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Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

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La figura de Descartes como filósofo no ha sido objeto de unánime interpretación. Sobre todo en la actualidad se juzga y pondera su obra. no menos que su personalidad, de manera diferente. Para algunos, Descartes es de preferencia un metodólogo (W. Windelband, P. Natorp...) . Su preocupación, su gran preocupación consistió, según ellos, en dar un fundamento lógico a la nue La figura de Descartes como filósofo no ha sido objeto de unánime interpretación. Sobre todo en la actualidad se juzga y pondera su obra. no menos que su personalidad, de manera diferente. Para algunos, Descartes es de preferencia un metodólogo (W. Windelband, P. Natorp...) . Su preocupación, su gran preocupación consistió, según ellos, en dar un fundamento lógico a la nueva ciencia natural, como él mismo lo intentó y lo hizo. Descartes es, de cierto, así un clásico en la historia de la filosofía como en clásico en la historia de la ciencia. Para otros, la intención acuciante e íntima de Descartes era de orden moral y religioso (L. Blanchet, por ejemplo) : apaciguar el conflicto entre revelación y razón, entre fe y saber. De ahí, se dice, la importancia concedida a la idea de Dios en todo el sistema. Un tercer grupo enfatiza en las apreciaciones los perfiles ontológicos y metafísicos de la obra cartesiana: la finalidad reside, a su juicio, en vivir experiencias ontológicas del yo y del mundo (F. Al-pié, M. Guéroult).

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La figura de Descartes como filósofo no ha sido objeto de unánime interpretación. Sobre todo en la actualidad se juzga y pondera su obra. no menos que su personalidad, de manera diferente. Para algunos, Descartes es de preferencia un metodólogo (W. Windelband, P. Natorp...) . Su preocupación, su gran preocupación consistió, según ellos, en dar un fundamento lógico a la nue La figura de Descartes como filósofo no ha sido objeto de unánime interpretación. Sobre todo en la actualidad se juzga y pondera su obra. no menos que su personalidad, de manera diferente. Para algunos, Descartes es de preferencia un metodólogo (W. Windelband, P. Natorp...) . Su preocupación, su gran preocupación consistió, según ellos, en dar un fundamento lógico a la nueva ciencia natural, como él mismo lo intentó y lo hizo. Descartes es, de cierto, así un clásico en la historia de la filosofía como en clásico en la historia de la ciencia. Para otros, la intención acuciante e íntima de Descartes era de orden moral y religioso (L. Blanchet, por ejemplo) : apaciguar el conflicto entre revelación y razón, entre fe y saber. De ahí, se dice, la importancia concedida a la idea de Dios en todo el sistema. Un tercer grupo enfatiza en las apreciaciones los perfiles ontológicos y metafísicos de la obra cartesiana: la finalidad reside, a su juicio, en vivir experiencias ontológicas del yo y del mundo (F. Al-pié, M. Guéroult).

30 review for Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Very unfortunate hair notwithstanding, Rene “I think, therefore I exist” Descartes was one of the most influential contemplators in the history of philosophy and was instrumental in fomenting the modern modes of intellectual exploration known as deductive reasoning and the scientific method. While he was certainly not alone in the wilderness championing the transformation of knowledge accumulation methods, he was definitely among the significant trail-blazers dropping bread crumbs for the partic Very unfortunate hair notwithstanding, Rene “I think, therefore I exist” Descartes was one of the most influential contemplators in the history of philosophy and was instrumental in fomenting the modern modes of intellectual exploration known as deductive reasoning and the scientific method. While he was certainly not alone in the wilderness championing the transformation of knowledge accumulation methods, he was definitely among the significant trail-blazers dropping bread crumbs for the participants of the scientific revolution to follow. His most important contribution to this endeavor was this treatise which he penned quilled in 1637. Now for those who love to take deeps breaths, fill their mouths with a lot of words and then allow them to spill out, all smart-like, in front of company, the full name of Descartes most famous work is "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences." It is a treatise intended not to convey specific factual knowledge, but rather is intended to provide the methodology through which knowledge may be obtained. Descartes based his search for truth on ascertaining knowledge that could be derived from "first principals" and created a method (outlined below) from which all research into scientific principals, according to Descartes, should be based. He begins by saying that because so many different (and contradictory) theories have been set forth by learned and great men that it is impossible to "trust" anything that you can not verify yourself based on your own observations. This skepticism of all that has come before was the cornerstone for his approach and has remained an integral component of modern scientific thinking and experimentation. If you can’t prove it, it didn’t happen. THE METHOD: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things.” In Section II of Discourse, Descartes defines the "Method" he will use to establish knowledge of the world. It is comprised of the following four steps: (1) Be skeptical of everything and do not accept anything as "truth" until you can be certain of its correctness and completely free from doubt (”The first precept was never to accept a thing as true until I knew it as such without a single doubt.”; (2) Divide each problem into the smallest parts possible so that you can be looking at its component parts which will be the easiest to understand (“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.”); (3) Start from most basic concept and add complexity slowly and in degrees so that you can be absolutely certain of each step along the way; and (4) From your use of (1) through (3) create general rules applicable to the whole of the subject and that apply to the largest possible group. “Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.” Descartes discussion of the method and its application is remarkable as a piece of insight into the mind of an intellectual juggernaut. The man could think his booty off. THE MORALS: Following his break down of the components of “the Method,” Descartes goes on the in Section III of The Discourse to identify three maxims, referred to as morals, that he will adhere to in his studies: (1) Obey the laws of his Country (boring, yet practical); (2) Be firm and resolute in the pursuit of knowledge; (a bit “Captain Obvious” but I think that is part of the point of returning to first principals); and (3) Conquer self rather than fortune (i.e., don't pursue truth based on your own material advantage lest you avoid a line of reasoning that may be true but would lead to a disadvantage for you.) In other words, truth should be your only goal. Here, Descartes does a nice job describing what should be the goal of men of learning and the importance of removing your own motivations from the equation. If only more people would take heed of this pearl of wisdom. APPLICATION OF THE METHOD: In Section IV, Descartes takes his Method and his Morals and applies them to derive the basic truth of his existence expressed in the famous utterance "Cogito ergo sum." He also uses this section to put forth his most controversial use of his system by proving the existence of God. Whew….I’m glad that’s settled now what’s for supper. This last "proof" is called the negotiable ontological proof of the existence of God and centers on the idea that God’s existence is immediately inferable “a priori” from any contemplation of the idea of a supreme being. Let me stave off any religious discussion at this point by simply saying that Descartes application of the method here is a tad strained and I think even he saw that as his reasoning is more categorical than deductive. THE REST (Sections V and VI): Up through the end of Section IV, I would have given this 4 or 5 stars as it was both fascinating and presented in a fashion that was easily understood and digested. Section 5 and 6, comprising the half of this work, was cluttered and read like a pile of muddle. It was also mostly uninteresting and concerned the difference between man and animals and the working of the human circulatory system. I felt like I had stumbled into some ill-advised sequel that failed to pick up the plot from the earlier work. My advice: skip that last two sections…I think you’ll be happier. The meat of the work in is the first 4 sections and that is what I would recommend to anyone even remotely interested in evolution of modern scientific and philosophical thought. Overall, 3.5 stars (though the first four sections get a strong 4 to 5 stars). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (as long as you stop after Section IV). P.S. Just to spike the ball on behalf of Mr. Descartes, he was also extremely influential in the field of mathematics and is considered the father of analytical geometry. Impressive is it not.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    There are times When all the world’s asleep The questions run so deep For such a simple man! -Supertramp RELAX, folks! Here, at last, is a Simple book with Simple answers - for ALL us Simple, struggling souls! The Meditations of Descartes was one of the KEY books in my life. I read it to make my thinking clearer and, in time, it worked. It’s nice to have solid earth beneath my feet for a change! My first really close reading was nearly forty years ago, at a time when I was learning about the practice o There are times When all the world’s asleep The questions run so deep For such a simple man! -Supertramp RELAX, folks! Here, at last, is a Simple book with Simple answers - for ALL us Simple, struggling souls! The Meditations of Descartes was one of the KEY books in my life. I read it to make my thinking clearer and, in time, it worked. It’s nice to have solid earth beneath my feet for a change! My first really close reading was nearly forty years ago, at a time when I was learning about the practice of meditation in daily life. This book said it far better than any of the more occult and ´transcendental’ books that are out there. And yet its ideas are identical - in essence - to Buddhist theory. How so? Buddha said there are three obstacles to clear thinking: Passion, Agression and Ignorance. And Descartes starts by dismantling Ignorance. Why? Because, he says, being retired from the military, he was now at an age where he could put the other two, more active obstacles - Passion and Agression - to rest. Now how many of US can say we have done that by the time we retire? Very few of us, I suppose, because these two turbulent emotions help drive the economy. So maybe they are tacitly encouraged. But are they really necessary? Here’s one senior who’ll tell you they just get in the way of thinking clearly... Listen, once you get to my age, thinking straight’s better and more valuable than any kid’s Saturday Night Fever! And aren’t these two turbulent passions at the root of our ignorance, and our confusion in public? AND the two progenitors of those faceless, ugly Ringwraiths that gallop through the dark forests of our minds and our uneasy slumber? Waking up is hard, but in the end produces peace of mind. Unreality is easy - but it’s not Real! Here’s one simple rule Descartes uses when he begins to eliminate his ignorance: Keep the Faith! Don’t abandon your core beliefs if you’re attempting to sharpen your mind. You might really NEED them some day when things become TOO clear. And nothing causes confusion faster than a mental free fall through this hyped-up world for the rest of your life... Hold onto something solid. Anyway, if you’re thinking clearly at this point, Descartes says, tell me, what do you Really know for sure? Well - you know you’re here. Right - you, and no one else - just simple, ordinary you... are here. You’re REAL. The modern media smokescreens and all those bullying attempts to get you to doubt yourself - they’re all gone. And you know that because you can now THINK FOR YOURSELF. That’s it. Like I said, it was forty years ago when I first started to pay close attention to this little book. I knew I was being misled on many quarters back then, but I couldn’t grasp the root causes... Isn’t it incredible how when we’re growing up we put up our own smokescreens against self-knowledge? Because we’re the ones doing it. And it’s a good thing in a way! It’s sort of like Perseus refusing to look at the head of Medusa. Sheer self-preservation! Common sense. Don’t dive off the deep end when you’re just learning to swim. Take it slow. But if you’re a committed reader, taking your time reading and assimilating, sooner or later in your life you’ll see things a lot more clearly - just like Descartes, who took his adjustment to the unvarnished facts of the world SLOW. And once you can think clearly, you’ll be your OWN master. We can learn a lot from this 17th century dude, you know. And if you learn Descartes’ lessons clearly - You’ll never be fooled again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    It is a fault which can been observed in most disputes, that, truth being mid-way between the two opinions that are held, each side departs the further from it the greater his passion for contradiction. Back in my salad days I had a friend who taught Medieval Philosophy. We wound up moving the class of such to a pub. This appeared very progressive. He once enlightened us with his proof of the Absence of God. His premise was that God was so vast and so central. God couldn't possibly share any qual It is a fault which can been observed in most disputes, that, truth being mid-way between the two opinions that are held, each side departs the further from it the greater his passion for contradiction. Back in my salad days I had a friend who taught Medieval Philosophy. We wound up moving the class of such to a pub. This appeared very progressive. He once enlightened us with his proof of the Absence of God. His premise was that God was so vast and so central. God couldn't possibly share any qualities with a pint of Guinness, which was so small, so banal in the grand scheme of things. Yet this pint was here, we could see it, feel it, taste it and even smell it. Thus God couldn't exist.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J. Sebastian

