In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By Deviousdiva
Words 2471
Pages 10
Descartes and Rationalism
René Descartes, 1596-1650 (Latin Renatus Cartesius, hence the term Cartesian)

Descartes’ Project Descartes was a contemporary of Galileo and Kepler. He was born about 50 years after the publication of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus. Thus he lived right at the beginning of the scientific revolution, as the medieval world view was beginning to collapse. Descartes was a mathematician and physicist, as well as a philosopher. He was the first to offer a system of mechanics that applied both to terrestrial and heavenly bodies. His system was based on a set of laws governing the motions of particles, including various types of collisions. These laws, though unsuccessful, were a precursor of Newton’s laws of motion, and Huygens’ solution to the collision problem. Descartes had the disturbing experience of finding out that everything he learned at school was wrong. From 1604-1612 he was educated at a Jesuit school, where he learned the standard medieval, scholastic, Aristotelian philosophy. In 1619 he had some disturbing dreams, and embarked on his life’s work of rebuilding the whole universe, since the Aristotelian universe was doomed. (Descartes didn’t suffer from lack of ambition!) The problem for Descartes was that he couldn’t merely tinker with the medieval picture, fixing it up here and there, because it was fundamentally wrong. It was rotten to its very foundations. The only way to proceed was to tear it down completely, and start building again from scratch. For an analogy, suppose your computer has been attacked by a virus, so that many important system files have been corrupted. You don’t know which files have been corrupted, so you can’t really trust any of them. The only thing to do is to erase the hard drive completely and re-install everything. How did Descartes “erase his hard drive”? He used what is known as his method of doubt. He…...

Similar Documents


...Philosophy Essay: ‘Outline the background to Descartes’ use of the Method of Doubt’ The 17th century; this was a period of time in which an intellectual movement of reason and science began. This movement was known as the Age of Enlightenment. Sparked by philosophers, many began approach an understanding of our world by a means of adopt both rational and empirical methods. Research in this area lead to a multitude of discoveries such as; Johannes Kepler’s law of planetary motion, the speed of light and Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation. Such discoveries as these lead to an arising in both mechanical philosophy and materialism; beliefs that together state that the universe is analogised best as a machine in which both organic and inorganic have no intrinsic relationship to one another, but are rather just subject to the laws of nature. The increase of people holding such beliefs lead to an increasing doubt in the existence of God, and encouragement of atheism. This was a serious problem as the Catholic church very much impinged on every aspect of life. Any person who publically held a belief which conflicted with Catholicism was charged with heresy and punished. An example of this being Galileo, who was charged with heresy and sentenced to house arrest for asserting that the Copernican view of the universe was wrong, and that everything didn’t revolve around the Earth. Due to cases like this, the church restricted the range of scientific knowledge to a...

Words: 496 - Pages: 2

Descartes' Revolution

...Descartes’ Revolution René Descartes was a philosopher that lived from 1596 to 1650. Many philosophers have spent their career trying to either prove that his theories were correct or they have tried to disprove his theories. He spent his time trying to understand knowledge and how humans know what they know with his method of inquiry. He sparked a revolution in philosophy that has remained the standard to this day. Descartes can be classified as a genius, while studying philosophy he realized that Aristotle way of thinking was wrong because he spent his entire life preoccupied with the question; what is reality? Aristotle was not able to fully answer this question and for the 1400 years after Aristotle everyone in Europe focused on; what is reality and what is the mind? Unfortunately over those 1400 years the only thing Europe had to show for these studies was the windmill, ox plow, Alchemy (which proved to not be possible) and the dark ages. When Descartes realized that Aristotle teachings were very flawed he developed his method of inquiry. While doubting Aristotle he was able to figure out that the mind and body are related. He believed that if the mind and body are combined, that is what gives human beings free will. When people stopped focusing on what the earth was they were able to focus on what they were and on ways to improve their lives. When working on improving one’s self it leads to innovation and new inventions. Descartes also focused on truth. ...

