" I think, therefore I am"
Rene Descartes 1596- 1650
Rene Descartes 1596- 1650

Early Life

Rene Descartes was a French Philosopher and mathematician in the enlightened period. Known for his extreme rationalist views. Also known as the Father of modern Philosophy. Descartes was born on March 31 1596 in La Haye, Tourine France. His mother dies shortly after giving birth to him and Descartes was raised by his grandparents. At the age of 8 he was sent to a boarding school, Jesuit College in La Fleche, in 1604 for seven years. He was well educated. Here, he studied logic, music, astronomy, metaphysics and natural philosophy, all of witch were Aristotelian influenced. Descartes was in poor health as a child, and attended classes by mid morning. In 1613 Descartes attended the University of Poitiers to study civil and cannon law. In 1628 he then moved to Holland were he lived until 1649. Earning a bacculaurete in law. After graduate school he had frequent visions and dreams that led him to his path of studying philosophy and became greatly interested in the truth of what we know. Descartes had a passion for understanding relationships and reached various conclusions through deduction.

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Philosophical Work

Rene Descartes wanted to uncover the meaning of the natural world without our personal beliefs or opinions getting in the way. He wanted to know how we acquire the true knowledge. He determined that rationalism (reason) was the only way to uncover the truth. This is where the method of doubt or methodological doubt came in. Using this method of doubt Descartes found that he could doubt everything, even the existence of himself. He wanted to uncover the truth without the use of senses he believed that our senses can deceive us, doubting everything allowed him to then, come to clear conclusions about the existence of himself, other selves and the existence of God. To come to an absolute truth Descartes method is broken down into four steps of how to find the truth about ones own existence. This is called Cartesian doubt.The first part of Cartesian doubt is called skepticism, that all knowledge begins with doubt. In this step Descartes doubted all that he could doubt. the second step, sujectivism is the ability to doubt everything, Descartes concluded that he could not doubt the existence of himself. Rationalism the third step is accepting as true with what you're own reason leads you to believe through clear and distinct ideas. The final step is dualism, coming to accept the existence of himself God and other selves.

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Rene Descartes was know for being an extreme rationalist, finding knowledge using our reason without the aid of the five senses. Our senses can deceive us and much of what we know is based on belief or opinion. Therefore senses are not useful in determining accurate true knowledge. He backed up his rationalist views, by agreeing with innate ideas, as Plato did. He believed these innate ides were in the mind from birth and are hidden away in the mind until the emerge into a person's awareness. Descartes excluded the five senses completely from helping us fin true knowledge. Descartes explained how senses are limited and can deceive us, using his wax experiment. Holding a piece of wax Descartes explains that are senses touch, taste, and sight help us the perceive the wax. However, when the wax is melted ans his senses no longer recognized that the wax is still wax because its psychical properties have change. Our mind or reason enables us to know that the wax is still wax ever after its properties have changed.

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Rene Descartes was a dualist. Believing that the mind and body are tow distinct entities. Descartes believed the the mid interacted with the body through the pineal glad in the brain. Dualism states that the body is material and moral whereas the mind is immortal and eternal. our mind is much greater than just a physical brain and goes beyond the physical body. Dualism attempts to explain the relationship between the body and the brain and where the mind is located. Descartes reasoned that if he could imagine himself without a body and not the other way around that the mind must be separate from the body. He believed that the mind could control the body but, the body could also control the mind through acts off passion. The mind is separate from matter, matter is easily described. It can be measured, weighed can be touched and seen. The mind on the other hand cannot.

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Many contributions were made by Rene Descartes in philosophy and mathematics. Descartes changed the direction of philosophy in the 17th century and asked the question, how can we be certain about what we know. His theories were a departure fro the formally accepted views of Aristotle and from the belief in blind acceptance. He applied mathematical methods to science and geometry, created the concept of analytic geometry, combining algebra and geometry. He wanted to remove all prior beliefs or opinions in order to uncover absolute knowledge. Rene Descartes using his understanding of mathematics to uncover truths about the natural world, therefore using mathematics to figure out uncertainties in our understanding. He discover the Cartesian coordinates used to locate points on a plane to graphically explain variables. He did this by applying algebra and geometry thus creating analytic geometry. Descartes new ideas in mathematics were the foundation for modern mathematics.


There were many controversies over Rene Descartes work. Other philosophers attacked Descartes dualist views, believing that the pineal gland in the brain connected mind and brain interaction. How can a material object connect to something that is immaterial. Rene Descartes was an extreme rationalist, who held that all true knowledge comes from our ability to reason without the aid of the five senses. The philosophers John Locke and David Hume held that knowledge only comes from the five senses, empiricism. They held then human beings are not born with innate ideas. We learn about the world after experience, reason is not the basis of knowledge what we learn comes from observing and measuring the world around us. There was also controversy over Descartes prove for the existence of God. Many philosophers attacked that idea that just because humans can perceive of a divine being that does not mean that is exists.

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Rene Descartes was one of the most influential philosophers of our time. Rene Descartes challenged the formally accepted theories of Aristotle. He wanted to unvover the validity of how we obtain knowledge. Using his theories of Cartesian doubt Descartes was able to prove beyond a doubt of his own existence and the existence of God, "I think, therefore I am". His theories are standard staples taught in philosophy today.

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Rene Descartes signature
Rene Descartes signature

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