A Discourse on the Method (World’s Classics)

ISBN: 0192825143
ISBN 13: 9780192825148
By: René Descartes Ian Maclean

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About this book

Descartes' Discourse marks a watershed in European thought; in it, the author sets out in brief his radical new philosophy, which begins with a proof of the existence of the self (the famous "cogito ergo sum"). Next he deduces from it the existence and nature of God, and ends by offering a radical new account of the physical world and of human and animal nature. Written in everyday language and meant to be read by common people of the day, it swept away all previous philosophical traditions

Reader's Thoughts

Lavinia

I have to admit that I was very biased when I've started to read this. I was somehow relating it to Kant's Criticism of the Pure Reason, which was a traumatizing reading experience. Instead I found myself in front of a reasonable man with reasonable ideas. Even if I've read it in old French, which did not ease things. That is if we discard the proof of God's existence - but that relates to my inner beliefs, such as 'God cannot be demonstrated'. This aside, I enjoyed this writting, even if I was annoyed from time to time by the whining tendency. I particularly liked the last part, which I read as 'anyhow nobody will understand what I'm talking about, so why should I waste my time on you? Besides, I dont't want to give you the opportunity to put words in my mouth'. I guess it could have been pure fear of church though...

Dave B.

Descartes is enjoyable as a rationalist philosopher. I throughly embrace his ideals of self reflection and learning. My only problem is an issue that is core to most rationalist argument up to the 19th century. All analysis and argumentation relies on the existance of God. So every argument ends with the essential statement "Argument A is so because God wants it so". This is not to imply I don't have faith in God. I just believe that a rational logical argumentation must center around observable fact not assumed faith. This opinion doesn't translate to the idea that Descartes is not worth the time reading. He is listed as one of the greatest minds of western society for a reason. To read his works is to understand core ideas held by the western mind.

Cadfan

Fascinating book. Even though this book is old now you can still follow Descartes remarkable clarity of thought. Descartes was truly a great thinker in that he aimed in getting the maximum amount of clarity in his work that he could. This book can be slightly confusing at times due to the views of those times and the different sentence structuring but it is generally quite intelligible what Descartes is trying to say. Descartes breaks down the human experience to its very basics, and in doing so he improves our own thinking patterns as we realise what we can truly assert to be true and what we cannot.I recommend this book for any person who wants a glimpse of how to think lucidly and clearly with deliberate decision. However, I do not recommend this book for someone who is afraid of doubt, as this book will have you doubting literally everything and everyone! Lol.5/5

Daniel

Ever since a student of mine turned out to be right that the famous 'cogito ergo sum' was originally rendered in French, I have been meaning to get my language skills up to the task of reading this work as Descartes wrote it. I made my through and found it profitable, but I will say that the latter half involved some skimming and some letting-it-wash-over-me. There is a big chunk on his theory of circulation of blood - not exactly fascinating for the 21st century man. And the last part appears to be a lengthy explanation of why he chose not to publish a lot of his physics -- I confess I was doing a lot of the wash-over at this point. I think I'll have to learn some more French and come back to it, because I think there were some good points in there, too. I did pick up why he wrote it in French: he wanted people to come at his views using 'pure reason' and not with prejudices for only 'old books' (written in Latin).