Words: 602 - Pages: 3

Descartes' Meditation

...essay #3: Descartes’ Meditations 996922415 The debate as to whether or not God exists is a crucial question in philosophy. René Descartes formulates the idea of the all good being, God, in Meditation Three of his essay entitled, Meditations on First Philosophy. The philosopher begins his essay doubting everything that is around him, his senses, his thoughts, and even basic arithmetic. The reason he wrote the essay was to find truth to his existence. It seems logical that Descartes introduced the evil demon, one that tries to instill doubt into the simplest of things, but the introduction of God being an all perfect being that does not let him be deceived, is not logically adequate. Descartes begins criticizing everything around him, essentially being a skeptic, but he ends up introducing an explanation, God, in order to answer the questions of doubt. I strongly disagree with Descartes’ introduction of God in Meditation Three because he is not being consistent with the methods of the first two meditations therefore not achieving his goal of solving questions of doubt. In Meditation One, Descartes begins to doubt everything he has experienced to date. He asks himself whether he exists, whether has past experiences actually happened and whether his senses are true to him. He finds senses to be deceptive sometimes and therefore believes that he cannot completely trust them. He even states the most obvious truths, such as arithmetic and geometry, could be false. Descartes......

Words: 961 - Pages: 4

Descartes Thoughts

...A Companion to Descartes Edited by Janet Broughton John Carriero Blackwell Publishing A Companion to Descartes Blackwell Companions to Philosophy This outstanding student reference series offers a comprehensive and authoritative survey of philosophy as a whole. Written by today’s leading philosophers, each volume provides lucid and engaging coverage of the key fi gures, terms, topics, and problems of the fi eld. Taken together, the volumes provide the ideal basis for course use, representing an unparalleled work of reference for students and specialists alike. Already published in the series: 1. The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Second Edition Edited by Nicholas Bunnin and Eric Tsui-James 2. A Companion to Ethics Edited by Peter Singer 3. A Companion to Aesthetics Edited by David Cooper 4. A Companion to Epistemology Edited by Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa 5. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (2 Volume Set), Second Edition Edited by Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit 6. A Companion to Philosophy of Mind Edited by Samuel Guttenplan 7. A Companion to Metaphysics Edited by Jaegwon Kim and Ernest Sosa 8. A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory Edited by Dennis Patterson 9. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion Edited by Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro 10. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language Edited by Bob Hale and Crispin Wright 11. A Companion to World Philosophies Edited by Eliot Deutsch and Ron......

Words: 304088 - Pages: 1217

Aristotle and Descartes

...Two Views of Soul: Aristotle and Descartes* THEODORE TRACY, SJ. What first attracted my interest to a possible comparison was the realization that, unlike Plato, both Aristotle and Descartes shared the view that, first, there is but a single soul and, second, that this soul operates principally through a single specific bodily organ. Given his own understanding, I believe Descartes could agree totally with Aristotle's statement that the soul's "essential nature cannot be * This paper was originally presented at the University of South Carolina in April 1981' as a contribution to a symposium on "Soul and Mind in Ancient Philosophy," organized by Professor Rosamond Kent Sprague. 248 Illinois Classical Studies, XI corporeal; yet it is also clear that soul is present in a particular bodily part, and this one of the parts having control over the rest":' dfiXou 6ri ovx oihv r' tivai adua rffv ovtriau ocvrfiq, aW 5fi(t)c, Sri 7' iv tlvl tov (TUifiaToq inrapxii^ nopiw (t>avtpbv, kcu iv tovtw tivi twv ixovruiv bvvafiiv eV roJq nopioic,. {Parva Naturalia 467b 13- 16) For Aristotle, as we know, that particular controlling organ is the heart. In his treatise On Memory, for example, Aristotle declares that in animals, including man, "the source and control center {otpxvY of both the sensitive and nutritive soul must be in the heart": apayKT) Koi rrfc, ataQr]TiKr\c, kou rriq dpeirTLKfic, ^vxri<i ^v ry Kapb'ux rffv otpxw etW. {PN 469a5-7) Again, in the De......

