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The Problem of Induction

Empiricist philosopher David Hume created what he called the problem of induction. This problem casts doubt on casual relations between the cause and the effect to any given event. Hume says that because we cannot know the future at all we cannot say that A causes B necessarily. He said that A is a separate event and B is a separate event. There is no necessary link between the two. That is to say, what we know today about the laws of nature might not be the same in the future. They might not be necessarily constant. The same applies to the past. Because we cannot know the past, we cannot know that everything is at the same constant speed as the present time.

For example, while we know what the speed of light is presently we do not know if that speed is necessary. For all we know it could be contingent. There is just no way to test the future and see if the speed will stay the same.

This is a problem for the naturalist. It seems to create much skepticism for any type of induction or scientific claim. It forces the naturalist to uses probabilities instead of absolutes for future causal events. But how would a believer in God respond to this question? Well, a theist would say that we can know with certainty that things such as the laws of nature are constant. We know this because God exists and God upholds all reality. For Him to change the laws of nature would be somewhat deceitful.

The theist must accept God as the foundation of all knowledge. In order to remove any type of doubt about causal certainty or induction, God must be accepted first.


Descartes’ Method of Doubt and God’s Existence: Part II

In his third Meditation, Descartes seeks out to prove if anything else exists outside himself according to his newly created method of doubt. He begins this Meditation by recounting his method and applying it to the concept of God.

Descartes says that he has no reason to think that there is a God who is a deceiver at all. He takes God into doubt. He says he must first find out if a God exists, and then find out if He is a deceiver or not (50).

According to Descartes there are two kinds of thought. The first is image of things as thoughts such as an image of a man or a chimera as Descartes explains. The other thoughts he has are quite different. He says, “for example, in willing, fearing, approving, denying, though I always perceive something as the subject of the action of my mind, yet by this action I always add something else to the idea which I have of that thing” (51). He divides these other thoughts into two categories: affections and judgments.

He explains that ideas are either created by himself or produced by things outside himself. He uses the example of a fire producing the idea of heat in his mind. These ideas must be outside of his own will because they produce ideas which he himself did not produce or invent. But he doubts these ideas are necessarily derived from external sources in all circumstances. He believes there is some faculty in him to produce these ideas without any external sources. Descartes explains the idea of something could be different than the actual object itself. He uses the example of the sun in which one idea (which is derived from the senses) makes the sun out to be very small and the other is an innate idea in which the sun is much bigger than earth. He states that both of these ideas cannot be true.

The idea of God, he says, has all the perfect qualities of God being omniscient, omnipotent, eternal and so forth, and this idea “has certainly more objective reality in itself than those ideas by which finite substances are represented” (52).

“And although it may be the case that one idea gives birth to another idea, that cannot continue to be so indefinitely; for in the end we must reach an idea whose cause shall be so to speak an archetype, in which the whole reality [or perfection] which is so to speak objectively [or by representation] in these ideas is contained formally [and really]” (53). Here Descartes denies an infinite regression of ideas and says it is necessary to reach what he calls an archetype or a blueprint.

“For although the idea of a substance is within me owing to the fact that I am substance, nevertheless I should not have the idea of an infinite substance — since I am finite — if it had  not proceeded from some substance which was veritably infinite” (54).
He continues by saying “that there is manifestly more reality in infinite substance than in finite, and therefore that in some way I have in me the notion of the infinite earlier than the finite — to wit, the notion of God before that of myself” (54).

Descartes concludes at the end of his meditation that “the unity, the simplicity of the inseparability of all things which are in God is one of the principal perfections which I conceive to be in Him.” He also says, “we must of necessity conclude from the fact alone that I exist, of that the idea of a Being supremely perfect — that is of God– is in me, that the proof of God’s existence is grounded on the highest evidence” (55).

At this point in the Meditation Descartes has proved God’s existence through a reworked version of Saint Anselm’s ontological argument. And since God is perfect He cannot be a deceiver because fraud and deception proceed from some defect (57).

Descartes explains this idea of God being in him as a sort of mark of the Workman. “And one certainly ought not to find it strange that God, in creating me, place this idea within me to be like the mark of the workman imprinted on his work…”(56). Is this not an interesting idea? We have the innate mark of God in our very mind. I find this to be incredible and amazing.

Psalm 139:13-14 “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

Isaiah 29:16 “You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, ‘He did not make me‘; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding‘?”

Works Cited

Kolak, Daniel, and Garrett Thomson. The Longman Standard History of Modern Philosophy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Longman, 2006. Print.

Descartes’ Method of Doubt and the Cogito: Part I

In René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes creates a whole new method of doubt and skepticism for building a foundation for knowledge. This essay will primarily focus on Meditations I and II.

In Meditation I, Descartes describes his method as comprised of three levels of doubt in which each level is more extreme than the one before it. His doubt is aimed at tearing down any presuppositions he once previously had accepted and starting over.

His first level of doubt is aimed at his senses. Since the senses have deceived him in the past, he states that it is wise to deny the truth of them and to doubt that they provide him any truth to anything outside of him. He says “All that up to the present time I have accepted most true and certain I have learned either from the senses or through the senses; but it is sometimes proved to me that these senses are deceptive, and it is wiser not to trust entirely to any thing by which we have once been deceived” (Kolak 43).

The second level is to doubt whether he is awake or dreaming. Dreams, he says, can be so powerful that one can believe that the dream world is the real world. So therefore he says that it is possible that one can be living in a dream and not know it. Descartes says that this level is still not radical enough to get to where he wants with his doubt. Even in dreams, he says, three and two make five and a square can never have more than four sides (Kolak 44).

The final level of doubt is the most radical of them all. Descartes states that it could be possible that there is a sort of evil genius which is deceiving his thoughts into believing that three and two make five. He says this deceiver cannot be God, for God is supremely good and is the fountain of truth but that this being must be something highly powerful. He states: “…I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to posses all these things…” (Kolak 45).

Now under this new doubt, Descartes tries to prove what exactly is knowingly true in his Meditation II. He comes to the conclusion that he can only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he exists. Because he thinks therefore he exists.

“But how can I know there is not something different from those things that I have just considered, of which one cannot have the slightest doubt? Is there not some God, or some other being by whatever name we call it, who puts these reflections in my mind? That is not necessary, for is it not possible that I am capable of producing them myself? I myself, am I not at least something? But I have already denied that I had senses and body. Yet I hesitate, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on body and sense that I cannot exist without these? But I was persuaded that there was nothing in all the world, that there was no heaven, no earth, that there were no minds nor any bodies: was I not then likewise persuaded that I did not exist? Not at all; of a surety I myself did exist since I persuaded myself of something [or merely because I thought of something]. But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, who ever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without a doubt I exist if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something. So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it” (Kolak 46).

Descartes says the only thing anyone can really fully know is that he exists and everything else must be believed by some level of faith or a presupposition. The cogito is a Latin verb which means “to think.” Our real selves are comprised of our thoughts according to Descartes. He summed this up by saying “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am.”

While Descartes method of doubt is absurd to actually believe, it is quite interesting to ponder and realize that we have and employ faith on a daily basis for the most simple of things. We trust that our senses give us accurate information and that past experiences of things still happen exactly the same in the present.

Works Cited
Kolak, Daniel, and Garrett Thomson. The Longman Standard History of Modern Philosophy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Longman, 2006. Print.