Some of the Steps in Descartes' Argument
in the Fourth Meditation
on the Source of Human Error
© by Dr. Jan Garrett
Last revised: January 27, 2007
(42.1 bottom - 43.1 bottom)
Some of these may be stated premises, some of them may be assumed premises, some are intermediate steps, and one is the final conclusion. These steps are not necessarily in the logical order they have in Descartes' reasoning. It is up to you to figure out which are ultimate premises, which are intermediate steps, and which is the final conclusion, and what the precise linkage is. If you discover other steps in the passage you may introduce them in your argument analysis.God is not a deceiver. (Assume as a premise; it has been proven earlier.)
The cause of error is that a person can misuse his will by not restraining it within the limits of the intellect.
Either God is a deceiver or human error derives from human mental faculties or otherwise from ourselves.
If human error derives from our mental faculties or otherwise from ourselves, then it must come from the human intellect alone, the human will alone, or the specific use we individuals make of our wills.
If the intellect alone is the cause of error, then error would derive from intellect's abilities to grasp clear ideas as true or from the limitations of the intellect.
The ability to grasp clear ideas as true is not a cause of error.
God is the creator of my intellect and its limited nature. (suggested at 42.2)
If the limits of intellect per se are the source of error, then God is the cause of human error.
God is not the cause of human error.
Three hypothetical causes of human error have been ruled out: (list them).
The intellect per se is not the cause of error (42.2)
Human will, considered by itself, is free from compulsion by an external force.(42.2)
Human will, considered by itself, has an infinite range of freedom. (42.2)
The will operates by affirming (assenting to), denying, or suspending judgment about ideas.
The will is not compelled to err when it assents either to clear ideas or to obscure ideas.
Obscure ideas deriving from external forces may be presented to the will.
Inner experience shows us that we can, but are not compelled to, assent to obscure ideas.
Obscure ideas do not determine (compel) the will to error.
Clear ideas do not determine (compel) the will to error but to truth (with the intellect's cooperation).
When the will assents to obscure ideas, it is still free.
Assent to obscure ideas is not fully explained by the will.