Descartes is often regarded as
the first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural
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
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 Luther
Common sense is, of all things
among men, the most equally distributed.
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 the
power of judging aright and distinguishing
truth from error, properly
called common sense or reason, is by
nature equal in all men.
The diversity of our opinions does not arise
from some being endowed with a larger share of reason than others, but solely
by this, we conduct our
thoughts along different ways, and do not fix attention on the same
For to be
possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is to
rightly apply it.
engages in battle who endeavors to surmount all the
difficulties and errors which prevent him from reaching the
knowledge of truth.
Descartes, hold in esteem the studies of the schools.
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;
that numerous highly useful precepts and exhortations
to virtue are contained in treatises
theology points out the path to heaven;
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 to
know, I might ascend step by
step to the knowledge of the more complex.
The long chains of simple
reason geometers are accustomed to reach a conclusion, 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
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 made available the
discovery of subsequent ones.
Expediency seemed to dictate
that I should regulate my behavior conformably to the
opinions of those with whom I should have
In order to ascertain the real opinions of such, I ought
rather to take cognizance of
what they practiced
rather than of what they said.
the corruption of our
manners, there are few disposed to speak exactly as they believe, but also
many are not aware of what it is they really
Something believed is different from
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, change my desires rather than the order, 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; devoting my whole
life to the culture of my reason; making the greatest progress I was able
in the knowledge of truth.
I, Rene Descartes, attentively
examined what I was.
I observed 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 followed
that I remained.
I, Rene Descartes, concluded
I was a substance whose whole
essence or nature consists only in thinking
not dependent on anything
Rene Descartes = Cartesius
I, that is to say, the
mind by which I am what
I am, is wholly distinct
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 many
are persuaded there is a difficulty in knowing this truth, and in knowing what
their mind really is that
they never raise their thoughts above real objects.
accustomed to considering everything through visualization, a mode of thinking
limited to real objects; all that
is unimaginable appears to them unintelligible.
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
It appears to me that they who make use of their imagination to
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 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.
or exists because all that we possess is derived from God.
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.
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.
After knowledge 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
into question on account of the illusions of our dreams.
ought never to allow ourselves to be persuaded of the truth of anything unless
on the evidence of our reason.
I have observed laws
established by God are
observed in all that exists.
Concatenation of these laws reveal 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 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, endeavored to demonstrate to all until
there could be any room for doubt, and to prove 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 which sustains the
universe is the same with that by which it was originally forged.
God, in the miracle of
Creation, established certain Laws of Nature.
purely material might, in course of time, have become as we observe them at
Their nature is 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 perfect state.
I, Rene Descartes,
perceived it to be possible to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life; so
natural that no one can
imagine himself ignorant of it.
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.
This result is to be desired so we might be
enabled to enjoy without trouble the fruits of the Earth and especially
the preservation of health,
which is without doubt, of all the
blessings of this life, the first and fundamental one.
what were the first and most ordinary effects that could be deduced from these
causes; and 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
I, Rene Descartes, have essayed to find general principles,
deducing them from certain germs of truths
naturally existing in our minds.
It is necessary to confess the
power of nature is so ample 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 by mankind.
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
I, Rene Descartes, am confident there is no one who does not
admit all that is presently known is
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.
I, Rene Descartes,
now in a position to induce all who have the common good of man at heart, all
who are virtuous in truth, and not merely in appearance, or according to
opinion, to communicate to me the experiments they had already made, as to
assist me in those that remain to be made.
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
If I, Rene Descartes,
were to publish the principles
of my philosophy: to assent to them no more is needed than simply to
Although I expected 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
I may say such individuals have an interest in my
refraining from publishing the principles of the my philosophy as, 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.
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 a
glimpse of the basis of desire and grant us
the ability to control that desire.
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.
Those who possess this knowledge of themselves readily come to believe
that any other individual can have the same knowledge about themselves as this
knowledge involves nothing which depends on anything outside of the
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 ancestors."
assumptions of objectivity
and determinism at the
foundation of the Scientific
Method are not shared by all 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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