Descartes’ Cartesian Circle as a Misinterpretation Sample Essay

The Ontological Argument for The Existence of God can be traced back to St. Anselm. Although refuted by several philosophers since. such as St. Thomas Aquinas. it was reinstated by Rene Descartes in his “Meditations on First Philosophy” . The Ontological Argument goes as such: The nature of God is that of a supremely perfect being. Being is necessary to flawlessness. To deny any flawlessness of God is to misconstrue the term “God” . It follows so. anyone who can grok the thought of God can be led to see that God exists. Descartes Ontological Argument for the being of God has been accused of round logical thinking. this is frequently known as the “Cartesian Circle” . However. in this paper. I will sketch Descartes’ Ontological Argument for the being of God and I will demo that Descartes is non in fact guilty of round logical thinking.

Descartes’ logical thinking is in the signifier of a reductio ad absurdum. He begins by doubting everything in the first speculation. He supposes that an evil mastermind has coaxed him into sing world as true. when in fact all external things are “bedeviling frauds of ( his ) dreams” ( p. 16 ) . Descartes so arrives at the celebrated decision of the cogito ergo amount “I think. therefore I am” . Therefore he arrives at the decision that while he may be able to doubt all other things he can non doubt that he is a intelligent thing: “let anyone who can make so lead on me ; so long as I think that I am something. he will ne’er convey about that I am nothing” ( p. 16 ) . This is the first thing that the Meditator can comprehend clearly and clearly.

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The Meditator continues on his journey to take uncertainty: “in order to take even this little ground for uncertainty. every bit shortly as the chance arises I must analyze whether there is a God. and. if there is. whether he can be a deceiver” ( p. 25 ) . If there is a supreme cheat. so it can be shown that everything we know is false except “the cogito” . However. if God’s being is proven. so we know our thoughts are non delusory. God can non be fallacious for that is non a feature of a “supremely perfect being. ” In this manner Descartes relies on God’s being to set up clear and distinguishable perceptual experiences as verified. This is how the “Cartesian Circle” begins to be drawn. Further troubles come to visible radiation. nevertheless. if we examine God as self-caused. He infers this by analyzing the nature of thoughts and ideas. In the undermentioned subdivision of this paper I will exemplify how the God’s nonsubjective world leads to the decision of his being a first cause.

Descartes distinguishes between different beginnings of ideas. The first type are unconditioned thoughts which come from within us. The 2nd type are adventitious thoughts. these come from our centripetal perceptual experiences. The 3rd type are those which we invent. Descartes realizes that all thoughts are manners of idea and in this sense they have equal “formal reality” . However. what these ideas represent are non in any sense equal and hence different types of ideas have a different “objective reality” . For illustration a human being has much more “objective reality” than a lead. Thus it follows that the thought of God has much more nonsubjective world than the thought of a human being. Descartes so points out that all thoughts must be born out of something with a greater nonsubjective world than itself. This can non travel on everlastingly though: “although one thought can possibly publish from another. however no infinite reasoning backward is permitted here ; finally some first thought must be reached whose cause is a kind of archetype…” ( p. 28 ) . Thus the thought of a first cause. or an “unmoved mover” . comes into consequence.

The Meditator establishes that the thought of God is the most clear and distinguishable thought of all. and that it contains more nonsubjective world than any other thought. He asserts that the thought of God can non be adventitious or invented. and that hence. it must be unconditioned. The meditator must hold been created by God with the thought of God in him. Descartes writes that it is “the grade of the craftsman impressed upon his work…” ( p. 28 ) . This is made so. harmonizing to the Meditator. since we have already established that what is more perfect can non come into being out of what is less perfect. Descartes does non merely instantly accept this. nevertheless.