    I read this at the same time as a few other friends, and I discovered that there were different ways to approach the Discourse on Method. One friend preferred to read as a scientist, finding in the Discourse the beginnings of a method for proper scientific investigation; a second was the philosophical reader who enjoyed Descartes' demolition of his thinking and the following reconstruction of the 'house' from the ground up, to his triumphant declaration of cogito ergo sum. As for myself, I found I read this at the same time as a few other friends, and I discovered that there were different ways to approach the Discourse on Method. One friend preferred to read as a scientist, finding in the Discourse the beginnings of a method for proper scientific investigation; a second was the philosophical reader who enjoyed Descartes' demolition of his thinking and the following reconstruction of the 'house' from the ground up, to his triumphant declaration of cogito ergo sum. As for myself, I found that the Discourse was unfolding for me as if it were a comical short story. I had in my mind an image of Descartes himself as a cartoon character, a caricature of a seventeenth century French mathematician troubled by what were (to me) ridiculous (and therefore comical) doubts as to his own existence. The image of Descartes sitting on the stove to keep warm, (placing him on a level with the image of Diogenes in the oil barrel) while working meticulously through all of his doubts and questions proved to be delightful reading. I was afraid the book would be a miserable slog through a barren waste of uninteresting material, but I was happily disappointed. When my class went on to other books after the Discourse on Method, I continued reading his Meditations. These were even better than the Discourse itself. Descartes knows that those who have no faith in God will believe the proof of His existence in the fourth part to involve circular reasoning, but this is not so. Those who are willing to follow with attention the in-depth explanations included in the Meditations on First Philosophy, will find the reasoning sound: God exists & He is no deceiver. The writing is full of excellent and entertaining examples. To end with something fun, here is a link to a BBC cartoon explaining Descartes' discovery of the cogito ergo sum idea, 'I think, therefore I am': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A6UK... I look forward to re-reading this again next year, and I shall be looking for the Discours de la Méthode in the original French (this will make my cartoon, wherein the Descartes that I envision is allowed to speak in his own French, all the better), and the Meditationes de Prima Philosophia in the original Latin.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lewis

