Ren Descartes the Solitary Intellect

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Born into privilege (Father famous lawyer, mother died shortly after his birth.) At 9 years old he was sent to Jesuit college at La Flèche, graduating in 1614. Earned legal degrees at the University of Poitiers in 1616, then moved to Paris. Studied Music, Dancing, Fencing, Greek, Latin, History, Liberal arts, science, mathematics, and philosophy 1618. At age 22 he enlisted in the army of the Prince of Nassau and later in the army of the Duke of Bavaria 10, 1619, Descartes had a revelation that enlightened him and ultimately changed the direction of western philosophy. He wrote “ I remained the whole day shut up alone in a stove-heated room, where I had complete leisure to occupy my thoughts.” This is where he “discovered the foundation of the wonderful new science.” He prefered to be alone, away from the distractions and commotions of city life. Most of his philosophical discourse would take the forms of letters. His major work was written during his 20 years in the Netherlands and he is known for many other achievements that are still used today. Descartes is created for the coordinate system, which is a way that equations in algebra are put into a grid system to give a visual picture. Against Scholasticism Descartes is known as the “Father of Modern Philosophy,” He was the one that started the blossoming of a new philosophy that separated from the old well known ways. The philosophy that was left in the dust was Aristotle’s. Aristotelianism was so imbued into religion that if someone were to try and argue the philosophy would be looked at as hearsay and they would be punished.

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When Descartes argued for the the placement of his philosophy, He had brooke the tradition which started the beginning of the modern Philosophy. Sensations and Passions In Descartes last published work, Passions of the Soul, He provided accounts of the different motions in which the body will cause sensations and passions to bloom in the soul. He starts with making observations about the mind-body relationship. “The whole mind is in the whole body and the whole in each of its parts but yet its primary seat is in a little gland at the center of the brain now known as the pineal gland“. -Justin Skirry Descartes is not clear on what he means by “the whole mind in the whole body and the whole in each of its parts.” But the Mind-Body Problem has its origins in Descartes’ conclusion that the mind and body are really unique. The Mind-Body Problem The mind-body problem originates in Descartes’ conclusion that mind and body are really distinct. The base of the problem lies in the claim that the respective natures of the mind and body are completely different and, in some way, opposite from one another. This line of thinking can mean that the mind is an entirely immaterial thing without any extension in it whatsoever; and, contrary to this thought, the body is an entirely material thing without any thinking in it at all. This also means that each mind and body are completely separate and can only function as such. For instance, the mind is based on understanding or thought, will and, in some sense, sensation. While the body can only have an understanding of the physical. Meaning size, shape, motion, and quantity. But bodies cannot have modes of understanding or thought since it is only in the physical; and minds cannot have modes of shape or motion, since these are not ways of thinking.

The Nature of Ideas of the Mind Descartes Second Meditation, He asked “what am I?” when he had discarded the concept Scholastic-Aristotelian of humans being a rational animal with having animal and rational being opposing and ironic. Descartes had finally concluded that a thinking ting was an mind. “A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has sense perceptions”. Descartes distinguishes intellectual perception and volition as what properly belongs to the nature of the mind alone while imagination and sensation are, in some sense, faculties of the mind insofar as it is united with a body. So imagination and sensation are faculties of the mind in a weaker sense than intellect and will, since they require a body in order to perform their functions. Finally, in the Sixth Meditation, Descartes claims that the mind or “I” is a non-extended thing. Now, since extension is the nature of body, is a necessary feature of body, it follows that the mind is by its nature not a body but an immaterial thing. Therefore, what I am is an immaterial thinking thing with the faculties of intellect and will. It is also important to notice that the mind is a substance and the modes of a thinking substance are its ideas. For Descartes a substance is a thing requiring nothing else in order to exist. Strictly speaking, this applies only to God whose existence is his essence, but the term “substance” can be applied to creatures in a qualified sense. Minds are substances in that they require nothing except God’s concurrence, in order to exist. But ideas are “modes” or “ways” of thinking, and, therefore, modes are not substances, since they must be the ideas of some mind or other.

