In his meditations, Descartes managed to refer to the most important issues of philosophy and human perception of the surrounding world – the origin of errors, existence of God, difference between imagination and intellection/understanding. These three issues are covered in Descartes Meditations Four, Five and Six.
In the Forth Meditation, Descartes outlined his perception of why people, irrespective of being created by God, still make mistakes and are prone to errors. In his opinion, the reason for error is not imperfection of the human being, but wisdom with which an individual may use the gifts God had given to humanity, meaning understanding (intellection) and free will. In this context, he argues that the errors occurs from the difference in nature of those two phenomena, meaning that while free will is entirely complete and finite in its essence, human intellect is not. Understanding and subsequent knowledge are in constant process of development and improvement. In this context error occurs in case of the unclear judgment “if I affirm what is false, I clearly err, and if I stumble onto the truth , I am still blame worthy since the light of nature reveals that a perception of the understanding should always precede a decision of will ” (Descartes 38). In other words, Descartes is saying that error occurs not because of the free will an individual is given by God but by the lack of understanding/ intellect at the moment of judgement.
In the Fifth meditation, Descartes provides another proof of God’s existence. In this case, he derives it from the comprehension of existence and essence of ideas. The initial assumption for consideration is that irrespective of the imaginary nature of the idea (imagined triangle in this case), it has “a certain determined nature, form or essence, which is immutable and eternal” and not invented by the thinker (Descartes 45). In this respect, thinker’s perception of God is the same. Descartes argued that just mountain and valley cannot exist separately so God cannot be perceived separately from existence. In this context, the states that the essence of God is perfect and “there is not any less repugnance to our conceiving a God (that is, a Being supremely perfect) to whom existence is lacking (that is to say, to whom a certain perfection is lacking) than to conceive of a mountain which has no valley” (Descartes 48). In this context, the logical chain of Descartes’ argument goes as follows: although one cannot understand the whole greatness of God and His Essence, one knows for sure that God is prefect; since it is difficult to assume that perfection might be in lacking of existence; thus, God should exist in confirmation of his perfect nature.
In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes explains the conception between existing objects, imagination and understanding through the statement that God created those objects and through the belief in perfect nature of God and his intentions, those objects are existent. In this framework, he made distinction between imagination and intellect. In imagining the figure of a triangle he states that the apprehension of the three lines of the triangle, which “are present by the power and inward vision of my mind, and this is what I call imagining” (Descartes 53). In this context, the main difference between pure intellect and imagining is in the connection to the body and certain types of mental activity.
On the example of a triangle and chiliagon it is showed that the process of imagining requires certain mental actions in order to recreate the image and the idea of chiliagon, but this activity does not involve such actions as conceiving and understanding, essential for the pure intellection (Descartes 54). The meaning of the distinction between imagining and intellect were further connected to possibility of separate existence of body and mind. On the other hand, Descartes argued that when corporal and mental perception of the object occur at the same time and do not contradict each other “I am perfectly sure that what I thus perceive occurs while I am awake and not during sleep” (Descartes 58). Thus, through the connection between imagining and pure intellect, body and mental activity, Descartes derived the comprehension of reality.
Descartes, R. Meditations on First Philosophy. Cambridge, CA: Cambridge University Press.