Rene Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Letter of Dedication and Preface

Letter of dedication

To the most wise and illustrious the Dean and Doctors of the Sacred Faculty of Theology in Paris

Descartes says that he is asking the protection of the Faculty for his work, and to this end he writes the present dedication.

His first consideration is that the existence of God has to be demonstrated philosophically, besides the theological reasons for belief, particularly if we consider to make a demonstration for the non-believers. Moreover, the believers could be accused of making a circular reasoning, when saying that we must believe in God because of the Scriptures, and in the authority of the Scriptures because they have been inspired by God. He further indicates how the very Scriptures say that the mind of man is sufficient to discover God.

His aim is to apply a method to demonstrate these two truths, in a so clear and evident manner that result to be evident. This method he has developed for the Sciences.[5]

Preface to the reader

Descartes explains how he made a mention of the two questions, the existence of God, and the soul, in his Discourse on Method. Following this, he received objections, and two of them he considers are of importance. The first is how he concludes that the essence of the soul is a thing that thinks, excluding all other nature. To this he says that he has a clear perception that he is a thinking thing, and has no other clear perception, and from this he concludes that there is nothing else in the essence of the self.

The second is that from the idea I have of something that is more perfect than myself, it cannot be concluded that it exists. In the treatise we will see that in fact from the idea that there is something more perfect than myself, it follows that this exists.

It goes on to comment that on a general level the reasoning used by the atheists for denying the existence of God is based in the fact that "we ascribe to God affections that are human, or we attribute so much strength and wisdom to our minds" that we presume to understand that which God can and ought to do. He says that we have to consider God as incomprehensible and infinite, and our minds as limited and finite.

Finally says that the treatise was submitted to some men of learning to know their difficulties and objections, and are answered at the end of it.[5]


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