1. The comments of Johannes Caterus (Johan de Kater), offered in the First Set of Objections to René Descartes’ Meditations (AT VII, p.92) [As translated by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume II. (Cambridge University Press/ New York. ©1984) pp.66-67]. In this instance, it should be noted that I have departed somewhat from the translation offered by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch, and favored a more literal reading of the original Latin.
2. From Part Four of Descartes’ Discourse on the Method (AT VI, pp.32-33) [As translated by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume I. (Cambridge University Press/ New York. ©1985) p.127].
17. Descartes suggests the eternal truths stand before God as civil laws stand before a sovereign, in the Sixth Set of Replies (AT VII, p.436) [The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume II. p.294].
18. This is shown clearest when, to show that God is not in need of an efficient cause, even discursively, Arnauld submits: “We look for the efficient cause of something only in respect to its existence, not in respect to its essence. [...] I cannot without absurdity inquire into the efficient cause of this triangle’s having three angles equal to two right angles. If anyone makes such an inquiry, the correct response would not to give an efficient cause, but to explain that this is the nature of a triangle. [...] But it belongs to the essence of an infinite being that it exists, or, if you will, that it continues in existence,...” (Fourth Set of Objections, offered by Antoine Arnauld (AT VII, p.212) [The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volume II. p.149].)
To which Descartes responds: “... God derives his existence from himself ‘positively and as it were causally’. By this I simply meant that the reason why God does not need any efficient cause in order to exist depends on a positive thing, that is, the very immensity of God, which is as positive as anything can be. M. Arnauld, however, shows that God is not self-created or self-preserved by any positive influence of an efficient cause; and this I quite agree with.” (Fourth Set of Replies (AT VII, pp.231-232) [Volume II. p.162].)
23. Descartes observes, “It does not matter that I do not comprehend the infinite, or that there are countless additional attributes of God which I cannot in any way comprehend, and perhaps cannot even touch with my mind; for it is the nature of the infinite not to be comprehended by a finite being like myself,” in the Third Meditation (AT VII, p.46) [p.32]. (It should be noted that I have again departed somewhat from the translation offered by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch, preferring the more literal “comprehend” instead of “grasp”.)
25. This oversight appears even more dramatic when it is noticed that the analytic reductionism which guides the Cartesian project (at least in terms of the isolation and affirmation of simple truths) relies in no small part on the positing of limits by the recognition of intellectual divisibility. Descartes is clear in maintaining the non-being of limitation (qua limitation), as he says in the First Set of Replies, “... a limitation is merely a negation or denial of any further perfection [or being], and such a negation does not proceed from a cause, though the thing itself which is so limited does.” (AT VII, p.111) [p.80]
27. This method appears in many places in Descartes’ writings, but is especially relevant when he is distinguishing fictions of the intellect from realities of the world: “... we must notice a point about ideas which do not contain true and immutable natures but merely ones which are invented and put together by the intellect. Such ideas can always be split up by the same intellect, not simply by an abstraction but by a clear and distinct intellectual operation, so that any ideas which the intellect cannot split up in this way were clearly not put together by the intellect.” (First Set of Replies (AT VII, p.117) [p.84].)
28. Descartes measures this difference by saying, “there are only two ways of proving the existence of God, one by means of his effects, and the other by means of his nature or essence;...” (First Set of Replies (AT VII, p.120) [p.85]. I have taken the proof by effects to be the proof by efficient causality, and the proof by God’s nature to be the proof by the clarity of the idea of God.