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From the fact that I am unable to think of a mountain without a valley, it does not follow that a mountain or a valley exist anywhere, but only that, whether they exist or not, a mountain and a valley are inseparable from one another. But from the fact that I cannot think of God except as existing, it follows that existence is inseparable from God, and for this reason he really exists.
This thread closely resembles many other threads so I won't go into the god part and will only comment on the mountain and valley portion.
Interesting. As far as I can tell (and I'm not so hot in this area, I'll admit) it looks that you are seeing it reasonably (=practical + logical), honestly, and fairly. I wonder about translation (the original would have been French, I'm assuming)? Also, I always kind of thought that a valley would require two mountains, rather than one.
Anyway, just thinking outloud here, one thing that struck me, is that I'm pretty sure all of us humans could very much agree on what a mountain would be, basically--we can see them, climb up on them, have parts of them slide down onto our houses, and we can fall off of them--valley or no valley, plain or no plain. It seems to be putting a lot of spin on it, and being unfair, to connect that with something that we cannot all agree on seeing, feeling, experiencing, and having empirical knowledge of.
I believe both proofs have been discredited, but I'd like to know them before I jump straight to the refutation.
This argument states: 'if mountain (M), then valley (V)' but allows for not-M, while 'if idea (I) then exists (G)' and since I must be true, then G is true. It seems to me to be a circular argument: essentially what Descartes is saying is that: "If I hold the idea that G is true, then G is true" insofar as he asserts that the idea of G is, partly, that G is true. So by that same token, if part of my idea of a mountain is that it exists, then it exists: the idea of something may contain, as well as properties that are true whether or not the thing exists, the truth value itself as to whether the thing exists. This seems to me to destroy Descartes' entire method, since we can say this about anything. I may have an idea of a winged horse, and that idea may contain the positive truth value of its existence, thus a winged horse exists whether or not I find one. Am I in error here?
EDIT: To put it another way, I can say that the idea of God is inseparable from his non-existence, that the idea itself contains the negative truth value of his existece. Thus since the idea is true (insofar as I have it), the existence is false. I'm not claiming this reasoning is correct, merely that it is in line with Descartes'.
Beyond the circularity of the argument, it seems to me that, accepting that the idea of God contains the truth value of his existence, this still isn't proof. If I then G allows for not-G then not-I: that is, one does not have an idea of God. Descartes claims he has an idea of God; one can simply respond that he does not: he is mistaken. His response would be that he cannot be mistaken, since he has a clear and distinct idea of God, and any judgement about a clear and distinct idea must necessarily be without error. So one can respond that he does not have a distinct and clear idea of God: he is mistaken. How would Descartes respond, do you think?
But the idea of God must contain the idea of existence. Why? Because the idea of God is the idea of the most perfect Being conceivable, and nothing can be perfect unless it exists.
Why must something exist for it to be perfect? Sounds like an assumption to me. I can't really prove the existence of my mind, I really don't have any reference point for it. I just assume that it exists because I am in use of it currently. But upon death will my mind go anywhere? It might just turn off like the light switch and not provide any more electrical impulses. So no light is on and no one is home. Can my mind be said to exist? No... And I don't think you can make the argument that something needs to exist if it is considered perfect. It's taking two idealistic words and stringing them together and calling it a fact of reality.
Why couldn't perfection be able to exist and not exist simultaneously? Seems to me to be more suiting for the word perfection. Although not a logical one but fits the word far better than HAS TO EXIST for perfection to be.
Must not X exist for it to have a property?
I never said (nor did Descartes say) that in order to exist, something must be perfect. There are lots of things that exist that are not perfect. Like me, and like you. What Descartes did say was that if a Being is perfect than that Being must exist. (Perfection is not a necessary condition of existence, but a sufficient condition of existence). And he held that because he held that existence was a perfection, or property that only perfect Beings had, and since God was a perfect being (by definition) God had to have the property of existence, and, therefore, God exists. How could something be perfect unless it existed? In fact, how could something have any property unless it exists? Must not X exist for it to have a property?
But it means assuming god is perfect not observing he is perfect.
God is perfect by definition, just as a triangle has three angles, by definition.
