Descartes is often regarded as the
first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural sciences.
A method for discovery
of truth consists of four rules:
Accept nothing as true unless one has
each problem into as many parts as possible and resolve each in the best manner
Carry on reflections beginning with the most simple and
proceed little by little, to
knowledge of the most
enumerations so complete and reviews so general that one can be certain of
"Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual
and a bodily. As regards the spiritual nature, which they name the soul, he is
called the spiritual, inward, new man; as regards the bodily nature, which they
name the flesh, he is called the fleshly, outward, old man." - Martin
Common sense is, of all
things among men, the most equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so
abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to
satisfy in everything else, do
not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already
It is not likely that all are mistaken the conviction it is
rather to be held as testifying that the power of judging aright and of
distinguishing truth from
error, which is properly what is called common sense or reason, is by nature equal in
The diversity of our opinions, consequently, does not arise
from some being endowed with a larger share of reason than others, but solely
from this, that we conduct our
thoughts along different ways, and do not fix our attention on the same
For to be possessed of
a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is to rightly apply it.
He truly engages in battle who
endeavors to surmount all the difficulties and errors which prevent him from
reaching the knowledge of truth.
I, Rene Descartes, hold in esteem
the studies of the
I was aware that
the languages taught in them
are necessary to the understanding of
the writings of the ancients;
that the grace of
narrative stirs the mind;
that the memorable deeds of history elevate it;
and, if read with
discretion, aid in forming the
that the perusal of all excellent books is to interview
the noblest men of past ages
and in which are discovered their highest thoughts;
eloquence has incomparable force
that poetry has its ravishing graces and
that in the mathematics there are refined discoveries
eminently suited to gratify the inquisitive, further all the arts and lessen
the labor of man;
numerous highly useful precepts and exhortations to virtue are contained in
treatises on morals;
that theology points out the path
that philosophy affords the
means of discoursing with an appearance of truth on all matters, and
commands the admiration of the
medicine, and the other sciences,
secure for their cultivators
honors and bestow some attention upon all, even upon those abounding the
most in superstition
and error, that we may be in a position to
determine their real value, and
guard against being
I, Rene Descartes, am not at all astonished at
attributed to those ancient philosophers whose own writings we do not
I do not on that account suppose them to have been
really absurd, seeing they were
among the ablest men of their times, but only that these have been
falsely represented to us.
I am quite sure that the most
devoted of the followers of
Aristotle would think
themselves happy if they had the knowledge of nature he
I, Rene Descartes, never accepted anything for true which
I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid
precipitancy and prejudice, and to
comprise nothing more in my judgement than what was presented to my mind so
clearly and distinctly as to exclude all doubt.
I divide each of the
difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be
necessary for its adequate solution.
I resolved to conduct my thoughts
in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest
I might ascend step by
step to the knowledge of the more complex.
The long chains of simple and easy reasoning
by means of which geometers are accustomed to reach the conclusions of their
most difficult demonstrations, had led
me to envision that all things, to the knowledge of which man is competent,
are mutually connected in the same
There is nothing so far
removed from us as to be beyond our reach, or
so hidden that we cannot discover
it, provided only we abstain
from accepting the false for the true, and always preserve in our thoughts
the order necessary for the deduction of one truth from
Each truth discovered was a rule
available in the discovery of subsequent ones.
Expediency seemed to dictate
that I should regulate my practice conformably to the opinions of those with whom
I should have to live.
order to ascertain the real opinions of such, I ought rather to take cognizance
of what they practiced rather than
of what they said, not only because, in
the corruption of our
manners, there are few disposed to speak exactly as they believe, but also
very many are not aware of what it is that they really
Something believed is different from
When it is not in our power to
determine what is true, we ought
to act according to what is most probable.
I, Rene Descartes,
have always endeavored to conquer myself
rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the
Earth, and in general, accustom myself to the
except our own thoughts, there is
nothing absolutely in our power.
If we consider all
real objects as equally beyond our
power, we shall no more regret the absence of such real objects as appear due
at birth, when deprived of them without any fault of our own.
I may state that
it was my conviction that I could not do better than continue in that in which
I was engaged, viz., in devoting my whole life to the culture of my reason, and
in making the greatest progress I was able in the knowledge of truth.
I, Rene Descartes, attentively
examined what I was.
I observed that I could envision that I had no
body, and that there was no Earth
nor any place in which I might be, but I could not envision that I was not.
I still was, on the contrary, from the very circumstance that I thought
to doubt the truth of other things,
it most clearly and certainly
followed that I was.