    'I think therefore I am' Probably the most quoted philosophical reference around today. But people generally don't know what it means! Descartes is reputed as the Father of Modern Philosophy, the bringer of new ways of thinking, of revising our beliefs. Though a blatant sexist, speciesist and bigot he was a man of his time. His philosophy however was not. Imagine an evil genius, he has your brain in a jar somewhere and is manipulating it to make you believe all that you perceive around you. You ca 'I think therefore I am' Probably the most quoted philosophical reference around today. But people generally don't know what it means! Descartes is reputed as the Father of Modern Philosophy, the bringer of new ways of thinking, of revising our beliefs. Though a blatant sexist, speciesist and bigot he was a man of his time. His philosophy however was not. Imagine an evil genius, he has your brain in a jar somewhere and is manipulating it to make you believe all that you perceive around you. You can see, smell, feel, taste, hear and believe all of them. Descartes said that all of these senses could well be the creation of that evil genius and we have no reason to believe that the world around us it real. All that Descartes could safely assume was real was his mind. For if the mind was not real, how could the genius deceive you? Thought is the essence of man, it's reality. Descartes believed in something known commonly as Two Substance Dualism, and more academically as Cartesian Dualism. This states that humans have a material and a mental substance, each being separate. When the body dies the mind will survive as it is not dependant on the body, though the body needs the mind to make it human. At the time this was ground breaking, and it didn't contradict Christian orthodoxy (of whom Descartes was a pious believer). All of this is nowadays taken for granted, this knowledge of so pivotal a change in the book of history is equally relevant today. Though not my favourite philosophy (preferring works of Mill and Sartre) it is none the less core stuff and should appear on every self respecting philosophers shelves.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    In the Discourse Descartes is charming, down-to-earth, and his investigation of skepticism is exciting, fun and profound at the same time. That’s a rare combination in philosophy, at least in my experience - only Plato and Chuang Tzu come to mind as similar in this respect (maybe Nietzsche, but he’s such a ninny). Although Descartes’ skepticism is arguably a borrowing from ancient philosophy, his turning it into a method of investigation appears to be original, and it was enormously important in In the Discourse Descartes is charming, down-to-earth, and his investigation of skepticism is exciting, fun and profound at the same time. That’s a rare combination in philosophy, at least in my experience - only Plato and Chuang Tzu come to mind as similar in this respect (maybe Nietzsche, but he’s such a ninny). Although Descartes’ skepticism is arguably a borrowing from ancient philosophy, his turning it into a method of investigation appears to be original, and it was enormously important in the development of modern science as well as modern philosophy. I think his famous cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) is flawed – perception of thought proves the existence of operating consciousness, but not the existence of an individual, thinking being. Hair-splitting and navel-gazing to some, a big deal to others. But all good, clean fun. The Meditations, on the other hand, is not so charming, it’s often boring, and it’s sometimes profound and sometimes not very. It has a couple weak and fallacious arguments for the existence of God - you get the impression that, after the relentless skepticism of his Discourse and the first couple meditations, and in light of Galileo’s travails, he’s trying to keep himself in the good graces of the Church and neither his heart or head are completely in the proofs of God and the things leading up to them. At least that’s the impression I get. If I exist. But I’m a bit hard on Rene, and he lived in hard times. The Discourse, written in French, was aimed at a more popular audience while the Meditations, written in Latin, was for scholars. And it is more substantial. Speaking of Chuang Tzu, Descartes could have lifted his dreaming argument from the old sage, but it’s highly unlikely he’d ever heard of him (and his recollection-like a priori knowledge of mathematical objects is straight out of Plato’s Meno). This dreaming together with the evil god concept puts us in pretty shaky epistemological territory. The search for anything knowable is a logical next step, but beyond that Descartes tends to build his house with quite a few cards. Still, it’s probably not unreasonable to say that what he accomplished was revolutionary, and that it engendered a remarkable quantity and quality of further developments for hundreds of years. To be fair, Descartes’ mind-body dualism is pretty much from Plato as well; apparently he wasn’t big on attribution, but so it goes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matei

    Obviously this isn’t really a review, I don’t think that reviewing historically significant works of philosophy is something that can really be done outside of a proper academic environment, much less by someone like me, reading these works out of curiosity. This is why, what follows are just thoughts and impressions I got reading Descartes. Descartes influence on philosophy can’t be understated and reading his works it is easy to see why: Discourse presents a very personal project, honest and mo Obviously this isn’t really a review, I don’t think that reviewing historically significant works of philosophy is something that can really be done outside of a proper academic environment, much less by someone like me, reading these works out of curiosity. This is why, what follows are just thoughts and impressions I got reading Descartes. Descartes influence on philosophy can’t be understated and reading his works it is easy to see why: Discourse presents a very personal project, honest and modest convictions and objectives, while Meditations showcase a very clear reasoning process. It’s also very easy to empathise with his condition; I think Descartes was a scientist at heart, interested in studying the physical world around him and developing tools for understanding it, but met a hampering philosophical system, a legacy of thomistic scholasticism gone wild, pushed by people unsuited for philosophical or scientific arguments. In this environment it is easy to see why Descartes was interested in starting tabula rasa, removing all the baggage and building his own. Descartes builds his system up from reason. Disregarding any perception, as any perception might be deceived, he creates the famous minimum positive statement: “I think therefore I am”. It’s interesting that he is not concerned about questions related to his ability to reason in the absence of perceptions (or in the presence of false perceptions). Can reasoning even take place if we separate the thinker from the world? Without answering this question, can we claim that any question can be answered without the influence of a potentially illusory world? These questions are answered when considering that he builds his model of thought on the scholastic one, which takes a clear separation between thinking and perceiving, but Descartes project was fundamentally moving away from that foundation. In fact this is a recurring problem from what I can tell. Descartes is driven to integrate in his philosophical system a lot of necessary conclusions or premises from the system he is trying to replace. This is important, because these premises would constitute the basis on which to make further useful statements about the world, having a foundation and the concepts necessary to do those, without the overburdened inheritance which would stifle philosophical or scientific investigation. These necessary concepts are many, but the main ones are the existence of God and then the accuracy of perceptions/thoughts about the world. But in rushing to obtain these grounding concepts he uses sloppy or unconvincing arguments: he reasons as someone who is aware of the truthfulness of the statements he is making (because they are necessary in his project and because they have been proved sufficiently in other philosophical systems) so is not really concerned with studying potential counter-arguments, or various alternative paths his system might take (which in a simple system as his at this point, are many) only in so far as they might disambiguate what he intends to express. Because of these “rushed” proofs, some concepts are altered by their new significance, properties or simply role they play in his project. The most central concept that Descartes uses and fundamentally changes from his predecessor is God. In his philosophy, God is the linchpin used to go from making a priori true statements to true statements about the physical environment. But Descartes’ God is not Aquinas’ God. Scholastic tradition anchored the concept of God in the physical world, so the presence and various other essential characteristics of God would then be used to make further statements about the world. Descartes reaches God by observing his own essential, fragmented qualities and seeks to determine their perfect cause. Since this cause is not found in the world he concludes that it must come from God. But hasn’t he done a leap here? He considers the virtues that are within him as finding their perfection in God, but a virtue-based approach is not warranted at this point, following his strict reasoning. Descartes uses here a scholastic approach (taking virtues as essential, and non-virtues as flawed/partial forms of those virtues), an approach that is formed and argued exactly by performing deductions from God. It’s like Descartes flips a logic chain, but in doing so loses coherence. I think there are also some things to say about what further implications Descartes approach to God has. Because God is no longer understood as related to nature, essential arguments related to God’s existence can’t be applied:arguments from contingency and from causation are no longer admitted under Descartes method (though conclusions or concepts obtained by reasoning in that way are still used by him). This is because those arguments rely on making observations and reasoning about a world that is uncertain , extrinsic to the thinker, so outside Descartes philosophical “game”. This is important, because in this way, we have lost a perspective that fundamentally separates God from the creation and simply anchored Him in our qualities. Why the knowledge of the possibility of the perfection of these qualities can’t be determined or at least hinted by the world we live in is not seriously discussed. I think this discussion is useful to have, since it alone separates (or even justifies) the concept of God at this point, otherwise we might simply refer to God as the world itself and do away with the need of an idea of God altogether. As I mentioned, Descartes then uses God to justify having some belief in the authenticity of the world, by using the argument “God is fundamentally good, God would not deceive me, therefore I am not deceived and am experiencing an authentic reality”. But what is this good that God should possess or contain? Couldn’t Descartes be deceived exactly by that, assuming what is good and what isn’t? Again, this is a different approach from his predecessors, Descartes judges the virtues of God with respect to what he is experiencing as good and bad. This is a consequence of centering his philosophy on the conclusions and models of his own reason, starting from a skeptical approach of the world and therefore unable to define virtues as aspects of God’s relationship to the world. In Descartes approach, he is very constrained in the amount of factors that he can investigate to obtain his conclusions and it is very easy to make the argument that though this will generate a very simple model, it will also be unable to explain or to reason about very many things, so very many things will hamper it. What I really appreciated about Descartes, however, was his immense clarity and how inspiring reading him felt. Because he introduces his system as profoundly personal and gradually builds it up, I felt part of that construction, building my own thoughts on the matter as I went along. This quality of his work allowed philosophy to avoid the stagnation that was happening and for something new and better suited for physical discoveries to develop. Descartes left both a very clear system in place, so easy to understand as well as criticize and then further improve on, as well as made sufficiently vague claims to invite copious criticism and development to take place, placing him at an essential point in the history of philosophy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Muntz

