In Descartes' forth meditation, he says" The privation, I say, present in this operation insofar as the operation proceeds from me, but not in the faculty given to me by god, nor even in its operation insofar as it depends upon god." I'm wondering how does judgment making depend on god. In the preceding paragraphs, he says that judgment making depend on intellect and will, does either of them depends on god in the process of judgment making? Do both of them solely rely on the faculty given by god?

1 Answer 1


Here Descartes is writing about how it is he can make mistakes. The worry is that since he was made by God, and God does not make mistakes, it would seem that Descartes should also be unable to make mistakes. But clearly he can be in error. How does this happen?

Well, he has different faculties--he has a faculty of understanding, and a faculty of will (which includes judgment). His faculty of understanding is limited--he does not understand everything, and even what he does understand he may not get it perfectly. His faculty of will, however, is not limited at all. He can make all kinds of choices and judgments, and these are not necessarily constrained. It is, therefore, in making judgments about things that he doesn't understand that error comes into the picture. The faculty of judging outstrips the understanding, and that leads to error. It is not, though, because there is a problem with the his God-given faculty of understanding, or with the way that faculty works--it works exactly as God intended. The same goes for the faculty of judgment (the faculty works fine, exactly as God intended). The problem comes from Descartes failing to restrict his judgments to those things he understands.

I hope this helps!

  • Very nice answer, +1
    – iphigenie
    Dec 6, 2014 at 15:47

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