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Principles of Philosophy

Rene Descartes


Key Facts

full title  ·  Principles of Philosophy

author  ·  Rene Descartes

philosophical movement  ·  Cartesian Rationalism

language  ·  Latin

time and place written  ·  The Principles were written during the early 1640s at Descartes' home in Holland

date of first publication  ·  1644

publisher  ·  Elzevirs

speaker  ·  Rene Descartes

other books by descartes on this topic  ·  A fuller version of Descartes' philosophy can be found in his Meditations on First Philosophy. For more on his cosmology and natural science, see Le Monde (The World). Descartes' theory of physiology and psychology receives a more detailed treatment in Description of the Human Body. Descartes' published correspondence also yields valuable insight in all of these areas.

goal of the book  ·  To present a clear and certain unified science, covering all areas of possible human knowledge

areas of philosophy covered  ·  Part I of the Principles presents Descartes' epistemology and metaphysics. The remainder of the book presents his natural philosophy, which is more akin to what we today would call "science."

philosophical movements opposed  ·  Descartes developed his new philosophy because he was dissatisfied with the vague and misleading philosophy of the powerful Scholastic philosophers. Though Descartes is now often read in the context of the debates between the Cartesian rationalists and the British empiricists, that debate was not yet raging during Descartes' lifetime, and so that particular school of thought was not a target of Descartes' philosophy. (Although, it is important to note that Thomas Hobbes, who served as the forerunner to British empiricism, was one of the critics who attacked Descartes' philosophy).

philosophers influenced by the  ·  It seems fair to say that not a single Western philosopher since Descartes has managed to escape his influence. Descartes set the modern philosophical conversation into motion. More than anyone else, though, the Cartesian rationalists (Nicolas Malebranche, Baruch Spinoza, and G.W. Leibniz) are the rightful inheritors of Descartes' mantle. In addition, Immanuel Kant, who attempted to reconcile Cartesian rationalism and British empiricism in the late eighteenth century, can be seen as a philosophical descendant of Descartes'.

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western mind body dualism

by henkt, January 12, 2015

For a (still controversial) view on the history of western mind body dualism see:

Perfection - Not God

by duaneaj, November 17, 2015

In my reading of Descarte, he didn't say we all have an innate idea of God. What he did say was that we all have an innate idea of perfection. We, being human, are not perfect. We all realize this. None of us do not know this.

If we all know this, then we must know perfection, otherwise we could not know we are not perfect. But how does a being know of an idea of perfection without someone else telling us what it is? If my parents first told me of perfection, then they must know what perfection is, either by experience or by som... Read more


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