Descartes And Locke

.. inite by negating the finite(Descartes 125). An example of this would be the use of a number line. The number line will never be able to illustrate infinity. One could negate every number on a number line and still not arrive at infinity. Therefore, Descartes concludes that God does exist and therefore is not an evil deceiver. Because God has supplied us with the innate ideas of perfection and infinity, God, therefore, must be infinite and perfect.

Descartes states that, “Whence it is clear enough that he cannot be a deceiver, for the natural light teaches us that deceit stems necessarily from some defect”(Descartes 131). Since God is perfect he is not an evil deceiver. It is important to realize that by the time Descartes has reached his Fourth Meditation he has proved three important things. The first is that doubt is not universal. The second is that there is a general rule of truth. The third is that God exists and cannot be an evil deceiver. However, Descartes raises a question: If God exists and cannot be an evil deceiver then why are humans imperfect and perpetually making errors? Descartes explains this through the explanation of free will.

Descartes states that God has given all humans free will. This is the cause of human error. Because we have free will, humans are able to make choices and decisions free from the influence of God. Sometimes free will interferes with God’s ability to help humans and therefore humans sometimes make poor decisions. If God did not give humans free will than God would play a direct role in every decision made by humans.

It is because God gives humans free will that allows for human error. Descartes Fifth and Sixth Meditations begins with the establishment of his remaining doubts and the application of what he has discovered. The first question deals with the essence of color, mathematical, and geometrical truths. The second is the existence of people and things. The third is determining the difference between dreams and reality.

Descartes reiterates that God is not an evil deceiver and therefore he can clearly conceive something to be true. He reiterates that if he conceives God correctly then God is perfect. Imperfection is not compatible with God’s omnipotence. A non-existent thing cannot be perfect. Even a non-existent perfect thing is imperfect and all perfect things are perfect.

Descartes also restates that a perfect thing cannot deceive. With this knowledge, Descartes proceeds to solve his second problem. The existence of corporeal(physical things) exist with certainty. Since God is not an evil deceiver, the idea of physical things is accurate. Although some perceptions will still be blurry and may confuse Descartes objects do indeed exist. He concludes that he just has to be more judgmental of those perceptions.

But as concerns other things, which are either only particular, as,, for example, that the sun is of such a size and shape, etc., or are perceived less clearly and distinctly, as in the case of light, sound and pain and so on, although they are very doubtful and uncertain, nevertheless, from the fact alone that God is not a deceiver, and has consequently permitted no falsity in my opinions..(Descartes 158) Descartes now knows for certain that he has a body. Descartes realizes that, “..I have a body, which is ill disposed when I feel pain, which needs to eat and drink when I have feelings of hunger or thirst etc.”(Descartes 159). Because of these feeling that Descartes has and because God is not an evil deceiver than Descartes is indeed lodged in a body and is an entire entity with it. Descartes finally analyzes his third doubt. He now has the ability to distinguish between being awake and dreaming. When we are awake, Descartes states, are mind flows in an uninterrupted, continuous sequence.

When we are dreaming, our mind does not flow in a consistent, and undisturbed sequence. When a person has a break in the consistency of events, they are dreaming. ..when I perceive things which I clearly know both the place they come from and that in which they are, and the time at which they appear to me, and when, without any interruption, I can link the perception I have of them with the whole of the rest of my life, I am fully assured that it is not in sleep that I am perceiving them but while I am awake(Descartes 168) After establishing certainty to his doubts, Descartes states, “And I must reject all the doubts of the last few days as hyperbolic and ridiculous, particularly the general uncertainty about sleep, which I could not distinguish for a wakeful state..”(Descartes 168). With that Descartes concludes his meditations and uncertainties. Although Descartes makes a sound argument there were some people that disagreed with his theories. One of those people was John Locke.

The beliefs of Locke, who was an empiricists, were similar to those of the Sophist during the time of Socrates. He argued that when a person was born their mind was empty. A person obtained knowledge through experiences. He also felt that if a person misinterpreted an experience it could lead to doubt or skepticism. Locke tries to prove Descartes wrong by saying that there are no innate ideas.

He states that by understanding our own mind we can deter doubt. Locke proposes three separate possibilities about truth. The first is that there is no such thing as truth. The second is that there is no way to obtain truth. The third reason is that we can understand implied things but not be absolutely certain about them. Locke believed that we never deal with certainty and everyday we deal with possibility. ..and it will be unpardonable, as well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue the advantage of our knowledge and neglect to improve it to ends for which it has given us, because there are some things that are set out of the reach of it.(Locke 57).

Locke states that not all innate ideas come from “natural ability”. He says that a universal consent does not prove innate ideas. They could arise from experience. Locke supports this theory by saying that innate ideas are neither in children nor idiots. If these ideas were innate then everyone would have them.

He further states that mathematical truths are learned from experience and are not innate ideas. Descartes and Locke were two men with completely different views. They each set out to prove their own existence in a different fashion. Although they do not agree with each other, each one of them presents a clear and intelligent argument. It is these arguments that have encouraged the human race to consider the possibility of existence long after the death of Descartes and Locke.

People will continue to debate their viewpoints for years to come and maybe, one day we will know the meaning of existence. Philosophy.

Related Posts