Eryn – paper #3

Italian philosopher and author, Giambattista Vico, was a man who used his text, The New Science of Giambattista Vico,  to speak to sophisticated individuals. Rather than traditionally teaching his audience he showed them authentic research that was driven by facts and fables. The author, who used sense to seek understanding, repeatedly used God as the core foundation to show his readers that human life was purposefully constructed. Vicco did not intend to create an argument or beat around the bush, but instead he wanted to expose his readers to the truth, which was that like mathematics, life was intentionally designed.

From the beginning of his book, Vicco used God as a piece of evidence to provide the foundation of worldly accepted principles. He laid out this foundation by starting from scratch and using evidence from the beginning of time- the creation of man. “We should begin our study by scientifically ascertaining this important starting-point…which takes its start from the fact that the first people of the world were the Hebrews, whose prince was Adam, created by the true God…”(p 33/51). From here Vicco continued to write that the “Hebrew religion was founded by the true God”(68/167), due to His creation of His people. He used these examples to show readers that the human race must have been created. Once created, God intended for events to occur in people’s lives, choices to make, and paths to choose. He further explored this idea and stated “the flood was world-wide is proved”. This serves as an example of a intentional occurrence rather than a creation because God created the people, the water, the land, etc. but intended a world wide floor to occur in their lives.
Unfortunately, all readers do not believe in God, which lead to Vicco’s exploration of wisdom. Grecian theological poets were “versed in this wisdom”, which explained why “the Latins called the judicial astrologers ‘professors of wisdom’”(111/365). Although these men were wise, “the word ‘wisdom’ came to mean the knowledge of the natural divine…which is seeking knowledge of man’s mind in God, and recognizing God as the source of all truth…the regulator of all good”(111/365). Thus said, the “knowledge of man’s mind in God” is truly dependent on what God intends to insert into man’s mind.

Furthermore, God does intend to insert certain wisdom into the human mind, however, what man chooses to do with that wisdom is entirely up to him. For example, when the Hebrews “lost sight of their natural law during their slavery in Egypt” God had to redirect His people to the correct path through Moses (125/317). In other words, God did not create the wrong path that mankind chose, however, because of this He intended for Moses to guide the Hebrews back to the life He originally intended them to live.

Although God intended the Hebrews to follow the divine law, the correct knowledge of God and his intentions would not be of any help either. For instance, God does not intend to tell us his intentions, for man must battle to follow His divine law and from there man can learn them. Yet if man truly believes that he contains God’s knowledge, he must humble himself. Vicco warned readers, “just as on the other hand arrogance will lead them to atheism”(143/502), or even to praise ancient Roman gods(172/506).

In conclusion, The New Science of Giambattista Vico is a piece of work that shows, rather than argues, his audience that life was intentionally designed. By using biblical references to piece together evidence, Vicco ultimately succeeded his goal. This work became so successful because he used familiar facts, such as the flood and the slavery in Egypt, to back up his belief rather than arguing that he is correct.

Julie – Paper #2

The existence of God is a concept that is explored in the Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene’ Descartes. In Meditation Five, he explores the notion of material things and the complexity of the perception of material things in accordance with the mind. He understands the reason behind material things, but within the boundaries of what he knows and understands. He understand the what may be outside of him may not be what is inside of him, which is shown in his mind and body argument. He uses this argument as a pathway to bring fourth his perception of God. By using essence versus existence as an explanation for his arguments he is able to navigate through the complicated premises that suggest the existence of material things and in the end, the existence of God.

Descartes’ basis of understanding is the argument of a mind-body union. The question of what exists inside the mind and what exists outside the body is a very important aspect of the argument that he is presenting. He knows that me must understand what is inside his mind before he can understand the thing outside of his mind. “Yet, before inquiring whether any such thing exist outside me, I surely ought to consider the ideas of these things, insofar as they exist in my thought, and see which ones are distinct and which ones are confused (pg. 45).” He understands that to know the existence of a concept, object or anything of that nature, he must understand the essence of that said thing outside of his mind. He needs to make the distinction between what he understands and what he find confusing. This first critical step allows him to know what exists in his mind so that he can make the connection between the mind and the body to further understand the existence of said thing.

