Detail Analysis of Key Passage in Discourse and Meditation Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Descartes' Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

Rene Descartes' biggest contribution to humanity and indeed, the sciences lies in his attempting to define a method of objective thinking, thereby encouraging academicians and all of humanity to constantly challenge and therefore further their knowledge of both the material world as well as the more intangible aspects of the Universe.

Descartes believed that all knowledge could only be regarded as 'true' if it had the certainty and evidence of mathematics. Descartes' Discourse on the "Method for Conducting One's Reason Well" is his attempt to apply the precision of mathematics to all fields of knowledge. Descartes' Method involved regarding the value of formal education in largely teaching the languages "...necessary for the understanding of classical texts..." (Part One, p 3), while the pursuit of true knowledge required independent thinking to "...distinguish the true from the false, in order to see my way clearly in my actions..." (Part One, p6). He also advocates following an almost first principle of discarding all previous knowledge as certain until one had examined the basis and logic of such knowledge to one's satisfaction by directing one's thoughts " an orderly fashion, by commencing with those objects that are degrees, to the knowledge of the most composite order even among those things that do not naturally precede one another" (Part Two, p11).

In Part Three, he talks about the importance of learning through observation of action, rather than words: "...few people who are willing to say everything they believe...action of often occurs without the other" (p14). Following from this first maxim, Descartes formulated a provisional code of morals: actions that displayed strength of conviction; focusing on conquering oneself rather than the external world; and pursuit of knowledge of the truth. Descartes reached the conclusion that "...there is nothing that is completely within our power except our thoughts...." (Part Three, p15)

In prescribing this method for reasoning, Descartes laid the foundation for modern day psychology. As Weber notes: "...who regard Descartes as the author of the psychological method are right, in so far as observation is one of the phases and the preparatory stage...Cartesian method" (History of Philosophy, University of Idaho Web site).

Descartes was a mathematician but it seems that his primary quest was to try and bring in order and certainty into the field of metaphysics: "...given our will tends not to pursue...our understanding represents it to the will as either good or bad...judge well in order to do well...acquire all…

Sources Used in Document:


Context of Descartes' Method: Clarity and Distinctness." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. URL:

Descartes, Ren e. "Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy." Translated by Cress, Donald A. Hackett Publishing Company. Fourth edition.

Weber, Alfred. "History of Philosophy." University of Idaho, Department of Philosophy Web site. URL:

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