Words: 8048 - Pages: 33

Descartes and Heidegger

...Descartes and Heidegger both set a new standard for thinking, but at completely different ends. Descartes says a subject is a thinking thing that is not extended, and the object is an extended thing which does not think. Heidegger rejects this distinction between subject and object by arguing that there is no subject distinct from the external world of things because Dasein is essentially Being-in-the-world. To Heidegger, everything has an essence, yet that essence is concealed to humans. Descartes’s philosophy placed a heavy emphasis on deductive reasoning and mathematics. He developed analytic geometry and the Cartesian coordinate system which helped scientists use mathematics to model the physical world. One of his influences on today’s world is his philosophy of mind, dualism, where the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes proposed that reality consists of two separate realms: a physical realm and a mental realm. The physical realm is the realm of matter and energy. Its properties can be measured and studied by science. Everything in this realm operates only by mechanical properties. Descartes included the body as part of the physical realm, viewing it as a biological machine with no free will. Descartes’s view that the body is a machine has led a mechanical approach in medicine, because Descartes views technology as separate from ethics. This idea is prevalent in today’s philosophy – computer science majors are not required to take a morality course. This......

Words: 1184 - Pages: 5

Rene Descartes

...College Algebra 1414 March 25, 2008 Rene Descartes René Descartes was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy" and the "Father of Modern Mathematics."But famous for his saying, "Cogito ergo sum - I think, therefore I am," which is used in Philosphy. His influence in mathematics is also apparent, the Cartesian coordinate system that is used in plane geometry and algebra being named for him, and he was one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution. As the inventor of the Cartesian coordinate system, Descartes founded analytic geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the invention of calculus and analysis. One of Descartes most enduring legacies was his development of Cartesian geometry, the algebraic system taught in schools today. He also created exponential notation, indicated by numbers written in what is now referred to as superscript (x²). Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine, Indre-et-Loire, France. When he was one year old, his mother Jeanne Brochard died of tuberculosis. His father Joachim was a judge in the High Court of Justice. At the age of eleven, he entered the Jesuit College Royal Henry-Le-Grand at La Fleche. After graduation, he studied at the University of Poitiers, earning a Baccalaureat and License in law in 1616, in accordance with his father's wishes that he should become a lawyer. Descartes never actually practiced law,......

Words: 850 - Pages: 4

Rene Descartes

...Rene Descartes When the term modern philosophy is mentioned, it is usually to make a distinction from ancient and medieval philosophy therefore it does not only mean the philosophy of the 21st century, it means, the philosopher Rene Descartes. Therefore in practice what the term, modern philosophy means is, philosophy from Descartes onwards. He was best known for his quote, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am). Descartes was born on March 31st 1596, in La Haye, a small town in France. He was educated in classics, logic and the philosophy of Aristotle at the Jesuit college of Henri IV in La Fleche. After he graduated he studied at the University of Poitiers, obtaining his law license in 1616. He then joined the army and during his spare time he studied mathematics (Gaukroger and Hall, 1995). In 1619, he experienced the series of powerful dreams, which influenced him greatly in his pursuit of science and knowledge, and he acknowledged this ass his focal point of his life (Gaukroger and Hall, 1995). Descartes spent time in various parts of Europe before he settled in Dutch Republic. He maintained his studies and lived in various places throughout the Republic. During this time, he began his writing career, and he started to publish his new works that would revolutionize mathematics and philosophy, these works included the world, meditation of first philosophy, principles of philosophy and passions of the soul. His mathematical theories provided the basis for......

Words: 1045 - Pages: 5

Rene Descartes

...René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer of the 17th century. He was dissatisfied with the philosophy of his time which was dominated by scholastic philosophy, which sought to answer highly abstract philosophical questions mainly on the basis of Aristotle’s teachings. Descartes was dissatisfied with this kind of philosophy because he considered their highly abstract arguments senseless. Because of this dissatisfaction, Descartes tried to create a whole new system of thought that would unify all knowledge. As a result, René Descartes has been dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy”. René Descartes is the man credited to the famous dictum, Cogito Ergo Sum which translates to “I think, therefore I am”. Can one really prove that something, anything exists by this? I would like to believe that the cogito phrase holds an absolute truth. Come to think of this, if you’re even having these profound thoughts of questioning whether anything exists or not, if you even really care about purpose, the meaning, existence, why you are here or if you are real, can’t you then establish that you exist? Just by the mere fact that you are doing the process of examining yourself, you inside know that you are a complex creature, you truly do exists. If you’re looking at questions of self purpose and meaning and the existence of God, none of it would make sense but for the fact that you exists. Only you and you alone can prove that you exist, and that proof......

