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Importance of God in Descartes’ philosophy

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René Descartes was born in 1596 at La Haye. He continued life up until the year 1650 when he was 54. He claimed that his education did not give him any substance at all but only mathematics had given him certain knowledge. In his belief, he joined a group of seventeenth century philosophers including Bacon, Hobbes and Locke. In 1618 he went to Holland to serve in the army of Prince Maurice of Nassau. It is as a highly touted philosopher that he is most likely known today.

  “He attempted to restart philosophy in a fresh direction. For example, his philosophy refused to accept the Aristotelian and Scholastic traditions that had dominated philosophical thought throughout the medieval period; it attempted to fully integrate philosophy with the “new” sciences; and Descartes changed the relationship between philosophy and theology. Such new directions for philosophy made Descartes into a revolutionary figure.” (Burnham, & Fieser).

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As we all must know, Descartes refused to accept the authority of philosophers before him and at the same time, he also did not accept the obviousness of his own senses.

In his search for a higher wisdom for philosophy, he stated that whatever could be doubted must be rejected. He decided to trust only what is evidently viewed as something which is beyond the shadow of a doubt. In this way, he removed the thick layers of ideals and opinions that blocked his view of the truth. Descartes is quite famous for his quote “I think therefore, I am”. Through this essay, this researcher will try to understand, explain and construe God’s importance on Descartes’ philosophies and the relevance of God Himself to the kind of philosophy René Descartes has.

First, the in an English translation by John Veitch, 1901, in the first part of Meditations, Descartes wrote “Nevertheless, the belief that there is a God who is all powerful, and who created me, such as I am, has, for a long time, obtained steady possession of my mind. How, then, do I know that he has not arranged that there should be neither earth, nor sky, nor any extended thing, nor figure, nor magnitude, nor place, providing at the same time, however, for [the rise in me of the perceptions of all these objects, and] the persuasion that these do not exist otherwise than as I perceive them?” (David B. Manley, Charles S. Taylor). As understood or perceived to be, this early part of Descartes writing somehow implies that there is a possibility that God was just created by the mind of humans who want to have a higher authority over them. To add more information to this explanation, we must believe that Descartes was a rationalist philosopher. Rationalists are philosophers who prove everything by reason alone, because they think that ‘the senses’ are somewhat imperfect and unreliable. “We think that “God exists” can only be proven by using both senses and reason, but Descartes’ ‘proved’ the existence of God with reason alone. An imperfect being, like me, cannot think up the notion of a perfect being”. ( Gijsbers, 3). Descartes actually believes that something can not come from nothing, that he has an idea of a supremely perfect being and these ideas provide refutation of anyone who is skeptic about God’s existence. If we were to think that we are something, then we are to think as well that we have a scientific matter. The topic that matter is anything that has mass and occupies space comes to mind at this time. Since humans occupy space and has mass, scientifically, it was created by evolution and the science of evolution. Simply speaking, Descartes cannot be charged with circularity or being repetitive with his own ideas. If Descartes were to be circular then he is not making sense at all. However, some claim that he is a man of reason. The skeptic’s against him will not get off any ground to question him. “It’s not a legitimate doubt, because it can be refuted from within Descartes’ belief system”. (Louis Loeb). This means that Descartes also questions his own reasoning to prove the veracity of his own beliefs. In meditation two of Descartes’ belief, he wrote, “Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something”. (Oregon). In this phrase, Descartes is stating that humans exist and therefore can be deceived by them as well. This statement affirms that nobody is perfect and that we can all make mistakes. He also affirms that humans are beings that exist.

After doubting himself, Descartes begins to accept the possibility of God’s existence. In Meditation III, number 4, Descartes wrote, “it was for no other reason than because it occurred to me that a God might perhaps have given me such a nature as that I should be deceived, even respecting the matters that appeared to me the most evidently true”. This statement affirms that logically, if we were to think that we are all God’s creations, then we know as much as we believe that God controls even our own set emotion to deceive ourselves.

In the fourth meditation of René Descartes, he called it “of Truth and Error”. This one deals with the more focused concentration on the idea that God does exist and that He is a being that does not deceive the mind. “And now I seem to discover a path that will conduct us from the contemplation of the true God, in whom are contained all the treasures of science and wisdom, to the knowledge of the things in the universe”. This as it may seem to us is something that is just an extension of what Descartes really wanted to prove about God’s existence. After further analysis, it will slowly hit home that even though Descartes has other philosophies, the final destination of his insights tell us that we are thinking and moving beings, able to decipher the existence of a higher entity. Although some may claim to be atheists or non-believers due to the fact that Science and Religion are two poles apart, René Descartes came up with different meditations to bridge the distance between two different worlds. Further into the context, he also stated “…for if all I possess be from God, and if he planted in me no faculty that is deceitful, it seems to follow that I can never fall into error”. This phrase, after careful deliberation, tells us that in most cases, we as humans are somehow guided by a more powerful force and this force is an entity that teaches all of us what is right and wrong. The same goes for people who do not believe in the existence of God. For atheists, this insight applies well in the sense that the reason why they had become atheists is because they know how to think and feel. If people do not have the gift of insight that the mind registers in every experience, then there really is no higher being with a higher purpose that guides us. And the reason why we are guided is because God himself has a purpose for us.