Benjamin Plaggenborg

Obligatory reading never does a book justice, so you may take this review with a grain of salt.The book's central message is that of Descartes' brand of critical thinking. According to his account he grew so disillusioned by his education that he set out to abandon it all and try to build a set of knowledge on solid foundations. In short, he won't accept any claim if its truth isn't glaringly obvious to him. He gets going with his "I think, therefore I am." So far so good. However, it doesn't take many flips of the page until he's proven the existence of God with arguments which are hard to take seriously. Essentially he says he's not perfect because he doubts, yet he has the idea of perfection; so something perfect must have impressed the idea on him. This perfect being is, Descartes says, God.Perhaps I find this silly because I'm irreligious. But I find it hard to believe that even my religious friends would find the argument convincing. And therein lies my problem with the book. If you're going to create a philosophical method which is to remove uncertainties and disagreement from our thought, then you better not get into serious arguments within pages of its introduction. It would seem that our vision of truth's clarity is not as unified as the method requires.He lays out four rules of thinking which are the most useful part of the book, especially considering the times at which he wrote it. Firstly the previously mentioned method of approval. Secondly the breaking down of problems into smaller and easier parts. Thirdly ascending, by the solutions of simple problems, to more complex ones. Finally to make as full and general account of his reasoning, to make sure nothing was left out.This sort of explanation is in my experience not going to help break habits of thought, except by enormous mental effort and discipline. Much more will be gained by seeing the rules applied. The next best thing to learning by doing is learning by seeing done. This shouldn't be taken as criticism of the book, since it was written as an introduction to three scientific and mathematical works. But as it stands, though it may have been useful in its time, it isn't to me now. And I'm at a loss to think of anyone who needs a lesson in critical thinking who would benefit by reading it.

Abdulrahman Farouk

كتاب رائع في كل شيء، في تقديمه، وترجمته، وبالطبع في النّص القليل الكلمات كبير المعاني. لا أستطيع كتابة المزيد عنه.. لكنني بالتأكيد سأرشحه لكل من سألني يوماً عن "ماذا يقرأ"

Διόνυσος Ψευδάνωρ

One of the very finest products of the history of philosophy, René Descartes' Discourse on the Method is, in this Focus Philosophical Library edition, translated by the late Richard Kennington. Of special importance in this edition is Kennington's very good interpretive essay, "Descartes' Discourse on Method," which is only elsewhere found in a posthumous collection of his essays, On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy . My understanding is that this was originally a lecture delivered at the University of Chicago in 1980. Regarding Kennington's ultimate conclusion, however, I can only go part way, at least provisionally, or before greater study. The question he ends on is this: has the "bond between philosophy or science and society been shown to be reasonable?" No, he concludes, for that bond rests on two elements which are, in fact, irreducible. The elements are two themes, the theme of utility and the theme of certainty. Since utility, or science for the sake of power, or for the possession and mastery of nature, is something the certainty of which, as Kennington says, "we are free" to philosophize about independently, we can reject Descartes' project. I agree to a point. Yes, we lack a "categorical obligation" to the modern project. But does that mean that the Cartesian project is unreasonable? I'm disinclined to think so because I doubt that Descartes was unaware of Kennington's discovery. Kennington's essay, despite his many indications of Descartes' dissimulative style of writing and his implicit demand that we modify the theological-political situation that he faced, is silent about that situation when I think it matters most, when we aim to draw the final conclusions about what "we are free" to do regarding his project today. His interpretation seems to suggest that we are free to reject the modern project because of the unreasonableness of Descartes' position, but, it seems to me, that Descartes' position wasn't simply unreasonable because it successfully brought about the needed change in the theological-political situation. Christianity was, after all, dealt a very serious blow. Modern science's appropriation of human charity from the jurisdiction of Christianity reduced Christianity's influence. Without any further explicit indication of the need that Descartes faced and the deliberate benefits to humanity that he brought about, I can only partly endorse Kennington's essay. However, I will note this: Kennington comes from a tradition whose members are careful writers who know how to read very careful writers, and it's not impossible that his silence on Descartes' full motives is telling; so, I will remain open to the possibility that he has a more "charitable" albeit obscure interpretation in mind. If I find grounds for that during future study of this essay, I will append them to this review.Appendage: My original hesitation above about Kennington's interpretive essay resulted from all but the very end of Kennington's final, thirty-first, paragraph. Taking a closer look at the very end revealed to me further grounds for hesitation. Now I'm less inclined to hope for his greater, if somewhat concealed, charity of interpretation. The very ending is this: "Here, in Descartes, science does not know the ultimate, the particles; it does not know the whole. As scientific knowledge, it does not comprehend the human. If reinterpreted within these limits, its knowledge may well be an immense benefaction. But since it knows neither the whole nor the human part, we are free to philosophize independently of Cartesian and modern science." This is more in keeping with the tradition that Kennington comes from. On the other hand, it also seems too easy. Since "knowing the whole" is so probably out of reach, any project that cannot aspire to attain it can simply be dispensed with. The demand for knowledge of the whole is such a high demand that it can serve as an effective skeptical argument for almost anything. But that's too easy, especially as Kennington leaves it, without further elaboration. It still seems to me that Descartes knew these same limitations, and if so, then a better critique would lie in explaining how the Cartesian project, as conceived by Descartes, including its known limitations, is no longer necessary for the times. For that, though, it seems to me that we can turn to Nietzsche. A clarification: my basic, at present, disagreement is this: Kennington's argument about the limitations of Cartesian science are based on limitations that I believe Descartes was aware of. In that case, Kennington's argument against Descartes goes no further than Descartes. The limitations that Kennington reveals are limitations fully revealable at any time, even in Descartes' time. The most important limitations, then, are not with Descartes, but with history, i.e., there are even better limitations on which one could disagree with Cartesian science. Something like that, at least for now.

