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Descartes

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Ghost of Descartes is still with us

    Descartes is one of the most influential Western philosophers, and this book is a useful first introduction to his life and ideas. The strength of the book is in positioning Descartes' writing primarily within the political and ideological currents of his time, and showing how exactly he's been forced to edit and finesse his writings in order to please the censorship and his critics. This helps explain why some of his works were not as straightforwardly written as one might have liked. The other reason has probably to do with the sheer ambition of Descartes' chief enterprise, to discover one sure method of arriving at explanations and solutions of the most pressing scientific and philosophical problems of the time. The enormity of this scope meant that some of these methods would necessarily be to vague to be of any practical use in mathematics or physics, and within a generation after Descartes' death Newtonian gravitation completely prevailed. However, in the realm of philosophy, Descarts' thought managed to be of interest until the present day.

    This book is very well written, and if you are interested in finding out more about Descartes, it would be a worthwhile first read.

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