Full title: Principles of Philosophy

Author: René Descartes

Philosophical movement: Cartesian Rationalism

Language: Latin

Time and place written:Principles of Philosophy was written during the early 1640s at Descartes's home in Holland

Date of First Publication: 1644

Publisher: Elzevirs

Speaker: René Descartes

Other works by Descartes on this topic: A more complete version of Descartes's philosophy can be found in his Meditations on First Philosophy. For more on his cosmology and natural science, see Le Monde (The World). Descartes's 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 work: To present a clear and certain unified science, covering all areas of possible human knowledge

Areas of philosophy covered: Part I of the work presents Descartes's epistemology and metaphysics. The remainder of the work 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's 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 work: 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 18th century, can be seen as a philosophical descendant of Descartes's.