Descartes Proof of God's Existence: the Evil Against the Light
In “Meditations I” Rene Descartes, the first modern philosopher discusses that by doubting, he can question the very essence of what his opinions are based on to prevent the deception from the evil demon and presents the argument that he is being deceived by an evil demon. He reaches this through his realization that if he wanted to develop something stable and lasting, he had to destroy everything and start afresh due to the falsehood he accepted as a child. He had to verify the accuracy of everything by doubting it. He mentions how the senses play a role in the deception. He goes on a bit further and discusses whether the real world and a dreaming state can be deciphered. In this Descartes proof of God's existence essay, I will explain why Descartes believes that there is an evil demon who works as hard as he can to deceive him, so from this viewpoint about evil and demon we will be able to understand why God is real. I'll argue in favor of Descartes's theory because all his reasons are compelling and persuasive.
In his book “Meditation I” Descartes lays out his building blocks leading up to his theory. He says it would take too long to consider all his beliefs, so he considered broadly categorizing those beliefs. He makes it abundantly clear that sensation and perception are inaccurate and should not be trusted fully. The deceiving senses, the dreaming state, and the deceiving God all tie to the evil demon that Descartes mentioned. He says that the sky, air, earth, color, shape, and sound are just illusions that the demon uses to entrap his fraudulent ideas on sensation and perception. He views himself not as having hands, eyes, flesh, blood, and senses, but as having the delusive ideology that he actually does. He mentions that our perception of far and small objects is false and should be doubted. He mentioned how things are perceived from afar and how they are perceived at a closer view are different. What else can be the reason for this other than an evil teaming toying with the senses?
This evil demon or “evil genius'' of utmost power and cunning is known to have the power to create a fantasy of the external world, so he has focused his energies on deceiving Descartes. He states that everything he was thought to believe was through the senses. But occasionally he is also deceived by them. So he cannot completely trust the senses. I fully agree with this statement because there are unexplainable events that occur periodically. For example, in my psychology class, my professor showed us an image of the British flag in a different color, rather than the known blue, red, and white. He instructed us to stare at the image for a few seconds and blink. When I blinked I saw the actual colors of the British flag behind my eyelids. My senses tricked me into seeing the actual flag. We depend on our senses daily for survival. However, there are times when it throws you off.
Moreover, the second broad category Descartes uses to support his theory is the dreaming state. He says that there is no definitive transition between reality and the dreaming state. Since dreams are similar to reality nobody can really decide whether they are awake or dreaming. Descartes says although the senses mislead he cannot always doubt them completely. He presents the idea that he is fully clothed and sitting. When in fact he is lying in bed naked and under the covers. He uses his own experience to convey how dreams can feel so real. Which makes him wonder whether he is even asleep. I agree with his theory of the dreaming state because there are times when I am dreaming and it feels so real. But honestly, I have always wondered whether our dreams are actually our reality. Nobody can decipher whether we are living in the real world or living in our dreams. This shows that beliefs supported by the senses are liable to doubt. Therefore the evil demon is using his elusive power to play with our perception.
Furthermore, Descartes expands his argument with the deceiving God theory. He believes that our deception might be caused by an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God, which can be a bit contradicting to his argument. However, this deceptive God theory could just be another illusion placed in by the evil demons. As human beings, we can be easily deceived by a perfect God because of our imperfection. Descartes is saying that if we can agree on the image of God, being who is outside space, matter, and time. With unlimited power. All-knowing and the creator of all things. Then we can agree that He has the power to deceive us.
Descartes dwells on this thought that his creator would deceive him. I am also pondering on why our creator would deceive us. He is supremely good and only wants what is good for us. What would be the essence of deceiving your creation? This only makes it even more convincing that indeed the evil demon is deceiving us rather than God. He is “evil” after all. The reason the evil demon may have for deceiving Descartes about God is that accusing God as a deceiver is a direct blow to the glory of God, which is also blasphemous.
Descartes is a rational thinker. He doesn’t doubt simple things which are geometry and arithmetics. He believes composite things which are astronomy, medicine and physics should be doubted. As a rationalist, his knowledge comes from reasoning. He observes every possible reason for deception. He says that whether we are asleep or awake two plus three is always five and a square never has more than four sides therefore it is impossible to falsify those facts. Due to the misleading power of the evil genius Descartes is questioning the simple things. He isn’t sure whether two plus is in fact five, or if there are simple things. Whenever Descartes breaks away from his old way of thinking, he is plunged back in and I think it is all the doing of the evil demon. He wants to have Descartes in his grasp at all times.
Others may believe that there is no evil demon deceiving him and that it is Descarte thinking deeply on how our senses work, on how we perceive things, and why dreams feel so real that it is difficult to decipher from reality. They may claim that there is no evil demon because we all just exist, no higher being is trying to mislead us into second-guessing our beliefs. However, there is in fact an evil genius deceiving us with our senses, and our dreams, and falsifying that God is the one deceiving us.
As I mentioned before the demon is evil, he is abusing his power by deceiving us. His deception pushed Descartes to question the goodness of the creator, God. As if he was trying to cause a problem. But Descartes realized that God is too good to deceive His creation. Descartes says that it would seem out of line for God to only create him just to deceive him always since he believes that God is good. Although He is all-knowing and has the power to do whatever He wants to. Deceiving His creation is not a part of it.
In conclusion, the evil demon plays an important role in the first meditation because it allows Descartes to use his method of doubt. The method of doubt is not constructive but rather destructive. Its purpose is to destroy old beliefs and rebuild knowledge and understanding with rational thoughts and build a strong foundation. Once the evil demon was mentioned Descartes was able to disregard all his old beliefs and was able to realize that the evil demon is behind all the false information he was told as a child. Due to the fact that our senses can be deceived by the evil demon, then we cannot depend on it to be our source of knowledge and truth. Descartes comes to a conclusion regardless of his knowledge of how deceiving the evil demon is.