    Descartes was the one of the best but mostly the worst of philosophers. His philosophy is extremely relevant historically but hasn't aged as well as Hume, Locke, Schopenhauer or Spinoza, mostly because it was so deeply Catholic. I read this when I was about 15 and thought it was brilliant, but now, despite a few good arguments, the thing feels like a skyscraper built out of toothpicks. Unlike Hume or Locke (who feel fairer than the others I mentioned, since they were closer to being his contempo Descartes was the one of the best but mostly the worst of philosophers. His philosophy is extremely relevant historically but hasn't aged as well as Hume, Locke, Schopenhauer or Spinoza, mostly because it was so deeply Catholic. I read this when I was about 15 and thought it was brilliant, but now, despite a few good arguments, the thing feels like a skyscraper built out of toothpicks. Unlike Hume or Locke (who feel fairer than the others I mentioned, since they were closer to being his contemporaries), there's not much here for us now, especially if you aren't interested in a sort of dualistic Platonism.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    Dude talks about robots more than I would have expected. There's also one point in the Discourse where he pretty forcefully tells you to close the book and not start reading again until you've dissected a cow.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Minh Lê

    An interesting book, but I read only partly for my philosophy class. Will definitely re-read the full part some other time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Written after I read this as a junior in college: René Descartes spent much of his life in travel, studying the great works of philosophers and scientists. After the majority of his formal learning was completed, Descartes began writing prolifically. The Discourse on Method, written in Holland, and finished in 1637, was written not long after his previous works of, Rules for the Direction of the Mind (1629), and Treatise on the World (1633) were completed. In accompaniment to Discourse on Method, Written after I read this as a junior in college: René Descartes spent much of his life in travel, studying the great works of philosophers and scientists. After the majority of his formal learning was completed, Descartes began writing prolifically. The Discourse on Method, written in Holland, and finished in 1637, was written not long after his previous works of, Rules for the Direction of the Mind (1629), and Treatise on the World (1633) were completed. In accompaniment to Discourse on Method, were three essays entitled Dioptric, Meteors, and Geometry. Although his philosophy was accepted by some, the majority of Holland found his works controversial and radical. This work is a great representation of the thought that was evolving during this time period. The era of enlightenment was emerging, and the new approach was positivistic in scope–to verify everything with absolute fact. Descartes’ Discourse on Methods is a representative work of the important link between metaphysical thought and objective scientific discovery. Descartes believed that only things sensed can be defined as real, even more particular, only things that can be reasoned are legitimate. According to Descartes, even God is legitimized only to the degree that Descartes himself can sense and reason. The only way to know if something exists, argued Descartes, is that it can be measured. This is very significant because the emerging philosophy of all great minds of the time period, is that of scientific verification–of understanding the world through measuring, sensing, gathering, analyzing, and concluding. Through his study and thought, Descartes discovers that great advances may be made in the world as man discovers how to explain, and eventually control the things he can change; the physical things around him. As with any other man who emerges with “enlightened” philosophy–new knowledge to the public, his work is not accepted by the majority at first. This method however, becomes the approach that many succeeding scientific minds adopt. As these scientists later implement these principles, they discover many scientific advances that greatly benefit society. It was very interesting to read how Descartes went about finding truth in his own life. Although his singular use of reasoning led him to many important truths, it also resulted in a few false assumptions. His false interpretation about the mechanisms of the beating heart show us that even a man who’s life and thoughts were devoted to the power of reason, cannot always make an accurate deductive interpretation of all the facts that surround him. Science in all its forms requires constant testing and refining. Descartes also admits that his knowledge came not from divine bestowal, as he believed it had come to many of the other philosophers and scientists. His knowledge, he claimed, came from the reading of many great books, his education, and his travels abroad. And yet with all of his knowledge and reasoning powers, he humbly admits that the more he learned, the more he found he didn’t know. This principle can be applied to all who don’t believe they have bestowed with intellectual treasures from God. Persistence and hunger for truth can lift any man to greatness.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I enrolled in Loyola University Chicago's graduate program in philosophy after two years of dead-end jobs upon completion of seminary. The motivation was primarily intellectual. Previous study had served to raise questions more than answer them and some knowledge of the history and thought of the modern West had served to raise questions about their foundations. More specifically, the study of continental depth psychologies had indicated a philosophical as well as an empirical basis for them. My I enrolled in Loyola University Chicago's graduate program in philosophy after two years of dead-end jobs upon completion of seminary. The motivation was primarily intellectual. Previous study had served to raise questions more than answer them and some knowledge of the history and thought of the modern West had served to raise questions about their foundations. More specifically, the study of continental depth psychologies had indicated a philosophical as well as an empirical basis for them. My roommate, Mike Miley, was attending Loyola as an adult undergraduate, was enjoying it and had informed me that it had the largest philosophy program in the United States. Besides, it was walking distance from our apartment. Having already completed four years of graduate school, my transcripts and thesis were submitted for advanced standing consideration. That took a year. In the meantime, I enrolled in basic courses, aiming to fill in the gaps of a previously spotty study of philosophy. Plato, naturally, came up immediately as a concern as did Descartes. In considering the teaching of philosophy, I've marvelled at how students at an introductory level are introduced to the field by such figures as Kant, Hegel and Heidegger. This is crazy. One cannot read them without knowing a good deal about their predecessors. What an undergraduate student can get into immediately are some of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Locke, Nietzsche and Descartes, particularly his Discourse and his Meditations. Incidentally, Descartes was read for the History of Classical Modern Philosophy, taught by a barely competent woman fresh out graduate school whose name escapes me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jack Bates

