The moral writings of Descartes came at the last part of his life, but earlier, in his Discourse on the Method, he adopted three maxims to be able to act while he put
all his ideas into doubt.
[note 4] Descartes has often been called the father of modern philosophy, and is largely seen as responsible for the increased attention given to epistemology in the 17th
 Descartes also saw very clearly that all truths were linked with one another, so that finding a fundamental truth and proceeding with logic would open the way to
 Philosophical work René Descartes at work In his Discourse on the Method, he attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without
The rise of early modern rationalism—as a highly systematic school of philosophy in its own right for the first time in history—exerted an immense and profound influence on
modern Western thought in general, with the birth of two influential rationalistic philosophical systems of Descartes (Cartesianism) and Spinoza (Spinozism).
 Therefore, Cartesian dualism set the agenda for philosophical discussion of the mind–body problem for many years after Descartes’ death.
Descartes discovered this basic truth quite soon: his famous “I think, therefore I am.
 It soon became clear they did not like each other; she did not care for his mechanical philosophy, nor did he share her interest in Ancient Greek language and literature.
 Descartes’ discussion on embodiment raised one of the most perplexing problems of his dualism philosophy: What exactly is the relationship of union between the mind
and the body of a person?
For this reason, he said that a complete moral philosophy should include the study of the body.
To perceive a mode apart from its substance requires an intellectual abstraction, which Descartes explained as follows: The intellectual abstraction consists in my turning
my thought away from one part of the contents of this richer idea the better to apply it to the other part with greater attention.
 His works about human passion and emotion would be the basis for the philosophy of his followers (see Cartesianism), and would have a lasting impact on ideas concerning
what literature and art should be, specifically how it should invoke emotion.
Thus, Descartes reasoned that God is distinct from humans, and the body and mind of a human are also distinct from one another.
Descartes gave priority to the mind and argued that the mind could exist without the body, but the body could not exist without the mind.
Regarding Aristotle’s opinion that happiness (eudaimonia) depends on both moral virtue and also on the goods of fortune such as a moderate degree of wealth, Descartes does
not deny that fortunes contribute to happiness but remarks that they are in great proportion outside one’s own control, whereas one’s mind is under one’s complete control.
 In Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes attempted to demonstrate the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and the body.
In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, an early modern treatise on 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.”
While within, he had three dreams, and believed that a divine spirit revealed to him a new philosophy.
Aristotle called this the “final cause,” and these final causes were indispensable for explaining the ways nature operated.
Descartes’ theory of dualism supports the distinction between traditional Aristotelian science and the new science of Kepler and Galileo, which denied the role of a divine
power and “final causes” in its attempts to explain nature.
 Mind–body dualism Further information: Mind–body problem and Mind–body dualism L’homme (1664) Descartes, influenced by the automatons on display throughout the
city of Paris, began to investigate the connection between the mind and body, and how the two interact.
“ These two first principles—I think and I exist—were later confirmed by Descartes’ clear and distinct perception (delineated in his Third Meditation from The Meditations):
as he clearly and distinctly perceives these two principles, Descartes reasoned, ensures their indubitability.
But Descartes could not avoid prodding God to set the world in motion with a snap of his lordly fingers; after that, he had no more use for God,” while a powerful contemporary,
Martin Schoock, accused him of atheist beliefs, though Descartes had provided an explicit critique of atheism in his Meditations.
While many contemporary readers of Descartes found the distinction between mind and body difficult to grasp, he thought it was entirely straightforward.
He concluded from these visions that the pursuit of science would prove to be, for him, the pursuit of true wisdom and a central part of his life’s work.
“ Russell Shorto speculates that the experience of fatherhood and losing a child formed a turning point in Descartes’ work, changing its focus from medicine to a quest
for universal answers.
Resolving to seek no knowledge other than that of which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth traveling, visiting courts
and armies, mixing with people of diverse temperaments and ranks, gathering various experiences, testing myself in the situations which fortune offered me, and at all times reflecting upon whatever came my way to derive some profit from it.
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.
Descartes believed that the brain resembled a working machine and unlike many of his contemporaries, he believed that mathematics and mechanics could explain the most complicated
processes of the mind.
 In it, Descartes lays out four rules of thought, meant to ensure that our knowledge rests upon a firm foundation: The first was never to accept anything for true
which I did not know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.
Therefore, while Cartesian dualism paved the way for modern physics, it also held the door open for religious beliefs about the immortality of the soul.