Words: 403 - Pages: 2

Rene Descartes

...Rene Descartes Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is generally considered to be one of the most influential Philosophers of the modern Western world. He has been called the founder of modern philosophy. Descartes was the first man of any influence in philosophy to be interested and affected by physics and astronomy. He also refused to accept the views of his predecessors, preferring to work out everything for himself. He was the first man to attempt this since Aristotle. There was freshness about his work that had not been seen from any philosopher since Plato. To begin by doubting everything was the necessary first step in order to sweep away all past presumptions and eliminate all issues that were confusing human knowledge. He also isolated only those truths he himself could directly experience and substantiate. This approach of questioning and skeptical nature meant that Descartes was able to make breakthroughs in philosophy not available to earlier philosophers who had accepted other people’s views as true. The existence of God has been a question since the idea of God was conceived. Rene Descartes tries to prove God's existence, and to show that there is without a doubt something external to ones own existence. He is looking for a definite certainty, a foundation for which he can base all of his beliefs and know that they are true. Descartes' overall project is to find a definite certainty on which he can base all his knowledge and beliefs. I totally agree with......

Words: 1842 - Pages: 8


...Meditation Descartes Allgemeines über Meditationen * sechs Einzelmeditationen * übersetz Meditationen über die Erste Philosophie, in welcher die Existenz Gottes und die Unsterblichkeit der Seele bewiesen wird sind ein epochales Werk des französischen Philosophen René Descartes *  über Metaphysik und Erkenntnistheorie aus dem Jahre 1641 * Im Jahre 1647 wurden die zunächst lateinisch gedruckten Meditationen unter dem  * Auf Deutsch erschien ein Teil des Buches 1863 übersetzt von Kuno Fischer in denHauptschriften zur Grundlegung seiner Philosophie * Große Zielgruppe nicht nur die des fachs sondern an das gewöhnliche Volk, die selbst durch methodisches Zweifeln das Fundament der eigenen Urteile überprüfen solle * jeder Mensch besitzt eine moralische Verantwortung 1. Meditation ( Gedankenexperiment) * Allgemein: Gründe, warum man an allen Dingen, besonders an den materiellen zweifeln kann * Die erste Meditation beschäftigt sich mit einem der einflussreichsten Elemente der Cartesischen Methodologie, dem radikalen Zweifel. * Nichts voraussetzen, was nicht absolut gewiss und unbezweifelbar ist * Descartes beginnt seine Ausführungen mit der Feststellung, dass er schon immer viel Falsches gelten lassen habe. * Sein Ziel ist es für etwas Unerschütterliches und Bleibendes in den Wissenschaften festen Halt schaffen zu wollen. * Das sei möglich, wenn er alles von den Grundlagen an umstoßen und auf seine Gültigkeit prüfe. * Dabei wolle er......

Words: 1071 - Pages: 5


...counterarguments to Descartes’ reasoning on reality beyond any doubt. In his book Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes doubts the assurance of knowing whether one is awake or dreaming. In the First Meditation, he notes that “there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep.” Descartes argued that one cannot know whether one is dreaming, thus knowledge is impossible. In fact, because “composite elements” from dreams are indistinguishable from reality, it follows that all one’s experiences could simply be a dream, thus one’s supposed knowledge of the world is false. Descartes metaphysically solved this problem by establishing the one undisputable truth through the cogito— “I think, therefore I am.” Still, in order to have any knowledge beyond one’s own existence, one needs to be able to distinguish dreams from reality which follows from the senses. In the movie, Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) enters the subconscious minds of his targets using a two-level dream strategy to extract information. He and the others carry totems whose behaviors are unpredictable and known only by the specific owner. Unlike Descartes, who asserted that thinking is the one thing that cannot be artificed, Cobb and the others rely on composite objects that ultimately require sense perceptions to recognize and justify their existence. When Cobb is dreaming in the movie, he is also cognizant of the possibility that he might be dreaming. However,......

