Need some guidance in narrowing a topic/focusing my paper- I'm taking an early mod. Philosophy course, and need to come up with a term paper topic. I'd like to write something about the role of God in Descartes metaphysics- or the role of God in Descartes approach to epistemology.
From what I understand, Descartes needed God to validate his clear and distinct ideas- and eliminate the evil demon hypothesis (that he is being decieved even in those matters which seem evident (i.e. A=a)). I'd like to find a narrow enough topic for an 8 pg paper- I'd be interested in suggestions reg anything related to the evil demon hypoth. As well-
Something that has been written on in the past would be ideal- this is intended to be a scholarly paper, not a reflective paper- so if any journal articles come to mind that you could suggest, please let me know.
Thanks for your help!
Most of the things you have mentioned above seem to fit into what can be seen as an ontological type argument. Descartes does in fact employ an ontological type of argument to try and prove the existence of God.
If you want to approach Descartes from an ontological point of view then a good starting point would be Anselm's argument for the existence of God. In my view Descartes does it better job, but it will give you an idea of what Descartes is trying to achieve.
Descartes isolates two types of existences. There is the existence of everyday objects we experience and there is necessary existence. Necessary existence is the ability of our minds to impose a special type of existence on certain concepts. God being one of these concepts. Naturally everyday objects don't have necessary existence.
It seemed obvious to Descartes that God's existence is unique so it also stands to reason his existence must be perfect. Descartes believes that we can grasp the essence of objects/things despite conflicting sensory perception.
It is perhaps a good idea to re read Descartes example of wax being placed near a fire. It is also important to understand how the philosophy of the time viewed the idea of essence and existence.
This would be a good place to introduce the concept of clear and distinct ideas. Basically such ideas must be true because of the overwhelming amount of evidence which cannot be denied/contradicted. Descartes gives the idea of a triangle. Firstly, a triangle must have three sides. Secondly, all the angles must add up to 180 degs. These two essential properties must be found together for a triangle to exist. One without the other is no good.
In exactly the same way God has two essential properties, Firstly, God's attribute as a perfect being. Ie., his essence. Secondly, God's existence. We cannot think about one without the other. Remember the triangle example.
It seems to me that Descartes argument hinges on the idea of existence and necessary existence. Kant put forward one of the most famous objections to Descartes argument. It is sometimes known as the 100 thalers argument.
Just to backtrack to the evil demon. Descartes sets up a lot of groundwork before he put forward his ontological position. Bouwsma's criticism of the evil demon argument should be read.
Hope this is of some help