Meditations on First Philosophy


René Descartes

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Formal reality, which contrasts with objective reality, describes something being real in the sense that it actually exists. For instance, saying that a book of philosophy has formal reality means that it is a real physical object. The concepts of formal and objective reality are the foundation for Descartes’s first argument for the existence of God in the Third Meditation.

Formal Reality Quotes in Meditations on First Philosophy

The Meditations on First Philosophy quotes below are all either spoken by Formal Reality or refer to Formal Reality. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge, Doubt, and Science Theme Icon
Third Meditation Quotes

It is clear to me, by the natural light, that the ideas in me are like pictures, or [sic] images which can easily fall short of the perfection of the things from which they are taken, but which cannot contain anything greater or more perfect.

Related Characters: The Meditator (speaker), René Descartes
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

It is enough that I understand the infinite, and that I judge that all the attributes which I clearly perceive and know to imply some perfection—and perhaps countless others of which I am ignorant—are present in God either formally or eminently. This is enough to make the idea that I have of God the truest and most clear and distinct of all my ideas.

Related Characters: The Meditator (speaker), God, René Descartes
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
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Formal Reality Term Timeline in Meditations on First Philosophy

The timeline below shows where the term Formal Reality appears in Meditations on First Philosophy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Third Meditation
God and the World Theme Icon
Something is objectively real if it represents reality, but formally real if it actually exists. The idea of God—who is an infinite substance—has more objective reality... (full context)
Knowledge, Doubt, and Science Theme Icon
God and the World Theme Icon
Mind and Body Theme Icon
...reality” as their effects, since it’s impossible for something to come from nothing. An idea’s formal reality comes from the formal reality of the mind that created it: an idea exists because... (full context)
God and the World Theme Icon
Mind and Body Theme Icon
...Meditator concludes that the original cause of any idea must have at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality. It’s true that one idea can cause another, but... (full context)