Descartes vs St Augustine
Descartes vs St Augustine
To examine life, you must first determine existence . I will attempt to determine if their really is existence and then examine two of the most impostant factors in peoples lives; love and religion. Everyone has tried to come to a conclusion on what is love and whether their is a God and people have dedicated their lives to both of these subjects Their are an infinite number of ways of examining love and religion but none of them can be taken as fact and none of them can be guaranteed as false. In this paper, I will examine the ways that Rene Descartes and Saint Augustine examine their lives and what they feel makes their life worth living.
In the Meditations, Descartes attempts to doubt everything that is possible to doubt. He is uncertain of the existence of many things from God and himself. Then he goes on to start proving that things do exist by first proving that he exists. After he establishes himself he can go on to establish everything else in the world. Next he goes to prove that the mind is separate then the body. In order to do this he must first prove he has a mind, and then prove that bodily things exist. I do agree with Descartes that the mind is separate from the body. These are the arguments that I agree with Descartes.
In his six Meditations, only four contain his argument about corporeal things and establishing himself as a thinking creation. Meditations three and four discuss the existence of God and the matter of true and false. Concerning Meditation three, Descartes proves God’s existence and that He is not a deceiver, thereby allowing us to be sure that we are not deceived when we perceive things clearly and distinctly. The rest of the Meditations deal with him proving himself as a thinking thing and proving that the mind is separate from the body. In Descartes’ first meditation, he goes on to prove that nothing exists.
He establishes that knowledge is built upon a foundation; each piece of knowledge rests upon some other part of knowledge. Over the course of ones life, a person establishes one piece of knowledge and builds upon that. Descartes goes on to doubt every particular set of knowledge he has. Descartes says that the most basic set of knowledge we have is our senses. He continues that the senses give us false information. For example, when we look at the sun, we cannot tell how big it is. The same is true for dreams. Senses appear to be real in dreams, but how can one tell whether or not we are dreaming or not.
So if we can never determine we are dreaming or awake then we can’t rely on our senses. He believes that a supreme God has created us and has the power to deceive us. If God is perfect then he cannot deceive us. So we must assume that an evil demon is the source of our deceptions. Therefore Descartes has reason to deny the validity of his senses. From this, Descartes assumes if there is a deceiver and he can be deceived then he must exist. In general it will follow from any state of thinking, whether it be imagining, sensing, feeling, or reasoning, that he exists.
Since he can only be certain of the existence of himself insofar as he is a thinking thing, then he has knowledge of his existence of only a thinking thing. After he has established himself as a thinking creation, he then goes on to argue that the mind is more certainly known then the body. He goes on to say that it is possible that all knowledge of external objects, including his body, could be false as the result of the actions of an evil demon. It is not, however, possible that he could be deceived about his existence or his nature as a thinking thing.
This is true because if he can be deceived about anything, then he can be certain, as he is a thinking thing. Even corporeal objects, such as his body, are known much more distinctly through the mind than through the body. It seems that Descartes finds it necessary to first establish the existence of a non-deceiving God before he can be assured of the existence of anything beyond himself and his mode of thought. He does this by the rationalization that his perception of God is that of a perfect being. In order for a being to be perfect, it must exist. Since he himself is an imperfect being, he
cannot conceive the idea of perfection on his own. Therefore, it must have come from some other faculty that must be perfect, which is God. It is after his proof of the existence of God that Descartes comes to accept that clear and distinct ideas can be trusted. Since he proved that God does exist he can says that God can bring anything into existence. But we also seem to know they exist through imagination, which seems to be “an application of the knowing faculty to a body intimately present to it, hence, a body that exists. ” Now he attacks the notion of bodies existing.
He says, “The way of thinking that I call ? sense’ give us a reason to think bodies exist? ” Descartes attacks this the answer of this question in three ways: to repeat what was formerly believed and the grounds for them, to consider why they were brought into doubt, and to determine what must now be believed. He relies on the existence of a non-deceiving God to ensure that an external world exists after calling it into doubt by the invocation of the dream argument. In this argument, Descartes suggests the possibility that none of our ideas are caused by external objects and therefore, such objects may not exist.
