Descartes, René


Descartes, René
(1596-1650) Together with Immanuel Kant and David Hume , the French philosopher René Descartes is one of the founding figures of modern Western philosophy. Descartes also made significant contributions to mathematics and the science of mechanics. He is best known for his Discourse on Method and Meditations, two texts in which he employed his method of systematic doubt so as to arrive at some indubitable foundation from which certain knowledge could be deduced. Famously, Descartes discovered he could doubt virtually everything, save that in doubting, and so thinking, he must at least exist. However, the existence thus asserted was not his bodily existence, but rather the existence of the self as a ‘thinking thing’. Descartes required proof of the existence of God, to restore his confidence in the existence of material bodies, defined by their spatial existence. This metaphysical view of the world as composed of extended material bodies, on the one hand, and souls or minds defined by thought, on the other, is known as dualism . Descartes himself, and successive dualist philosophers of mind, have experienced great difficulty in accounting coherently for the special connection between mind and body which constitutes the human person.
The influence of body-mind dualism is pervasive throughout the contemporary social sciences (for example, in Max Weber's distinction between behaviour and meaningful action). The increasingly problematic failure of sociology to deal adequately with either human embodiment or ecological issues is one legacy of this. Psychoanalysis and recent structuralist approaches in social science, which affect to ‘de-centre’ the human subject, often start out by explicitly rejecting Descartes's assumption of the ‘transparency’ of the self to reflection. Finally, Descartes is now frequently criticized as advocating a view of animals as non-conscious complex machines, thus allegedly excluding animals from direct moral concern, and sustaining an untenable gulf between human and animal nature. The adjective used to refer to Descartes is ‘Cartesian’. See also metaphysics.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • Descartes, René — • Philosopher and scientist, born at La Haye France, 31 March, 1596; died at Stockholm, Sweden, 11 February 1650 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Descartes, René — Des·cartes (dā kärtʹ), René. 1596 1650. French mathematician, philosopher, and scientist who is considered the father of analytic geometry and the founder of modern rationalism. His main works, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) and… …   Universalium

  • Descartes, René — (1596–1650)    Philosopher.    Descartes was born in La Haye, France, and was educated at the Jesuit College of La Flèche. After a short military and legal career, he settled in Holland until a year before his death when he moved to Sweden at the …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Descartes, René — (1596 1650)    French philosopher Rene´ Descartes challenged scepticism and scholastism while creating a body of work sufficient to earn him the title Father of Modern Philosophy . This title refers to his emphasis upon individual reason and… …   Christian Philosophy

  • Descartes, René — (1596 1650)    philosopher, scholar    Born in La Haye, Touraine, the son of a minor nobleman, René Descartes began his education at the Jesuit school of La Flèche in Anjou. He studied law at the university of Poitiers, and in 1618 entered the… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Descartes, René — (1596–1650) French mathematician and founding father of modern philosophy. Born in La Haye, near Tours, Descartes was educated at the new Jesuit college at La Flèche, before reading law at Poitiers. In 1618 he enlisted at his own expense in the… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Descartes, René — (1596 1650)    A French rationalist philosopher who according to the British physician and alienist Forbes Benignus Winslow (1810 1874) was plagued by the voice of an invisible person after a period of confinement. Reportedly, this voice urged… …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Descartes, René — ► (1596 1650) Filósofo y matemático francés. Su elaboración filosófica parte de las ideas «claras y distintas» y de la duda metódica como método para alcanzar la verdad. Sus principales obras son El discurso del método (1637), Meditaciones acerca …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • DESCARTES, RENÉ —    the father of modern philosophy, born at La Haye, in Touraine; was educated at the Jesuit College of La Flèche, where he made rapid progress in all that his masters could teach him, but soon grew sceptical as to their methods of inquiry;… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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