Sunday, March 20, 2011

Descartes: Discourse on Method

Descartes: Discourse on Method,(Part I-IV)
Text available at:
Journals due on Mar 27.
Questions for reading guidance:
What’s Descartes’ criterion for truth and knowledge?
What’s Descartes’ method to get such knowledge?
Do you think his method can guarantee the truth?


  1. Like Augustine, Descartes is a religious philosopher. To begin his quest for knowledge and truth, he decides to discard all of the teachings he has had and start anew with his knowledge of god. And by doing so, Descartes decides to create laws, his own steps in which he can correctly attain the truth in which he seeks.
    This idea was new to me; the idea of creating boundaries for learning, to philosophize. But to see his point of view and his personal guidelines such as breaking down concepts and starting with the easiest idea to conquer or not taking things at face value are all things we all do in our everyday life. I suppose the idea that someone came up with a method of obtaining or analyzing ideas never came to me and I just took it as a thing we all do. Which, is something I would have gone to jail for because I already have broken Descartes' laws..
    Other laws Descartes creates are to break down ideas to the smallest degree and also to consistently review your findings to make sure no angle was left uncivilized.
    I believe Descartes has created a very good way of eliminating MOST possible faults in guaranteeing that he will find the truth, but I do not believe in any subject, but in philosophy especially that we can guarantee the truth. Take even his moral code for example, I do not believe someone can stay faithful to the laws, customs of ones country and religion- especially in cases where the truth may break one's country's laws or drive someone to sin in their religion.

  2. I don’t think that any method that a philosopher can use to determine truth can actually determine truth! Ultimately, whatever conclusion a philosopher comes to it is just a truth to their reality. In fact there are different categories and sub-categories for philosophers, however, whatever conclusion they determine most can agree that to doubt make reality true and truth absolute, however, as we ponder on taught of past philosopher, i feel that truth is relative in the mind of the philosopher and it is guided mostly by morals and ideologies within society. Whether it be society of past, present or future. Consequently, i disagree with Descartes's method to determining truth to be called the Ultimately TRUTH!

  3. Descartes was boring as hell!!! I don't like anything that has to do with religion because of the fact that millions of people today are completely, mentally fucked up because of the ideology of religion. Religion is a poison and to quote Descartes,
    "I learned to entertain too decided a belief in regard to nothing of the truth of which I had been persuaded merely by example and custom; and thus I gradually extricated myself from many errors powerful enough to darken out natural intelligence, and incapacitate us in great measure from listening to reason."
    With these words alone, Descartes shows just what can happen when having blind faith and a belief in some idea you really know nothing about. If a person believes in something with out knowing if what they believe in has any kind of truth, or not even questioning why they have to believe in the "idea," can find themselves mentally retarded--eventually. Because, when believing in something you don't know anything about or if there is any truth to it, but it's what the common belief is, you will do away with having an open mind and listen to anything that may improve the human condition because it goes against a particular belief. This is what it means when he says, "and incapacitate us in great measure from listening to reason."
    Religion does this to people. It tell us this is how we are to live and this is how we are to look at things and these are the rules you must follow. It will go against any natural truth that come to a person when moving through life. This is where suffering comes into play.
    I think to find truth in life, your life, and for it to be real truth, you have to let go of programed beliefs that are nothing more than "examples and customs." Truth is something that everyone can find and have, but you need to find it for yourself and not just believe in truth that was give by "example and custom." Everyone has different truths and different reasons for living life. So what may be truth to you in your life, may not be truth for me in mine and viceversa. Each one of our truths however, are very valuable to life because each one of us has some reason in life to help move evolution forward, and to do it with as little pain and suffering, you have to find your true truth.

  4. Finally! A philosopher that the later generations, such as ourselves, can relate too! Descartes' reading was an easier read for me and I appreciated the format in which it was written. In my interpretation, I found Descartes to be very humbling and open-minded in his viewpoints about others. He mentions in Part One that there are several men that have studied and learned and that while they may be "Learned Men", they could be limited in their own understanding of things. This was reflected in his own course of study. Descartes felt as if his education was subpar and that he did not learn all that there was to be learned even though he "read every book that fell into his hands".