Humans are a union of mind and body; thus Descartes’ dualism embraced the idea that mind and body are distinct but closely joined.
His best known philosophical statement is “cogito, ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”), found in Discourse on the Method (1637, in French and Latin) and Principles of Philosophy
(1644, in Latin).
 Christia Mercer suggested that Descartes may have been influenced by Spanish author and Roman Catholic nun Teresa of Ávila, who, fifty years earlier, published The Interior
Castle, concerning the role of philosophical reflection in intellectual growth.
Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.
 Descartes continued to publish works concerning both mathematics and philosophy for the rest of his life.
 He argued that the great differences between body (an extended thing) and mind (an un-extended, immaterial thing) make the two ontologically distinct.
Known as Cartesian dualism (or mind–body dualism), his theory on the separation between the mind and the body went on to influence subsequent Western philosophies.
However, as he was a convinced rationalist, Descartes clearly states that reason is sufficient in the search for the goods that we should seek, and virtue consists in the
correct reasoning that should guide our actions.
According to Descartes’ indivisibility argument, the mind is utterly indivisible: because “when I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I am merely a thinking thing, I
am unable to distinguish any part within myself; I understand myself to be something quite single and complete.
Everything that happened, be it the motion of the stars or the growth of a tree, was supposedly explainable by a certain purpose, goal or end that worked its way out within
“ In the fifth Meditation, Descartes presents a version of the ontological argument which is founded on the possibility of thinking the “idea of a being that is supremely
perfect and infinite,” and suggests that “of all the ideas that are in me, the idea that I have of God is the most true, the most clear and distinct.
 Despite frequent moves,[note 6] he wrote all of his major work during his 20-plus years in the Netherlands, initiating a revolution in mathematics and philosophy.
 But he did argue that mind and body are closely joined: Nature also teaches me, by the sensations of pain, hunger, thirst and so on, that I am not merely present
in my body as a pilot in his ship, but that I am very closely joined and, as it were, intermingled with it, so that I and the body form a unit.
 (The winter seems to have been mild, except for the second half of January which was harsh as described by Descartes himself; however, “this remark was probably intended
to be as much Descartes’ take on the intellectual climate as it was about the weather.
Unlike many moralists of the time, Descartes did not deprecate the passions but rather defended them; he wept upon Francine’s death in 1640.
He challenged the views of his contemporaries that the soul was divine, thus religious authorities regarded his books as dangerous.
Descartes calls his doubt the soil and new knowledge the buildings.
In The Meditations, Descartes even argues that while the mind is a substance, the body is composed only of “accidents”.
To achieve this, he employs a method called hyperbolical/metaphysical doubt, also sometimes referred to as methodological skepticism or Cartesian doubt: he rejects any ideas
that can be doubted and then re-establishes them in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge.
His manuscripts came into the possession of Claude Clerselier, Chanut’s brother-in-law, and “a devout Catholic who has begun the process of turning Descartes into a saint
by cutting, adding and publishing his letters selectively.”
 In this way, he argues for the existence of God, investigates the place of man in nature, formulates the theory of mind–body dualism, and defends free will.
[note 7] In 1633, Galileo was condemned by the Italian Inquisition, and Descartes abandoned plans to publish Treatise on the World, his work of the previous four years.
All of these passions, he argued, represented different combinations of the original spirit, and influenced the soul to will or want certain actions.
From this supposition, however, Descartes finally establishes the possibility of acquiring knowledge about the world based on deduction and perception.
Thus, when I consider a shape without thinking of the substance or the extension whose shape it is, I make a mental abstraction.
 According to a recent biography by Jason Porterfield, “Descartes said that he did not believe that one must refrain from tears to prove oneself a man.
 According to Descartes, two substances are really distinct when each of them can exist apart from the other.
He argued, for example, that fear is a passion that moves the soul to generate a response in the body.
 Oxford Reference summarises the argument, as follows, “that our idea of perfection is related to its perfect origin (God), just as a stamp or trademark is left in an
article of workmanship by its maker.
 Descartes also wrote a response to external world skepticism.
It was the 17th-century arch-rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz who have given the “Age of Reason” its name and place in history.
It was there that he composed his first essay on method: Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii (Rules for the Direction of the Mind).
His theories on reflexes also served as the foundation for advanced physiological theories, more than 200 years after his death.