Each said thing has its own nature. Descartes believes that although there are many things that exist in his mind as well as outside his mind, they each have certain aspects. “And although, in a sense, I think them at will, nevertheless they are not something I have fabricated; rather they have their own true and immutable natures (pg. 45).” Each thing has a nature that exists without the mind. “For example, when I imagine a triangle, even if perhaps no such figure exists outside my thought anywhere in the world and never has, the triangle still has a certain determinate nature, essence, or form which is unchangeable and eternal, which I did not fabricate, and which does not depend on my mind (pg. 49).” The essence of this thing, in this case a triangle, exists outside the mind, but it can exist inside the mind as well. This nature of the triangle is true and eternal no matter what in the world. It is not thought of in any other mind, it is just there because of its determined nature. It is a continuous thing in which the essence of it is present inside the mind and outside the mind, which in turn allows for its existence.

Descartes uses this as a smooth transition into the argument of the existence of God. He follows the same premises to try and come to a similar result. He believe that the existence of God can be proven using the same notions he has of any other thing in which its existence can be argued. “Clearly the idea of God, that is, the idea f a supremely perfect being, is one I discover to be no less within me than the idea of any figure or number (pg. 46).” He is bringing God into an argument that is used with all other things. He understands that like the essence of a triangle existing inside of his mind as well as outside of him, the existence of God can be related by using the same argument. A triangle has a constant essence and so does God.

“For although it is not necessary that I should ever happen upon any thought of God, nevertheless whenever I am of a mind to think of a being that is first and supreme, and bring forth the idea of God as it were from the storehouse of my mind, I must of necessity ascribe all perfections to him, even if I do not at the same time enumerate them all or take notice of each one individually (pg. 46).” I believe that since Descartes believes the perfections of God inside of his mind, he automatically sees God as the ultimate perfect being. The perception of God in his mind is what he knows for sure and what a constant essence within him is. This allows him to believe the perfection of God as a whole in his mind, although he may not understand the individual perfections that make up the essence of God. This is how he understands the essence of God in his mind.

Descartes believes that what he clearly understands in his mind is true and it exists, this includes the notion that God exists. “Consequently, there is a great difference between false assumptions of this sort and the true ideas that are inborn in me, the first and chief of which is the idea of God. For there are a great many ways in which I understand that this idea is not an invention that is dependent upon my though, but is an image of a true and immutable nature (pg. 47).” He knows that those notions he believes to be clear and distinct in his mind are those that are born within himself. He believes that he does not need to be dependent on what he thinks to understand the essence of God, in which leads him to believe the true existence of God. What he clearly understands is not what he thinks, but it is rather what he is born with. “But, whatever type of argument I use, it always comes down to the fact that the only things that fully convince me are those that I clearly and distinctly understand (pg. 47).”

Descartes believes that those things that he clearly and distinctly understands are not blocked by certain issues such as ignorance. He knows that he is capable of ignorance due to certain outside sources and other worldly things that may affect his perceptions of a certain thing, but if the essence and perfections of God are already instilled in his mind, there is no way that he can be ignorant of said perfections and the essence of God? He speaks of “previously made judgments (pg. 47).” He knows that he cannot focus on one perfection or one thing in his mind, so other judgments may cloud his mind, but his born perception of the existence of God would not be affected if he were ignorant. “Thus, other arguments can be brought forward that would easily make me change my opinion, were I ignorant of God. And thus I would never have true and certain knowledge about anything, but merely fickle and changeable opinions (pg. 47).”

I believe that Descartes knows that the existence of God is fact, because in his mind he knows that the essence and perfections are clear to him and they are distinct and they are natural. He believes that there are other arguments outside of his mind that may change him or mold the essence of some ideas, but that would be because of ignorance. “Be that as it may, this changes nothing; for certainly, even if I were dreaming, if anything is evident to my intellect, then it is entirely true (pg. 48).” He cannot control the judgments that occur outside of his mind, but he can control the effect of them, purely because he believes clearly and distinctly the essence of God exists within his mind and outside of it.

Eryn – Paper #2

Meditation, commonly associated with a physical discipline, is more than a clear mind and a healthy lifestyle. According to Descartes, meditation is an exercise of self-knowledge. When practiced correctly, self-knowledge will achieve meditation’s original goal- to find a foundation that is certain to be true. In his piece entitled, Meditations, Descartes used six meditations to prove God’s existence. Furthermore, he believed his meditations could convert the non-believers by providing an explanation for God’s existence rather than the traditional preaching and lecturing.
Meditation One: Concerning Those Things That can be called into Doubt, reminds readers to doubt everything unless it is certain. For example, “arithmetic, geometry…contain something certain and indubitable”(29). What is certain is “whether I am awake or asleep, two plus three makes five, and a square does not have more than four sides” (29.) Obvious statements such as those should not be considered false, however, everything else must be considered false until proven certain, including God.