I, Rene Descartes, thence concluded that
I was a substance whose whole
essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist,
has no need of place, nor
is dependent on anything real.
Rene Descartes = Cartesius
I, that is to say, the
mind by which I am what
I am, is wholly distinct
from the body, and
is even more easily known than the
body, and is such, that although the body were not, it would still continue
to be all that it is.
I think, therefore I
Although I, Rene Descartes,
might think I was dreaming, that
all which I saw or
imagined was false, I could not deny
the reality of my
I was disposed straightway to
search for other truths.
I, Rene Descartes, perceived that there was nothing to these
demonstrations which could assure me of the existence of their object.
For example, supposing a triangle to be given, I distinctly perceived
that its three angles were necessarily equal to two right angles, but I did not
on that account perceive anything
which could assure me that any triangle existed.
The reason which leads
many to persuade theirselves that there is a difficulty in
knowing this truth, and even also in
knowing what their mind really is
that they never raise their thoughts above
accustomed to considering nothing except by way of
imagination, which is a mode of
thinking limited to real objects,
that all that is not imaginable
appears to them not intelligible.
The truth of this is sufficiently
manifest from the single circumstance, that the
philosophers of the schools accept as a maxim that there is nothing in the
understanding which was not previously in the senses, in which however it is
certain that the ideas of God and of the Soul have never been.
appears to me that they who make use of their
comprehend these ideas
do exactly the same thing as if, in order to
hear sounds or
smell odors, they strove to avail
themselves of their eyes.
Unless indeed there is this difference, that
the sense of sight does not afford us an inferior assurance to those of smell
or hearing; in place of which, neither
our imagination nor our senses
can give us assurance of anything unless our understanding intervene.
God is or exists because all that we
possess is derived from God.
Whence it follows that our ideas or
notions, which to the extent of their clearness and distinctness are real, and
proceed from God, must to that extent be true.
Whereas we not
infrequently have ideas or notions in which some falsity is contained, this can
only be the case when we proceed from lack of knowledge.
knowledge of God and of the soul has rendered us certain,
we can easily
understand that the truth of reason we experience when
awake, ought not in the
slightest degree to be called in question on account of the illusions of our
Thoughts which occur in dreaming occur within a hyperreality.
Whether awake or asleep,
we ought never to allow ourselves to be persuaded of the truth of anything
unless on the evidence of our reason.
I have also observed certain laws
established in nature by
God, that after we have reflected sufficiently upon these, we can not doubt
that they are accurately observed in all that exists or takes place on the
Earth and farther, by considering the concatenation of these laws, it appears
to me that I have discovered many truths more useful and more important than
all I had before learned, or even had expected to learn.
If God were now to create matter
sufficient to compose a universe and were to agitate the different parts of
this matter, so that there resulted a chaos as disordered as the poets ever
feigned, and after that did nothing more than lend ordinary concurrence to
nature, and allow nature to act in accordance with the
Laws of Nature, the result,
by necessity, would be as our
I, Rene Descartes, have pointed out what are the
Laws of Nature; and, with
no other principle upon which to found my reasoning except
the infinite perfection of God, I
endeavored to demonstrate all those about which there could be any room for
doubt, and to prove that they are such, that even if God had forged more
worlds, there could have been none in which these laws were not
An opinion commonly received among
the action by which God now
sustains the universe is the same with that by which he originally forged
it; so that even although God had
from the beginning given it no other form than that of chaos, provided only
God had established certain Laws
of Nature, and had lent it concurrence to enable it to act as it is wont to
do, it may be believed, without discredit to
the miracle of creation, that, in
this way alone, things purely
material might, in course of time, have become such as we observe them at
present; and their nature is much more easily envisioned when they are
beheld coming in this manner gradually into existence, than when they are only
considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state.
Descartes, perceived it to be possible to arrive at knowledge highly useful in
life; so natural to our minds
that no one can so much as imagine himself ignorant of it; and in light of
the speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to discover a
practical means by which to know the force and action of fire,
water, air, the stars, the
heavens, and all the other
bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our
artisans, we might also apply them in
the same way to all the uses to which they are adapted, and thus render
ourselves the lords and
possessors of nature.
And this is a result to be desired, not only
in order to the invention of an infinity of arts, by which we might
be enabled to enjoy without any trouble the fruits of the Earth, and all its
comforts, but also and especially for the preservation of health, which is
without doubt, of all the blessings of
this life, the first and fundamental one.
I examined what were the
first and most ordinary effects that could be deduced from these causes; and it
appears to me that, in this way, I have found
knowledge of the heavens
and on Earth knowledge of water, air,
fire, minerals, and other things which of all others are the most common and
simple, and hence the easiest to know.
