×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Discourse on the Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences
     

Discourse on the Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences

by Rene Descartes
 
In the "Discourse on Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Searching for Truth in the Sciences" (1637) Descartes suggests that perfect knowledge can be achieved by means of perfect, individual reasoning. According to Descartes, reason can only guarantee its truth-seeking value in the personal sphere, and even then only when it is gradually and systematically

Overview

In the "Discourse on Method for Conducting One's Reason Well and for Searching for Truth in the Sciences" (1637) Descartes suggests that perfect knowledge can be achieved by means of perfect, individual reasoning. According to Descartes, reason can only guarantee its truth-seeking value in the personal sphere, and even then only when it is gradually and systematically applied. Descartes demonstrates his own method for generating perfectly reasoned knowledge, but it is the model of this behavior and not the knowledge itself that ought benefit his readers. The text is in this sense a testament to Descartes' own progress as a practitioner of his own method. Descartes exerts himself as the ultimate critic whose default stance is one of doubt and who wishes to reform his own thought according to the most rigorous standards of reason possible. He does not succeed in following most of his maxims. Nevertheless, his experiment is a notable instance of the struggle for individual enlightenment. First, Descartes addresses the harms of the status quo organization of knowledge and its acquisition. He identifies the vector by which falsehoods propagate themselves undetected among the disciplines of human knowledge. The current realm of human knowledge is the product of "design by committee" in the sense that it is cumulative and collaborative, meaning that previous errors in reasoning may serve as the ostensibly firm foundations for the current order of knowledge. He alleges that no discipline of knowledge can be said to be entirely reasoned from empirical data. He criticizes even the apparently objective systems of mathematics and logic for a deficiency of application. Descartes points to controversies and inconsistencies between disciplines as evidence of imperfection among the sciences, for if they were perfectly conceived, they would be a single and uniform science. In theory, these unstable foundations could be reformed at the individual level with individual reason alone. To this end, Descartes performs his own experiment, isolating himself from the order of human knowledge to the best of his ability. He recommends that the individual reasoner enter a knowledge vacuum that is void of the mental constructs with which other humans think. Like Bacon, Descartes wishes to distance himself from the logic of syllogism and abandon the "Idols of the Theater." Starting from a single absolutely true concept, if one can reason it out, one might gradually construct knowledge by the sole mechanism of pure reasoning, resulting in trustworthy and verified blocks of knowledge which have been thought out by the individual reasoner and which ideally have empirical evidence in the world. Descartes performs this role to demonstrate the solvency of the method to himself. His first building block is perhaps the first warning signal with regard to the rest of his project, but it is also one of the only reasoning sessions to which the readers have detailed access. Descartes falls short even at this primary stage because he is unable to achieve a point zero of knowledge from which to start. Beyond this, it is evident from Descartes own writing that his "good sense" frequently makes reasoned but unreasonable leaps. Indeed, readers may only ponder the interim years in which Descartes moved from his starting point of "I think therefore I am" to his much more specific "knowledge" concerning the heart. Descartes' task of operating solely by means of individual reason is both impossible and inadvisable. Furthermore, his project is a performative contradiction: the notion of individual reason opposes the adoption of collectively achieved knowledge, yet the text serves the very purpose of intruding upon the reader's individual sphere of reason. But, for all of this project's weaknesses in practice, Descartes' project shifts the responsibility and procedure of enlightenment away from the elite class of thinkers into the domain of the autonomous reasoner.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781496032973
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
02/25/2014
Pages:
66
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.14(d)

Meet the Author

René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed The Father of Modern Philosophy, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system - allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) - was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the scientific revolution and has been described as an example of genius. He refused to accept the authority of previous philosophers and also refused to accept the obviousness of his own senses. Descartes frequently sets his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, a treatise on the early modern version of what are now commonly called emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differs from the schools on two major points: First, he rejects the splitting of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejects any appeal to final ends-divine or natural-in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews