Page images

BOOK the clear and distinct idea of him. For Des Cartes 1.

proves the being of God from the idea of him in our minds: now what is there in that idea, which doth not equally imply providence, as well as his existence ? For why should not a Being absolutely perfect

as well regard the well-being, as the being of his creaMedit. iii. tures ? By the name of God in this idea, he saith he

understands a certain Substance, infinite, independent, most intelligent, and most powerful, by which himself and all other things were created. But this is not all;

sect. 21.

for he acknowledges soon after, and in other places, Princip. that, because there is no necessary connection between part. i.

the several moments of existence in a contingent being, we most evidently know our dependence on this superior Being for our conservation ; which he therefore owns to be a continued creation. From hence I infer, that Des Cartes's own idea of God doth imply a particular Providence. For if we depend upon him for every moment of our subsistence, and conservation differ only by an act of our mind from creation, as he affirms, then there is as immediate an act of Providence in our daily subsistence, as in our first being. But how is this consistent with leaving all to the mechanical laws of motion ? If it be said, That this is only a general act of Providence in preserving things in that state he hath put them into, I demand further, whether those very laws of motion be not the effect of a wise Providence ? and whether we cannot from them infer, that these laws were directed for very good ends? I do not think this can be denied. And if it cannot, then I am sure it certainly follows, that we may know some ends which God hath; whereas Des Cartes said, That all God's ends are unknown to us, being kept secret in the abyss of his infinite wisdom. But the ends of appointing the laws of motion may be known; and if these, why not as well the particular ends of those

works of his which we find so useful to mankind ? CHAP.

II. especially when his Providence is implied in that very idea from whence he infers his existence.

I can by no means suspect that Des Cartes designed to take away the force of other arguments for a Deity, that he might secretly undermine the belief of a God, by introducing his argument from the idea, which he knew would not hold, (as some have suggested ;) for I am satisfied that he thought this argument beyond any other: for, in a letter to a friend, he saith, He had Ren. Des

Cartes Ep. found out such an argument as gave him full satisfac- part. i. tion; and by which he more certainly knew that there ep. 103. was a God, than the truth of any geometrical proposition ; but he doubted whether he could make others understand it so well as he himself did. To the same purpose he speaks in a letter to Mersennus. And in another letter to Mersennus he saith, That he thought Ep. 104.

Epist. part. kimself bound in conscience to publish his arguments i. ep: 37. to prove

the existence of God. Which being written to his intimate friends, shew sufficiently his own apprehension of the strength of them. But what opinion soever he had of it himself, they have not met with such a reception among thinking men, as a geometrical demonstration would have done; although he hath endeavoured to put them into that form. For, after all, Post Resp. they cannot conceive how an objective reality of an idea ject. p. 85. in the mind can prove the real existence of that object out of the mind. He grants, that it doth not hold in other ideas; but that there is something so peculiar to this idea, that the mind could not frame it, if it had not a real existence. Now here lies the main difficulty, what that is in this idea, distinct from all others, which so exceeds the capacity of human understanding, that we could not have such an idea, unless the object were in being.



The force of his argument, as himself hath put it in the mathematical way, prop. 2. lies here.

The objective reality in our ideas must have some cause, in which it is either formally, or eminently: but we have such an idea within us, which is not within us either of those ways; and therefore there must be some other cause of it, which can be none but God; and therefore he is. Now here the difficulty returns, viz. to shew what necessary connection there is between the objective reality in the idea, and the real existence of the thing out of the idea. For that he saith, by axiom 5, That this is the true principle of knowledge; for, saith he, we do not know that there is such a thing as the visible heaven, barely because we see it; for that goes no further than our sense : but our knowledge is an act of the mind from the idea, which arises from hence, that the objective reality of the idea in our minds doth come from the thing itself as the true cause; and the more of objective reality there is, by axiom 6, in substance than accident, and in an infinite substance than a finite, so much more doth it

prove the existence of the thing represented by the idea.

But the case still seems different between an idea raised in our minds from an object of sense, and hat which the mind raises within itself about an infinite substance. For although it be impossible for the mind to make an objective reality, which is infinite, by its own power, yet it doth not appear but that it may frame an idea within itself, to which it sets no bounds, and so is infinite to it. And here lies the main ground of the mistake. If our idea were infinitely perfect, as God himself is, no doubt it were wholly out of our power to make it; but then it would follow, that idea, with its objective reality, must be God: if it be not


God, it must be finite ; and if it be finite, it is within CHAP. the power of our minds to frame it. For although our conceptions of God be not merely negative, yet whatsoever conceptions we have, they are not adequate; and if not, they are imperfect, and so come within the reach of our capacities.

When the learned Mons. Huet urged this argument against Des Cartes, That the idea in us must be finite, Censur.

Philosoph. because it wants something to make it perfect, being Cartes. c. 4. not adequate, Mons. Regis, who undertook to defend Réponse à Des Cartes, answers, That if the idea be taken for-la Censure mally, as it is in us, so it is finite ; but if we take it Huet, with its objective reality, so it is infinite, and above our P. 198. power : and as to its not being adequate, he saith, it doth not follow that it is finite objectively, but only formally; because it represents an infinite object, and it is sufficient to make it infinite, because it represents as much as we can apprehend. I grant, that, if it reaches as far as our capacity will go, it may be said to be infinite in regard of its object, although it be finite as to our manner of apprehending it; but still the main difficulty returns, viz. how a finite idea in us can prove the existence of an infinite object. For the question is not barely about our manner of conception of an infinite Being, which must be according to our capacities; but whether such a finite idea, as we are capable of, can prove an infinite Being: for our idea can represent to us an object to which we can set no bounds; but how doth it hence appear that it must be an infinite object really existing, and that such an idea must proceed from an infinite Cause? Although these things be not so clear as were to be wished, yet we must not dissemble the force of this argument so far as it goes, viz. that we cannot form an idea of nothing ; and that we have no ideas in our minds, but what have

[ocr errors]

BOOK a proper cause for them; either from without us by

sense, or from within by the acts of our own minds. As if a man hath an idea of a rare piece of workmanship, either he hath seen it, or else hath been told it, or was able to invent it. But here can be no evidence from sense, and no man can find within himself a power to frame such an object as God; therefore either he must have it from others, or else God himself hath imprinted it in our minds. Now if the idea of God had been alike in all, viz. of a Being infinitely wise, powerful, and good, there might have been great reason to have believed it to have been planted in our minds ; but the general idea of God among mankind was too dark and confused to form any argument from it; and it related chiefly to his power, and some kind of goodness; but not so as to exclude any other beings from being honoured as gods. So that the force of it cannot be taken from the consent of mankind in this idea : but if it be only said, That this is a true and just idea of him, and that there are other arguments to prove it from his works, so far it may and ought to be allowed. But the metaphysical subtlety of this argument, as it was managed by Des Cartes, was so great, that not merely persons of common capacities could not comprehend it; but he complains himself, that the mathematicians would not be convinced of the demonstrative

force of it. Upon which he makes a sharp reflection, Des Cartes, That the mathematics did rather hinder than further ii. ep. 33. men in metaphysical speculations.

But my business is not to lay open the weakness of these arguments, but only to shew that there is no cause to lay aside those which have been always used, and approved by the most sincere and intelligent persons in all ages. And this I shall make appear from his second argument in his Meditations; but the first

« PreviousContinue »