Descartes was considered a "jack of all trades", making major contributions to the areas of anatomy, cognitive science, optics, mathematics and philosophy.
After publication of the Discourse in 1637, Descartesreceived in his correspondence queries and challenges to various of thedoctrines, including his account of the sequence of phenomena duringheart-beat and the circulation of the blood; his avoidance ofsubstantial forms and real qualities; his argument for a distinctionbetween mind and body; and his view that natural philosophicalhypotheses could be “proven” through the effects that they explain(6:76). Descartes' correspondence from the second half of the 1630s repays close study, among other things for his discussions of hypothesis-confirmation in science, his replies to objectionsconcerning his metaphysics, and his explanation that he had left themost radical skeptical arguments out of this work, since it was writtenin French for a wide audience (1:350, 561).
In a letter of 13 November 1639, Descartes wrote to Mersenne that hewas “working on a discourse in which I try to clarify what I havehitherto written” on metaphysics (2:622). This was theMeditations, and presumably he was revising or recasting theLatin treatise from 1629. He announced to Mersenne a plan to put thework before “the twenty or thirty most learned theologians” before itwas published. In the end, he and Mersenne collected seven sets ofobjections to the Meditations, which Descartes publishedwith the work, along with his replies (1641, 1642). Some objections were fromunnamed theologians, passed on by Mersenne; one set came from theDutch priest Johannes Caterus; one set was from the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Bourdin;others were from Mersenne himself, from the philosophers Pierre Gassendiand Thomas Hobbes, and from the Catholic philosopher-theologian Antoine Arnauld.
Descartes left Breda in 1619 to join the Catholic army of MaximilianI (Duke of Bavaria and ally of France). The war concerned the authorityof Ferdinand V, a Catholic, who had been crowned emperor of the HolyRoman Empire in September. Descartes attended the coronation and wasreturning to the army when winter caught him in the small town of Ulm(or perhaps Neuburg), not far from Munich. On the night of November 10,1619, Descartes had three dreams that seemed to provide him with amission in life. The dreams themselves are interesting and complex (seeSebba 1987). Descartes took from them the message that he should setout to reform all knowledge. He decided to begin with philosophy, sincethe principles of the other sciences must be derived from it(6:21–2).
[tags: Existence God Religion Descartes Essays]
Descartes was familiar with both mainstream philosophy and recentinnovators (those who, among other things, rejected aspects ofAristotle's philosophy), including reading that he did from 1620on. In 1640, he recalled (3:185) having read various works inphilosophy around the year 1620, written by well-known commentators onAristotle: Francisco Toledo (1532–96), Antonio Rubio(1548–1615), and the Coimbran commentators (active ca. 1600),together with an abstract or summary of “the whole of scholasticphilosophy” by Eustace of Saint Paul (1573–1640),whose Summa Philosophiae was first published in 1609. In1638, he recalled having read Thomas Campanella's De SensuRerum (1620) about fifteen years before, and not being muchimpressed (2:659–60). And in 1630 he was able to rattle off thenames of recent innovators in philosophy (1:158), including Campanella(1568–1639), Bernardino Telesio (1509–88), Giordano Bruno(1548–1600), Lucilio Vanini (1585–1619), and SébastienBasson (b. ca. 1573).
[tags: rene descartes, mind and body, aristotle]
However, at this point, it is important to take into consideration the third rule of Descartes’ method: “to conduct my thoughts in an orderly way, beginning with the simplest objects, the ones easiest to know, so that little by little I could gradually climb right up to the knowledge of the most complex” (Descartes). Hence, he logically assumes that on dividing the subject of analysis into parts, it is necessary to examine them and start constructing the knowledge of the subject at large.
[tags: Philosophy, Rene Descartes, Meditation]
Descartes was known among the learned in his day as a topmathematician, as the developer of a new and comprehensive physics ortheory of nature (including living things), and as the proposer of anew metaphysics. In the years following his death, his naturalphilosophy was widely taught and discussed. In the eighteenth centuryaspects of his science remained influential, especially hisphysiology, as did his project of investigating the knower inassessing the possibility and extent of human knowledge; he was alsoremembered for his failed metaphysics and his use of skepticalarguments for doubting. In the nineteenth century he was revered forhis mechanistic physiology and theory that animal bodies are machines(that is, are constituted by material mechanisms, governed by the lawsof matter alone). The twentieth century variously celebrated hisfamous “cogito” starting point, reviled the sense datathat some alleged to be the legacy of his skeptical starting point,and looked to him as a model of the culturally engaged philosopher. Hehas been seen, at various times, as a hero and as a villain; as abrilliant theorist who set new directions in thought, and as theharbinger of a cold, rationalistic, and calculative conception ofhuman beings. Those new to the study of Descartes should engage hisown works in some detail prior to developing a view of his legacy.