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In Meditation Four of his treatise Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes continues from his conclusion in Meditation Two: namely, that the human mind is better known than the body. He concludes that it is the intellect alone that proves the existence of the self. Or as…
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Download file to see previous pages He begins by reiterating that there are only a few things he can say with certainty about the human body, a few more about the mind, and yet more about God.
His first assumption is that God would never deceive him: God being perfect and all fraud and deception being imperfect in some way or the other. He proceeds to suggest that his own sense of judgment, given him by the perfect, undeceiving God, should not commit errors if used correctly. By this logic, Descartes and indeed every human being should not even be capable of erring. To explain this obvious fallacy in his reasoning, Descartes concludes that in the “Great Chain of Being”, the complete perfection of God on one end and the total absence of perfection on the other, man must lie somewhere in between. Error is considered not a negative action, but the absence of the positive.
He suggests a few other possibilities also, but pertinent to the scope of this paper is the Free Will versus Understanding theory. Descartes contends that neither the will nor the understanding is the cause of errors; it is only when the will is not restricted that mistakes occur:
Whence, then, spring my errors? They arise from this cause alone, that I do not restrain the will, which is of much wider range than the understanding, within the same limits, but extend it even to things I do not understand, and as the will is of itself indifferent to such, it readily falls into error and sin by choosing the false in room of the true, and evil instead of good.
The root of error lies therefore in the gift of Free Will bestowed on us. As we are allowed to choose, to make decisions, and not compelled by God to live out pre-ordained situations, we are also given the option of making mistakes, of erring: something that the perfect God of Descartes is incapable of doing, by His very definition.
Although occasional errors are inevitable when one has free will, no person intentionally commits them. Even if the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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