Professor Daniel Shannon
Introduction to Philosophy
November 24, 2014
God & the Necessity of Evil In Rene Descartes Meditation IV, he explores the problem of error (evil) and why he is “subject to an infinitude of errors”(20) when it is inconsistent to believe that God, the most perfect being, would be directly responsible for evil through the creation of defective creatures. By analyzing Descartes premises in Meditation IV, I will demonstrate how he has truly solved the problem of evil in a world created by the most perfect being, with the conclusion that evil is necessary for God’s existence and is a result of free will.
He begins by establishing the impossibility that God would deceive him because imperfection is found in the qualities of “fraud and deception”(19) and it would be a contradiction for the most perfect being to have qualities of imperfection. Next he reasons that he has experienced in himself a “certain capacity for judging” and that God would not give him a faculty that would lead him “to err if [he] use(s) it aright”(19). However, he is aware that although in his mind he finds no cause of error, he has still experienced error. Descartes concludes that the mind is split into two distinct parts: the perfect but limited wit (intellect) and the imperfect but very powerful free will. It is inconsistent to think the perfect part of the mind would be the cause of error; therefore, the cause of error must lie in his freewill. When considering why God would give freewill to his creations, Descartes suggests that without freewill, he would cease to be more than a machine and that by having the power to affirm the false and deny the truth; he is actually a more perfect being than a machine. Furthermore, he realizes that as an imperfect being, he is finite. Otherwise, he would be an infinite, perfect being; making him the most perfect being. Since God is the most perfect being, He cannot create another perfect being or God would be creating God. God cannot create God because of God’s unitary nature. As a result, Descartes must be finite and his ability to distinguish between truth and error is also finite. This is why his freewill is more powerful than his intellect; his intellect is limited by his understanding but his freewill is unrestrained (shown by his ability to affirm the false and deny the truth). Descartes explains the problem of evil-understood as the creation of defective creatures-as necessary for God’s unitary existence and for the existence of free will which ultimately allows imperfect beings to seek their own perfect nature.
I believe it is impossible for us to be perfect when we are made up of two opposing parts: the perfect intellect and the imperfect will. According to Descartes, God is the most supremely good being (20). Furthermore, God is the most perfect being; therefore perfection includes all good qualities. On the other hand, imperfection lacks some good qualities and in their place are some bad qualities. Thus we are the source of error; which is synonymous with evil according to Descartes. Despite God being the most perfect being, He indirectly created evil through the creation of defective creatures. Although it seems illogical for a perfect being to create imperfect creatures, it is necessary for God to exist. Every quality must have an opposite in order to exist. The essence of this duality forming a whole is captured by the Chinese philosophy of Yin-Yang. Whether life and death, light and dark, or good and evil; there are two opposing sides that maintain the balance. This translates to God and the necessity of evil because they oppose one another; yet need each other to exist. Without one,…