Descartes continued to Meditation Two: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind: That it is Better Known than the Body. This meditation reinforced meditation one and added to doubt memory, for it is deceitful (30). But what if one were to doubt God? The knowledge of God reveals that He is all good and never evil, yet our mind is deceitful. In this case should we question our existence as well as Gods? No because there is no doubt we exist. We take up space, we have substance we have a presence. Even though we must doubt our mind, we should never doubt our senses. Our senses are connected to our body. If my mind senses pain it is because my body feels pain as well. The body and mind are intertwined with senses for certain, yet the mind must be continually questioned for validity since it can be deceitful.
Descartes uses meditation to provide proof of God’s existence in The Third Mediation, Concerning God That He Exists. Unlike the last two meditations, that prepared readers for receiving the truth through the use of meditations, the third meditation uses eminent reality and formal reality to prove His existence. Eminent reality is higher or more real than having something formally (36). For example, God does not have mountainhood but he can bring mountains into being. It is the ability to create or cause other things. Formal reality, which is intrinsic, has formal reality but goes through different stages (37). For example, the idea of a creator existing is a form of formal reality because the creator, God, placed the idea inside my head. My mind is not the idea. Although all ideas have the same formal reality, the content or representation of an idea is defined as objective reality (37). Descartes uses objective to prove God as the idea of “a supreme deity, eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and creator of all things other than Himself” (36). Therefore, humans are limited, we are not supreme, eternal, or infinite and we do not have formal reality (37). God on the other hand is not limited and has formal reality (38).
For further explanation, his fourth Meditation regards truth and falsity. In addition to formal reality, Descartes demonstrates why man is subject to mistakes and errors. “It is impossible for God to ever deceive me, for trickery is always indicative of some imperfection (41).” Since God is perfect, as explained in Meditation Three, deception is not the answer. “Rather it just so happens that I make mistakes because the faculty of judging the truth, which I get from God, is not, in my case, infinite” (41). As a result of man’s limitations humans are susceptible to misjudgment and, in contrast, God is infinite therefore He is not.
Although Descartes argued the reason behind the idea of God was His existence, His placement of this idea was purposely distributed into the minds of man, and that He is perfect and infinite, does validate His existence. This is why he wrote the Fifth Meditation, Concerning the Essence of Material Things, and Again Concerning God, That He Exists. This meditation serves as proof for God’s existence and is meant to provide certainty. Within this work he further explained that the idea of God is so clear and descriptive that the human mind is not capable of imagining a creator so great(46). Ultimately, God must have placed this idea into our minds.

Finally, the last meditation, Concerning the Existence of Material Things, and the Real Distinction between the Mind and Body, takes a different route. Instead of justifying the body’s existence, Descartes presents the probability.Within his first observation “there is a great difference between a mind and a body, in that a body, by its very nature is always divisible”(53). He continued to explain the great difficulty to separate the image of the mind and the body. “Although the entire mind seems to be united to the entire body, nevertheless, were a foot or a arm or any other bodily part to be amputated, I know that nothing has been taken away from the mind on that account”(53). Once understood that the mind and the body are separate from one another, the recognition of the different parts of the mind will be comprehended as well. “…The faculties of willing, sensing, understanding, and so on be called ‘parts’ of the mind, since it is one and the same mind that wills, senses, and understands”(53). The second observation regards common sense. He wrote, “my mind is not immediately affected by all the parts of the body, but only the brain, or perhaps…where ‘common’ sense is said to reside”(53). In addition to his second observation, he furthermore provided an explanation of the distinction between the mind and the body. For instance, the body and it’s parts are all connected. In this case if there was a “ cord ABCD, and if the final part D is pulled, the first part A would be moved exactly the same manner as it could be, if one of the intermediate parts B or C were pulled, while the end part D remained immobile”(54). Likewise, he continued, “when I feel a pain in my foot, physics teachers me that this sensation takes place by means of nerves distributed throughout the foot, like stretched cords extending from the foot all the way to the brain”(54). The mind would feel the same pain as the foot. The last observation highlights the richness of sensations and how they “conduct the maintenance of a healthy man” (54). In conclusion to the sixth mediation, “there is nothing to be found in them that does not bear witness to God’s power and goodness”(54).

In the final analysis, Descartes used six meditations to prove God’s existence. He chose this assuming humans to be rational and that in order to be convinced he must provide them with justification and evidence. Ultimately, he found the foundation of certainty and verified his certainly. Not only did he provide readers proof of God but he provided proof of the immortal soul and the different realities. In addition to providing evidence, he provided guidance, like God does with His children, regarding the order of mediations to read. It is with this combination through the use of meditation that he may have reached success converting the non believers to believers. Instead of preaching and lecturing, he laid out the evidence and supported it, a perfect approach to convert a rational man’s way of thinking.

