Sunday, 4 October 2009

Philosophy 1: Descartes

Rene Descartes (pronounced re-nay day-cart, not; reen des-cart-es), Philosopher, Mathematician, Frenchman.

You may have heard of this chap, most famous for saying:

"I think therefore I am".

He is widely believed to be the most important modern philosopher of all time, born 1596, died 1650. In this this first installment, we shall look at the strangest aspects of his life, and then in later posts we can study what he has to say:

He gets brought up in a Jesuit school (which influences his philosophy), but convinced his superiors that he had such a bad cough, he couldn't possibly get up before 11 O'clock. He joins an army in Holland (not to actually fight but just for the holiday), yet leaves in 1622 because they force him to wake up early.

By now he is really interested in maths/geometry, and comes up with things like the method of using x and y on graphs, whilst conceiving an illegitimate child with a dutch servant girl. Most of his thinking is done in bed, whislt having a lie-in, sweating it out in an incredibly hot room. It is even thought that he did much of his deep thinking in an oven, but this may have been obscured in translation.

Descartes wants to publish loads of revolutionary theories, but is too scared to, as the likes of Galilao are being arrested for claiming that the earth revloves around the sun. He does however publish his 'Discourse on the method', in which he thinks about thinking.

Descartes most famous work; 'The Meditations', is the most controversial, and isn't published for ages. It challenges everything we think we know, in order to find something which is certain, which causes 'The meditations' to end up being one of the most widley and intensly disscussed theories in history.

In 1650 he is employed as a tutor for Queen Christina of Sweden, but this spells doom for Descartes, as he has to wake up at 5 O'clock in the morning to teach her. This is too much for him to handle, and he dies of early mornings on the 11 Feb 1650.

So there you have it, one of the most interesting Fenchies ever i'd say. So next time your looking for inspiration, do a Descartes, and jump in an oven.

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