sahar salman

فكرة هذا الكتاب هي منهج العقل. ودراسات تشملها سنوات من حياة الفيلسوف رينيه ديكارت عن البحث عن الحقيقة والطريقة المثلى في التفكير وإنشاء كل الحقائق الإنسانية وكشف اللثام عنها بالطريقة التي ينتقيها كل إنسان في أصولية تفكيره. ما أعجبني في ديكارت هو توازنه الفكري، وإختلافه عن بقية الفلاسفة في الفكر وطريقة عرضه لأفكاره التي يحب أن يتأكد من صحتها كما أن إختلاف النسق الفكري عنده لدى الناس لا يمثل بالضرورة صحة أو عدم صواب أرائهم بل هو يعده "إختلاف" في النسق. فالمعرفة اليقينيه هي أكثر أفضلية من اتباع نسق الآخرين في التفكير أو اتباعهم للعادات والتقاليد بلا تكوين فكري خاص بهم . فلا شيء تحت سيطرتنا بشكل تام سوى هذه الأفكار التي تشق طريقها في العقل الإنساني. فالتأمل في الكون أو في فكرة ما بدون نسيان الأساسيات وبترك العادات التي تصيب العقل بالتلف هي الطريقة المثلى في تهذيب العقل وجعله أكثر مرونه في تقبل الأفكار وتصنيفها. المترجم قدم هذا العمل بصفه بارعه في الدقة والوضوح ومقدمته شملت شرحاٰ وافياٰ لفكر ديكارت كما تضمنت حواشي الكتاب مراجع وشروح قد أعد بعضها زائداٰ عن الحاجة إلا أنها بشكل عام مفيدة كقراءة أولية لهذا الفيلسوف. ديكارت شبه عمله بلوحة سمح لجميع الناس من كتاب ونقاد وقراء بنقدها وإطلاق الأحكام عليها وتصنيفها، فهو لا يعتبر عمله منوط بعقل واحد فقط، هو يشارك البقية عقولهم ليجمع به كل رأي يقوم على حديث طريقه الفكري فيعد أكثر تكاملاٰ من ظهوره الأول على هذه الصورة.

Shannon Thompson

In Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes discusses the philosophical and psychological aspects of being human, and I think that’s why this writing is easily accessible and relatable throughout the ages. Since there is a discussion on our nature, Descartes allows readers from his day and modern day to relate to one another and how they try to psychologically make sense of their life meaning. Descartes writes, “what we thus see or imagine is in reality existent; but it plainly tells us that all our ideas or notions contain in some truth” (Discourse on Method, 19.) While discussing whether or not this writing is an opportunity or a challenge, I think Descartes reveals how human nature is obviously both—life is a challenging opportunity. I think he best describes us as individuals when Descartes wrote, “it is not my design to teach the method that everyone must follow in order to use his reason properly, but only to show the way in which I have tried to use my own” (2). I liked this quote because, to me, it is both positive and negative, both challenging and an opportunity. It ultimately describes the modern world and how we must figure out our rights, our wants, and how to achieve everything within the equation of being a human in society and also an individual.