Words: 608 - Pages: 3

Rene Descartes

...Rene Descartes Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Value Theory Asma Naheed Introduction to Philosophy Mr. Ferguson 13 May 2016 Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a very important philosopher in the 17th century. Many regard to Descartes as the father of modern philosopher. His famous statement "Cogito ero sum" is widely known and studied. He contributed much to mathematics as well as philosophy. What does my philosopher believe is real? One thing my philosopher believes is real is the certainty of the existence of god. René Descartes has an awareness about god. And acknowledges the existence of god. One of Descartes metaphysics is his certainty about god which is examined in his Fifth Mediations “Descartes holds that the idea of God is a true and immutable nature and hence it is not something that can be rejected at all in so far as it is ultimately an innate idea”. His view is similar like mine regarding the belief of god. Though his process for believing in god is quite different then of mine, we both have a strong belief in god. My View on Rene Descartes metaphysics regarding the existence of god is disagreement. Descartes argues that god exists beyond any doubt, but I disagree. My view is not like his because, I believe his proof of good relies mostly on false premises. Descartes argues that god exists but what is the actuality of god he does not answer. An example of this can be illustrated by a student doubting whether or not they will make a good grade on the...

Words: 1980 - Pages: 8

Rene Descartes

...RENE DESCARTES’ METHODS OF DOUBT Introduction The theory of knowledge and analytical method advanced by the French philosopher Rene Descartes is often summed up in the famous phrase, Cogito ergo sum- “I think, therefore I am.” While this phrase does express the final step in his systematic process of “doubting everything,” it is a gross over-simplification of Descartes’ methods. Descartes did use systematic doubt to find the starting point for his theory of knowledge, but his other philosophical inquiries involved several different methods of doubting, from simply imagining that which is contradictory, to carrying logical postulates to absurd conclusions, to the more traditional methods of testing syllogisms and analyzing proofs. In this essay, I will examine Rene Descartes’ various methods of doubt, to show that the philosopher did not rely on the single reductio ad absurdum in his famous proof of his own existence. Descartes, as we will see, employed several different approaches to philosophical proofs, and he was not the mechanistic logician that his mathematical background might suggest. It will be the argument of this essay that Descartes applied different methods of doubt to different problems, depending upon whether the problem was epistemological, scientific or theological in nature. Existential Doubt: Do I Exist? The first and best-known method of doubt employed by Descartes involves reductionism, in the sense that he used a negative or reverse logical......

Words: 2190 - Pages: 9

Philosophy Descartes

...Descartes' Methodic Doubt René Descartes (1596-1650) is an example of a rationalist. According to Descartes, before we can describe the nature of reality (as is done in metaphysics) or say what it means for something to be or exist (which is the focus of ontology), we must first consider what we mean when we say we know what reality, being, or existence is. He suggests that it is pointless to claim that something is real or exists unless we first know how such a claim could be known as a justified true belief. But to say that our beliefs are justified, we have to be able to base them ultimately on a belief that is itself indubitable. Such a belief could then provide a firm foundation on which all subsequent beliefs are grounded and could thus be known as true. This way of thinking about knowledge is called foundationalism. In his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), Descartes indicates how we are able to guarantee our beliefs about reality by limiting what we believe to what is indubitable or is based on what is indubitable. That involves him in a series of six "meditations" (of which we will focus on only the first two) about the proper method of philosophical reflection and the conclusions that can be drawn from using that method. Throughout these Meditations Descartes insists that (1) we should claim to know only that for which we have justification, (2) we cannot appeal to anything outside of our ideas for such justification, and (3) we judge our ideas using a......

Words: 1949 - Pages: 8