• Grew up in the medieval world where the questions of science
  • Structured deeply by Aristotle and theology
  • Descartes’ project:
    • To establish new foundations for science
    • Lodge the new foundation into mathematics
    • A new source of veridicality (absolute certainty or truth) > new sense of self > Thinking “I”


  • Discourse on Method
  • Thesis of book: Good thinking can proceed logically and systematically by following certain procedures
    • Posit that your object of investigation consists of parts and wholes
    • Study this structure and take it apart
    • Rebuild your object
    • Describe and discuss and critique with others
  • In order to have a soul you have to have inward thought/reflection
  • Descartes begins by recognizing that he needs to clear his mind
    • How: methodic doubt
  • Passions = Descartes view on affectivity (anger, love, jealousy)

Operations of Mental=Mind

  • Ratiocination = calculative reasoning(2+2=4)
  • Pull things together, synthesize
  • Attention (focussing and retaining)
  • Logic – can perform logical operations:
    • Deductions (if A=B, and B=C, then A=C)
    • Inference
    • Associate

Can We Doubt Our Mental Acts?

Yes No
Synthesis/dysfunction Truth of mathematics

Math guarantees truth because 1) conclusions are indubitable, 2) universal conclusions, 3) necessary

Attention/focus Mind cogitates (thinks)

Perceiving, doubting, willing, etc…

Pulling things together


What Descartes Thinks of Humans

  • We are thinking things
  • A body
  • “I” = ego
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Rene Descartes: Background, Book, Ideas," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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