|I Think, Therefore God Is
The Cartesian Argument
Interesting book, this "Discourse on Method" by Descartes. He starts off doubting everything so he can find the things he simply can't doubt. Trees and grass and buildings and people, sky and sea and animals. Out they go. I guess he figures they could all be just illusions.
And then he finds there is one thing he can't doubt:
"I think, therefore I am."
Hmmm. That seems almost too simple. Let me try it on myself. "I think, therefore I am." But what if I am mistaken in thinking that I think? Well, if I'm mistaken, it is I who am mistaken, so again, I must exist.
Okay. That seems like a pretty clean argument, Now I know I exist (as if I was ever in doubt), but I wonder how that helps me know if there is a God.
Well, let's follow his argument one step further:
I think I am imperfect, therefore I am imperfect.
Descartes didn't put it exactly that way, but I think that's what he meant.
Okay, I know me fairly well and I know I am imperfect. I think of my lack of wisdom, my tendency to make mistakes, my sins. Yes, it appears I am imperfect. But wait! Maybe this notion that I am imperfect is wrong. Maybe I am just imagining that I'm imperfect. Maybe I really am perfect!
Sigh. No, I'm afraid that doesn't work. It is self-contradictory.
If I think I am imperfect but am actually perfect, then I made a mistake by thinking I'm imperfect. And if I made a mistake, then I am imperfect.
So, nothing else may exist, but I have established beyond any ability I have to doubt that A) I exist, and that B) I am imperfect. So far I'm with you Descartes.
But this brings up an interesting thought: I am imperfect compared to what? I can't be imperfect unless there is a perfect. I can't be wrong unless there is a right. I can't be lesser unless there is a greater.
So it appears there is something - something perfect! - that is separate from me. It can't be me, because if it was me it would be imperfect, because I am imperfect, and obviously the perfect can't be imperfect.
And what is the perfect like?
Well, the Perfect (I'd better start capitalizing it now) must be perfect in every way I'm imperfect. While I'm sure I can't name all the ways I'm imperfect, I know my knowledge is imperfect, so the knowledge belonging to the Perfect must be complete. I also know my reasoning is imperfect, so I'm sure the Perfect thinks flawlessly. I know I'm not always good, so I know the Perfect must be utterly holy.
In fact, perhaps I should start saying, "God."
Becoming a Christian
© Copyright 2002, Brad Haugaard.