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Summary and Argument against Meditations on First Philosophy by Descartes

Updated on August 28, 2012
René Descartes
René Descartes

Meditation Four: Initial Arguments

In meditation four of Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes states the overly simplified conclusion that if God is perfect and since God created man, man should also be perfect by definition of perfection. Descartes then goes on to give several accounts to how God, being a perfect being, can create something that is able to err. These reasons for why and how humans, being created by God, can err are very circular and illogical. These are very same type of arguments that Descartes set out not to use to prove the existence of God and human beings being created by a perfect God.

Descartes's Arguments

Like many of his other overly simple conclusions he draws on to represent the average thinking man, he begins to tear down this over simplification, immediately after stating it, using his philosophical and logical reasoning. Descartes reasons that the opposite of God is complete nothingness, or the lack of anything good, that represents the opposite of complete goodness, which only God possesses. Since humans are not God and they are not nothingness, they must be something in between. Since we do not have the reasoning capacity that God does and since we are something in between complete evil and complete good (nothingness and God) we must participate in mistakes since we are not God.

Descartes goes on to explain that this is all well and good, but God surely could make us unable to err if it wanted to. So Descartes continues to explain that God probably created the ability for us to err for a reason we can’t understand (to fulfill our perfect place in the universe), for we are not God.

The final reason Descartes gives for our ability to err is that we were given the ability to do whatever we want (free-will) by God. This gift inherently is not the ability to err, but when we misuse our free-will is when we err. So, in Descartes eyes, God did not create imperfect beings, he just gave them the ability to be imperfect for reasons we can never understand.

Arguments Against Descartes

These reasons and arguments are a far cry from Descartes original intent to logically reason and prove that whatever he is saying is true. There are many reasons why these arguments are circular and do not reason logically. First and foremost, since God is perfect, anything he creates must also be perfect. Descartes doesn’t argue that humans are not imperfect in the grand scheme of things; we just have the ability to err. Since we can err we must be imperfect. We can be deceived without thinking we need to suspend our free will and make a decision about things that seem very clear to us. I would think that this freedom to choose and choose falsely would be the definition of imperfection. It may appear that the faculty to choose is a perfect gift from a perfect being; however, we are required to use this gift. It is not something we can turn off. Therefore, God not only made us able to err and not just to choose to err, but inevitable that we err. The ability to err is an imperfection, not just a product of free will. Since God also has free-will to create as it wills, God has created something imperfect (humans). By definition, God must be perfect to exist. Since God, by this definition, isn’t perfect, it doesn’t exist, logically speaking.

Another part of Descartes argument, which is impossible to argue against, is the circular argument that we don’t know why god created us imperfect, and there must be a perfect reasoning behind it. This is similar to saying that an infinitely perfect being faulted, but it was probably for a perfect reason because the being is perfect, incomprehensible, and also infallible. This argument is a perfectly circular argument that can’t be argued against since one reason just leads to the other. God can’t fault because he is perfect, God also can’t create something that is imperfect, since that would mean God is imperfect, so God created us perfectly because it is also perfect. This is all circular reasoning and doesn’t really use any facts or to prove the existence of God. This only shows that we couldn’t understand why God gave us the ability to err (to be imperfect) by definition of the bible.


These two arguments, that I presented, show that instead of Descartes stepping away from the bible, and reasoning God out logically, he has simply stuck his beliefs into the argument when there were holes he couldn’t logically argue. I think that Descartes argument for humans being created by a perfect God are logically false and don’t stand up to the standard he set out to hold.


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    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      To Descartes, existence might come from an idea; would you think if he really would have advocated suspension of free will?