Designs Are Not Innate

Designs Are Not Innate

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Since designs cannot be said to originate from a physical external world or from one’s own mind, can they be considered innate, as Descartes suggested? Couldn’t the designs have been created with the human being when he was born, and placed in his mind?

Confirming that there are innate thoughts requires assuming that there is an innate “infinity of thoughts” in the mind. For, while the number of different shapes that can be thought of is infinite, a triangle can be thought of in infinitely different sizes and shapes. Apart from this difficulty, if the ideas were innate in the mind, the mind would need other designs that it would use as a basis or as an example in order to know which object to design with which thought, and thus an endless loop would arise. Thus, while Malebranche, together with Descartes, affirmed that human beings cannot create designs, he also denied that they could be from the outside world or from birth.

According to Malebranche, designs are objective and common to every human being. This objectivity and commonality allows Descartes to explain the qualities that he sees in thoughts, which are identical in every human being, without having to assume the thesis of innate thoughts. The fact that knowledge such as arithmetic is common and identical in every human being, necessary truths, is not because the designs are innate, but because they are both common and objective. According to Malebranche, the thoughts perceived by man are the designs in his mind (ante rem) that God used to create the universe and took as an example in this creation. Man perceives and designs the designs in God’s mind. Everything that man knows and designs proves to him the existence of God. But God’s nature, himself, can never be known. This is not something one can grasp in life as a human being.

The designs that make up knowledge are not really man’s designs, but God’s objective thoughts. Every person designs these thoughts. Man can know to the extent that God wishes to enlighten him. Righteousness is to see designs in God, so it is possible only in God. For righteousness is entirely a matter of designs in God.

Malebranche argues that it is not necessary for God to have created the world of objects because of the thoughts in his mind. Such a necessity, according to him, is incompatible with God’s infinite perfection. God, among his infinite attributes, is pure activity, whether to create or not depends on his will. The only active being in the universe is God, because the existence of another active being limits His ability to act purely and endlessly.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook