The René Descartes’ Life

Categories: PhilosophyScience

The exemplifies the spirit of the Renaissance. His worldly upbringing exposed him to a variety of ideas and as he explored the prevalent philosophical teachings of his era, he did not subscribe to the Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy. Rather, he searched for a way to unify philosophy and human life. Through his studies, Descartes formulated his own philosophical theories, which were founded on indubitable truths. Descartes was born in the south of France on the 31st of March in 1596, to his father, Joachim, who worked for the parliamentary system under the Ancien regime and to his mother, Jeanne, who died shortly after his birth.

Descartes received a liberal arts education as a child and was introduced to physics and mathematics during his studies at Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand, and at the age of 19, obtained a law degree to appease his father. Although he was interested in education, he was disappointed at the way it was taught.

He felt that children were told lots of fables and illusions before they could make up their own mind.

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Descartes wanted people to take apart what they knew and put it back together in a rational way. In 1619, following with family military service tradition, he volunteered in the Netherlands’ army when he met Isaac Beekman, a professor, who enlightened Descartes to the idea of applying mathematical techniques to other scholarly studies. Also during this year, Descartes experienced a triplet of what he believed to be celestial visions. These visions became his encouragement to seek a new method for scientific inquiry.

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Following the visions, Descartes went away into isolation to think about “the chaos” in geometry. With this thinking, he invented the use of algebra in

geometry to create analytic geometry and the coordinate plane. This discovery caused him to search for a way to unify philosophy and human life. After he finished his military service, he devoted all his time to pondering questions of certainty in beliefs that he held. Similarly to Descartes, other philosophers began to doubt older ideas that were only validated by being ancient and honored. Many philosophers, upon investigating truth in beliefs, resided with skepticism and concluded that there could never be enough evidence to completely validate a belief, but Descartes was determined to form philosophies that could not be disproved under any circumstance. He developed a system, in which he would go through all his opinions and beliefs and discard the ones that were not completely certain, and then once he found his thoughts that were certain, he would build upon them.

In his work Meditations, Descartes illustrated, with great strength, how his philosophies were framed by methodological doubt and discussed how reality was indistinguishable from dreams. He postulated that the contents of one’s dreams were based on particular objects that were experienced, lived with, and talked about outside the mental world. However, those illusionary objects were not from the external world but formulated in one’s mind. Therefore the existence of objects in the external world can be doubted, but what about the mind? Descartes writes in Meditations, “But I have convinced myself that there is nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I too do not exist? No: if I convinced myself of something then I certainly exist.”

This postulation concluded that, although one can doubt just about everything, one cannot doubt their own existence because one must exist in order to doubt. Furthermore, Descartes reasoned that even though everything may be a dream or illusion, these experiences have some order and are based on geometrical and numerical patterns. He summed this up by saying, “For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three together always make five, and the square can never have more than four sides.” Descartes followed this with the possibility of systematic deception.

Descartes asked himself how he knew that every time he added two and three and counted the sides of a square that he was not being deceived. He believed that is would be against God’s supreme goodness to permit him to be continually deceived. Therefore, it was also against his goodness to permit occasional deception, but Descartes could not doubt that God did permit it occasionally. After casting doubt on sense gathered information, mathematics, and the scientific method, Descartes searched for any piece of information that would be certain and indubitable. Descartes. The only piece of information Descartes discovered to be universally true, was that, “I think, therefore I am.” He reasoned that because God was deceiving him, he must exist to be deceived. Descartes expressed his finding by saying, “He can never make me be nothing as long as I think that I am something.”

The only piece of information Descartes discovered to be universally true, was that, “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes finalized, that in order to think, he must exist. After finding this truth, Descartes’ next step was to find rules by which to guide the truthfulness of other statements. He believed that since the truth of his existence was so clear and distinct to him, he concluded that all other true things must be clear and distinct. His general judgment rule is, “Whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived is true.”

Works Cited

  1. Descartes, René. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. Trans.
  2. Donald A. Cress. Cambridge: Hacket Publishing Company, 1998. Print.
  3. Frankel, Charles. The Pleasures of Philosophy. Ontario: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1972. Print.
  4. McGreal, Ian. Great Thinkers of the Western World. New York: Collins Reference, 1992. Print.
  5. Popkin, Richard, and Avrum Stroll. Philosophy Made Simple. New York: Doubleday, 1993. Print.
Updated: May 23, 2022
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The René Descartes’ Life. (2022, May 23). Retrieved from

The René Descartes’ Life essay
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