 He discussed this subject in the correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, and as a result wrote his work The Passions of the Soul, that contains a study
of the psychosomatic processes and reactions in man, with an emphasis on emotions or passions.
 Descartes argued the theory of innate knowledge and that all humans were born with knowledge through the higher power of God.
“) (left) The tomb of Descartes (middle, with detail of the inscription), in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris; (right) memorial to Descartes, erected in the
1720s, in the Adolf Fredriks kyrka E. Pies has questioned this account, based on a letter by the Doctor van Wullen; however, Descartes had refused his treatment, and more arguments against its veracity have been raised since.
He identifies four ordinary sources to reach wisdom and finally says that there is a fifth, better and more secure, consisting in the search for first causes.
In Discourse on the Method, Descartes recalls: I entirely abandoned the study of letters.
In Principles of Philosophy, Descartes explained, “we can clearly perceive a substance apart from the mode which we say differs from it, whereas we cannot, conversely, understand
the mode apart from the substance”.
However, it is speculated that what Descartes considered to be his second dream was actually an episode of exploding head syndrome.
• 1618. Musicae Compendium. A treatise on music theory and the aesthetics of music, which Descartes dedicated to early collaborator Isaac Beeckman (written in 1618, first published—posthumously—in 1650).: 127–129
Regulae ad directionem ingenii (Rules for the Direction of the Mind). Incomplete. First published posthumously in Dutch translation in 1684 and in the original Latin at Amsterdam in 1701 (R. Des-Cartes Opuscula Posthuma Physica et Mathematica). The
best critical edition, which includes the Dutch translation of 1684, is edited by Giovanni Crapulli (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966).
• c. 1630. De solidorum elementis. Concerns the classification of Platonic solids and three-dimensional figurate
numbers. Said by some scholars to prefigure Euler’s polyhedral formula. Unpublished; discovered in Descartes’ estate in Stockholm 1650, soaked for three days in the Seine in a shipwreck while being shipped back to Paris, copied in 1676 by Leibniz,
and lost. Leibniz’s copy, also lost, was rediscovered circa 1860 in Hannover.
• 1630–1631. La recherche de la vérité par la lumière naturelle (The Search for Truth by Natural Light) unfinished dialogue published in 1701.: 264ff
Le Monde (The World) and L’Homme (Man). Descartes’ first systematic presentation of his natural philosophy. Man was published posthumously in Latin translation in 1662; and The World posthumously in 1664.
• 1637. Discours de la méthode (Discourse
on the Method). An introduction to the Essais, which include the Dioptrique, the Météores and the Géométrie.
• 1637. La Géométrie (Geometry). Descartes’ major work in mathematics. There is an English translation by Michael Mahoney (New York: Dover,
• 1641. Meditationes de prima philosophia (Meditations on First Philosophy), also known as Metaphysical Meditations. In Latin; a second edition, published the following year, included an additional objection and reply, and a Letter to Dinet.
A French translation by the Duke of Luynes, probably done without Descartes’ supervision, was published in 1647. Includes six Objections and Replies.
• 1644. Principia philosophiae (Principles of Philosophy), a Latin textbook at first intended
by Descartes to replace the Aristotelian textbooks then used in universities. A French translation, Principes de philosophie by Claude Picot, under the supervision of Descartes, appeared in 1647 with a letter-preface to Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.
Notae in programma (Comments on a Certain Broadsheet). A reply to Descartes’ one-time disciple Henricus Regius.
• 1648. La description du corps humain (The Description of the Human Body). Published posthumously by Clerselier in 1667.
Responsiones Renati Des Cartes… (Conversation with Burman). Notes on a Q&A session between Descartes and Frans Burman on 16 April 1648. Rediscovered in 1895 and published for the first time in 1896. An annotated bilingual edition (Latin with French
translation), edited by Jean-Marie Beyssade, was published in 1981 (Paris: PUF).
• 1649. Les passions de l’âme (Passions of the Soul). Dedicated to Princess Elisabeth of the Palatinate.
• 1657. Correspondance (three volumes: 1657, 1659, 1667).
Published by Descartes’ literary executor Claude Clerselier. The third edition, in 1667, was the most complete; Clerselier omitted, however, much of the material pertaining to mathematics.
• Oeuvres de Descartes edited
by Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, Paris: Léopold Cerf, 1897–1913, 13 volumes; new revised edition, Paris: Vrin-CNRS, 1964–1974, 11 volumes (the first 5 volumes contains the correspondence). [This edition is traditionally cited with the initials AT
(for Adam and Tannery) followed by a volume number in Roman numerals; thus AT VII refers to Oeuvres de Descartes volume 7.]
