|Discourse on Method|
|The Scientific Method|
|How to think correctly||All have common sense|
|Method:How to think|
|Moral Maxims||Obey local customs|
|Proof of God & Soul||What is perfect?|
|Physics, heart & soul||Mind-Body Dualism|
|Experiments||Experiment if complex|
The Discourse on the Method is one of the most influential works in the history of modern science. It is a method which gives a solid platform from which all modern natural sciences could evolve. In this work, Descartes tackles the problem of skepticism which had been revived from the ancients such as Sextus Empiricus by authors such as Algazel and Michel de Montaigne. Descartes modified it to account for a truth that he found to be incontrovertible. Descartes started his line of reasoning by doubting everything, so as to assess the world from a fresh perspective, clear of any preconceived notions.
Together with Meditations on First Philosophy (Meditationes de Prima Philosophia), Principles of Philosophy (Principia philosophiae) and Rules for the Direction of the Mind (Regulae ad directionem ingenii), it forms the base of the Epistemology known as Cartesianism.
In the "building metaphor" laid forth by Descartes, opinions and our own thoughts are the ground upon which our later perceptions are built. Descartes remarks on the sedentary nature of ideas and opinions, saying “I firmly believed that in this way I should much better succeed in the conduct of my life, than if I built only upon old foundations, and leaned upon principles which, in my youth, I had taken upon trust.” In other words, the core principle is that one must not seek to build on old foundations of knowledge, but should look for other fertile land to build knowledge upon.
The following quote from Discourse on Method presents the four precepts that characterize the Method itself:
By clear and distinct he suggests the evidence of the senses.
The enumerations have in time developed into many forms. He suggested drawing boxes on a paper, and connecting them. This idea has led to a multitude of graphic thinking aids that we use today.
Descartes uses the analogy of tearing down the house to its foundation in order to build a secure edifice (He even extends the analogy to move next door into a house of morality, while his own house is being rebuilt). The foundation he reveals appears to have three parts.
Perhaps the most strained part of the argument is the reasoned proof of the existence of God and indeed Descartes seems to realize this as he supplies three different 'proofs' including what is now referred to as the negotiable ontological proof of the existence of God (some argue that Descartes inserted his statement on the existence of God in the Discourse on Method to appease censors of the time; a very serious concern, as within Discourse Descartes points out that he was at first reluctant to publish the work because of the recent show trial of Galileo by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633, only four years earlier).
Here he describes how he in other writings discusses the idea of laws of nature, of the sun and stars, the idea of the moon being the cause of ebb and flood, on gravitation, going to examine light and fire, and goes on to medicine, the motion of the blood in the heart and arteries. He describes that these motions seem to be totally independent of what we think, and concludes that our bodies are separate from our souls.
He does not seem to distinguish between mind, spirit and soul, which are identified as our faculty for rational thinking. Hence the term "I think, therefore I am". All three of these words (particularly "mind" and "soul") can be identified by the single French term âme.
"First, I have essayed to find in general the principles, or first causes of all that is or can be in the world"
Secure on these foundation stones, Descartes shows the practical application of 'The Method' in Mathematics and the Sciences.
One of the practical methods was to order the objects in different ways on paper to make them easy to see clearly. This became the basis of the Cartesian coordinate system, the Histogram, modern mathematical heuristics, and Analytic geometry. These ideas, among other methods of science, influenced Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in their development of calculus.
The most important influence, however, was the first precept, which states, in Descartes words,"[To] never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such". This new idea of skepticism influenced many to start finding out things for themselves rather than relying solely on authority. The idea as such may have been the starting point for the development of modern science.
This skepticism not only influenced the "hard" sciences, but is considered the start of modern philosophy. Later philosophers adopted Descartes's doubt with great fervor. Most prominently, David Hume doubted the concept of causality and was unable to "clearly know" it to be true.
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