Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes was a French Philosopher who lived between 1596-1650. Descartes began by postulating that our approach to knowledge must be governed by doubt: we reject everything which, when tested by pure reason, appears uncertain. Reason was exalted but in a form different from, and far more attractive than that which scholastic dialectics had allowed it. Moreover it recognized the fact of doubt and assigned it a regulative place in human thought; so far from being the final sin it became the primary virtue.

There was revealed to Descartes at the age of 23, in some overwhelming way, the fact that the structure of the universe is mathematical and logical. Rene was given a profound sense of revelation. Descartes' method is designed ruthlessly to unmask the imponderables, and to find in every thing the lucid and exact structure.

Here are his four rules of logic: My first rule was to accept nothing as true which I did not clearly recognize to be so; to accept nothing more than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly that I could have no occasion to doubt it. The second rule was to divide each problem or difficulty into as many parts as possible. The third rule was to commence my reflections with objects which were the simplest and easiest to understand, and rise thence, little by little, to knowledge of the most complex. The fourth rule was to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I should be certain to have omitted nothing.

Thus Descartes introduces a deep cleavage between the inward look into mind and the outward look into matter. He offers no solution to the epistemological problem of how the mind knows, other than the vague notion of God as the connecting medium. It is ironic that the man who had an ecstatic experience, revealing to him the nature of the universe, should introduce into modern philosophy the dualism of mind and body which has plagued thought ever since. He proposed the sanction of the intellect. They must be so evident that they cannot be doubted. reach the rock of thought when we can no longer doubt; and therefore we reach it only by doubting. His method was analytic: it works by taking things and thoughts to pieces. Descartes repeatedly affirmed that he did not doubt in matters of faith. His personal interest in mathematics arose from what he called the certainty of its demonstrations and the evidence of its reasoning. For him its proper application was not to mathematics but to philosophy, starting with metaphysics.
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