What if. asks the Meditator. the thought of God did in fact come from within me? What if I am a perfect being who can gestate an thought with the colossal nonsubjective world that is God and I have merely non yet reached my full potency? The Meditator addresses these uncertainties by demoing that potency contradicts flawlessness. Perfection indicates something that is existent and complete. Therefore. the Meditator is non “a potentially perfect being” because this leads us to a contradiction. The thought of God must be caused by something that is infinite and actual…not something potency. Merely God is such a being. Not merely is God the original cause of all thoughts. but God is the original cause of God himself.

Despite the Prima facie soundness of Descartes’ statement. this cogent evidence of God runs the hazard of round logical thinking. Descartes claims that whatever one clearly and clearly perceives must be true because God is non a cheat. He claims besides that God must be because we can clearly and clearly perceive the construct of God. In other words. if God is the cause of all thoughts. and God is non a fallacious being because he is perfect. than all thoughts must be true. Therefore if we have a clear and distinguishable thought of God his being must be. since God would non lead on us into believing that there is a God at all. This appears to be a really round statement so.

Antoine Arnauld is among the first bookmans to indicate out the mistake in Descartes’ concluding. In the “Fourth Set of Objections. ” he states:
“I have one further concern. viz. how the writer avoids concluding in a circle when he says that we are certain that what we clearly and clearly perceive is true merely because God exists. But we can be certain that God exists merely because we clearly and clearly perceive this. Hence. before we can be certain that God exists. we ought to be able to be certain that whatever we perceive clearly and obviously is true. [ 1 ] ” However we may oppugn as to whether this is the right reading of Descartes. Several bookmans believe that it is error-some and that the right reading of Descartes does non weave him up in the Cartesian circle.

Descartes himself answers to Arnauld’s review and says that he makes “a differentiation between what we in fact perceive clearly and what we remember holding perceived on a old juncture. [ 2 ] ” This forces one to re-evaluate Descartes’ epistemology. Possibly we ought to read The Meditations in a manner which God is non the verification of clear and distinguishable thoughts. but instead a precaution against uncertainty. Thus the statement would look more like this: We know God exists because we clearly and clearly perceive the thought of God. And we can re-affirm our clear and distinguishable thoughts in retrospect once we prove that God exists. Therefore alternatively of reading the speculations as God being the beginning of all cognition. we ought to read it as clear and distinguishable perceptual experiences as the beginning of cognition. This reformulation of Descartes’ epistemology offers a buffer against The Cartesian Circle statement.

In the predating paper I have outlined Descartes’ Ontological Argument for the being of God. By doubting everything. Descartes arrives at the “Cogito” . He so establishes what can be considered as “clear and distinguishable ideas” . He shows that God is the most clear and distinguishable thought of all as He has the greatest nonsubjective world. Therefore to hold an thought of God as flawlessness it must be true that he exists for flawlessness is a characteristic of being. I have pointed out reviews of Descartes’ concluding and provided a defence for Descartes. Those readers who accuse him of handbill logical thinking may possibly necessitate to read Descartes Meditations under a new visible radiation.


Descartes. Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. 3rd. Capital of indiana: Hackett. 1641. Print.

“Cartesian circle. ” Encyclop?dia Britannica. Encyclop?dia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclop?dia Britannica Inc. . 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. .

Kremer. Elmar. “Antoine Arnauld” . The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( Fall 2012 Edition ) . Edward N. Zalta ( ed. ) . URL = .

. Broughten. Janet. Skepticisim and the Cartesian Circle. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. Vol 14. No. 4. 1984. pp. 593-615. Uniform resource locator: hypertext transfer protocol: //www. jstor. org/stable/40231391

Descartes. Rene. The Philosophic Hagiographas of Descartes. 2. Great Britian:
Cambridge University Press. 1984. pp. 142-246. Print.

[ 1 ] Descartes. Rene. The Philosophic Hagiographas of Descartes. 2. Great Britian: Cambridge University Press. 1984. 142. Print [ 2 ] Descartes. Rene. The Philosophic Hagiographas of Descartes. 2. Great Britian: Cambridge University Press. 1984. 246. Print.


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