Roos

Fascinating text with interesting theories, and not hard to read. Part four definitely the most relevant. Part one and two felt like introduction and five and six like conclusion. However, I had to keep reminding myself that it was published in 1637 to not get angry at the outrageous theories on God and animals. Also, Descartes sounds like a massive megalomaniac. The text serves as a good introduction to the work of Descartes, but I am not sure I will read much more of it. Although his ideas on reason and the Soul are very interesting, religion is a big part of his philosophies, and I have a hard time reading almost scientific language used to prove the existence of a Chistian God, no matter when it was written.

Maan Kawas

A good and important book by the great French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes, which can be considered a landmark and an influential achievement in the history of modern philosophy! The book takes the form of an autobiographical treatise in which Descartes describes a method he found which helped him guide his reason in his quest for truth and research. Descartes states that he was after truth, and that he sought certainty, as most of the things and beliefs he found were subject to skepticism. In the book he introduces the four rules for conducting his reason, as well as the moral rules he adhered to during his journey of intellectual development. In this treatise Descartes tackles various issues, starting with the acknowledgement of the ‘thinking self’, from which he deduces his existence: “I think, therefore, I am” (Je pense, donc je suis), which he suggests later on to be distinct from the extended boy; thus establishing his dualist theory of mind and body. Then he proceeds to prove the existence of God the perfect and the laws of God, and talks after that about physiology (the blood, the heart and circulation systems) and makes comparisons between animals and men, stating the humans differ from animals. I loved Descartes’ use of an autobiography to describe his method, which also shows some effect of his Jesuit’s education. A key achievement the treatise achieved is to demolish the Aristotelian’s philosophy he learnt in schooling from the Jesuits. It is great to read this book which demonstrates the impact of the intellectual zeitgeist on this great Philosopher.

Ahmed Azimov

لابد لنا من الوقوف هنا لننظر متأملين الى احدى مكتسبات الانسانيه هنا مرحلة انعطاف هامه في تاريخ الهوموسابيانز والعلوم الانسانيه المكتسبه تماما حالها كحال منازعة كوبرينيكوس لافكار بطليموس القائله بمركزية الارض والتي روّج لها جاليلو لاحقا، وماديّة نيوتن، وتطوّر داروين، ونسبية اينشتين، وووو - رضي الله عنهم أجمعين -يوم أن صُودر الكثير من العظمة المزعومة للانسان البدائي الذي كان يرى نفسه وكوكبه مركزا للأجرام السماويه حيث يدورون خضوعا له بينما هو يبقى ثابتا !! حتى بدى لنا أننا مجرد أجرام صغيره حقيره لاحقاالكوجيتو الديكارتي المشهور " أنا أفكر إذن إنا موجود " حيث أنك جوهرٌ كلّ ماهيته أو طبيعته ليس إلا أن يفكر بالإضافة الى عرض موجز لتجربة الانسان الروحية والحديث عن مذهبه الشكي الذي كانت له أصداء أفلاطونيه سابقا، وكذا آمن به الشيخ الأكبر محيي الدين، حتى صاغه ديكارت بإحكام، فانطلق منه طه حسين أدبيا في مصنف " الشعر الجاهلي " - على سبيل المثال عربيا -

Alex

Cogito Ergo Sum......more correctly, " Je pense donc je suis" ... I think, therefore, I am.Anyways, Descartes, ladies and gentlemen... I've been trying to read some more basic philosophy, and this one is one of my favorites. I like Descartes' method (yes, pun intended) in discovering and discerning truth. Seems to align with my worldview-- question everything, but build on what you know and can reason.Anyway, the reading was quite thick. It was interesting to read in the last section how he delayed publication because of the religious and social pressure of the rennaissance.I really admire descartes. A true rennaissance man (again, pun very much intended) -- a thinker, mathematician, physicist, dabbling in medicine and anything else that interested him.

