Thomas Hobbes argued against Descartes’s proof of God’s existence roughly as follows. We can get the ideas of perfection and the infinite by combining very ordinary and, in fact, boring observations and ideas. The idea of perfection can be achieved by noting that one bucket, a bucket with holes in it, is not good for carrying water. A bucket with no holes is better than a bucket with holes, at least for this task. The bucket with holes is flawed. We also have the notion of negation. A bucket is not a rooster. So if we combine ‘not’ with ‘flawed’ we get ‘not flawed’. A synonym for ‘not flawed’ is ‘perfect’. For infinite, we can do the same. A pen is smaller than a wagon. Another way of saying that the pen is smaller is this: “The pen is more limited.” If we combine the notion of limit with negation, we get ‘not limited’. A synonym for ‘not limited’ is ‘infinite’.
Hobbes is challenging Descartes’s claim that the greater never comes from the lesser. Hobbes thinks this premise is false. Thus, Hobbes does not aim to show that the argument is invalid, as Kant tried to do with Anselm’s argument; instead, Hobbes seeks to show that the argument is unsound. Go back to our course concepts if you do not recall the difference between validity and soundness.
Here is the journal assignment:
Journal 1: Is this a good philosophical objection to Descartes’s argument? Which premises does Hobbes’s objection challenge? What does Hobbes wish to show about that premise? Given Hobbes’s goal, he is trying to show that Descartes’s argument is what? Use course concepts. Can you think of a good rebuttal that Descartes, given his views, is likely to make?
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