Descartes (1596-1650) (France)
the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, Rene Descartes used questions
to find truth. He questioned everything including his own existence.
"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 proved that he existed with the statement, "I think
therefore I am." Because he could think, he must exist. Descartes
used "hyperbolic doubt", a method of reasoning that stated that
though he may doubt, he cannot doubt that he exists.
Descartes was a scientist at heart and used science to explore
his ideas. He set out to trust only that which is clearly and
distinctly seen to be beyond any doubt. Anything that could be
doubted was rejected. This included God and the teachings of the
church. He believed that he could not trust his senses, because
distance can distort what you see. He came to the conclusion that
he could only trust mathematics because, awake or asleep, two
plus three always equals five.
By use of this scientific reasoning, Descartes decided that reality
is made up of two separate things: mind (thinking) and body. After
establishing that he existed, he spent the rest of his life trying
to prove how minds and bodies work together. In the end, he concluded
that the body was like a machine connected to the mind by a small
gland in the brain.
Eventually, Descartes moved from France to
Holland because the Church was persecuting scientists, such as
Galileo, and he wanted to be free to continue his work. Later
he was invited to Sweden to teach the Queen. While there, he caught
pneumonia and died.
How would Descartes answer the question: "Which is more powerful, love or hate?"
would Descartes define truth?
Besides math, what school subject(s) would
Descartes have most valued and why?
Why was it so important to Descartes to first
prove that he exists?
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