Descartes 'Argument From Past Failure'

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According to Descartes, God gave human beings senses, however, Descartes’ philosophy suggests that the senses do not represent the true natures of physical objects. This can be seen throughout Descartes’ first three meditations, as there a recurring theme that the senses are an unreliable method to grasp the true nature of physical objects. Introducing the concept of a benevolent and non-deceiving God who would not allow humans to be deceived by their senses, Descartes claims that despite all this deceit, the senses are still reliable to a certain extent and that error is due to our imperfection rather than the fault of God. In the First Meditation, Descartes calls all his beliefs and knowledge into doubt, stating that there were many instances…show more content…
This is evident through arguments such as “The Argument from Past Failures”, “The Argument from Madness” and “The Dreaming Argument”. In Descartes’ famous “Dreaming Argument” Descartes argues that “there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep.”, giving an example where he thought he was sitting next to a fireplace, unaware he was actually in bed dreaming (13). This argument challenges the idea of the senses again as it presents the idea that we can never know if what we are currently experiencing is real as we may be in a dream. Proving that there is no way to differentiate between reality and a dream, resulting in the idea that our whole life may have just been a dream, Descartes provided a counter argument to elaborate on the “Dreaming Argument” known as the “The Painting Analogy”. This analogy explains how like a painting and painter, dreams derive their material based on experiences we have while awake (13). In addition, due to dreams mainly consisting of objects and events, Descartes believed that there is no reason to doubt general beliefs as much as physical objects as 3+2 still equals 5, and a square will always have four sides (14). As a result of this, Descartes concluded that there is a degree of truth in objects we sense as those concepts must have come from somewhere,…show more content…
Descartes writes that as we were created in God’s image, we are “something intermediate between God and nothingness, or between supreme being and non-being” (38). As Descartes states that we are imperfect beings, we will undoubtedly have defects (37). These defects reside in our faculty of knowledge, our intellect, and the faculty of choice, our will (39). The intellect allows us to perceive and understand ideas and the will simply consisting of the ability to affirm, deny, pursue or avoid a choice (39). Believing that the source of human error was due to the varying scope of our will and intellect, Descartes explains how as God’s intellect is infinite, he can always will what is “Good” due to knowing everything (39). In contrast, as our intellect is finite, our decisions and choices are affected due to not being able to clearly and distinctly understand things, resulting in choices that can be deemed as “Bad”. Concluding that God is not as fault for our defects as we are not clearly and distinctly perceiving things, Descartes illustrates how he can avoid error by suspending judgements when uncertain, or only passing judgment when certain of clear and distinct

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