Bookworm Amir

This works out to be a bit of a philosophy text, similar to Plato's allegory of the cave. Something which I have read since I had done Philosophy class. His work is divided into 6 parts, of which the content are the first 4 I'd say. He talks about how God and man's relationship is, how the idea of something perfect, shall you try looking for it in the most objective manner, is naturally embedded in our mind already. He also talks about the sciences and how it works out. And animals too, how humans and animals are similar yet different. Hint: the ability to speak and us having the rational soul. The last part talks about him not wanting to be considered as a philosopher nor us taking his views and transforming it into a philosophy. Overall, the best part that I took from this reading is that to find objective truth, you have to suspend and remove some of your beliefs so that you can find things in the most objective and unbiased manner, the way which Descartes had done in a few principles. For me, it would be very fun to start doing this, as I used to do that itself. Question everything and don't take anything you see as an inherent truth. A short read, I suggest you read this as it is considered as one of the classics. Read it once, let it expand your mind, and shelve it. :-)

Timothy Matias

Rene’ Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method” is one of the most difficult books for me to review, in that it is half inspiring to me, and half disappointing; what starts out as a brilliant doubting methodology, eliminating whatever can be doubted until there is nothing left than can be by any conjecture or hypothesis be reasonably doubted- arrive at a basic, fundamental truth, providing a firm rational foundation from other truths can be derived. Unfortunately, once Descartes discovers this truth, (“I think, therefore I am”), he abandons his doubting methodology almost entirely, the remainder of the book being devoted to religion, morality, the intellectual superiority of men, Aristotelian thought, a lengthy explanation of his understanding of the human heart, and finally, a defense of his views and his reasons for promulgating them. The latter sections, when accounted together with the general apologetic tone of this work, suggests that a more fitting title would have been “Discourse on and Defense of the Method”, with the latter being the most disappointing aspect of his work.The first half of the book, divided into the first three sections, is comprised of Descartes’ intellectual background and the origins of his method, as well as the range of his education and experiences abroad. In these sections, he stresses the importance of a search for truth being elegant, providing several analogies for this, including: the aesthetic superiority of newer buildings built by one architect, over older buildings which have been maintained, remodeled, and “improved” by many different architects progressively less familiar with the original architect’s purpose;how while it more convenient to take the long winding path of a mountain, which is smooth and well-traveled, the most certain path to “truth” must necessarily be straight, though it is comparably untraveled, rocky, and passing through arduous heights and perilous precipitices; the importance of one who is lost in the forest, to stay to one side of a forest, as it is better to come out of the forest on the wrong end, than to perpetually wander in indecision, never coming out of the forest. Accordingly, he endeavors to, once he discovers the method by which to derive truths immune to doubt (dubbed by modern philosophy as the “doubting methodology”), be resolved in its application to the improvement of himself, and the acquisition of new knowledge. This may also explain his authoritative (though paradoxically humble) approach in the deriving of “truths” from his foundational axiom that his ability to think therefore he exists. (I’ll explain some of the negative impacts this had on the accuracy of his works, later on in the review).To doubt all that could be doubted, he first created a hypothetical conjecture by which everything that he knew would become uncertain, which is known today as the “dreaming conjecture”: If the waking world was really just a dream, then everything he saw could be a deception, much in the same way everything we see while dreaming is not happening in reality. It is here that he establishes that even if he were dreaming, and was thus compelled to doubt the truth of everything he saw, felt, imagined, or thought in reality, he still could not deny the fact that his doubts constituted thought, and as there needed to be a doubter to doubt something, his thoughts thereby confirmed his existence. This is the most brilliant part of “Discourse on the Method”, but unfortunately this is also where the brilliance ends.After determining that his thoughts confirm his existence (which would make him, at that point, effectively a solipsist, since the only knowledge he held with certainty was the existence of his own mind), Descartes confidently draws upon much of the knowledge that he had previously already doubted, including such axioms as the existence of perfection, the verification of ideas by virtue of being clearly known (basically, the perceived reliability of intuition), the notion that perfection and imperfection cannot coexist, the certainty that something cannot come from