I, Rene Descartes, have essayed
to find general principles, deducing them
from certain germs of truths naturally existing in our minds.
necessary also to confess that the power of nature is so ample and vast, and
these principles so simple and general, that I have hardly observed a single
particular effect which I cannot at once recognize as capable of being deduced
Thereupon, turning over in my mind, the
real objects that had ever been
presented to my senses I freely venture to state that I have never observed any
which I could not satisfactorily explain by the
Laws of Nature.
Rene Descartes, am confident that there is no one, even among those whose
profession it is, who does not admit that
all that is presently known is almost
nothing in comparison of what remains to be discovered.
men of superior genius to strive to proceed farther, by contributing, each
according to his inclination and ability, to the necessary experiments, and
also by informing the public of all they might
discover, so that, by the last
beginning where those before them had left off, and
thus connecting the lives and
labors of many, we might collectively proceed much farther than each by
himself could do.
Descartes, am now in a position to discern, as I think, with sufficient
clearness what course must be taken to make the
majority of those
experiments which may conduce to this end: but I
perceive likewise that they are
such and so numerous, that neither my hands nor my income, though it were a
thousand times larger than it is, would be sufficient for them all; so that
according as henceforward I shall have the means of making more or fewer
experiments, I shall in the same proportion make greater or less progress in
the knowledge of nature.
I had hoped to make known the treatise I had
written, and so clearly to exhibit the advantage that would thence accrue to
mankind, as to induce all who have the common good of man at
heart, that is, all who are
virtuous in truth, and not merely in
appearance, or according to opinion, as well to communicate to me the
experiments they had already made, as to assist me in those that remain to be
I neither have so high an
opinion of myself as to be willing
to make promise of anything
extraordinary, nor feed on imaginations so vain as to fancy
that the public must be much interested in my designs.
If I, Rene Descartes, were
to publish the principles of my
philosophy: for although they are almost all so evident that to assent to
them no more is needed than simply to understand them, and although there is
not one of them of which I do not expect to be able to give demonstration, yet,
as it is impossible
that they can be in accordance with all the diverse opinions of others, I
foresee that I should frequently be turned aside from my grand
design, on occasion of the opposition
which they would be sure to awaken.
I may say that such
individuals have an interest in my refraining from publishing the principles of
the my philosophy; for, since these are of a category the simplest and most
evident, I should, by publishing them, do much the same as if I were to throw
open the windows, and allow the
light of day to enter.
Even superior men have no reason for any great
anxiety to know these
Laws of Nature, for if what they
desire is to be able to speak of all things, and to acquire a reputation for
learning, they will gain their end more easily by remaining satisfied with
appearance of truth, which can be found without much difficulty in all sorts of
matters, than by seeking the truth itself which unfolds itself but slowly and
obliges us to freely confess our ignorance.
I, Rene Descartes, do not
wish to forestall the judgements of
others by speaking myself of my writings; but it will gratify me if they be
examined, and, to afford the greater inducement to this I request all who may
have any objections to make them.
I have resolved to devote what time I may still have to live to no
other endeavor other than acquiring some knowledge of
Laws of Nature, the reality of the
cause is established by the reality of the effect.
It is likely that Rene Descartes died of
tutoring Queen Cristina of Sweden.
from brief insights into the nature of things.
Although such insights
are rare and difficult to sustain they allow us
a glimpse of the basis of our desires and
grant us the ability to control those
Those who have mastery over their desires will have a
healthy regard of others as they see them as equally capable of
a virtuous will.
possess this knowledge of themselves readily come to believe that any other
individual can have the same knowledge about themselves because this knowledge
involves nothing which depends on anything outside of the self.
over desire breeds self-assurance and confidence.
To attain virtue be concerned about
only that which we are responsible for.
relies for its supra-cultural validity on principles that are themselves among
its own assumptions.
logic of its
justification is circular.
would be an aborigine insisting, "Okay, let's settle this question of whether
scientific experiment or dreaming is the way to
true knowledge once
and for all . . . Let's settle it by entering the
dreamtime and asking the
It is hard to imagine, but the
of objectivity and
determinism that lie at
the foundation of the Scientific Method are
by no means shared by all the world's traditions of thought.
A non-objective, non-deterministic, coherent
system of thought is possible.
It is more than possible: it is
necessary given the impending collapse of the world of the discrete and
separate self that we have wrought.
Necessary in light of the new
scientific revolution of the last hundred years.
Our ways of thinking are not working
anymore." - Charles Eisenstein
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