Rene Descartes

René Descartes

René Descartes, (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy," and much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which continue to be studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is also apparent, the Cartesian coordinate system allowing geometric shapes to be expressed in algebraic equations being named for him. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.

Descartes frequently sets his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, a treatise on the Early Modern version of what are now commonly called emotions, he goes so far as to assert that he will write on his topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like St. Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differs from the Scholastic schools on two major points: First, he rejects the analysis of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejects any appeal to (teleological) ends — divine or natural — in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.

Descartes was a major figure in 17th century continental rationalism, later advocated by Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, and opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Leibniz, Spinoza and Descartes were all well versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well. As the inventor of the Cartesian coordinate system, Descartes founded analytic geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the invention of calculus and mathematical analysis. Descartes' reflections on mind and mechanism began the strain of Western thought that much later, impelled by the invention of the electronic computer and by the possibility of machine intelligence, blossomed into the Turing test and related thought. His most famous statement is: Cogito ergo sum (French: Je pense, donc je suis; English: I think, therefore I am; OR I am thinking, therefore I exist), found in §7 of part I of Principles of Philosophy (Latin) and in part IV of Discourse on the Method (French).

René Descartes' Sainthood

On November 28, 2007, the Cesidian Church beatified René Descartes, and issued a "Saint René Descartes Declaration" urging support for his canonization. In response, several persons from various walks of life and different denominations, even an atheist, have signed the petition in favor of Descartes' canonization, and together with the bishop of the Cesidian Church, two bishops and one archbishop have expressed their favor for Descartes' sainthood. Saint René Descartes was consecrated the First Saint of the Cesidian Church on December 13, 2007.

External links


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "René Descartes", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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