Clear and Distinct Ideas At the outset of the Third Meditation, Descartes tried to use this first truth as the paradigm for his general account of the possibilities for achieving human knowledge. In the cogito, awareness of myself, of thinking, and of existence are somehow combined in such a way as to result in an intuitive grasp of a truth that cannot be doubted. Perhaps we can find in other cases the same grounds for indubitable truth. But what is it?
These are understood relative to one another, in terms of ontological dependence. Modes depend on attributes, and attributes depend on substances.
The dependence relation is transitive; thus, modes depend ultimately on substances. No substances, no modes. A mode of some thing was understood by Descartes as a a way of being that thing. So, where X is some substance, a mode M is a way of being X.
That said, in Article 52 he also says that a substance minus its attributes cannot be known to the human mind. Attributes are in fact what make existing substances intelligible to the human mind.
He reaffirms this in Article 62, where he says that there is only a distinction in reason between an attribute and an existing substance. They are really one and the same thing.
NolanHoffman Subsequently, if mode M is a way of being X, where X is the substance, the intelligibility of X requires that we conceive some attribute A. And so, strictly speaking, mode M is understood as a mode of attribute A, where A is the attribute through which the existing substance X is conceived where in reality A and X are presumably identical.
The nature of a mind, Descartes says, is to think. If a thing does not think, it is not a mind. In terms of his ontology, the mind is an existing finite substance, and thought or thinking is its attribute.
An idea is a mode of thinking. In being a mode of thinking, an idea is understood as a way of being an instance of thinking, or an idea is way in which an instance of thinking is manifested.
This is similar to what Descartes says about a body, its principal attribute, and its modes. The nature of a body is to be extended in length, breadth, and depth.
A body is a finite substance, and extension is its attribute. Shape is a mode of extension. What this means is that shape is a way of being extended, or a way in which an instance of extension is manifested.
Thus, shape is to extension as idea is to thought. Thus a shape presupposes extension and an idea presupposes thinking, where each principal attribute presupposes an existing substance. So, whereas for Plato ideas are the most real things in the cosmos, for Descartes ideas are among the least real.
By contrast, Plato took ideas to be the things represented. Socrates, for instance, was taken by Plato to be a representation of the form or idea of man.
These differences are certainly enough to suggest that ideas are playing significantly different roles in their respective systems. Ideas are not the only modes of thinking. Doubting and judging, for example, are also modes of thinking.
Early in the Third Meditation, Descartes works out a basic division of the various modes of thinking. He sorts them into two kinds: Ideas are included in the category of simple modes. Doubting, judging, and the like, are included in the category of complex modes.
Even so, all complex modes include ideas as constituents. A complex mode of thought includes at least two basic mental components: Other thoughts have various additional forms: Some thoughts in this category are called volitions or emotions, while others are called judgements. When considering one of the more complex modes of thought—for instance, fearing a lion or affirming the Pythagorean Theorem, where the lion and the theorem are the objects presented—it is the idea that is doing the presenting; it is the vehicle of representation.
As Descartes will note in the Fourth Meditation, he takes there to be two basic faculties capacities or abilities of the mind:(5) It must be God who created me and gave me the ideas of a perfect God.
Descartes’ Argument in Meditation V (The Ontological Argument): (1) . He expounds on his argument about God’s existence from the discourse.
Descartes analyzes his mind so as to know whether there exists anything that would let him make God up. Descartes realizes that he is finite compared to God who is infinite, perfect and all powerful.
The existence of God has been a question since the idea of God was conceived. Descartes tries to prove Gods existence, to disprove his Evil demon theory, and to show that there is without a doubt something external to ones own existence. Descartes is known for these original arguments that hope to prove God's existence, but later philosophers have often critiqued his proofs as being too narrow and relying on "a very suspect premise" (Hobbes) that an image of God exists within mankind.
In any case, understanding them is essential to understanding Descartes' later work. The first one, found in I, is a version of the ontological argument for God's existence. Descartes' ontological argument goes as follows: (1) Our idea of God is of a perfect being, (2) it is more perfect to exist than not to exist, (3) therefore, God must exist.
Since Descartes will use the existence (and veracity) of god to prove the reliability of clear and distinct ideas in Meditation Four, his use of clear and distinct ideas to prove the existence of god in Meditation Three is an example of circular reasoning.