Descartes Education Essay

In 1641 he published a work called Meditationes, in which he explained at some length his views on philosophy as sketched out in the Discours.In 1644 he issued the Principia Philosophiae, the greater part of which was devoted to physical science, especially the laws of motion and the theory of vortices.

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It was at once seen that in order to investigate the properties of a curve it was sufficient to select, as a definition, any characteristic geometrical property, and to express it by means of an equation between the (current) co-ordinates of any point on the curve, that is, to translate the definition into the language of analytical geometry.

The equation so obtained contains implicitly every property of the curve, and any particular property can be deduced from it by ordinary algebra without troubling about the geometry of the figure.

Descartes worked it out within a few hours, and a warm friendship between him and Beeckman was the result.

This unexpected test of his mathematical attainments made the uncongenial life of the army distasteful to him, but under family influence and tradition he remained a soldier, and was persuaded at the commencement of the Thirty Years’ War to volunteer under Count de Bucquoy in the army of Bavaria.

He continued all this time to occupy his leisure with mathematical studies, and was accustomed to date the first ideas of his new philosophy and of his analytical geometry from three dreams which he experienced on the night of November 10, 1619, at Neuberg, when campaigning on the Danube.

He regarded this as the critical day of his life, and one which determined his whole future.

It is hardly necessary to say that the problems themselves are of importance and interest, but from the nature of the case no solution ever offered is capable either of rigid proof or of disproof; all that can be effected is to make one explanation more probable than another, and whenever a philosopher like Descartes believes that he has at last finally settled a question it has been possible for his successors to point out the fallacy in his assumptions.

I have read somewhere that philosophy has always been chiefly engaged with the inter-relations of God, Nature, and Man.

He spend the first four years, 1629 to 1633, of his stay in Holland in writing Le Monde, which embodies an attempt to give a physical theory of the universe; but finding that its publication was likely to bring on him the hostility of the church, and having no desire to pose as a martyr, he abandoned it: the incomplete manuscript was published in 1664.

He then devoted himself to composing a treatise on universal science; this was published at Leyden in 1637 under the title Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences, and was accompanied with three appendices (which possibly were not issued until 1638) entitled La Dioptrique, Les Météores, and La Géométrie; it is from the last of these that the invention of analytical geometry dates.


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