    I also appreciated his statements in regards to those philosophers that travel for long periods of time in search of meanings. I would say that I agree and disagree with the fact that if a man travels away from his country in search of the truth and higher understanding that he will loose his sense of home and where he came from,. I believe that if a man is grounded and he knows who he is and what is morally right within him, then he will not loose himself - only a weak man will allow those around him to change and/or manipulate him. But this is just my opinion….

    I also appreciate Descartes’ opinion in that his method is meant for a person and not a community or a mass amount of people or even those that want to build a new society or annihilate one that already exists. Of course this Discourse was published for all to see, but he explains that this method is actually NOT for two types of men: those that “know it all and are inpatient” and those that feel that they need to follow a teacher in order to find out the truth and wisdom.

    Lastly, Descartes’ viewpoint on God. Interesting that he could point out that a perfect triangle is 180 degrees and that only God could create something such as perfect as this. I think Descartes was locked in that room in November 1619 too long! Comparing God to mathematics and geometry is quite a stretch but being that at this point in time, philosophers and psychologists were cross-relating in their studies, I can see the connection. “We can be assured that our personal perceptions are true because these came from God. We can also be misled when we rely solely on our senses and imagination.” I would have to question this because our sense and source of imagination come from the things that we see and perceive in our lives. So with that being said, how can this really prove that ONLY our perceptions came from God? Wouldn’t our senses and imagination also come from God????

  5. Several times Decartes alludes to the the state of sleep and claims that “all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams.” Here, he is displaying how the world is one which is full of illusions and falsehoods. To me the point Decartes seems to be getting at seems as though the mind has no great advantage in being awake rather than asleep when discerning the truth. Because of the failing of our human senses, it seems that Decartes has developed his heuristic to circumvent natural imperfections. Although his method seems sound, again there is the issue of the limitations of human thought. If there were flaws in our execution of Decartes's method, or within the method itself, there's an underlying implication that whatever truths we may think we have attained may be faulty.

  6. It seems to me that all these philosophers seek to know and understand truth. A thing they dodge with their own imperfections and inability to truly grasp, yet they concern themselves with matters of living a "right life" One in which one questions their own reasoning on matters important or pressing on the mind. Still, it seems that their attempt to walk "the right path in life" is arbitrary, for all times are different and it cannot be said that one's path is the set path for all people. It cannot be said that there is one concrete way of reasoning. Yes, we all have that inscribed in us, but we have free will. We don't like to be manipulated and told how we are supposed to think for we just do. Yes, some will seek the truth and some will wonder at those who do, but if it doesnt pertain to them why bother them then? Let them live free of scorn, or judgement. This is the true wisdom. All self-deceptions by self-apprehension one way or another make themselves known. Our purpose here is not to judge those we deem beneath us. Our purpose is solely to live, and whatever happens in the course of that life to reach for that which is high. We do not have to pretend to have knowledge of anything and we certainly shouldn't claim such abomination. We are imperfect and lovely in all that makes us different. Our experience varied and how we detect truth and error solely within our own contemptual judgement.
    Also, Descartes says that truth can only be examined from the waking life and not dreams, but this cannot be entirely true, in my opinion. I think our dreams can influence our decisions or beliefs if we consider them meaningfully. For example, people have dreams that feel real as if they're having an out of body experience or living a nightmare... ever feel how real it is at the moment? It means there is something we are afraid of in our own lives and it manifests into something greater in our dreams. It could reveal the fear of dying or the fear of being led into evil's hands. I don't really know, but the way I understand dreams is as a somewhat realistic distortion of our reality. I dont think he should say truth can only be found through consciousness, because some actions and thoughts are percieved and acted upon by instincts or the sub-conscious. Truth lies within; not the surface. The surface decieves even oneself with what it chooses to believe.

    I think the analogy he made about the triangle is most striking. Just because we know it to be the equivalent of two right angles doesn't mean the triangle exists. Beacuse we believe truth is simple, doesn't mean it is. If it was simple men wouldn't try so hard to explain it even with a lot of good sense, and in certain ways decieve the masses with their idea of it.

  7. The way Descartes’ criterion for truth and knowledge is that he thinks and there for he knows. This was the conclusion he came up with, which I do not understand because, one may think it does not mean one may no. But he show a lot of confides. Descartes’ method to get such knowledge is logic we learn for the thing around us. He said that god set up nature so we can learn from it, and how our Bodies react to it which seems like basic logic. Do I think his method can guarantee the truth somewhat? Yes as humans we learn from nature but just cause one think it does not mean one knows.