nothing, nor a lesser perfection come from a greater perfection. Building on these assumptions, which Descartes supposedly derived from his certainty of existence, he “proves” the absolute existence of God, that the attributes Descartes believed him to possess, were doubtlessly possessed by God, and the ones which Descartes was certain were contrary to God, he did not possess. This dramatic shift from rigid skepticism to a religiously and philosophically biased authoritarianism, greatly undermines the validity of Descarte’s “Discourse on the Method”.The ludicrousness of his “logic” can be plainly summarized as follows:1. To find the truth, we must doubt everything that can be doubted, until we find a truth so pure that it is immune to skepticism.2. To doubt everything that can be doubted, the notion that reality might well be a dream, is introduced. Everything we know could thus be a figment of our imagination, the deception created by mental delusion.3. We confirm that even if we doubt all else, the fact we can doubt confirms that we can think, which further confirms that there is a thinker, proving that even for a complete cynic, existence is undeniable, and furthermore, is confirmed by attempts to doubt it.(So far so good, but Descartes’ adherence to reason ends here)4. Everything I clearly know to be true is true indeed5. I know that perfection must exist, because how could the thought have been impressed upon me unless there were a greater perfection beyond myself6. This imperfection could not have come from nothing (that would be absurd), and neither could I be more perfect from that whence I came (which would be more absurd)7. Since I must have necessarily come from this greater perfection, my existence (which I have confirmed already) must have come from God8. Thus God existsDescartes then proceeds to determine whether God has deceived his senses to make reality different from what it is, and determines that:1. Since God is perfect, he cannot contain anything that is imperfect2. Thus anything imperfect, including deception, cannot come from GodAccordingly, Descartes can confidently and reliably determine what is real, and what is not, and what is good, and what is bad, by measuring them against God- that is, what Descartes deemed to be imperfect, comes from chaos, and what is perfect, must necessarily have its origin on God.To agree with Descartes’ conclusions, I would argue that one must completely disregard the very method the first half of this discourse is about, and assume all of his axioms as somehow, his plethora of axioms are supported by his confirmation that thought proves existence. If anyone can connect the dots for me on this, I would love to hear their thoughts, but so far as I can tell, Descartes inadvertently let his religious beliefs, and (later on, which I’ll get to) his philosophical background, interfere with objectivity of thought, these biases preventing him from accurately applying the central axiom upon which his entire doubting methodology was founded. This kind of backwards thinking, the primary weakness of not only Descartes’ thought, but of the rationalism movement as a whole, took the rest of his “Discourse on the Method” on an intellectual tangent, producing what is rationally a vastly inferior second half as a sequel to the first.After proving God’s existence, that reality is what it appears to be, and (apparently, though such a proof is not even mentioned!) confirming the existence of the human soul, Descartes demonstrates how his knowledge of God both confirms and clarifies his knowledge of geometry and the sciences, what he perceives with the senses, and a plethora of other “truths” which he said remained yet unpublished, so as to prevent controversy from interfering with his work. He further ventured that, even if other realities were to be created by God, that all of them would be just as true, and follow the same laws of natures, since they all have their origin in God. It’s clear at this point that Descartes had abandoned his method entirely in favor of religious dogma and metaphysical presumptions that he artificially made to conform to his “method”, despite any actual reasoning or evidence to support such an association.Here “the method” is removed from discourse entirely, as the humble Descartes boasts at length about his new-found “knowledge” and the results of his experiments (most of which are already disproven through modern scientific discoveries, and little more than an application of the “science” of Aristotle, Descartes’ primary philosophical influence, and the basis for most of the second half of this discourse). He describes his discoveries of the interactions of the four elements which, in Descarte’s time, were believed to compose everything: earth, fire, air, water) and the fifth element aether, which is implied in his analyses of light and the soul.The tangent continues even farther from the method with his exposition of animal organs, how they are similar to human organs, but that whereas humans also have vegetative and sensitive souls, they also possess that which no brute (animal/non-human, and quite possibly including Africans, whom Descartes implied in the beginning of the treatise are brutes) could possess- the rational soul, which enables humans to reason, and to communicate intelligibly through language, and adapt themselves to understand and be understood, and which even the most