Life and Philosophy of Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes is one of the great thinkers who have ever lived. This has made to be the founder of the modern philosophy. Descartes was born on March 31st, 1596 in a town known as La Haye in France. He was born of Joachim Descartes and Jeanne Brochard. His was left motherless only one year after his birth, something that greatly interfered with his upbringing. Joachim, his was a lawyer and a magistrate, he therefore little time to take care of Descartes and his siblings. They were all left under the care of their grandmother. He was allowed to sleep until 11 am every morning due to his health problems.

He was later admitted at the Jesuit College La Fleche in Anjou at eight years old to study classics, logic and Aristotelian philosophy. He later went to Paris where he studied mathematics. This is also the place he was introduced to the French fashionable culture. This took place between 1606 and 1614. Being a lawyer himself, Descartes father had wanted him to study law. In 1616, he therefore went to study law at the University of Poitiers. He later discovered that he was not be a lawyer and therefore decided to go after what he desired to do. He was interested in separating reason and faith. In his later days as a volunteer in the army, he took time to study this.

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During the war, he took his time to study mathematics. This was as a result of the influence from the Dutch mathematician and scientist known as Beeckman. The years after the war marked Descartes period of a lot of travelling from one city to another in Europe. He also continued with his education in Dutch cities of Franeker and Leyden. He later discredited all his formal education as unhelpful. Mathematics was the only discovery that was of substance.

His philosophical ideas and knowledge of the analytical geometry started on November 19, 1619. On this day, he claimed to have had three dreams that showed him more about the mind. This marked the beginning of his work on the Rules for the Direction of mind. This work tried to explain the different aspects that exist between the theology and science and how these can be engaged. He however did not finish this work by the time of his death. He later lived a secluded life in Holland for almost 20 years. A period when he extensively did a lot of work that made him a philosophical guru. He however died in 1649 in Sweden during summer.

During his travels in Europe between 1620 and 1628, he moved to Hungary, Germany, Holland, then proceeded to France. He met different important personalities during these journeys who encouraged and promoted his work as a philosopher. One of these was Mersenne whom he met in Paris. He became Descartes point of contact with his other compatriots in science. He also met Cardinal De Berulle who was the founder of the Oratorians. After holding some substantial conversation together, Berulle was greatly impressed by Descartes’ ideas and encouraged him to continue with his good work of studying the truth. From this place, is when he moves to Holland where he spends most of his years in seclusion with occasional visit to France. In Holland, he also changes his addresses several times to keep away from public life.

He wrote Le Monde while in seclusion. This was a physics thesis he wrote to defend his view that the earth was heliocentric. Though he had planned to publish this work in 1633, he had to stop this due to some reasons. This was the year the Catholic Church had condemned Galileo’s Dialogue. He had to put on hold this work for fear of being censured by the authorities. After many years, this work was published, though it was incomplete. Another of his important works was known as Optics, meteorology, and Geometry that he published this work in 1637. This was a collection of essays that contained much of his theories. He titled it Discourse of the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in Sciences. In concludes this work by reiterating that he would continue writing even in hostility because he wanted the readers to prove his theories of science.

Descartes went ahead to countering Francis Bacon’s induction theory by proposing the use of deductive reasoning. This was contained in his work called Discourse. It is therefore evident that his years in seclusion were never wasted. His works during this period marked the beginning of crucial theories that would become pillars of today’s mathematics, physics and analytical geometry. The year 1640 marked the expansion of his work. This the year he came up with yet another collection of essays entitled: Meditations of the First Philosophy. In these essays, he explains the distinction between body and mind. The existence of God is also discussed.

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The other meditations that are contained in this collection include: Of the Truth and Error; Of the Essence of Material Things; Of the Things that we may Doubt; and Of the Nature of the Human Mind.  He argues that all humans are spirits and that their ability to think, will, and conceive something is spiritual in nature. He goes further to assert that there exists some attributes that have no human essence. These are movement, appetite and sense perception. They are thus not part of the spirit but of the body.

He was awarded pension by the French Court on his book on the laws of motion and theory of vortices. This book was called Principia Philosophiae. It had different sections that dealt with the principle of human knowledge, the principle of material things, mechanics, visible world and the earth, and developing a mathematical foundation of the universe. This work was taken positively and for this reason he was awarded for it. This provided the fundamental principles that physics is based on.

It would be important to note the importance that Descartes’ philosophy at the time. He was called to tutor the Queen Christina of Stockholm on this subject. He dedicated himself to this cause even at the risk of his. Queen Christina had to take her lessons in the mornings contrary to Descartes’ lifestyle and health that forced him to be waking up at almost noon everyday. He had to change and fit into the Queen’s program, something that greatly interfered with his health. This factor together with the poor weather at this place deteriorated his health leading to his death of pneumonia in 1650. He may have lacked enough sleep as required by his body thereby leading to some damage to his immune system.

He left behind numerous works that have been very influential in today’s world. His method of hyperbolic doubt is one of the most renowned philosophies. He argues that every that can be doubted is not the truth. The truth only comes from things that are beyond doubt. This finding also gives the conclusion that the only fact that remains is the act of doubting itself, and even the philosopher himself exists to doubt. He does not agree with any past ideologies that can be doubted.” This is a famous saying in the world of philosophy. He goes ahead to elaborate that the fact that he doubts is enough proof that he exists. He remains with only one thing; thinking, something that comes from his essence. He goes ahead to disapprove his senses and bring in the use of the mind. This is what comes up with the system of knowledge that leads to the principle of deduction.

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During his time, Descartes disapproved the old principles of Aristotelian and Scholastic philosophies that had greatly influenced. He never gave in to the influence of such as he went about with his work. His refusal to adopt the religious beliefs in his scientific philosophies led to the rejection of his work by the Roman Catholic. In 1663, his wor4ks were officially banned by the authorities. Himself he was a devout Roman Catholic who seemed to have been under the influence of those who challenged the Roman Catholic authorities. He borrowed ideas and vocabularies from different sources as long as they were in line with his reasoning.

He believed that the only way to be certain of anything is by applying the reasoning capabilities. There was no space for half truths that would lead to doubts. He tirelessly worked hard to ensure that there was a clear distinction between philosophy and theology. His works went ahead into enabling the integration of science with philosophy. Revolution was experienced due to his works. In mathematics, he left a legacy by inventing the Cartesian geometry. This invention used algebra to describe geometry. This made the unknowns; x, y, and z, in the Cartesian plane to be able to be equated with the known; a, b, and c. Indeed, Descartes left lasting legacies that have come along way into developing the current scientific philosophies.


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