scientific method

Descartes is often regarded as the first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural sciences.

Scientific Method

A method for discovery of truth consists of four rules:

Accept nothing as true unless one has no doubt.

Divide up each problem into as many parts as possible and resolve each in the best manner possible.

Carry on reflections beginning with the most simple and proceed little by little, to knowledge of the most complex.

Make enumerations so complete and reviews so general that one can be certain of omitting nothing.

"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 Luther

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 possess.

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 all men.

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 objects.

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 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 judgement;

that the perusal of all excellent books is to interview the noblest men of past ages and in which are discovered their highest thoughts;

that eloquence has incomparable force and beauty;

that poetry has its ravishing graces and delights;

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 on morals;

that 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 simple;

that jurisprudence, 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 deceived.

I, Rene Descartes, am not at all astonished at the extravagances attributed to those ancient philosophers whose own writings we do not possess.

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 possessed.

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 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 way.

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 another.

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.

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, 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 believe.

Something believed is different from something known.

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 persuasion that, 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 am.

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

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 thoughts.

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 real objects.

They become 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.

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 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.

After the 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 dreams.

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 reality is.

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 observed.

An opinion commonly received among theologians, that 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.

I, Rene 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.

It is 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 by mankind.

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.

I, 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.

I incite 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.

I, Rene 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 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 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.

Rene Descartes

dangerous thoughts

It is likely that Rene Descartes died of arsenic
while tutoring Queen Cristina of Sweden.

Enlightenment comes 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 desires.

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 because this knowledge involves nothing which depends on anything outside of the self.

Mastery over desire breeds self-assurance and confidence.

To attain virtue be concerned about only that which we are responsible for.

cicular reasoning works

"The Scientific Method relies for its supra-cultural validity on principles that are themselves among its own assumptions.

The logic of its justification is circular.

A parallel 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 ancestors."

It is hard to imagine, but the principal assumptions 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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