in the effect it generates. So if we as flawed humans are not infinite beings, where did we get this idea of an infinite being from? Why is it inside of us at birth? What cause that infinite idea to come into existence in the first place? Well, based on the laws of cause and effect it needed to be something infinite. A finite beings cannot bring into existence an infinite idea, the infinite being that brought that idea into existence is what we call God. Therefore, God exists, So at this point I would like to thank God that we're done explaining that really just imagine Descartes sitting on your couch and he just got done explaining that to you. How would you be looking at this guy? What are you even say use gives point to the door and say: leave this house right now. There's a video that way.
Viral a couple months ago, where this couple has this dancing: Halloween Toy, that's malfunctioning and their convinced that its possessed by a demon as its malfunctioning and there's going crazy. Their sound, like I beauty in the name of Jesus Christ leave this house I was absolutely rolling on the floor laughing when I was watching that and that's how I would treat day card to be came into my house talking about is his formal and objective reality stuff. But let's talk about how you should respond to day card. Let's talk about how people typically criticize the argument by far the most common rebuttal today card system is what scene like a logical inconsistency, that's become known as the cartesian circle. Would it points to? Is circular reasoning when it comes to proving that a non deceptive god exists in the first place. The thing is, he uses God as that being that ensures that there is not an evil demon constantly deceiving him, but he
eyes on his thoughts being non deceptive to arrive at the conclusion that God exists. Lotta people say this is really contradictory, but it's really not as much of a contradiction as it would initially seen. Day card argues back that he doesn't rely on God to feed him nondeceptive thoughts all the time, while we're attending to what he calls clear and distinct perceptions, where it's so clear and distinct that we can't doubt the validity of it. We don't need God in that case, the insurance that God provides to day cart, is to prevent us from doubting these things. While we're not looking at them anymore, I mean, I guess it's a very crude example. Let's say that you're, a ups delivery guy and you deliver a box to the same front, porch every day same time, everything's the same at one point in the very beginning of that you determine
but there are two stairs leading up to the front door of the house and then, each day after that, the box at your carrying obstructs your view of the stairs you are no longer attending to the stairs. In that case, the insurance that God provides is that those stairs have not changed since the last time. You did your analysis Now imagine this example as it would apply to a series of logical connections throughout the universe, to a mathematician like Descartes or any of the other rationalists. One other place that Descartes is heavily criticized is his creation of the idea of objective versus formal reality. Many people wonder why they're even needs to be a distinction and what basis he has for making this distinction in the first place on one end. He relegates the existence of ideas and he makes them lesser than things that have finite formal reality but on the other end, makes our existence greater than things with finite, formal reality. On that same note, another common objection is that it's a huge logical leap.
To arbitrarily say that beans with finite formal reality cannot possibly conceive of something with infinite objective reality, and why is that necessarily an impossibility, but the largest disagreement? It's probably when he says that we have in one slash eight idea that God is an infinite being. Why is that necessarily the case? Many cultures throughout history have vehement Lee believed in a creator that in itself was not intimate. If this idea of an infant identity is truly, an eight in humans Which is what decart needs to prove to validate his entire argument. Why do these people not have it? But the common explanation is that they don't know me people that do our people that were born, into a society or culture that regularly plants the seeds and the heads of their young that an infinite creator exists that constant reinforcement, shades D.
Of their thought. So, although everybody around a card may have had this conception from a very young age, it might not be inherent. And this may be- the chickens coming home to roost really mean this may be a manifestation of what we talked about earlier, where, when the Bulk of society believe something that we should pick our battles and we should sometimes just go along with it. Maybe day card should have fought that battle a little bit harder. One thing is for certain which, as we continue, our journey through philosophy, we will all Realize- is that if he had thought this battle, if he had questioned whether the idea of an infinite God truly was an eight, it would have been a lonely, depressed sing, road ahead party S next time you can follow me on Twitter. At I am Stephen West. You can join. In the discussion on Facebook. We find me
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.