He also raises the idea of a demon that may deceive us and allow us to perceive what is not really there. Although he assures himself of his own existence by his modes of thought, he remains uncertain of the reality of an external world. He doubts whether there is anything of material substance that provokes thought within him rather than it being conceived in his mind completely independent of anything else. Regarding the first point, a long list of beliefs is given: my body, pleasurable effects, appetites, primary and secondary qualities, and different bodies.
He then goes on to say that since it seemed impossible that they came from him, it remains that they came from other things, and the only kind that to his mind are those that resemble the ideas themselves. He also says the one’s own body seems in a privileged position, in that one can never separate one’s self from it, and it is the seat of appetites, feelings, pleasure and pain. There is no evident connection between feelings of hunger and the nourishment of bread. He says that he has only been taught by nature.
Regarding the second point, Descartes advances the problem of “perceptual relativity”. That means the judgments of the external senses have deceived him and pains in amputated limbs deceive internal senses. There are two more reasons to consider why the statements in the pervious paragraph may be brought into doubt. He says that dreams fool him about the existence of external objects, waking states might as well. The second on is the he might have been made so as to be deceived. So he concludes that it is possible that there is some faculty in him that produces those perceptions.
Regarding the third point, what God can make separately is different from something else. God can make what he clearly and distinctly understands, so if they can be separated in thought, they are distinct. Descartes says he is distinct from him his body because he thinks of himself as distinct from it. His essence is only as a thing that thinks and not as an extended thing. The last thing Descartes goes into is the argument for the distinction of mind and body and the existence of material objects. He starts off with the argument from knowledge.
If he clearly and distinctly understands one thing as one thing as distinct from another it is so. He is also certain that he exists as a thinking thing, while he isn’t certain of the existence of his body. Therefore, he is a thinking thing and nothing else. His mind is distinct from his body. He is a thinking thing that thinks and not an extended thing. He has a distinct idea of body as an extended thing. Therefore, his mind is distinct from his body. The body is like a machine. The mind and body are distinct. Only the brain effects the mind, so all signals from the body must travel up into the brain.
Signals travel to the brain from the periphery of our body by means of animal spirits, so the system is like a cord running to the brain, which can be pulled at any point along its length. Thus we can get signals in the brain that do not originate in our senses, but which we perceive as doing so. I agree with Descartes proofs of the mind being distinct from the body. He has convinced me with his arguments from above. He has shown that mind operates separately from the body. He proves this point when he talks about the phantom limb. He says that the senses can deceive him with pain from the phantom limb.
The senses can deceive him where as his imagination is of intellect and knowledge. He has also stated that he is a thinking thing while he isn’t certain of the existence of the body. The mind and body do interact with the body in some ways. Descartes says that the mind imagines things; you see things in your mind. These things do not just come from anywhere. You get these images from your senses. Say if one sees something with their eyes. Then turns away and closes their eyes. The image is still there. Descartes Meditations does clearly show the distinction of mind and body.
He proves himself as a thinking thing. A thinking thing something that can only think and is not associated with corporeal things. Since he knows that one thing is clearly distinct from another, he knows that the mind is clearly distinct form the body. The wax proves this point. Thinking is essence and the body is extension. If you mutate and move your body around it is going to change shape. Essence cannot be changed or mutated in any way. Augustine started out in childhood with a restless heart because he had to live in two different worlds.
These worlds consisted of that of his mother’s religious faith, and the world of everything else. These two worlds confused and disturbed Augustine as a child. In his mother’s world, talk consisted of Christ the Savior and about the mighty god who helps us especially to go to heaven. In the other world, talk was about achieving. It seems as if Augustine felt that if he were to live in both of these worlds, his life would turn out to be nothing. He believed he would not accomplish anything he would be remembered for. He became unhappy with the idea of his life amounting to nothing.
This is why Augustine turned to love. He felt that love might help him have a direct purpose in life and would help him through his conversion. Love should not be that of evil. Saint Augustine searched for the answer of a question that asked if love reaches out hopelessly and harmfully, how can it turn around to be productive and wholesome to the human soul? Love became a necessity for all people. For Augustine, the answer to this question was love. The first love must be for the love of God in Augustine’s mind. It must come before all other forms of love.
