Discourse on Method
Explain the distinction between Aristotelian scientific method and the new science that Descartes and others replaced it with.
Why did Descartes find his education unsatisfying? How does this dissatisfaction reflect his philosophy? (Hint: What had he been told he would gain from his education?)
What are the four rules Descartes uses to guide his inquiry when he decides to abandon all his former opinions? What biases are implicit in these rules? How do they affect his later conclusions?
What is analytic geometry? How does Descartes's method contribute to his discovery of analytic geometry?
What is the significance of Descartes claim, "I am thinking, therefore I exist"? How does he argue for that claim?
What are Descartes's two proofs of God's existence? What are the differences between them? Is one better than the other? Do you find them satisfying?
Why does Descartes present his physical theories as an imaginary hypothesis? Does this hurt their plausibility?
Explain the difference between a Cartesian physics based on a definition of matter and a Newtonian physics based on a definition of force. Which is more successful and why?
What reasons does Descartes give for not making the principles of his physics public? What do you think are the real reasons?
To what extent do Descartes's writings reflect the medieval tradition in which he was educated, and to what extent do they reflect a new, scientific worldview?
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!