• Étude du bon sens, La recherche de la vérité et autres écrits de jeunesse (1616–1631) edited by Vincent Carraud and Gilles
Olivo, Paris: PUF, 2013.
• Descartes, Œuvres complètes, new edition by Jean-Marie Beyssade and Denis Kambouchner, Paris: Gallimard, published volumes:
o I: Premiers écrits. Règles pour la direction de l’esprit, 2016.
o III: Discours de la Méthode
et Essais, 2009.
o VIII.1: Correspondance, 1 edited by Jean-Robert Armogathe, 2013.
o VIII.2: Correspondance, 2 edited by Jean-Robert Armogathe, 2013.
• René Descartes. Opere 1637–1649, Milano, Bompiani, 2009, pp. 2531. Edizione integrale (di
prime edizioni) e traduzione italiana a fronte, a cura di G. Belgioioso con la collaborazione di I. Agostini, M. Marrone, M. Savini ISBN 978-88-452-6332-3.
• René Descartes. Opere 1650–2009, Milano, Bompiani, 2009, pp. 1723. Edizione integrale delle
opere postume e traduzione italiana a fronte, a cura di G. Belgioioso con la collaborazione di I. Agostini, M. Marrone, M. Savini ISBN 978-88-452-6333-0.
• René Descartes. Tutte le lettere 1619–1650, Milano, Bompiani, 2009 IIa ed., pp. 3104. Nuova
edizione integrale dell’epistolario cartesiano con traduzione italiana a fronte, a cura di G. Belgioioso con la collaborazione di I. Agostini, M. Marrone, F.A. Meschini, M. Savini e J.-R. Armogathe ISBN 978-88-452-3422-4.
• René Descartes, Isaac
Beeckman, Marin Mersenne. Lettere 1619–1648, Milano, Bompiani, 2015 pp. 1696. Edizione integrale con traduzione italiana a fronte, a cura di Giulia Beglioioso e Jean Robert-Armogathe ISBN 978-88-452-8071-9.
Early editions of specific works
de la methode Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 1637
• Renati Des-Cartes Principia philosophiæ Archived 9 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 1644
• Le monde de Mr. Descartes ou le traité de la lumiere Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback
• Geometria Archived 24 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine, 1659
• Meditationes de prima philosophia Archived 24 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine, 1670
• Opera philosophica Archived 27 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine, 1672
• 1955. The Philosophical Works, E.S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross, trans. Dover Publications. This work is traditionally cited with the initials HR (for Haldane and Ross) followed by a volume number in Roman numerals; thus
HR II refers to volume 2 of this edition.
• 1988. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes in 3 vols. Cottingham, J., Stoothoff, R., Kenny, A., and Murdoch, D., trans. Cambridge University Press. This work is traditionally cited with the initials
CSM (for Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch) or CSMK (for Cottingham, Stoothoff, Murdoch, and Kenny) followed by a volume number in Roman numeral; thus CSM II refers to volume 2 of this edition.
• 1998. René Descartes: The World and Other Writings.
Translated and edited by Stephen Gaukroger. Cambridge University Press. (This consists mainly of scientific writings, on physics, biology, astronomy, optics, etc., which were very influential in the 17th and 18th centuries, but which are routinely
omitted or much abridged in modern collections of Descartes’ philosophical works.)
Translation of single works
• 1628. Regulae ad directionem ingenii. Rules for the Direction of the Natural Intelligence. A Bilingual Edition of the Cartesian
Treatise on Method Archived 16 August 2021 at the Wayback Machine, ed. & trans. G. Heffernan (Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998).
• 1633. The World, or Treatise on Light Archived 21 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine, tr. by Michael S. Mahoney.
Treatise of Man, tr. by T. S. Hall. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972.
• 1637. Discourse on the Method, Optics, Geometry and Meteorology, trans. P. J. Olscamp, Revised edition (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001).
• 1637. The Geometry of
René Descartes Archived 16 August 2021 at the Wayback Machine, trans. D. E. Smith & Marcia Latham (Chicago: Open Court, 1925).
• 1641. Meditations on First Philosophy, tr. by J. Cottingham, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Latin original.