    A great edition of one of the most significant philosophical works in modern times. This discussion of the method for which Frances Bacon was missing is one of the most enlightening reads an individual can embark upon. I would recommend this as required reading for any middles school child through high school and on in to college. This is also a book that should be revisited from time to time. Life experience will definitely influence how much a reader gets from this work as the more the reader A great edition of one of the most significant philosophical works in modern times. This discussion of the method for which Frances Bacon was missing is one of the most enlightening reads an individual can embark upon. I would recommend this as required reading for any middles school child through high school and on in to college. This is also a book that should be revisited from time to time. Life experience will definitely influence how much a reader gets from this work as the more the reader brings to Descartes the more he gives in return.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    Descartes is a good writer, surprisingly good. This compilation of his most important philosophical works gives a nice redundancy to his body of work and most of Descartes' ideas get repeated in such a way that the listener will have no problem understanding most of his major points. One should never rely on other authors' summaries of a original philosophical works especially when they are from non-philosophical books, because they seem to always highlight the wrong points in order to make their Descartes is a good writer, surprisingly good. This compilation of his most important philosophical works gives a nice redundancy to his body of work and most of Descartes' ideas get repeated in such a way that the listener will have no problem understanding most of his major points. One should never rely on other authors' summaries of a original philosophical works especially when they are from non-philosophical books, because they seem to always highlight the wrong points in order to make their points while ignoring the real worth of the thinker. There is no doubt that modern philosophy starts with Descartes. The process becomes the focus not the event itself. Our truths are no longing waiting to be discovered with an ontological rationality derived from a set of principals based on the hypothesized order of the universe, but a process awaiting to be invented through a disentangling of the subjective from the objective world. (Humans no longer discover truth they invent it). There is another really interesting philosophy of science point that is within these readings. It is our understanding that closes the ontological difference between the subject/object, the word/thing, the Noumenal/Phenomenal. His example involved wax and it's shape, but in the interest of expediency I'll just say that gravity is an intuition. It is our understanding that closes the gap because one will never see the gravity. We can only understand it. Descartes gets that point, and that is one of the reasons why he is very important today. Overall, Descartes is a great thinker and a very good writer. I would recommend Spinoza's Ethics after reading this one. Spinoza respects Descartes but he'll try to refute him by using the same premises. It doesn't matter which one is correct (to me). The most interesting part is how they get at their conclusions. Philosophy is fun and this kind of books show why.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Mental masturbation, really Somewhere along the way i stopped reading this. I also get thoughts like these but I somehow never get too deep because I am to distracted by the real life. Or is it just imagination? This thing that thinks uses his/its fingers to write. Why am I writing? what power tells me to write right now? Why do I feel the urge to write? This book made me wanting to study philosophy though. Such a book is not to be read like literature. It has to be read paragraph with paragraph, Mental masturbation, really Somewhere along the way i stopped reading this. I also get thoughts like these but I somehow never get too deep because I am to distracted by the real life. Or is it just imagination? This thing that thinks uses his/its fingers to write. Why am I writing? what power tells me to write right now? Why do I feel the urge to write? This book made me wanting to study philosophy though. Such a book is not to be read like literature. It has to be read paragraph with paragraph, then discuss upon and argue upon. So I cannot rate as I would rate a normal book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Yuganka Sharan

    Modern western philosophy begins with Descartes. Do you afford to miss the opening ceremony? Descartes has been called the father of modern philosophy. And it is not without sufficient reason. A little background is necessary to realise the enormity of what he did – the “method” he introduced. In Discourses, fully titled ‘Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences”, Descartes discusses what pushed him towards his quest for a new way of thinking Modern western philosophy begins with Descartes. Do you afford to miss the opening ceremony? Descartes has been called the father of modern philosophy. And it is not without sufficient reason. A little background is necessary to realise the enormity of what he did – the “method” he introduced. In Discourses, fully titled ‘Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences”, Descartes discusses what pushed him towards his quest for a new way of thinking. Aristotelianism had been followed for nearly two millennia, with the result that each successive generation was learning its ideas without applying any critical thinking in the process. Attempts to question some of the assumptions or arguments put forward by Aristotle were not just discouraged but even throttled. In his formative years, Descartes could somewhere sense this rigidity of thought in the contemporary establishment, and, in his early 20s, he decided to do something about it. However, on closer inspection, he realized he was not yet ready for such an enormous task and so gave himself a few years’ time in which he travelled far and wide, interacted with people of different cultures and different classes in society, all the while observing their customs and ways of thinking. “Discourse on Method…” is his exposition of the technique he developed and the circumstances and reasons which led him to it, while “Meditations..” is his attempt at applying that method in order to find certain and indubitable knowledge. Among the many strands in his method, the common thread is of “Method of Doubt” – to doubt absolutely everything in which he is unable to claim certain knowledge, and then proceed with whatever he has left. In fact, he decided to consider statements even slightly doubtful to be on the same footing as statements that were manifestly false. This is a remarkable approach for someone living in the early 1600s. Descartes starts by doubting everything his senses present to him, for senses often deceive us – the sun and a street lamp both look the same size when in fact they aren’t. This means he doubts he has a body; he doubts that material things exist; he doubts God for there is no proof of his existence (this consideration proves how serious Descartes was in his quest, for religion occupied a very important part in society in the early 17th century - we all know what happened to Galileo); he even doubts mathematical truths for there is always a possibility that a devil is so deceiving him that he is able to feed this belief in his mind that mathematical statements like 2+2=4 are objectively true, when in fact they might not be. However, even after he doubts everything, he notices that he cannot doubt the fact that he is doubting. That he is a thinking being. Thus emerged Cogito ergo sum, or “I think therefore I am”. This statement is arguably the most popular phrase ever written or said by any philosopher. In Meditations, Descartes introduces a number of ideas – some original and some rephrased versions of those that had previously existed. For example, the Ontological proof for the existence of God had existed for a long time, and Descartes gave his own version - God is an entity greater than whom nothing can be conceived; existence is a positive trait; therefore, God without existence is inferior to God with existence, therefore the concept of God necessitates his existence. His work also saw the emergence of two new revolutionary ideas. The first one was Rationalism, the view that knowledge can be derived from pure reasoning and logic, without any inputs from the external physical world. Descartes never uses this term, but his methodology serves as a perfect example of this technique. The second one was Dualism, the view that there are two types of substances – mind and matter. Humans, for example, had a thinking non-material mind and a non-thinking material body. The rise of Empiricism in the British Isles, and Kant’s subsequent struggle to balance the two views has set the course of philosophy ever since. The first time I had heard about his proofs for the existence of God, I had wondered how he had been called a rationalist. But what Descartes is trying to say is that a God is necessary for us to have any knowledge at all – the concept of a benevolent God ensures that I am justified in accepting the general beliefs that make life possible, for he is presenting those ideas to me and, being benevolent, he cannot be a deceiver. If I reject his existence, I cannot possibly know anything at all, as I may be being deceived at every instant of my life. Descartes often uses long sentences, and it is a treat for the involved reader as he tries to make sense of them. Often, I would have to re-read entire paragraphs just to understand what he was saying, because they would amalgamate various issues related to the central message. If not anything else, the book would surely serve as an example of how to coherently present a set of ideas which have many strands at each level. The importance of this work in the history of philosophy cannot be overemphasised. The two works combined barely reach a hundred and fifty pages, and it is indispensable reading for anyone even slightly interested in the history of development of human thought.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mεδ Rεδħα

