Wednesday, November 15, 2006

October 17- A Day with Descartes

A day with Descartes:
A day well spent.

I am sure that all of you have heard of the famous words of his. But do you know how they were meant? I have heard his ‘catchphrase’ many a time used in defense of some humanist raving or another, but I never checked their source.

“I think, therefore I am”

Do you know how he went on from there? He began to wonder

‘about the many other things outside of him’, and came to the conclusion that “To derive (perfection) from nothingness was manifestly impossible, and it is no less repugnant to good sense to assume that what is more perfect comes from and depends upon the less perfect than it is to assume that something comes from nothing.”

He continues,

“…it followed of necessity that there was someone else more perfect upon whom I depended and from whom I had acquired all that I possessed. For had I been all alone and independent of anything else, so that I had bestowed upon myself all that limited quantity of value which I shared with the perfect Being, I would have been able to get from myself, in the same way all the surplus which I recognizes lacking in me, and so would have been myself infinite, eternal, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, and, in sum I would possess all the perfections that I could discover in God.” He also notes “…I saw that doubt, inconsistency, sorrow and similar things could not be part of God’s nature since I was happy to be without them myself.” “….I considered that composition is an evidence of dependency and that dependency is manifestly a defect. From this I judged that it could not be a perfection in God to be composed of these two natures, and that consequently He was not so composed. But if there were in the world bodies, or even intelligences or other natures that were not wholly perfect, their being must depend on God’s power in such a way that they could not subsist without Him for a single moment.”

He decided to consider mathematics through his new method of thinking and decided

“…there was nothing in that to assure me that there was a single triangle in the world. But when I turned back to my idea of a perfect Being, on the other hand, I discovered that existence was included in the idea in the same way that the idea of a triangle contains the equality of it’s angles to two right angles, or that the idea of a sphere includes the equidistance of all it’s parts from it’s center. Perhaps, in fact, the idea of a perfect Being is even more evident. Consequently, it is at least certain that God, who is this perfect Being, exists, as any theorem of geometry could possibly be.”
He then turns to those who rely only on the material things, and dis-soppose anything spiritual, and asks them about dreams.
In dreams you can hear, see, feel, and even smell, yet they aren’t real. He concludes saying

“…I do not believe they can find any reason good enough to remove this doubt (of weather real life is just a dream too) unless they presuppose the existence of God. The very principle I took as a rule to start with….is know to be true only because God exists and because He is a perfect Being, and because everything in us comes from Him.”

I was rather surprised by this ‘progenitor of humanism’ with his philosophy “I think, therefore I am” proclaiming man as the supreme over everything because he has reason.
Or was he saying that?

No...he wasn't.
He was saying that it was not enough to reason. He was trying to tell us of the One who gave us reason. Of a Creator....of a fact.....of THE God.

I spent a day with him, and I consider it a day well spent.

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