Problem of Question Does God Exist

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One of the most puzzling questions of philosophy is that of the existence of God and morality and their interaction. From this question of God and morality arises several arguments, for instance, did morality exist before God did or did God create morality? If God does not exist at all or ceased to exist at this instance, would morality cease to exist altogether? What standards did/does God use to distinguish right from wrong? Interestingly, if God exists, we remain prohibited to question such things. If God exists, He is a supernatural being with greater power and authority than humans; He is not a deceiver but seemingly allows humans to form false beliefs of Him. Descartes attributes this to the problem of error in his model in Meditation IV.

In his work titled ‘Discourse on Method’, Descartes asserts that the problem of error arises from Cartesian doubt, the absence of any decision, either certain affirmation or negation in the relation of a subject (Descartes x). Lacking a clear decision on anything that affirms or negates the existence of God is sufficient reason to fill humans with doubt hence forming false beliefs about his existence. Descartes also adds that good sense is an attribute afforded to all humans equally so is the power to discern good from bad. However, good sense varies from individual to individual, not because some have more good sense, but because all humans conduct their thoughts differently (Descartes 45). Therefore, human attention roams from subject to subject, creating room for false beliefs as a problem of error.

Descartes also adds that humans suffer from false beliefs because no one was born with readily mature ‘good reason’ (56). Everyone was born without the ability to make a judgment and grew up guided by the standards of the surrounding environment. Everyone learns good and bad after birth, in the environment of upbringing. Thus, everyone becomes susceptible to forming false beliefs depending on the environment. If everyone was born with good sense, and abides by the innate good sense to make a judgment, then our minds would never stray to forming false beliefs. Descartes reply on the problem of error is successful by shifting the focus from God being a deceiver, to humans being imperfect beings.

Descartes analyzes four principle steps in discerning whether a belief is true or false (61). First, never accept a fact as true without clearly ascertaining it so. Secondly, divide the belief into as many arguments as possible to conclude adequately. Thirdly, solve the easier arguments first before tackling the more complex arguments of the belief. Finally, be inclusive and broad in conclusions to not omit or under-represent any views (Descartes 61). Following these four steps before concluding any belief, according to Descartes causes humans to form false beliefs. A problem of error in our decision-making process causes false beliefs in God and His existence. Humans’ inconclusive knowledge of the workings of the universe, the existence of God, and the questions of morality, good and bad cause false beliefs as a problem of error.

Descartes’ model clearly stipulates how error arises from the principles humankind abides by. Descartes examines that people tend to abide by the laws and customs of one’s country, adhering to the faith indoctrinated into since childhood (Descartes 65). Preferably, humans should adhere to the moderate practices of their faiths, distancing themselves from aggressive and extreme opinions. When an individual learns of new but doubtful opinions, outside those of one’s own faith, they must pursue the opinion’s clarity firmly and resolutely as if it were a certain opinion (Descartes 67).

If such new opinions prove to adopt a course of action more suitable than the currently held opinion, then an uncertain mind might adopt the course that best fits. Lastly, people tend to choose opinions that favor personal desire and favor than those that affect the order of the world (Descartes 68). Following this model, people easily form false beliefs to satisfy the three options, opinions cultivated from birth, newer favorable opinions, and, self-preserving opinions.

Descartes recommends admitting that any external opinions remain greater than any human does. Any form of ‘good reason’ that is not innate is beyond human power. Descartes argues that humans lack ‘good reason’ when born, without any apparent reason, suggesting any beliefs obtained after birth could be true or false (Descartes 68). This problem of error that allows humans to form false beliefs according to Descartes’ model also equipped some philosophers with the ability to live lives worth emulating despite poverty, disease, and, strife. Believing in anything one wants to believe in allows humans to live very distinct lives: Some only possible through the problem of error and forming false beliefs. Meditation, for instance, accustoms the mind to viewing worldly opinions and beliefs differently, thus living differently.

Descartes concludes that “as a general rule, the principle that all the things we clearly conceive are true, only that there is some difficulty determining the objects we clearly conceive” (Descartes 76). This seemingly solves the problem of error by concluding that since we cannot conceive clearly and distinctively the matter of the existence of God, then we cannot conceive His existence as true. This leads to the formation of numerous false beliefs. However, atheists seemingly escape coverage by the Descartes’ model. Since atheists do not believe in the existence of deities, they cannot form false beliefs in what they do not believe.


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Problem of Question Does God Exist. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/problem-of-question-does-god-exist/

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