Alternative English title: Metaphysical Meditations. Includes six Objections and Replies. A second edition published the following year, includes an additional Objection and Reply and a Letter to Dinet. HTML Online Latin-French-English Edition Archived
27 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
• 1644. Principles of Philosophy Archived 30 September 2020 at the Wayback Machine, trans. V. R. Miller & R. P. Miller: (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1982).
• 1648. Descartes’ Conversation
with Burman, tr. by J. Cottingham, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
• 1649. Passions of the Soul Archived 16 August 2021 at the Wayback Machine, trans. S. H. Voss (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989). Dedicated to Elisabeth of the Palatinate.
René Descartes, Isaac Beeckman, Marin Mersenne. Lettere 1619–1648, ed. by Giulia Beglioioso and Jean Robert-Armogathe, Milano, Bompiani, 2015 pp. 1696. ISBN 978-88-452-8071-9
o Although the uncertain authorship of this most iconic portrait of Descartes
was traditionally attributed to Frans Hals, there is no record of their meeting. During the 20th century the assumption was widely challenged.
o ^ Jump up to:a b Étienne Gilson argued in La Liberté chez Descartes et la Théologie (Alcan, 1913,
pp. 132–147) that Duns Scotus was not the source of Descartes’ Voluntarism. Although there exist doctrinal differences between Descartes and Scotus “it is still possible to view Descartes as borrowing from a Scotist Voluntarist tradition”.
Adjectival form: Cartesian /kɑːrˈtiːziən, -ˈtiːʒən/
o ^ This idea had already been proposed by Spanish philosopher Gómez Pereira a hundred years ago in the form: “I know that I know something, anyone who knows exists, then I exist” (nosco me aliquid
noscere, & quidquid noscit, est, ergo ego sum).
Pereira, Gómez. 1749 . “De Immortalitate Animae.” Antoniana Margarita. p. 277.
Santos López, Modesto. 1986. “Gómez Pereira, médico y filósofo medinense.” In Historia de Medina
del Campo y su Tierra, volumen I: Nacimiento y expansión, edited by E. L. Sanz.
o ^ See also: Epistemological turn.
o ^ While in the Netherlands he changed his address frequently, living among other places in Dordrecht (1628), Franeker (1629),
Amsterdam (1629–1630), Leiden (1630), Amsterdam (1630–1632), Deventer (1632–1634), Amsterdam (1634–1635), Utrecht (1635–1636), Leiden (1636), Egmond (1636–1638), Santpoort (1638–1640), Leiden (1640–1641), Endegeest (a castle near Oegstgeest) (1641–1643),
and finally for an extended time in Egmond-Binnen (1643–1649).
o ^ He had lived with Henricus Reneri in Deventer and Amsterdam, and had met with Constantijn Huygens and Vopiscus Fortunatus Plempius; Descartes was interviewed by Frans Burman at Egmond-Binnen
in 1648. Henricus Regius, Jan Stampioen, Frans van Schooten, Comenius and Gisbertus Voetius were his main opponents.
o ^ The remains are, two centuries later, still resting between two other graves—those of the scholarly monks Jean Mabillon and
Bernard de Montfaucon—in a chapel of the abbey.
1. ^ Nadler, Steven, The Philosopher, The Priest, and The Painter: A Portrait of Descartes Archived 15 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
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3. ^ Fumerton, Richard (21 February 2000). “Foundationalist
Theories of Epistemic Justification”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
4. ^ Bostock, D., Philosophy of Mathematics: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p. 43 Archived
1 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine: “All of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume supposed that mathematics is a theory of our ideas, but none of them offered any argument for this conceptualist claim, and apparently took it to be uncontroversial.”
Gutting, Gary (1999). Pragmatic Liberalism and the Critique of Modernity. Cambridge University Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780521649735. Modernity begins with Descartes’ mutation of Augustinianism. Taylor emphasizes that “Descartes is in many ways profoundly
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University of Chicago Press. pp. 1–32, 263–264. ISBN 9780226293479. Caton argues persuasively that Descartes uses the phrase genius malignus for deus deceptor to avoid the charge of blasphemy.
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A Reassessment, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, p. 76.
11. ^ H. Ben-Yami, Descartes’ Philosophical Revolution: A Reassessment, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, p. 179: “[Descartes’] work in mathematics was apparently influenced by Viète’s, despite his denial
of any acquaintance with the latter’s work.”
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H. 1943. “The Influence of Mathematics on the Philosophy of Spinoza Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.” National Mathematics Magazine 18(3):108–15.
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