Descartes: A Very Short Introduction
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Descartes is perhaps best known for his statement, "Cogito, ergo sum," the cornerstone of his metaphysics. But he did not intend the metaphysics to stand apart from his scientific work, which included important investigations into physics, mathematics, and optics. In this book, Sorell shows that Descarates was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of the new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his philosophies to support his discoveries in the sciences.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
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grace), in theses submitted by a professor called Triglandius. Revius, the principal of a theological college associated with the University of Leiden, joined in with accusations of blasphemy against Descartes. (Revius had previously been rebuffed by the philosopher after trying to convert him to Protestantism, and he seems to have harboured a grudge.) In May 1647 Descartes wrote to the university and to city ofﬁcials to protest against the attacks from the theologians, and he challenged his
retained a theory of ideas. George Berkeley and David Hume, inﬂuenced by Malebranche, joined in the criticism and revision of the Cartesian theory of two substances, and of a causally efﬁcacious material substance. The work of all these writers is much closer than that of Cartesian physicists and moralists to studies of Descartes today, for the Descartes who still haunts people is the ghost of a philosopher, not of a physicist, doctor, or teacher of ethics. Descartes Except for those who
determining the scope and nature of human between lengths, thicknesses, and weights, imagined as measurable in units. Lengths and thicknesses are instances of simple material natures, and measurability in units is one of the ‘common natures’ (10. 419; cf. 10. 440, 449). Descartes remarks that from the example of the strings and the problem of sound it can be seen how any well-understood problem, or at least any that has been sufﬁciently abstracted from irrelevant considerations, can be reduced
scientiﬁc problems that were not ostensibly about number and ﬁgure into ones that were. With problems in physics principally in mind, he gave elaborate rules for re-expressing them in terms of arrays of points and lines (10. 450 ff.), or, where abbreviation was necessary, in equations between numbers (10. 455 ff.). Re-expressed in these ways, the problems could be reduced to a form in which relations between magnitudes could be easily observed or mechanically calculated. Though it would have been