Descartes, Rene (1596-1650)
philosopher and natural scientist.
He is often said to be father of modern philosophy. Descartes shifts attention
from the question of what is the nature of what we know, to can I know anything
at all for sure? The legacy of this is that modern philosophy effectively still
deals with problems set by Descartes. In terms of scientific achievements he is
the first to provide full world picture to challenge (and replace)
Scholasticism. It is a fully mechanistic schema - including biological
thought holds that there are two worlds, one of mental objects and one of
material things, including animals and human bodies. The mental objects are
states of consciousness (e.g. pains, fear, joy, experiences),
the material objects are more or less bits of clockwork. Mental states and
states of the body are logically independent but causally interrelated: causal
interaction is like glue, bonding mind to body in each individual person. The
veracity of all our ideas in this system is guaranteed by Gods existence and
goodness. His modern-day critics see him as the exponent par excellence
of dualism, but contemporary scholarship is presently engaged in the task of
trying to separate the man and his ideas from the caricature that has been
assembled of him in the history of Western philosophy.
was schooled at a Jesuit college called La Fleche, after this he joined
the army and travelled around Europe. He had a revelation in 'well heated room'
and decided to take up philosophy in a serious manner. Legend tells of his habit
to meditate in bed until noon. In 1649, he took up a position with Queen
Christina in Stockholm, but died of pneumonia.
main works include: The World (Le Monde),
1634; Discourse on Method, 1637; Meditations, 1642; Principles of
by: Richard P Whaite
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