Augustine finds many ways in which he can find peace in God. He is genuinely sorry for having turned away from God, the source of peace and happiness. Augustine is extremely thankful for having been given the opportunity to live with God. Augustine uses love as his gate to God’s grace. Throughout The Confessions, love and wisdom, the desire to love and be loved, and his love for his concubine, are all driving forces for Augustine’s desire to find peace in God. The death of his friend upsets him deeply, but also allows him to pursue God to become a faithful Christian.
Augustine often experiences darkness, blindness, and confusion while attempting to find rest in God, but he knows that when he eventually finds him his restless heart will be saved. Despite all of the negative aspects of his education on which Augustine focused, it is obvious that his schooling was an essential part of his character. Other than Christianity, his education was the most important factor that shaped his early life. Augustine would have been a different man without this education, and without it his conversion would also have been different.
His circuitous route to his final acceptance of God would have been far less significant were it not for this long and difficult intellectual struggle. It is clear that his education in rhetoric provided him with the skills necessary for shaping Confessions into a highly persuasive work. Confessions is not only a self-analysis, but also a testimony to the power of the Lord. Augustine wanted his readers to be fully convinced that the ultimate and only Truth was what he had discovered after his years of conflict between philosophy and faith.
“I believe in order that I may understand,” said much about his attitude towards the relationship between faith and reason. Augustine’s decision of conversion was not easy for him. It came after a long time of thinking and soul searching. When Augustine made the decision to fully convert to Christianity in Book VIII, it was truly a “leap of faith. ” He knew then that he had to leave part of his philosophical pursuits behind and commit himself fully to Christ. “For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in my misery I kept crying ?
How long shall I go on saying, “tomorrow, tomorrow”? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment? ‘” But, adhering to God as love’s priority proved a more extended way than he had imagined. It helped to shape his life, his mind and his beliefs. He never realized until now what a huge difference it makes in one’s life when it is opened up to love and love of Christ. The answer lies in God’s grace for Augustine. These answers are to his utmost difficult questions on life and faith.
The subtle and cunning loves of the heart had defined Augustine’s journey from the first. At no time in his life had he been without love, but he had loved in scattered, hidden, and conflicting ways. He had loved Monica. He had loved the image and name of Christ, he even at one point loved evil which scared him. Augustine felt the need to redirect his love and this redirection would lead him in the way and light of God. Augustine seems to be dissatisfied with himself and his need for God. Through The Confessions he leaves himself and his past to praising God and loving him.
Augustine hopes to teach others about that love which God placed in him that led him to an eternal relationship with God. All of Augustine’s loves in turn became love of Christ. Although Augustine might not have realized this, it is obviously true. At first he was redirecting his loves directly to Christ, but finally he realized all his love WAS for Christ. Augustine found a place in God that he had never imagined could happen. His guilty restless heart finally found rest in God. Augustine had always believed in God. Yet there is now a love and a passion behind this belief.
His love was no longer blind. In fact now it was guided by his newfound feeling of self worth. He finds himself through all of this. His quest to know himself has come to a conclusion. His chooses to forgo the pleasure of sexual relationships and become celibate. Augustine feels that through his celibacy he will show God his efforts to lead a continent life. His love for God has grown and prospered much from his days of youth. Saints are usually looked at as God’s holiest servants, people who have centered their lives around God and the teaching of the Church.
Saints are seen as if they are without sin. If these things are true then how does one explain the sainthood of Saint Augustine? Augustine in no way fits the traditional mold of a saint. Quite the contrary, his life was full of sin. People can find it very easy to sympathize with Augustine’s story because of his humanity. He does not place himself above anyone. He shows his life, as it was, a very confused and sinful life. But through his conversion he sets himself apart from the rest. Augustine was affected by many outside factors that lead to his change in a point of view.
The outside forces drove Augustine to look inward and see what exactly he was made of. Whether positive or negative his theories of faith were reinforced. The result was a total change in a point of view bringing him closer to God. Friendship played a crucial role throughout all of Augustine’s life. He loved having friends, and he loved being people’s friend. Augustine was always concerned that his friendships were equal in nature. There was always a perfect balance between give and take. His friendships and other love relationships were vital in his conversion and his final evolution.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 23 November 2016
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