Descartes: A Very Short Introduction

click this image for more info on: Descartes: A Very Short Introduction
Descartes: A Very Short Introduction

Prev Book  Next Book

More books in the category:
Philosophy (17th century)


by: Tom Sorell

CLICK HERE for more information and price

Rene Descartes: the "Father of Modern Philosophy". Decartes is known for his statement, "Cogito, ergo sum," -- I Think Therefore I Am -- the cornerstone of his metaphysics. But Descartes did not intend the metaphysics to stand apart from his scientific work, which included important investigations into physics, mathematics, and optics. In this introductory volume, the author shows that Rene Descarates was, perhaps above all, an advocate and practitioner of the new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his philosophies to support his discoveries in the sciences.


This book does not approach Descartes in the usual "textbook" way: i.e. by showing Decarte's place in the Western philosophical tradition, and especially showing how the modern age in Thought began with his cogito. It instead tries to give a more complete picture of Descartes interests and activities, with focus on his mathematical physics, and scientific work. There is also a brief telling of the life of Descartes who Sorrell believes was less isolated than he is usually made out to be. There is one painful detail. Descartes said that the greatest sorrow of his life was the loss when she was only five of his out-of- wedlock daughter. Descartes religious faith is also discussed. The suggestion however is that of all his work it is the famous "I think therefore I am" [ cogito ergo sum] which is most responsible for his continuing fame.

Descartes is one of the best-known and most-influential of Western philosophers. This book is a superbly useful first introduction to his life and ideas. The strength of this particular book is in positioning Descartes' writing primarily within the political and ideological currents of his time, and showing how exactly he had been forced to edit and finesse his writings in order to please the censorship and his critics. Perhaps, this helps explain why some of his works were not as straightforwardly written as one might have liked. The other reason has probably to do with the sheer ambition of Descartes' chief enterprise, to discover one sure method of arriving at explanations and solutions of the most pressing scientific and philosophical problems of the time. The enormity of this scope meant that some of these methods would necessarily be to vague to be of any practical use in mathematics or physics, and within a generation after Descartes' death Newtonian gravitation completely prevailed. However, in the realm of philosophy, Descarts' thought (philosophy) is still useful and interesting.

For most philosophy students, Descartes is pretty much synonymous with the DISCOURSE ON METHOD and the MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY, and Descartes' scientific and mathematical work tend to be regarded as almost irrelevant and disconnected afterthoughts. The brilliance of this book is to show how Descartes' work constitutes an integrated whole, where the DISCOURSE and the MEDITATIONS are more a preliminary step in Descartes' project than the endpoint of his philosophy that we often take it to be.

Topics include:


Ren Descartes on Wikipedia

Previous Book  Back up to all books in category Philosophy (17th century)  Next Book

Home page