Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rene Descartes' Theory: Cogito Ergo Sum (From Discourse on Method)


Introduction by Marciano Guerrero

Early Life

René Descartes (1596 – 1650) was born was born in La Haye, a town in central France. He was extensively educated, first at a boarding school at the Jesuit Henri IV in La Flèche. Later he earned a law degree at age 22, at the University of Poitiers; but he didn’t practice law since an influential teacher persuaded him study and apply mathematics and logic to understanding the natural world. Descartes later added theology and medicine to his studies.
As he writes in his Discourse on Method, having made some stunning discoveries, he felt that at age 22, it was too premature for him to reveal his findings. Instead he traveled, joined the army for a brief time, saw some battles and was introduced to Dutch scientist and philosopher Isaac Beeckman, who would become for Descartes a very influential teacher.

His Mature Life

Having gained experience and maturity, Descartes continuously work on developing his new method for finding truthful knowledge. To doubt everything was at the core of his system, rejecting everything that was not clear and distinct to his understanding.
Yet, to doubting everything, someone —a doubter or philosopher— must exist! 
By following his method of total doubt, Descartes rejected the Aristotelian and Scholastic traditions that had been the dominant throughout the medieval times. By his new method not only did he prove that he existed, but also the existence of God.
In 1649 Descartes moved to Stockholm to tutor Queen Christina in philosophy. The Queen desired to begin her studies at 5 A.M., and Descartes was unaccustomed to working at this early hour. The work, combined with the harsh climate, had ill effects on Descartes’ health. He died of pneumonia in 1650.

About the Discourse on Method

In 1637 Descartes published Optics, Meteorology, and Geometry, a collection of essays. The preface to the collection is titled Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences.
Descartes’ Discourse alters the course of philosophy, by starting first with a proof of the existence of the self — cogito ergo sum— and subsequently deducing from it the existence and nature of God. That is to say, he offers a
radical modern account not only of the physical world, but also of the fauna and flora.
Written in plain, straight forward French, he made his method accessible not only to the learned, but all who wanted to pursue truth in knowledge.

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