Rene Descartes

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					Rene Descartes
             Getting to Know You
• French mathematician, philosopher, and metaphysician
• Educated by the French Jesuits whose curriculum was based on the
  philosophy of Aristotle: logic, morals, physics, and metaphysics
• Metaphysics: a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the
  fundamental nature of being and the world (“meta” meaning beyond
  or after)
• Descartes founded analytic geometry, the bridge between algebra
  and geometry (and crucial to the discovery of calculus)
• Called the “Father of Modern Philosophy”
• Many elements of his philosophy are Aristotelian (in that all things
  are designed for a final result and that there is a purpose for all that
• In 1663, the Pope placed Descartes’ works on the Index of
  Prohibited Books
Discourse on the Method of Rightly
 Conducting One’s Reason and of
  Seeking Truth in the Sciences
• Published in 1637, Discourse on the
  Method is organized into six parts
            Discourse Two:
         The Method of Science
• Descartes’ Method is characterized by four
• 1.) Accept only that which you are sure of (filter
  away all that may be in doubt)
• 2.) Divide into as small parts as necessary
  (divide difficulties into as small pieces as
• 3.) Solve the simplest problems first
• 4.) Make as complete lists, tables, and diagrams
  as possible
           Discourse Four:
      Proof of God and the Soul
• Descartes applies his scientific method (outlined
  in Discourse Two) to challenge his own
  reasoning and reason itself
• If each step of the scientific method were free
  from error, the “darkest secrets” of nature could
  be discovered
• Descartes only needed a single unassailable
  position (a foundation that one can know is true
  without any doubt) from which to begin
• For Descartes, that foundation was the phrase “I
  think therefore I am.”
   Methodological Skepticism
• In order to obtain truth, Descartes must
  first reject any ideas that can be doubted
• Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am
• Descartes concluded that if he doubted,
  then someone or something must be doing
  the doubting because thought cannot be
  separated from the one doing the thinking.
• The very fact that Descartes doubted
  proved that he existed
            The Wax Argument
• Descartes uses the Wax Argument to illustrate why truth
  cannot be gained through sensory perception
• He considers a piece of wax; his senses inform him that
  it has certain characteristics, such as shape, texture,
  size, color, smell, and so forth. When he brings the wax
  towards a flame, these characteristics change
  completely. However, it seems that it is still the same
  thing: it is still a piece of wax, even though the data of
  the senses inform him that all of its characteristics are
  different. Therefore, in order to properly grasp the nature
  of the wax, he cannot use the senses. He must use his
   Descartes and the Existence of
Descartes wanted to prove the existence of God
    without having to depend on sensory evidence.
Instead, Descartes relied on an intuitive chain of
    reasoning, starting with the notion that he knew
    he existed because he was a “thing that thinks.”
It is greater perfection to know than to doubt
Because man has doubt, and is therefore not
    completely perfect, there must be something
    more perfect than one’s self.
          God as Perfection
• How do we have the ability to reason that there
  must be something more perfect than one’s self?
• The idea of perfection must have been placed in
  humans by a being more perfect than man
• God possesses all that is infinite, eternal,
  immutable, omniscient, and perfect while man is
  imperfect and full of doubt
• God must exist because we have the ability to
  contemplate the idea that perfection and
  omniscience exists.

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