SELECTIONS FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY OF RENE DESCARTES (1596-1650)
TRANSLATED BY JOHN VEITCH, LL. D., LATE PROFESSOR OF LOGIC AND RHETORIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
PART III. -- OF THE VISIBLE WORLD.
I. That we cannot think too highly of the works of God.
Having now ascertained certain principles of material things, which
were sought, not by the prejudices of the senses, but by the light
of reason, and which thus possess so great evidence that we cannot
doubt of their truth, it remains for us to consider whether from
these alone we can deduce the explication of all the phenomena of
nature. We will commence with those phenomena that are of the
greatest generality, and upon which the others depend, as, for
example, with the general structure of this whole visible world. But
in order to our philosophizing aright regarding this, two things are
first of all to be observed. The first is, that we should ever bear
in mind the infinity of the power and goodness of God, that we may
not fear falling into error by imagining his works to be too great,
beautiful, and perfect, but that we may, on the contrary, take care
lest, by supposing limits to them of which we have no certain
knowledge, we appear to think less highly than we ought of the power
II. That we ought to beware lest, in our presumption, we imagine that the ends which God proposed to himself in the creation of the world are understood by us.
The second is, that we should beware of presuming too highly of
ourselves, as it seems we should do if we supposed certain limits to
the world, without being assured of their existence either by
natural reasons or by divine revelation, as if the power of our
thought extended beyond what God has in reality made; but likewise
still more if we persuaded ourselves that all things were created by
God for us only, or if we merely supposed that we could comprehend
by the power of our intellect the ends which God proposed to himself
in creating the universe.
III. In what sense it may be said that all things were created for the sake of man.
For although, as far as regards morals, it may be a pious thought to
believe that God made all things for us, seeing we may thus be
incited to greater gratitude and love toward him; and although it is
even in some sense true, because there is no created thing of which
we cannot make some use, if it be only that of exercising our mind
in considering it, and honouring God on account of it, it is yet by
no means probable that all things were created for us in this way
that God had no other end in their creation; and this supposition
would be plainly ridiculous and inept in physical reasoning, for we
do not doubt but that many things exist, or formerly existed and
have now ceased to be, which were never seen or known by man, and
were never of use to him.
Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright ©2002.