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Old 01-17-2002, 02:03 PM   #1
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tiny question on descartes/logic/philosophy

Hi hi. I've been doing lots of wondering this week, so, apologies if you get foray-fatigue. I was reading up on Descartes today and his deductions on the existence of God. The proof for God's existence, according to him, goes briefly like this:

We are imperfect humans therefore it is impossible for us to conceive of a perfect God if a perfect God didn't exist. We can't conceive of anything that we are not a part of or anything that is not a part of this world. For example, if I told you to imagine an animal that doesn't exist, you'd most probably imagine just that, but your animal would have combined attributes of existing animals (a chicken with fish scales and a snout). You couldn't think of an animal that is truly out of this world.

Ok, this is only one (of two) of his deductions, but it's this point that I want to talk about.

I was just wondering, if it is true that humans can't imagine 'a thing out of nothing' without referring to things that already exist,

how did we come up with the square, since squares and straight lines do not exist in Nature? We are the only creatures who build things in squares (btw, many times, squares aren't smart architectural designs).


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Old 01-17-2002, 02:16 PM   #2
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Ah yes...the old question, "did man create God?"

Personally, I believe that God exists, but that our conceptions of the all-perfect God are in fact an imperfect approximation to who God really is. Confusing enough for you?

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Old 01-17-2002, 02:29 PM   #3
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That is interesting; you've given me food for thought.

I have to ask, why do you think our perception of God as being perfect, imperfect?

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Old 01-17-2002, 04:00 PM   #4
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Uh, what I meant is that I (being a Christian) believe in a perfect God, but that what we think of as "perfect" is not necessarily a completely accurate description of God. (I re-read what I wrote and realized it seemed much more controversial than I intended.)

For example, I believe that God is completely just and completely merciful, but anybody who says that they completely understand how God pulls this off is fooling himself.

[This message has been edited by speedracer (edited 01-17-2002).]
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Old 01-18-2002, 03:19 AM   #5
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How can a concept or vision of God be considered perfect or imperfect? By whose judgement are we assesing such a notion?

If our minds, are indeed, imperfect then our perceptions will be imperfect, however, will God be imperfect as well? After all, we being imperfect would create imperfect beings such as robots who would naturally have faults, it is only natural to assume the same of God. So, using our logic of imperfect and perfect, God could be both rather convincingly, depending on which logic path we take.

Therefore, in order to assess what is imperfect and perfect, we MUST know what these are. Do we really know? Why ARE we considered imperfect, and by whom?

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Old 01-18-2002, 03:45 AM   #6
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Descartes's so-called proof of God is a classic example of one of the more common logical fallacies, namely begging the question (or circular argument). Basically, Descartes's argument can be boiled down to God exists becaue God says he exists. The conclusion is essentially the same as the premise.

Naturally, that doesn't work, and the argument is not sound (or valid).

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Old 01-18-2002, 12:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Anthony:

Therefore, in order to assess what is imperfect and perfect, we MUST know what these are. Do we really know? Why ARE we considered imperfect, and by whom?

Ant.
Yeah, I knew it would come to this. I didn't think I could say what perfection (omniscience?) is since I'm clearly not qualified. However, I know what imperfection is.

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Old 01-18-2002, 12:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Not George Lucas:
Basically, Descartes's argument can be boiled down to God exists becaue God says he exists. The conclusion is essentially the same as the premise.

Naturally, that doesn't work, and the argument is not sound (or valid).

I think you are referring to his *other* Deduction (of God's existence) which basically goes like this:

God is the greatest or most perfect being.
A being who exists is greater or more perfect than a being who does not exist.
Therefore, God must exist.

Now, this argument for God makes more sense than the first one I brought up. I do not have a problem with this one, unless you folks do?

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Old 01-18-2002, 12:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by foray:
I think you are referring to his *other* Deduction (of God's existence) which basically goes like this:

God is the greatest or most perfect being.
A being who exists is greater or more perfect than a being who does not exist.
Therefore, God must exist.

