The Metaphysics of Descartes

René Descartes

Metaphysics of Descartes can be read in two works, The Discourse on Method and Metaphysical Meditations, where Descartes engaged in the search for truth about the nature of man and God. The Knowledge must be founded on reason, according to Descartes.

Descartes’ cogito, God and the innate ideas

The cogito is a result of the doubt

Why to doubt? To find a sure foundation for knowledge. Assuming that an evil genius is deceiving us in all our perceptions and beliefs. The illusions of the senses (eg the spark plug) will also provide a reason for doubting Descartes.

But to then I only wanted to go about seeking the truth, I thought it was necessary for me to do just the opposite, and that I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, to see if it would point, after that, something in my belief, that was entirely indubitable

How can we doubt? Methodically, conversely skeptical philosophers.

Not that I imitated it to the skeptics who doubt that to doubt, and affecting to be still unsolved: for, on the contrary, my purpose tends only to make sure, and to reject the earth moving and the sand to find the rock or clay”

In doubt, Descartes encounters a first certainty, the cogito (“I think” in Latin). The cogito is the self-consciousness of the thinking subject. Indeed, so universal is the doubt, since it deals with the totality of knowledge, there is something he can not reach: it is its own condition, because doubting, I think, and thinking, I am.

I am, therefore. But what am I?

– I am primarily thinking, the latter referring to everything that is in us so that we perceive for ourselves immediately.

– And the activity of the mind and consciousness characterize me: consciousness is the essence of thought.


Descartes, God and the proof of existence

The second truth is discovered by Descartes existence of God, Descartes sets out in three points:

– Evidence from the idea of ​​perfect: indeed, among the ideas that are in me is the idea of ​​God, an idea to be sovereign, almighty, eternal, infinite.

– But this idea of ​​how perfect she could make an imperfect being? In reality, I must admit the existence of a being containing in itself all the perfection of the idea is, that is to say God.

– Therefore, God exists.

He meant by God, a supremely perfect substance, and in which we conceive nothing which encloses some defect or limitation of perfection.

– This perfect being can only be truthful: he assures me, in fact, that the ideas I see it as clear and distinct is true.

– The “divine truth” derives from the nature of God, which can not mislead me, since it is perfect.

The idea of ​​God is part of innate ideas.

Descartes & Innate ideas

Innate ideas are not coming from the ideas of meaning and experience. They are true and immutable and are the treasure of my mind.

There are three kinds of ideas (an idea that everything is pointing in our mind when we design a thing):

– Those born with me (innate ideas)

– Those coming from outside (these are sensible ideas, like the idea of ​​an external thing, earth, sky …)

– Those made and invented by me (these are fake ideas, like the idea of ​​chimera)

Descartes and the human freedom:

In his quest for metaphysics, Descartes philosophy deepens the essence of the human spirit: it stresses the superiority of understanding (faculty by which we perceive ideas) on the imagination (power to represent things in ways sensitive).

Imagination is not necessary to the essence of my mind and request a special effort. The work of the understanding it is much simpler.

– For example, imagine a thousand polygon side is very difficult, unlike the design (“I need a special application of mind to imagine, which I am using to design point”).

This explanation of the spiritual dynamism of man is inseparable from a meditation on freedom.

Descartes considers the freedom of indifference (a condition in which the will is not brought by the knowledge to follow one party over another) as the lowest degree of freedom.

– True freedom excludes indifference. It is characterized by the absence of external constraint.

– It means a choice by the knowledge of truth.

It is this human freedom that allows us to understand the mechanism of error, which arises from the disproportion between my will and my mind necessarily finite and limited. The error occurs when my will (infinite) assent to an idea (confused) of the understanding.


Cite this article as: Tim, "The Metaphysics of Descartes, May 7, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 7, 2012,

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