“I Doubt, Therefore I think, Therefore I Am” ~Rene Descartes
This brief statement made by philosopher René Descartes (Discours de la method, 1637) is one that has haunted me most of my life. In “Discours” the philosopher rationalized that his ability to think rationally proved he existed because his thoughts wouldn’t exist without his own individuality and knowledge to propel them. In his “ (Descartes, Passing of the soul)” and “The description of the human body, 1648 (Descartes, “The description of the human body)” the author referred to the body’s connection to the soul and mind as existing together in a form of dualism that suggests that mind controls the body through the pineal gland. However, he goes on to say that the body can influence the mind also (such as in times where passion drives people). As Descartes continued to explore this form of metaphysical duality, that path inevitably led him on a quest to try to prove the existence of God in 1639.
In Descartes “Meditations on first philosophy” published in 1641- Latin, he attempted to prove the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. It was in Meditations lll that Descartes argues on God’s behalf by saying that God exists in a perfect form because the idea of God is perfect in how the mind conceives God. Since the idea of God is perfection, God himself is a perfect being. Descartes continues this train of thought by saying that since he exists in a form that is less perfect than God due to his physical presence, but can still idealize a perfect being in God; God has to exist because an imperfect being cannot create a perfect one (God) and a perfect being cannot originate from an imperfect one (man). Having proven to himself that God exists, it was the only natural progression that would lead Descartes towards the exploration of immortality. This line of thought combines the theories of metaphysical duality and the previous mentions of Gods existence in the Meditation series.
The Rationale Behind Rene Descartes’ Most Profound Ideal
Descartes believed that the mind and the body were separate entities forced to live and act together in the body. He believed that the mind and body were created separately and could exist without one another for that reason. Descartes reasoned that since he can understand his own existence as a rational thinking thing he doesn’t require a body to do so since his mind propels his thoughts. Since the body is a solid and material thing, it can exist without a mind to propel it. So he reasoned that if both mind and body can exist without one another, and God is perfect in his existence, God must have created both for them to be able to exist in a perfect state simultaneously. If God created both to exist on their own and together, the immortality of the human consciousness (afterlife) is possible after the body’s physical death.
While Descartes’ ideas and philosophy are interesting, the theories of God’s existence and an afterlife that he proposed feel too simplistic for me and lack any real hard proof beyond what theology offers in various religious ideologies. For Descartes to believe that just thinking of a perfect being (God) makes it exist; though it may be conceptually true; it doesn’t create a TULPA effect because it doesn’t make it physically true. This is also true of the mind (soul) being able to exist without a body (brain) to contain it. When I think of Descartes’ most famous phrase, I have propelled down a slightly different evidentiary path. These questions arise…..
1. “Can my individual, rational mind (consciousness) exist outside of my physical body in the same matter as it does now?”
2. “Will my conscious mind retain its original thoughts and memories if my body dies?”
3. “Since my senses are a physical trait that my body experiences do I lose some? (I.e. Vision)”
4. “Since my conscious mind and physical body are forced to co-exist in the same place in time during my lifetime, but can exist as separate entities; why must both be joined at all during my lifetime on earth?
5. If the mind or consciousness can exist beyond death, what form does it take, if any? Can this form be recognized by other consciousness’ that I knew during life in the same individual manner as in life?
Is There Value in Rene Descartes’ God?
The problem with the types of questions I have is that physical death is likely the only way to get an answer, which is pointless if both my physical and spiritual forms cease to exist upon my death. However, these types of questions are what has led me to truly contemplate theology and religion. During my relative deconstruction of religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and subsequent research in other areas; I am hoping one day to silence my minds’ need for answers on God’s existence and the possibility of an afterlife.
I must also point out that I seek more than just a reason to believe, I am also hoping to fully understand the doctrine that religion has founded their beliefs on as well. Just as religion is based on a general concept of a sentient and intelligent God, so too is the modern civilized world. All modern Abrahamic religions are based on ancient writings and scriptures that speak of the past, present, and future as being infinitely connected. If this is true, then various doctrine prophesied should or will eventually come to pass. Until these answers are definitively proven, I will be reflecting on the different aspects of theology in an effort to understand the necessity of the deification process in man’s quest for individual exaltation I shall also attempt to establish its truth and/or potential for truth.
When looking for the truth behind Religious idealism, I cannot ignore the scientific implications behind the creation of the universe. It wouldn’t make any sense to try because God is viewed as ‘The Creator’ of the universe, and I cannot possibly look for The Creator without also looking closely at the creation itself. It is the only way that whatever answers I do find will be plausible enough for me to take to heart. After all, I would categorize myself as an Agnostic, in that I do pray, but I continue to harbor my doubts.
“Is it possible to look into the makings of the universe through the eyes of the cosmos and find a theologically based Creator? Or will I learn that the universe is not created by a sentient, intelligent being and merely being held together by a lengthy and prolonged act of perfectly orchestrated, and random series of events?”