Well I beg to differ on this theory. A perfect being would be able to know that an imperfect being would never be able to live up to a perfect beings expectations. Neglecting such a notion would point out a flaw in that perfection.
So there would be absolutely no reason to place any expectations onto such imperfections. It is not only cruel to do it but it points out a flaw in behavior to want to.
EDIT: I felt I needed to explain myself a little more on why I make this claim. So here goes:
It would be like telling your 4 year old child to get their food if they want to eat. So you place their plate onto of a high shelf expecting that they will be able to fulfill such a task. It is cruel to do that... A parent with any sort of sense would know this yet who would do such a thing but a cruel parent?
I think you had better concentrate on Descartes's analogy between the triangle and God.
See that is my point. You are assuming that god must be perfect. I challenge that definition. Just because a triangle has three angles that makes a triangle but you can't use the same definition process for god and come to the conclusion. It doesn't work that way.
Just like I could take a piece of candy and call it a weapon if I can kill you with it. Sure I probably could find a way to kill you with a piece of candy, but does it now qualify as a weapon? No... if it does then everything qualifies as a weapon.
In another analogy, Descartes says that just as it is an essential property of a triangle that it has three angles, so, it is an essential property of God, that God exists. But that is not true of a winged horse. The idea of a winged horse does not contain the the property of existing, analogously to how the idea of a triangle must contain the property of having three angles. But the idea of God must contain the idea of existence. Why? Because the idea of God is the idea of the most perfect Being conceivable, and nothing can be perfect unless it exists. (Non-existence would be an imperfection). Therefore, God exists. And that is how I think (in fact, I am quite sure) Descartes would respond.
Sorry. I really don't see how this shows that God is not the most perfect Being. What has this to do with what a perfect being knows about an imperfect being? And, I don't understand your analogy either, nor what it has to do with the issue. I think you had better concentrate on Descartes's analogy between the triangle and God. Just as the triangle must have three angles, or it would not be a triangle, so, a perfect Being must exist, else He would not be a perfect Being.
Cheers, Ken. You've raised some points I was also interested in.
I never believed in the triangle argument. Descartes compares the relation between the essence of God and God's existence with the essence of a triangle and the fact that its angles add up to 180 degrees. This analogy is false so far as I can see, insofar as the angles of a triangle adding up to 180 degrees is part of the essence of a triangle, not a condition of its existence, i.e. a triangle (a figure with three angles adding up to 180 degrees) may be conceived but possibly not experienced.
Your specific analogy here does not seem an analogy to me. I don't see how the idea of a winged horse not containing an existence truth value is analogous to a triangle having three angles, considering that a triangle is quite clearly, by definition and etymological deduction, something that has three angles.
But your argument is very much along the lines of Descartes' first proof of God's existence, and I'm open to discuss this, so long as the focus is not detracted from his second proof. Reason being that there is a relation between the two: Descartes' poses a relation between perfection and existence such that the thing that is most perfect is most real. This in itself is not only arguable, but probably worthy of reject, but assuming this point, God's existence still does not follow, for the reason of my second argument against Descartes' second proof. And, of course, the circular argument remains. I'm quite happy to ignore this point unless discussion depends on its consideration. I'm much more interested in if the circular argument may be true.
Thanks again people!
---------- Post added at 06:29 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:16 PM ----------
Hello again Ken. Having read this, I'm wondering if my post was perhaps too subtle, or not forthright enough.
Descartes' argument is that if the idea of God, which contains his existence as true, then it follows that God's existence is true. It does not follow that since a perfect being may exist, there is a perfect being. It merely shows, if you accept such logic, that if a being is perfect, it must exist. One can state as easily as Descartes' states that God is perfect as God is not. And this is even before one approaches the question of whether that which is most perfect is most real, which is almost certainly not true.
The principle here lies in that if-mountain then-valley does not depend on mountain to be true. So while, yes, we may all have common experience of a mountain, this does not effect the above reasoning, . . .
David Hume brings up a nice counter argument that can be applied to Descartes. We are not justified in attributing more to God than we can gather from the environment. Because the world is imperfect, we cannot assume that God would be perfect. I don't know if that helps at all, but it is a good argument against the idea that God is a perfect being.