    In his "Discourse on the Method", Descartes seems to announce Le Corbusier when he dreams of cities traced with the cord, delivered from the medieval disorder, and that he compares the chaotic stacking of the knowledge inherited from the tradition to these constructions of guangois encumbering the heart of the capital. Deploring the confusion of their arrangement and magnifying the transparency of rational edifices, Descartes formulates the utopian project of a near future where man would have b In his "Discourse on the Method", Descartes seems to announce Le Corbusier when he dreams of cities traced with the cord, delivered from the medieval disorder, and that he compares the chaotic stacking of the knowledge inherited from the tradition to these constructions of guangois encumbering the heart of the capital. Deploring the confusion of their arrangement and magnifying the transparency of rational edifices, Descartes formulates the utopian project of a near future where man would have become "as master and possessor of nature". To re-read the "Discourse of Method" is in this respect to go back to the source of promethean fantasies of modernity. However, Descartes once again becomes a philosopher when he rejoins his room and invites us, like him, to stop along the way to test the solidity of our certainties. It is at the age of man, when accumulated knowledge obscures the mind, that one must know how to afford, at least once in one's life, the luxury of doubt. Make a clean space on your bedside table to deposit, like a purge with cathartic virtues, this radically modern text! In order to understand Descartes and all philosophy, it would be necessary to put an end to the idea of ​​systems, as great ways of seeing the world. It would be necessary to finish with the use of the term "Cartesianism" therefore to read Descartes with clear eyes of school prejudices. And so do not say what can be read often in comments or reviews. In short, stop believing that we know, this arrogance of popularization and commentary. It would be a good idea to summarize one of the most important texts published, the thought of one of the greatest thinkers ... As everyone can see, this is a "discourse of method" and not a treatise. Descartes does not pretend to establish on paper a truth, but to explain his path, his method, for he himself has experienced it, as every good and true philosopher. Which method? What purpose ? To understand it well requires to work in philosophy, to seek and to read and to meditate a lot, to also live own experiences. And by "freedom", you have to be careful in the explanations. Descartes may have simply tried to get rid of the "rotten" ideas from outside (see the metaphor of the basket of apples) by the doubt of a thought that has become free again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    Descartes starts out in his Discourse questioning if we have have good sense, how we reason, if schooling helps us learn,and what the written word does for the mind. He doesn't answer all of these but seems to believe that knowledge leads to knowledge and that we will always question everything. He says that we need to know world history and customs in order to respect that whch is different from ourselves while being careful not to forget our own customs when removed from them. The most importan Descartes starts out in his Discourse questioning if we have have good sense, how we reason, if schooling helps us learn,and what the written word does for the mind. He doesn't answer all of these but seems to believe that knowledge leads to knowledge and that we will always question everything. He says that we need to know world history and customs in order to respect that whch is different from ourselves while being careful not to forget our own customs when removed from them. The most important thing that can be gathered from his reflections (but I didn't need for him to tell me so)is that laws created overtime by growing civilisations may not be right for current civilisations. He claims that design by one (true religion-Christianity I'm assuming) as opposed to design by many (science) is better. He says that change occurs when you realize that the old ways do not work and encourages scrutinizing what you believe. Suggesting all the while that it is sometimes easier to go with the flow of a belief. He has some rules on discerning what you know from what you do not. 1. Accept only that which you are sure of. 2. Divide difficulties to as small pieces as necessary. 3. Solve the simplest problems first. 4. Make lists, tables and diagrams. He says that he "should regulate [his] practice comfortably to the opinions of those with whom [he] should have to live" and "obey the laws and customs of [his] country". A sell-out view. Philosophically speaking. He claims that nothing but our own thoughts are within our power. He tries to prove the existence of god and the soul. Here is here concept: Question: What is "I"? Answer: "I" is the mind. I think hence I am. I am a substance whose whole essence or natue consists only in thinking and has no need of place and is not dependent on any material thing. Which means the mind is distinct from the body. The three things that he seems to know exists is god, the mind, and the body. Descartes is not relevant to study and has basically no merit. Here's why. Rules 1-4. "Accept only that which you are sure of etc". Throughout the entire Discourse he is adamant about god's existence but never puts god through the same rules as everything else. While questioning "What is I" he could have been questioning also "Does god exist"? He's faulty in his method and thought nothing that an illiterate person would not come up with on their own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Derek Davis

    Descartes did much to lift philosophy and, especially mathematics, from the rigid yet scattershot approach of the middle ages. The "Discourse" is a sort of how-to guide to critical thinking, while the "Meditations" put the stress on what he has discovered through use of the method. In a nutshell, the method is to remove all prejudices of inquiry from your mind, as much as is humanly possible, so that you start with a clean mental slate upon which you enter the most fundamental, unquestionable tru Descartes did much to lift philosophy and, especially mathematics, from the rigid yet scattershot approach of the middle ages. The "Discourse" is a sort of how-to guide to critical thinking, while the "Meditations" put the stress on what he has discovered through use of the method. In a nutshell, the method is to remove all prejudices of inquiry from your mind, as much as is humanly possible, so that you start with a clean mental slate upon which you enter the most fundamental, unquestionable truths; you then build up from there through the the exclusive use of internal reason (he lay in bed cogitating for hours each morning). The truth most fundamental, he decided, was "I think, therefore I am." His attempt to free himself from the preconceptions of history and historical philosophy (especially the ridiculous accretion of flapdoodle built around Aristotle, philosophy's windbag non pareil) were unique for their time, revolutionary. But they were not entirely successful. Like anyone, at any time, he was captive to much of the underlying but unstated idea-structure of his age. His supposedly clear, incontrovertible apprehension of God is almost medieval, not far removed from Anselm and Aquinas. On the other hand, his insistence on the need for experiment to establish scientific truth is decidedly modern. As for the man himself, his continual outpourings of modesty and humility provoke behind-the-hand snickers. Hey, Rene, we know you think you're a genius. And you were.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris Schaeffer

    I read this concurrently with 'The God Delusion,' a book which repeatedly and grossly mischaracterizes Descartes' ideas. Look, Descartes came out with a lot of wrong conclusions. He started from some pretty outdated premises and went from there. But he wasn't stupid. I hate that received wisdom I encountered all throughout college and afterwards that Descartes was some bozo whose drool spelled out "mind body dualism" and that's all there is to know about him. The Meditations have this incredible I read this concurrently with 'The God Delusion,' a book which repeatedly and grossly mischaracterizes Descartes' ideas. Look, Descartes came out with a lot of wrong conclusions. He started from some pretty outdated premises and went from there. But he wasn't stupid. I hate that received wisdom I encountered all throughout college and afterwards that Descartes was some bozo whose drool spelled out "mind body dualism" and that's all there is to know about him. The Meditations have this incredible energy to them, this indescribable playfulness and eagerness to examine. Even if his conclusions and his methodologies are suspect I think his basic attitude is one that a lot of students and writers would benefit from re-evaluating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Petruzzi