So, ideas require, in addition to God’s concurrence, some created thinking substance in order to exist (see Principles of Philosophy, part I, sections 51 & 52). Hence the mind is an immaterial thinking substance, while it’s ideas are its modes or ways of thinking. Descartes’ Sseminal Work, Meditations on First Philosophy In the First Meditation, Descartes lays out several arguments for doubting all of his previously held beliefs. He first observes that the senses sometimes deceive, for example, objects at a distance appear to be quite small, and surely it is not prudent to trust someone (or something) that has deceived us even once. However, although this may apply to sensations derived under certain circumstances, doesn’t it seem certain that “I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing gown, holding this piece of paper in my hands, and so on”? Descartes’ point is that even though the senses deceive us some of the time, what basis for doubt exists for the immediate belief. Descartes spent much of his life on the move. He lived for 20 of his later years in various locations in Holland. He also studied and taught mathematics there. He found he could work better in Holland, with fewer distractions than in France. He and his partner, Helena Jans van der Strom, had a child in 1635. Their daughter was named Francine. Mother and daughter lived with Descartes in his house, though he never publicly claimed her, and told people Francine was his niece. Sadly, at the age of five, Francine died of scarlet fever. Later Francine’s mother got married, with Descartes playing a fatherly role by paying the wedding dowry. In 1649 Descartes was invited to Stockholm by Queen Christina of Sweden.

She wanted him to set up a new academy of science. Ren© Descartes died, aged 53, of pneumonia in Stockholm on February, 11 1650. He was buried at the Adolf Fredriks Church in Stockholm. The Problem of Authority “Modern philosophy emphasizes methodology, technique, and personal, social, and historical detachment.’’ In the time of Descartes, lines between science and philosophy were indistinct. He expected scientific claims to be provable with appeals to observation and clear thinking. Rationalism Rationalism is a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response. This means that thoughts and ideas should be based on what we know and how that affects the thing in question. Rationalists believe that abstract reasoning can produce undeniable, absolutely certain truths about nature, existence, and the whole of reality. The Method of Doubt Descartes believed that a mathematically precise method is the only reliable way to discover the truth about the universe. He attacked earlier philosophy on the grounds that it did not demand rational comprehension from the individual intellect. It did not rest solely on ideas through “the clear light of natural reason” In other words you would divide a larger problem into smaller bite sized that are easier to prove He believed that because he could question the existence of everything that there had to be something to exist therefore he existed and that squares always had four sides. Passions he did not believe in getting rid of them just contuling them. The Cartesian “I” and Methodic Doubt Cartesian Doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of Ren© Descartes. Put all beliefs, ideas, thoughts, and matter in doubt.

He showed that his grounds, or reasoning, for any knowledge could just as well be false. Sensory experience, the primary mode of knowledge, is often erroneous and therefore must be doubted. He wanted to find the underlying truth and what he found was that “I exist” which is impossible to doubt “I think therefore I am” “I can think, therefore I exist” His biggest focus was on math/ science His work in meditations and first philosophy had a huge impact on modern philosophy. In 1641, his philosophical treatise, Meditations on First Philosophy, was published. The book contains six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things that are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. He included a systematic process, Methodic doubt or Cartesian doubt, of being skeptical about the truth of one’s beliefs. They are considered hugely important and represent the portion of Descartes’s writings that have most influenced modern day philosophy. Though them Descartes shifted the debate from “what is true” to “of what can I be certain?”. This also implied the authoritative argument of truth from God to humanity. Unavoidably, the first two Meditations of Descartes are considered the first step for any modern philosophical thinking. The only thing he could believe was that he could think and from this he worked around with the rest of his posloshiphy which included the existence of god. Descartes regarded this statement as the unshakeable foundation that all other philosophy could be built upon. In 1618 he met someone that became one of the most important influences in his early adulthood, Isaac Beckman.

Beeckman was the one to rekindle Descartes’ interest in science and he opened his eyes to the being able to apply mathematical techniques in other areas, for example, he dedicated a the Compendium Musicae to Isaac Beeckman. In 1619 Descartes left the service of Maurice of Nassau, to travel through Germany and join the army of Maximilian of Bavaria while he began his work on mathematical and mechanical problems under Beekman’s guidance. He would question everything “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” he was a scientist at heart he would only trust what is beyond any doubt. If it had any doubts it was thrown out. He trusted mathematics because no matter what you are doing a square always has four sides and two plus two always equal four. He tried to prove how minds and bodies worked together in which he concluded that the mind was similar to a machine that was hooked up to the mind by a small gland in the brain. He was invited to Stockholm by Queen Christina of Sweden to teach her and to start a new academy of science. Descartes died of pneumonia on February 11 in the year 1650, at the age of 53 in Stockholm, where he was buried at the Adolf Fredriks Church.

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Ren Descartes The Solitary Intellect. (2020, Mar 23). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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