Now, this argument for God makes more sense than the first one I brought up. I do not have a problem with this one, unless you folks do?

foray
I think this argument was due to Anselm. It actually runs like this:

1. It is greater to exist both in mind and in reality than in the mind.
2. God is the greatest possible being.
3. God exists in the mind.
4. If God did not exist in reality, he would not be the greatest possible being.
5. Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.

The problem is that this only proves that we must necessarily believe that God, as defined above, exists. Not too satisfactory.

[This message has been edited by speedracer (edited 01-18-2002).]
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Old 01-19-2002, 03:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by speedracer:
I think this argument was due to Anselm. It actually runs like this:

1. It is greater to exist both in mind and in reality than in the mind.
2. God is the greatest possible being.
3. God exists in the mind.
4. If God did not exist in reality, he would not be the greatest possible being.
5. Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.

The problem is that this only proves that we must necessarily believe that God, as defined above, exists. Not too satisfactory.

[This message has been edited by speedracer (edited 01-18-2002).]
It's funny that this theory should come up here. I'm going to study philosophy next year when I go to Uni, so I got this book out the library about it, and I was reading about this theory. This is how it was explained in the book -

"Imagine...the greatest, most perfect being possible. If the being you think of has every desirable attribute except that of existence, it is not the greatest or most perfect possible, because obviously a being that exists is both greater and more perfect than one that does not. Therefore the greatest, most perfect possible being must exist."

Now to me, there seems to be something wrong with this theory, but I just can't figure out what. It just doesn't seem right, although I can't find anything wrong with it. I've been thinking about it for a few days, and it just messes with my mind. Blarg!

Anyway, I don't like all these theories about God existing or not existing. Personally, I do believe He exists, but I don't need any theory to prove it to me. I just kind of 'know', if you know what I mean. I just have a kind of gut feeling that he does exist.

And then there's another theory, the cosmological argument according to my book. And that argues that something (the universe) can't come from nothing, so something (God) must have created it. But the weakness of this argument is that something must also have created God, and then something else must have created that, etc etc........

Now I agree with the first part of that argument, but not the second part. I don't think anyhting created God. but then how did He get there? I don't know.

I just have to give up thinking about things like this after a while - I get way too confused.

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Old 01-22-2002, 08:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by foray:
God is the greatest or most perfect being.
A being who exists is greater or more perfect than a being who does not exist.
Therefore, God must exist.

Now, this argument for God makes more sense than the first one I brought up. I do not have a problem with this one, unless you folks do?

foray
No this is the one I have heard about when I did Philosophy and this makes more sense. Was the square and straight line thing not to do with innate ideas? Just like a perfect circle. In real life no such thing exists however we can perceive one and that is and innate idea. I can't remember if Decarte believed in innate ideas or not though.
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Old 01-22-2002, 08:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by speedracer:
I think this argument was due to Anselm. It actually runs like this:

1. It is greater to exist both in mind and in reality than in the mind.
2. God is the greatest possible being.
3. God exists in the mind.
4. If God did not exist in reality, he would not be the greatest possible being.
5. Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.

The problem is that this only proves that we must necessarily believe that God, as defined above, exists. Not too satisfactory.

[This message has been edited by speedracer (edited 01-18-2002).]
It's a classic case of if you take the premises as FACT no fault can be found but if you don't believe the premises the who thing falls through.
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Old 01-22-2002, 09:58 AM   #13
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UV, are you talking about Plato's innate ideas? I don't think Descartes is associated with innate ideas usually, anyway.

Why do you say there is no perfect circle? A bubble is a perfect sphere because of the even pressure all round inside.

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Old 01-22-2002, 07:28 PM   #14
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Descartes tried to use geometrical proofs to try to "solve" God. I always thought that was a curious way to say it.

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Old 01-24-2002, 02:21 PM   #15
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And in doing so, he "invented" analytical geometry, making thousands of high school students hate him for years to come.
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