    Excellent work; wretched consequences.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Descartes teaches lots of things, but the most relevant is the terrible power of motivated reasoning to pervert someone - even if the reasoner is hugely intelligent. But not only. Catherine Wilson forced me to think of Descartes as more than a strong mathematician, incomplete scientist, bigoted apriorist and shoddy Analytic. Not least, she wrote this, maybe the brassiest passage I've ever seen in an academic journal: if Descartes had written a Preface to the Meditations that was truthful, faithfu Descartes teaches lots of things, but the most relevant is the terrible power of motivated reasoning to pervert someone - even if the reasoner is hugely intelligent. But not only. Catherine Wilson forced me to think of Descartes as more than a strong mathematician, incomplete scientist, bigoted apriorist and shoddy Analytic. Not least, she wrote this, maybe the brassiest passage I've ever seen in an academic journal: if Descartes had written a Preface to the Meditations that was truthful, faithful to his firmest convictions, and philosophically consistent, the relevant section would have gone something like this: I cannot demonstrate the immortality of the human soul, and probably no philosopher can. Immortality is not logically impossible, but it wouldn’t be what you are probably imagining it to be either. Perception, like sensation and emotion, is a registering by our minds of occurrences in our nerves and brain. If our minds endure after death, therefore, as far as the philosopher can tell, they will feel neither pain, nor pleasure, for they will no longerform a composite with our bodies. We will no longer see colours, touch objects, and hear sounds. We will not remember events ofour past lives. We will be numb and inert. Animals will be, as both Aristotle and Lucretius thought, nothing after death, and wehumans will be almost nothing - at most capable of imageless thought and intellectual memory. Of course, we can hope for more than this. Perhaps our bodies will be resurrected and reattached to our minds, so that we are restored to awareness of a world. But this is a matter of faith and cannot be philosophically demonstrated, whereas more important truths such as the excellence of our minds and bodies can be philosophically demonstrated. Be that as it may, we are not mere animals. Our language and rationality indicate that we are specially favoured by God. As to whether animals are conscious, I do not know. I avoid speculative philosophy. But everyone can appreciate that animalscannot carry on a conversation, and I seriously doubt that animals reason, for I can show how their behaviour is mediated by the brain to which their sensory organs report, without ascribing reasoning to them. The Fathers of the Church were wrong to scorn the human body asa source of moral corruption and to suggest that it is a shell that we will happily cast off. We use the cerebral representations it forms for purposes as exalted as mathematics, and if we could not understand and trust proofs about the triangle, how should we understand and feel confident about proofs about invisible objects such as God?...Admire God, who has given you a world to study, as well as to experience, and a mind equipped with language and reasoning powers, but leave off worrying about eternal rewards and punishments. Of course Descartes could not have published such a Preface, not in France and not under his own name. Yet it was to communicate this very different message that he offered, without his heart being in the task, to prove the immortality of the soul. Charitable to say the least, but that's what we owe the very distant.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josh Anderson

    I find it interesting that the trinity, nor Christ are ever mentioned in the Discourse/Meditations, only the Platonic idea of a perfect being, and thus a first cause for everything. Descarte's God is active in his life inasmuch as he meditates on the immensity of it all, and the way that he is under a conservation just as much as he is enabled to create. In this way, his God is personal. Never does he claim mystic visions, or manic inspirations and in fact, we see, that he really would like to r I find it interesting that the trinity, nor Christ are ever mentioned in the Discourse/Meditations, only the Platonic idea of a perfect being, and thus a first cause for everything. Descarte's God is active in his life inasmuch as he meditates on the immensity of it all, and the way that he is under a conservation just as much as he is enabled to create. In this way, his God is personal. Never does he claim mystic visions, or manic inspirations and in fact, we see, that he really would like to root that out of himself, and humanity as a whole if possible. He sees two kinds of thinking, wrong thinking and right thinking. He sees "truths" that have been built upon lies or assumptions, and ones that must be demolished like old buildings in "more perfect" cities than the bric-a-brac we see in urban sprawl. The metaphor of the city planner as he relates to the philosopher is introduced in the Discourse on Method, and is brought back later in hints during the Meditations, as he favors more Eastern-flavored images. That is the conclusion that I can draw from this. That Descartes found in himself a consolation, a solace, but he called it Meditations as if he saw the importance in returning to them. He goes from a more hardened Western narrative to a gradually more Eastern one-ness, to the point where one must question how Descartes must have battled whether God was a worthwhile technology at all. And that is what I find most fascinating, that Deity, in all it's forms, is a medium like no other. A technology in its rawest, most powerful form, and that although he may not have said it, Descartes found in himself a technology that wrapped its loving wings around him in cherubic fashion. The meditation on the wax is so simple, you could tell it to a child, yet it introduced questions of epistemology, of meaning and concepts, of continuum, and one could say, a whole alchemical process. He sees within the wax (and anything, for that matter) as exemplar for the divine logos, and I think he hints at the fact that this λόγος is the immaterial principle that gives us this ability to conceptualize something that we empirically can't exactly put our finger on. Or maybe we can, but not at Descarte's time. I think this ends with the questions of whether a. God is proven as being arbitrary, and possibly an obsolete technology as far as the λόγος is concerned and b. God is a technology and a medium, as the mirror of man, and reflects our desires from the very beginning, to be more perfect, and in that sense, one has to wonder whether the Atheist Existentialists are possibly taking MORE responsibility for life in a way that Christ himself was getting at, and the church got dreadfully wrong, or c. that God is a transcendence and imminence at the same time, and that to keep your focus on Him provides the most psychedelic experience one can have.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ali Jones

    Discourse on the method and Meditations is two classical philosophical text which gives insight to the epistemological thought of Rene Descartes. This book is composed of both of Descartes’ main works: Discourse on the method (1637) and Meditations on the first philosophy (1641). The Discourse is about the process of which Descartes had undergone during his project of establishing his method of doubt— this also makes sense as it was written just 4 years before his Meditations. In the Meditations, Discourse on the method and Meditations is two classical philosophical text which gives insight to the epistemological thought of Rene Descartes. This book is composed of both of Descartes’ main works: Discourse on the method (1637) and Meditations on the first philosophy (1641). The Discourse is about the process of which Descartes had undergone during his project of establishing his method of doubt— this also makes sense as it was written just 4 years before his Meditations. In the Meditations, Descartes describes the implications for coming forward to certain conclusions by thinking alone. Because this edition that I read contains both the Discourse and the Meditations, it gave me (the reader) a deeper insight onto the Cartesian project. The Discourse is a lot easier to read than the Meditations, and composed of very short chapters; as the book itself is just 65 pages long and containing 6 chapters. The first noticeable thing is that, compared to his Meditations, Descartes gives short remarks on moral and ethical implications and how it is an inevitable fact that we should care for other human beings. As I know much about Descartes from before the read, I didn’t know that he had any moral wisdom to share. I enjoyed the read due to the slickness of the writing and how understandable Descartes was. Lastly, the Meditations, which is a text digging deeply onto the possibility of certain knowledge. To understand what we can be certain of, we must doubt everything once in our lifetime. The thought is good, and he then goes on to explain what one can be as sure of as the existence itself. He concluded that God is the most certain, and that God made me in the same way that I am “making” the things which I sense. Descartes gives similar conclusions on the universality of arithmetic, geometry, and opens for the possibility of knowledge about the sensible world through established rational law. This composed book is very informative and I feel well after it. I recommend it to all those who can read this with interest and doubt all of which possibly can be uncertain (including ignorance).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adomas