The purpose of God is to bring us into a higher consciousness or a more aware existence until we become who we must become. Not to stray away from the point, this research will quote another philosophy from Descartes. From his insights on: Of the essence of material things; and again, of God; that He exists— “It is certain that I no less find the idea of a God in my consciousness, that is the idea of a being supremely perfect, than that of any figure or number whatever…But though, in truth, I cannot conceive a God unless as existing” (Descartes 7. 5th Meditation). These phrases spoken and written by Descartes himself inform us the basic idea that beings in our lives are not going to enter our consciousness unless they exist as something real.

In his time, it may be probable to think that Descartes could have come up with the idea to prove a Deity’s existence was because it was an easier way to prove that there is no God. And that he may be trying to escape being called a heretic in a world of believers. However, in my opinion, his target audience to engage with is the group of non-believers and people who do not believe in the existence of God. In this insight, R. Descartes realizes that he was not inventing the idea of God’s existence— “And thus I very clearly see that the certitude and truth of all science depends on the knowledge alone of the true God, insomuch that, before I knew him, I could have no perfect knowledge of any other thing. And now that I know him, I possess the means of acquiring a perfect knowledge respecting innumerable matters, as well relative to God himself.” (Descartes 16. 5th Meditation). Moving further, this essay will now discuss the final meditation of this great philosopher. In the 6th meditation entitled “Of the existence of material things, and of the real distinction between the mind and body of man” Descartes wrote “But I am accustomed to imagine many other objects besides that corporeal nature which is the object of the pure mathematics, as, for example, colors, sounds, tastes, pain, and the like, although with less distinctness; and, inasmuch as I perceive these objects much better by the senses, through the medium of which and of memory…”. In this idea, the great philosopher is speaking to us that although the human mind is capable of imagining things and objects, he believes that in order for all of us to more carefully have the edge to ascertain them, it is proper that we should know what sense-perception is, and ask ourselves whether those ideas are just apprehended by imagination or consciousness. Descartes believes that the power of the imagination is different from the power of conceiving. In my  opinion, when humans imagine things, it is possible that these things are not real. The power of the imagination is that it can create something out of nothing like mythical creatures or animated beings and fearful creatures. The power of conceiving is similar to accepting a specific thought. Mother Mary, for example, conceived without sin,  accepted the Holy Spirit without actual copulation. This suggests that Mother Mary is capable of accepting the Divine power because she has been an epitome of divinity as she was chosen by God Himself. The connection of this to the idea of conceiving is that it is an act far greater than just imagination because it involves truth with evidence presented, “…because I know that all which I clearly and distinctly conceive can be produced by God exactly as I conceive it…” (Descartes 9. 6th Meditation).

Finally, in conclusion, the importance of God in all of Descartes’ philosophies is very conspicuous that he depends all his knowledge to God himself. In sum, this great philosopher respects both material and immaterial things like the sun’s size and figure, or the colors of the world. These are things that our mind has conceived. God is no deceiver, because aside from the fact that His existence has already been argued upon and proven by this philosopher, He is also, according to him, the provider of all the gifts, talents and intellectual abilities that he has. God is also the provider of the Earth, nature, and all things in general. “I now understand nothing more than God himself, or the order and disposition established by God in created things; and by my nature in particular I understand the assemblage of all that God has given me…” (Descartes 11. 6th Meditation).

This proves that even a great scientist like René Descartes believes that there is a God and that we are all under His grace and mercy. The relevance of God in Descartes’ philosophy is dominant in itself that truly, God exists and this is beyond question already because of the reasoning he had resolved to conceive for himself. To paraphrase the full meditation of Descartes in this paper would stretch the topic longer than it should be. As I have lightly scratched the surface of this subject by quoting some of the philosopher’s words, I have also learned that even though skeptics were always at an arm’s length with their disbelief on rationalism, the solid reasoning of Descartes was a good wall against an array of detractors.   I think Descartes had a divine intervention or an epiphany of some higher power while he was documenting his life’s works about God and man. The importance of God in Descartes’ philosophy, in my opinion is to probe the truth within our hearts that God was not just conjured up by anyone.


Burnham, Douglas. Fieser, James (2006). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Retrieved June 2, 2008, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/descarte.htm#H3

Gijsbers, Victor (2005). Theistic and Atheistic Arguments.

Retrieved June 3, 2008 http://www.positiveatheism.org/faq/descartes.htm.

Manley, David B. Taylor, Charles S. (1996). Descartes’ Meditations.

Retrieved June 2, 2008, from http://www.wright.edu/cola/descartes/



Loeb, Louis. The Cartesian Circle. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (200-35)

Retrieved June 3, 2008 from http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/descart1.htm.


Cite this Importance of God in Descartes’ philosophy

Importance of God in Descartes’ philosophy. (2016, Oct 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/importance-of-god-in-descartes-philosophy/

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