By J. L. Mackie
A Miracle of Theism
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Additional info for The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God
God's existence is not, for Descartes, an optional extra: it plays a central part in his system of knowledge. Being dissatisfied with the state of what passed for 31 learning in his time, he wanted to eliminate doctrines that purported to be knowledge but that had no good claim to this title, and to re-establish what was genuine knowledge on a secure foundation. To this end he pursued his method of doubt, initially calling in question and rejecting anything that could be doubted at all, but hoping eventually to reach some proposition that was proof against scepticism.
We already have, for instance, the term 'Martian', defined as 'an intelli-42gent creature native to the planet Mars', but we have good reasons for doubting whether there are any such creatures. However, to dispel such doubts, let us define the term 'Remartian' (short for 'real Martian') so that it includes existence as part of its meaning, the other part being the meaning we already have for 'Martian'. Then 'The Remartian does not exist' will be self-contradictory; so we must reject it 43 and affirm 'The Remartian exists', and so conclude that there is at least one intelligent creature native to Mars.
In saying this Descartes does not pretend to have an adequate idea of God as an infinitely perfect being; a finite mind cannot 35 comprehend the infinite; but even in thinking of God as having in the highest degree (formally or eminently) whatever perfections I know about, as well as others of which I am ignorant, I have a clearer and more distinct idea of God than of anything else. Or it may be suggested that my own mind -34is potentially infinite, since I am conscious of gradual increases in my knowledge, and may in that way be the source of the idea of an infinite being.