    This is such a mixed bag of a book. Descartes is attempting to discover the foundation for truth from the first principles. On the one hand, most of the basic truths and axioms he's posing, bar the metaphysical ones such as "I think, therefore I am", are either completely disproven by modern science or fall apart under some basic prodding, such as his ideas about "orderly thinking" or his reduction of metaphysical claims to laws of geometry. On the other hand, it is interesting to follow his log This is such a mixed bag of a book. Descartes is attempting to discover the foundation for truth from the first principles. On the one hand, most of the basic truths and axioms he's posing, bar the metaphysical ones such as "I think, therefore I am", are either completely disproven by modern science or fall apart under some basic prodding, such as his ideas about "orderly thinking" or his reduction of metaphysical claims to laws of geometry. On the other hand, it is interesting to follow his logic and see what ideas follow from it, even if based on shaky grounds. The unabridged version of the book included a letter to Princess Elisabeth, where he praises her intellect and understanding of his writings, which is rather comical and speaks of the rigour of Descartes' philosophy. Nietzsche was right in saying that philosophers can't help themselves but try to rationalize their inner-most intimately felt instincts in their writings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    bugen

    Combined notes on both texts. Discourse: I. The premise is introduced that reason is naturally equal in all, and truth is to be found by conducting it correctly. Descartes attempts to show how he himself has attempted this, not to dictate how everyone should. II. The method. Descartes wished to rebuild the very foundations upon which his opinions and views were formed. He decided to do this by systematic doubt. The key point is to never accept as true anything that is not known to be evidently so. I Combined notes on both texts. Discourse: I. The premise is introduced that reason is naturally equal in all, and truth is to be found by conducting it correctly. Descartes attempts to show how he himself has attempted this, not to dictate how everyone should. II. The method. Descartes wished to rebuild the very foundations upon which his opinions and views were formed. He decided to do this by systematic doubt. The key point is to never accept as true anything that is not known to be evidently so. III. Descartes outlines his provisional moral code that he used during his search, saying that if one wishes to rebuild their house, they must have alternate accommodation while doing so. IV. From his first unquestionable principle, 'I think, therefore I am', Descartes moves on to his proof for the existence of God. V. Largely a description of a treatise he never published, and discussion of the difference between human and animals souls. This part is generally of less interest, not written with such clarity and wit. VI. Here, he describes why that treatise was never published, his thoughts on experimentation, and his plans for future publications. This suffers from the same issues as part five. The real meat of the Discourse is to be found in parts one through four. Meditations: I. Descartes outlines what can conceivably be doubted, which is quite a lot of things. For the purposes of his sceptical method, he supposes a hypothetical 'malicious demon' which seeks to deceive on every point. All corporeal existence must be deemed an illusion. II. Descartes considers his own mind, concluding that there is nothing so easy to understand, and that his own existence and 'thinking' are certain. III. The argument for the existence of God. Considering this proved, Descartes goes on to declare that God is not a deceiver, considering that He contains all perfections and 'deceit' stems from a defect. IV. The idea of 'clear and distinct' perceptions, previously stated as the criteria for certainty, is clarified. Judgement (or will) applied to a clear, distinct perception (understanding) will lead to truth. Error results from a judgement made without proper understanding. V. Descartes likens knowledge of God to knowledge of mathematics and geometry, saying that existence is to God as three sides are to a triangle. Furthermore, all true knowledge depends upon God's existence, since deception is always a possibility otherwise. VI. Here is where Cartesian Dualism comes into its own. Descartes argues that mind and body are separate, and that corporeal things do exist after all. '... the life of man is very often subject to error in particular cases; and we must, in conclusion, recognise the infirmity and weakness of our nature.'

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy George

    2 stars purely for historical significance..

  28. 4 out of 5

    Giorgi

    summing up the greatest philosophical question by some great philosophers : what it is to be? Descartes: i think therefore i am. Lock: i am receiving various date from the empirical universe, that therefor i am. Hume: i am not sure if my idea about existence and the existence in itself match to each other, but i still think that the idea of existence resembles the fact of existence. Berkeley: i feel so many things, but i still think that existance is visual. Kant:i am either not thinker nor receiver, summing up the greatest philosophical question by some great philosophers : what it is to be? Descartes: i think therefore i am. Lock: i am receiving various date from the empirical universe, that therefor i am. Hume: i am not sure if my idea about existence and the existence in itself match to each other, but i still think that the idea of existence resembles the fact of existence. Berkeley: i feel so many things, but i still think that existance is visual. Kant:i am either not thinker nor receiver, i just discovered some undeniable principles, a priori intuition which proofs that mind exist. Hegel: i exist as an undeveloped self-consciousness, a subject into the history, so my subjectivity is nothing more than objectivity of others, on the other hand the objectivity of others is nothing more than self realisation of god, further more self relisation of god is a subjective process within the history. in this history i, others and god are going hand to hand, i just forget what we where talking about. Nietzsche: i hate the traditional idea of existence. Kierkegaard: the very idea of my existence scares me, what should i do? where should i go? what should i believe in? Marx:it is an old ideological trick to think about what is to be, now we should ask what it is to be equal. Heidegger: not try to answer what it is to be, just ask, think about that. Sartre: i like the fact of my own existence, not yours. Russel: i can perfectly logicalize the idea of existence without any personal prejudice, feeling or opinions. Wittgenstein: we all misuse words , the sentence what is to be, is one more misunderstanding our own language, i can't bare this kind of method. Derrida: this old fashioned dichotomy about to be/not to be is pretty well deconstructable by using their constructors.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul Gibson

    Descartes has some interesting words to say but I can't agree with his conclusions. I agree that God seems infinite but to define God negates infinity; definite can't be infinite. This is a contradiction that negates the value of God as infinite. Perhaps I misunderstand him but moments later he says something like this, "I should not have the idea if an infinite substance because I am a finite being, unless it were given to me by some substance that is infinite." I disagree. Like so many things in Descartes has some interesting words to say but I can't agree with his conclusions. I agree that God seems infinite but to define God negates infinity; definite can't be infinite. This is a contradiction that negates the value of God as infinite. Perhaps I misunderstand him but moments later he says something like this, "I should not have the idea if an infinite substance because I am a finite being, unless it were given to me by some substance that is infinite." I disagree. Like so many things in life, once I comprehend one thing, I will probably imagine the opposite. What I find curious is that he says something like this himself within the same page, "And I must not imagine that I imagine the infinite by way of a true idea but by negation of the finite . . . in the same way I gauge darkness by lightness . . . But how can I know of the idea of an infinite God when I am not infinite? . . . The idea has to be given to me by God." But not only can I imagine opposites, I can imagine a greater version of that opposite something. And if his reply were, "How can you know?" Then I can reply with the same question, so still there is no proof. But what I really mean to say is that if I can't imagine something greater than what God is, then I say he imagines too low because God is greater than his definition. A greater imagination of God that will equal God is indeed infinite and not definite.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Likeable and guilty. Descartes reminds me of me as a high school student: we are totally unreliable in what we can know but somehow we can built everything else on the foundation "I exist"? The guy was brilliant and clear, but he comes off as a tragic version of Augustine. Both are intimate philosophers that go into the soul (I'm thinking of Augustine's On The Trinity) and come to belief in God. The difference is subtle, but important: Descartes' foundation is trying to find a firm foothold in t Likeable and guilty. Descartes reminds me of me as a high school student: we are totally unreliable in what we can know but somehow we can built everything else on the foundation "I exist"? The guy was brilliant and clear, but he comes off as a tragic version of Augustine. Both are intimate philosophers that go into the soul (I'm thinking of Augustine's On The Trinity) and come to belief in God. The difference is subtle, but important: Descartes' foundation is trying to find a firm foothold in the self and goes to God from the bottom up, whereas Augustine sees in himself an incompleteness and images of the opposite of individualism--the Trinity! On that foundation he finds his God or better yet God finds him.

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