Book Review : Discourse on Method by René Descartes

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My Rating : *3 Stars*

Synopsis :

A “Discourse On Method” was written in 1637 for the general public as well as for academics. This work provides a sketch of Descartes’ method of philosophical inquiry and also of his general philosophical system: metaphysical, physical, physiological, and moral. Descartes’s metaphysics is rationalist, based on the postulation of innate ideas of mind, matter, and God, but his physics and physiology, based on sensory experience, are mechanistic and empiricist.

 Review:

“Discourse on Method” to me seems like a difficult book to be reviewed. The first three parts of the book are kind of inspiring, while the last three parts where he gets involved with theology is a total disappointment. For the first three parts I give this book 4.5/5 stars.Well I even like the fourth part, quiet good.

Here are my notes that I made while reading this book, by part:

Part 1:  

In this part, he claims that we are essentially rational animals, that we are equally endowed with reason. And that since we are equally humans, we must also be rationally equal.

Descartes proposes his methods that he learned in his youth, that he believes helped him to acquire the extent of knowledge that he gained . He shows how he attempted them himself and that he find them useful. While he don’t want everyone to follow them just because he believes in them.

Part 2: 

 He starts with telling how single individuals efforts are more perfect the group efforts. He also talks about the rules he developed to guide his reasons, that worked well for him.

  • The first was never to accept anything for true unless it is evident.
  • Second, to divide any given problem into as many parts as possible to make the problem simple for analysis.
  • Third, to start with the simplest of objects and to slowly progress towards more complex or difficult objects of study.
  • Fourth, to constantly review the progress made in  order to be sure that nothing has been left out.

Part 3:

 In this part he outlines his moral codes he used during his period of skeptical doubts, these as he called them “Four-Maxim”.

  • First maxim,to remain faithful to laws and customs of his country and his religion
  • Second maxim, to remain firm and deceive in  his actions. he explains this with an example.

Travelers who, when they have lost their way in a forest, ought not to wander from side to side, far less remain in one place, but proceed constantly towards the same side in as straight a line as possible, without changing their direction for slight reasons, although perhaps it may be chance alone which at first determined the selection; for in this way, if they do not exactly reach the point they desire, they will come at least in the end to some place that will probably be preferable to the middle of a forest.

  • Third maxim, to endeavor always to conquer himself rather than fortune, and change his desires rather that the order of the world.
  • Fourth maxim, to find best possible occupation in life.

Part 4:

Well he started getting involved in his theology , here he talked about existence of God. And in this part he declared his famous words, “I think, therefore I am”.

Part 5:

Discussion of differences in human and animal souls, I literally lost my interest here. He talked about working of human circulatory system :/

Part 6: 

I didn’t take the trouble of reading this, after reading fifth part and few lines of sixth part 😛

No idea!

So to conclude, I’ll say Descartes is enjoyable as a rationalist philosopher. I liked his ideals of learning. And I would recommend the first 4 parts of this book to everyone who want to read philosophy and first three parts, to those who wants to read philosophy and are totally against the idea of existence of God.

Happy Reading!

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