intellectually mediocre of humans can surpass the most intelligent of animals in proficiency. Of course, modern empirical science would have disproved Descarte’s claims in this regard too. If only to further demonstrate his own ignorance, he continued on to note that no machine, whether organic or mechanical, could replicate human intelligence convincingly, which of course is handily debunked by the ever-innovative modern scientific field of artificial intelligence.Descartes has thus made a great many assumptions, a far leap from doubting everything besides his ability to think, and by virtue of that, his own existence. Contrary to the original intent, Descartes has made his way to the edge of the forest, or to draw upon Plato’s allegory, to the mouth of the cave, only to dive back inside in search of deeper “truth” than he could find in the mere assurance of his own existence. And contrary to his maxim of striving for elegance, even at the cost of intellectual hardship and existential peril, he abandoned his “Occam’s Razor” and created theories building upon a myriad of assumptions, abandoning the necessity of undoubtable axioms, in favor of religion, intuition, Aristotelian thought, and personal bias. So much for objectivity!After this point, he gives a long winding explanation of the interworkings of the heart and the flow of blood, through the lens of the aforementioned 5-element medieval conception of nature and biology. Basically, his explanations are sound, but insufficiently vague to establish his credibility as a master of anatomy, and unacceptably tainted by simplistic and distorted understandings of chemistry and elemental structure. He then skims over how he theorizes the senses manifest perception, how our body induces the sleeping and waking states, etc. With each page of Descartes’ “discourse”, the once humble Descartes transforms himself into a deluded, authoritative know-it-all, and this treatise became more difficult to read with every paragraph, as the originally meaningful discourse discards the central focus in favor of fashioning itself a medieval textbook, only stretched over every single topic of the sciences, and without much relation between them. “In fine”, [the term used in the English translation to mean 'in summary'], the second half of this treatise successfully warps it into a collection of tangential philosophical speculations misrepresented as demonstrated facts.The final section has little to be said about, except that it is half-apologetic, and half self-promotion. This sort of thing is ordinarily found in the preface or the introduction to a work, or some other sort of author’s note, but Descartes ended up placing it at the end of the book, for God knows what reason. He explains how he didn’t want to release the treatises (mainly, the other ones, which are continually aluded to in this one), but felt compelled to so as to not be thought ill of for refraining from doing so. He explains how even though he wishes to have his work undisturbed, and his repose uninterrupted, that he felt the need to release the work first to preserve his reputation (which had grown despite his efforts to the contrary), and second to ensure that a greater understanding and application of his work could be achieved than if it were published post-mortem. He then goes on to promote the importance of his work being studied and analyzed properly, and of people replying to the discourse via his publisher so as to improve it. All of these things, while perhaps essential for an author to convey to his readership, are hardly the kind of thing to be devoted a section to, but at this point I’ve already given up on finding any logic to Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method”, which disappeared soon after the third section of this treatise was completed.Regardless of my misgivings regarding the logic of this discourse, and the due-noted unfaithfulness to the axioms and maxims his work was founded on, Descarte’s authoritative approach to “truth”, and the scientific and mathematical discoveries he derived from it, have indeed benefited mankind, so ultimately, his purpose in writing this work, and the concerning treatises, was fulfilled. On one hand, I consider him the Aristotle of the 17th century, creating a philosophical movement that would impede the progress of the fields of philosophy and science for decades, even centuries. On the other hand, his somewhat extremist, biased, authoritative approach to philosophy and the sciences led him to conceive of knowledge far beyond the scope of the sciences of the time. Both perspectives are reminiscent of Sigmund Freud, the physicist-philosopher who imagined a whole system of psychoanalysis and built the foundations of modern psychology, but is now widely criticized for the many speculative ideas he promoted as fact (now mostly disproven by modern psychology and psychiatry), particularly regarding human motivation and sexuality, and child development. In the same way, Descartes’ ideas, while many (or most, I might venture) were factually wrong, and often the opposite of the truth, helped create a scientific and philosophical revolution, contributing greatly to the present knowledge of these respective fields. In light of these contributions, it’s no wonder he is widely considered the founder of modern philosophy, despite his rational shortcomings.

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