Discourse on Method and Related Writings (Penguin Classics)
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"It is not enough to have a good mind; it is more important to use it well"
René Descartes was a central figure in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. In his Discourse on Method he outlined the contrast between mathematics and experimental sciences, and the extent to which each one can achieve certainty. Drawing on his own work in geometry, optics, astronomy and physiology, Descartes developed the hypothetical method that characterizes modern science, and this soon came to replace the traditional techniques derived from Aristotle. Many of Descartes’ most radical ideas—such as the disparity between our perceptions and the realities that cause them—have been highly influential in the development of modern philosophy.This edition sets the Discourse on Method in the wider context of Descartes’ work, with the Rules for Guiding One’s Intelligence in Searching for the Truth (1628), extracts from The World (1633) and selected letters from 1636-9. A companion volume, Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings, is also published in Penguin Classics.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
thought that, since we were all infants before we became adults, and since we were necessarily governed for a long time by our appetites and our teachers, which were often at odds with each other and of which, perhaps, neither always gave us the best advice, it is almost impossible for our judgements to be as clear and as well-founded as they might have been had we had the full use of our reason from the day we were born and had we never been guided by anything else. It is true that we do not
to climb higher than the trees that support it, and often turns back down again after it has reached the top of the tree. For it seems to me that people also go back down again — that is, they in some way make themselves less wise than if they had abstained from study — who, not content with knowing everything that is intelligibly explained in their author, wish to find in them, over and above that, the solution to other problems about which the author says nothing and about which they may never
far from the things that surround us being such that they can all be sensed, on the contrary, those that are more usually present can be sensed least, and those that are always present can never be sensed. The heat of our heart is quite high, but we do not feel it because we are used to it. The weight of our body is not insignificant, but it does not cause us any discomfort. We do not even feel the weight of our clothes because we are used to wearing them. The reason for this is clear enough;
than by many. Even if everyone agreed about something, their teaching would still not be enough. For example, we will never become mathematicians, even if we remember all the demonstrations of others, unless we are also able to use our intelligence to solve whatever problems we encounter. Nor shall we ever become philosophers by reading all the arguments of Plato and Aristotle, if we are unable to make a definite judgement about questions that are raised, for by doing this we would seem to have
of them by means of an adequate enumeration. This will seem extraordinary and incredible to those who are inexpert. As soon as they have distinguished the knowledge of individual objects which merely fills and adorns the memory from that which really entitles someone to be called more learned — something they can do easily [ ... ]14 they will feel that they are no longer ignorant of anything because of a defect of intelligence or art, and that henceforth there is nothing that anyone could know