Lindsey – Paper #2

In Meditation one, Descartes addresses the things that can be called into question, and makes a case as to why we can doubt everything.  This doubt is useful in “freeing us from all prejudices.” (26)  This freedom from prejudice allows us to start fresh and discover for ourselves the things that are true. The things we are taught when we are young and take for granted that they are true cause a weak foundation, because of this we should “raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting” (27).  This is, however,impossible to do without being free of all cares and prejudices, as well as being prepared to withdraw from the world so as not to be contaminated by the outside world.  Descates suggests “witholding assent from opinions that are not completely certain,” rather than proving all of your previous opinions false (28). Even though he says that we should “raze everything,” it seems that he views reason as something that he can count on.

The senses are called into question almost immediatley in the first meditation, and they aren’t just dimissed, they are harshly critiqued and seemingly forbidden (28).

It seems that after this Descartes reconsiders the severity of his claims and reconsiders saying, “…still there are many ither matters concerning which one simply cannot doubt, even though they are derived from the very same senses” (28).  He seems to think that the senses are accurate most of the time and even poses the question, “ …on what grounds could one deny that these hands and this entire body are mine” (28).  Then he brings up dreaming, and seems to begin questioning the senses again.  It is like he’s saying humans sleep and wake, but who is to say that our waking moments aren’t just dreams.  Descartes says, “I see so plainly that there are no definiteive signs by which ti distinguish being awake from being asleep,” and as a result of this confusion he is “ becoming quite dizzy and this dizziness nearly convinces me that I an asleep” (28). As an answer to this problem Descartes says that there are three types of ideas: innate, adventitious, and fabrications. The innate ideas come from one’s own nature, adventitious are concieved bodily and fabrications are generated by the mind.  For Descartes, these three classes allow us to conclude, “…that physics, astronomy,medicine and all the other disciplines that are dependent upon the consideration of composite things are doubtful” (29).  These categories also allow us to see that things that are seen in an arithmetic way are “certain and indubitable” (29).

Descartes begins to take on the existence of God in Meditation one, but finishes it in Meditation three.  He believed that he was created by someone or something, and that this innate idea was put into him by the very same substance that created him. He says that some people believe that God is fictious and that, “…they supose that I came to be what I am either by fate or by chance, or by a connected chain of events, or by some other way” (29).  Descartes thinks that the “author of his origin” is not an “evil genius” type, but rather “ a supremely good God” (29).  His proof for that is, more or less,  his reason, will and ability to make sense of things.  The basis for his proof of God is the three types of reality: eminent,formal and objective.  Eminent reality is the ability to cause other things, formal reality is the intrinsic reality of something, and objective reality is the content of an idea.  Based on these types of reality and the fact that Descartes never doubts causal principles, he lays out his first proof, “ Now it is indeed evident by the light of nature that there must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause as there is in the effect of that same cause” (35).  Things have to have some sort of cause because they don’t just spontaneously appear out of nothingness, they are caused and those causes have to have reality, especially in the case of ideas, meaning that the idea has to have at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality.  The next proof Descartes lays out is that his idea of God had to come from somewhere since it is as clear and distinct as it is, and that the giver of this idea must have be infinite since a human is finite and cannot give such an idea.  Descartes phrases this proof, “ a certain substance that is infinite.independent,supremely intelligent,supremely powerful anf that created me along with everything else that exists” (38).  Everything has some type of reality, but it is limited since they cannot just snap their fingers and create more, which means something with infinite formal reality must exist since things must be created.  Since humans are most definitely limited, we don’t have infinite formal reality which is cause to believe that there exists something separate from humans that has this infinite formal reality.


Poetic Logic and the Importance of Language

Giambattista Vico establishes metaphysics as “the first wisdom of the gentile world” (375). These first men were consumed by their senses and their imagination, and everything they knew about the world, God, and themselves began from there. Any true investigation of wisdom should plainly begin where knowledge first sprung. Consequently, Vico attempts to understand “the first wisdom” in the same way the ancient theological poets would have. According to Vico, knowing how things would have been communicated and expressed is vital to understanding the material and the history of knowledge itself. The study of poetic logic is Vico’s way of understanding those early theological poets. Vico tells us that logic comes from the word logos which originally meant both fable and myth. To understand poetic metaphysics and all the sciences that naturally followed, Vico calls for us to discover the origin of language and letters.

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