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Descartes vs. Spinoza Essay

What I will do in this following paper is to discuss two very interesting philosophers, Rene Descartes and Benedictus de Spinoza. I will discuss each philosopher’s perspectives and insights on their most recognized theories and thoughts. I will then evaluate them and then give my opinion on the given topic. By doing this, I will contrast the similarities and differences between the two genius minds. By the end of the paper I will have discarded some ideas and opinions from each of the two and will have my own judgment that consists of thoughts from Spinoza, Descartes and my self put together.

Themes On Descartes: Existence of God- Descartes’ View – One of the most famous and debatable theories Descartes had was his proof of the existence of God. He had for steps on the ladder to prove this. 1) Everything including our ideas has a cause. 2) We have an idea of God. 3) Nothing less than God is adequate to be the cause of our idea of God. An lastly 4) Therefore God exists. My View – Considering the fact that Descartes was a rationalist and a very religious man, you can see why he would desperately try to make sense of everything, including God.

I believe his proof that he has laid out for us that God exists is false. What Descartes is trying to tell us is that our idea of God comes directly from God himself and that we cannot create something in our minds that we have not already witnessed by our senses. But I believe we can implant the idea of God in our minds without God planting it for us. Since man has been on this planet, we have been evolving. I believe our idea of God is a collection of thoughts and ideas that has evolved. Ideas such as security, peace, direction, order, separating good and evil, questions to our existence, comfort, space, answers to questions no one has.

It is all these thoughts, ideas and more put together in our minds overtime that create this all mighty powerful being who knows all and is all that we call God. The U-Turn- Descartes’ View – One of the aspects Descartes strived to find was “certainty”, searching for absolute foundation. He felt in order to come across certainty; we must first doubt everything we know. To help people comprehend his idea, he created the U-Turn as a visual reference to understand. As we go down the “U” we first doubt common sense, then we doubt awake/sleep since he believes we can’t distinguish the difference.

We continue to go down the “U” by doubting mathematics because there could be an “Evil Genius” that tricks us into believing something untrue. At the bottom of this U we reach the point where nothing is certain except one thing according to Descartes, which is our existence. He says “I think, therefore I am”, which means the only thing we can be certain about is our own existence. He then stops and says if we exist, then there must be a God, and this is where the U takes its turn and moves upwards.

He then says if God exists he would not deceive us because he is all loving and caring, therefore we have no reason to doubt mathematics, followed by ourselves (body/mind) and lastly we can then be certain about the physical world, no need to doubt it. My View – I find this to be an interesting concept that Descartes has formulated in his mind, one that is most definitely worth thinking about and taking into consideration. But in my point of view, there is a break in his chain. From the moment he mentions we doubt being awake and asleep is where I think his U-Turn collapses.

Descartes says we can not distinguish the difference between the two, but that’s only true to a certain point. As humans we have logic, common sense and we are aware of most of the knowledge we obtain. We know that we live a life every day and that we need rest every night; and we know that sleeping is a form of rest which sometimes includes bizarre, twisted, chaotic scenarios which we call dreams or nightmares. The argument he made on this segment of his U-Turn concept was only half true. He was right on the fact that we can not distinguish the difference when in a dream state but wrong on the idea that same goes for when we are awake.

As human begins we may not be able to have any reasoning, logic or understand the fact that we are dreaming but when we are not dreaming we can logically know we are awake and be able to know the difference between awake/sleep which means we don’t have to doubt common sense or mathematics anymore. If this is the case then Descartes U-Turn theory is wrong and the idea that the only thing we can be “certain” about is our own existence is false. Themes On Spinoza:

Conception of God- Spinoza’s’ View – Spinoza went on a whole different direction when it came to God. Up to his point in time most people believed in a transcendent God, this meant that they believed in a personal God that was all loving, caring and would not deceive us human beings. People would prey to this personal God for various things like comfort and security, but Spinoza had his own belief. His conception was quite different from that of anyone else. His conception of God was non-personal (Non- Transcendent) and was the totality of everything that is immanent.

He explained that our infinite Universe is one that has no outside and is also one big web where everything in it is connected. What he is basically trying to say is that God=Nature, God is the totality of everything that is. My View – Spinoza’s conception of God is quite absurd. There may or may not be a God but if there is, it is definitely not the totality of everything that is. The meaning of God is a higher supreme being that would have a higher consciousness than humans. There is a difference between nature and God.

I feel nature is more on the lines of what he is trying to say but uses the word “God”. God can not be everything that is because then that would mean we are part of the make up of God and that is absurd. How can everything in the universe that has no conception of God be a part of God? His thoughts and ideas on this subject don’t add up in the end and don’t seem like an acceptable solution to the questions revolving around “God”. Ethics: On Interconnected Self- Spinoza’s’ View – Spinoza said that freedom of choice is an illusion and that everything that happens is part of a necessary order witch is completely rational.

My View – If freedom of choice is an illusion and everything is already set to happen before it occurs…then why are we making choices in the first place? I believe we do have freedom of choice and that we set our own destiny. Everything will be set but is not set yet. We must make choices and decisions to get to where we want to or do not want to. This can be compared to a video game, the programmer and the player. The programmer sets al these scenarios, levels, obstacles, directions and gives the gamer various choices to make.

The player goes through these obstacles, and makes choices where many possibilities are presented to him/her. Ultimately the game will finish one way or the other with the choices that the player makes. All these various different possibilities were laid out (each which had its own outcome) but the player made the decision to get to where he/she is now. Overall Comparison: After taking in everything these two philosophers have presented and evaluating their ideas, I have come up with my own thoughts. I believe Descartes had a much more reasonable and acceptable point of view than Spinoza.

Descartes thoughts and concepts were easier to understand and coupe with. I disagree a lot with both of the two but my mind has a greater understanding of Descartes perspective. Spinoza was so special in his own way because of his unique ideas but his concepts on God and ethics seemed to far fetch. Descartes seemed to be on a perfect track until he took a couple things too far like God, trying to prove his existence. If we are to gain knowledge through sense experience then technically we have no knowledge of God, jus a compound of thoughts and ideas to create such a being.

Overall I like Descartes philosophical way of thinking more than any other philosopher and feel we can learn a lot from him including helping ourselves to think in a more abstract philosophical manner. Sources Of Information: 1) A History of Western Philosophy : Hobbes to Hume (Second Edition) 2) individual. utoronto. ca/mtlin/god. pdf 3) www. utm. edu/research/iep/s/spinoza. htm 4) http://serendip. brynmawr. edu/Mind/17th. html 5) www. trincoll. edu/depts/phil/philo/phils/descartes. html 6) www. connect. net/ron/descartes. html.


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