René Descartes quotes
Birthdate: 31. March 1596
Date of death: 11. February 1650
René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Dubbed the father of modern western philosophy, much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. He is generally considered one of the most notable intellectual representatives of the Dutch Golden Age.
Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes's influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, used in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the scientific revolution.
Descartes refused to accept the authority of previous philosophers. He frequently set his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Les passions de l'âme, a treatise on the early modern version of what are now commonly called emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". His best known philosophical statement is "Cogito ergo sum" , found in part IV of Discours de la méthode and §7 of part I of Principles of Philosophy .
Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differed from the schools on two major points: first, he rejected the splitting of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejected any appeal to final ends, divine or natural, in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.
Descartes laid the foundation for 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.
Quotes René Descartes
„Mr. Clerselier has written me that you are expecting from him my Meditations… in order to present them to the queen of the land. …If I had only been as wise as they say the savages persuaded themselves that the monkeys were, I never would have become known as a maker of books: Since it is said that they imagined that the monkeys could indeed speak, if they wanted to, but that they chose not to so lest they be forced to work. And since I had not the same prudence to abstain from writing, I now have neither as much liesure nor as much peace as I would have had if I had kept quiet. But since the mistake has already been made, and since I am now known by an infinity of people at the academy, who look askance at my writings and scour them for means of harming me, I do have great hope of being known to persons of great merit, whose power and virtue could protect me.“
Letter to Pierre Chanut (Nov. 1, 1646) as quoted by Amir Aczel, Descartes' Secret Notebook (2005) citing René Descartes: Correspondance avec Elizabeth et autres lettres (1989) ed., Jean-Marie and M. Beysaade, pp. 245-246.
„What I have given in the second book on the nature and properties of curved lines, and the method of examining them, is, it seems to me, as far beyond the treatment in the ordinary geometry, as the rhetoric of Cicero is beyond the a, b, c of children.“
Letter to Marin Mersenne (1637) as quoted by D. E. Smith & M. L. Latham Tr. The Geometry of René Descartes (1925)