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Encyclopedia > Discourse on Method

The Discourse on Method is a philosophical and mathematical treatise published by René Descartes in 1637. Its full name is Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason in the Search for Truth in the Sciences (French title: Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison, et chercher la verité dans les sciences). The Discourse on Method is best known as the source of the famous quotation "cogito ergo sum", "I think, therefore I am." In addition, it contains Descartes' first introduction of the Cartesian coordinate system. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Mathematics is often defined as the study of topics such as quantity, structure, space, and change. ... For other things named Descartes, see Descartes (disambiguation). ... Events February 3 - Tulipmania collapses in Netherlands by government order February 15 - Ferdinand III becomes Holy Roman Emperor December 17 - Shimabara Rebellion erupts in Japan Pierre de Fermat makes a marginal claim to have proof of what would become known as Fermats last theorem. ... A quotation is a fragment of a human expression that has been inserted into another human expression. ... René Descartes (1596–1650) Cogito, ergo sum (Latin: I am thinking, therefore I exist, or traditionally I think, therefore I am) is a philosophical statement by René Descartes, which became a foundational element of Western rationalism. ... Cartesian means relating to the French mathematician and philosopher Descartes, who, among other things, worked to merge algebra and Euclidean geometry. ...


This is one of the most influential works in history. It is a method which gives a solid platform from which all modern natural sciences could evolve. With this work, the idea of skepticism was revived from the ancients such as Sextus Empiricus and modified to account for a truth that Descartes 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. The neutrality of this article is disputed. ... Sextus Empiricus (writing some time in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD), was a physician and philosopher, and probably lived in Alexandria and Athens. ... This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedias deletion policy. ...


The four precepts

The following quote from Discourse on Method presents the four precepts that characterise the Method itself:

"The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.
The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.
The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence.
And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted."

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. The initial basis of Descartes philosophical theories that applies doubt to all things as a means of proving that the subject in question in fact, exists. ...


Applying the method to itself, Descartes challenges his own reasoning and reason itself. But Descartes believes three things are not susceptible to doubt and the three support each other to form a stable foundation for the method. He cannot doubt that something has to be there to do the doubting (I think, therefore I am). The method of doubt cannot doubt reason as it is based on reason itself. By reason there exists a God and God is the guarantor that reason is not misguided.


Perhaps the most strained part of the argument is the reasoned proof of the existence of God and indeed Descartes seems to realise this as he supplies three different 'proofs' including what is now referred to as the 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 Catholic Church in 1633, only four years earlier). Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei (Pisa, February 15, 1564 – Arcetri, January 8, 1642), was an Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. ...


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 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. Cartesian means relating to the French mathematician and philosopher Descartes, who, among other things, worked to merge algebra and Euclidean geometry. ... In statistics, a histogram is a graphical display of tabulated frequencies. ... Analytic geometry, also called coordinate geometry and earlier referred to as Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry using the principles of algebra. ... Sir Isaac Newton, PRS, (4 January [O.S. 25 December 1642] 1643 – 31 March [O.S. 20 March] 1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, inventor and natural philosopher who is generally regarded as one of the most influential scientists in history. ... Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (also von Leibni(t)z) (July 1 (June 21 Old Style) 1646, Leipzig – November 14, 1716, Hanover) was a German polymath, deemed a genius in his day and since. ... Integral and differential calculus is a central branch of mathematics, developed from algebra and geometry. ...


External link

  • Free eBook Discourse on the Method at Project Gutenberg
  • Summary of "Discourse on method"

Project Gutenberg (often abbreviated as PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. ...


 
 

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