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Books by Rene Descartes


Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) was a French philosopher, writer, mathematician, scientist, and a key figure in the Scientific Revolution. He spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. Descartes has been called the "Father of Modern Philosophy," and much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings. In particular, his Meditations continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments.

The Geometry of Rene Descartes was one of the most revolutionary works in mathematics since Euclid. Descartes changed the field of mathematics with his invention of analytic geometry. He loved Euclid, because Euclidean geometry offered truth and certainty, and all of its conclusions were drawn from irrefutable axioms. Descartes wanted to have this kind of certainty in all areas of life, and so he sought to answer questions about the real world using algebra combined with geometry. This produced the Cartesian plane, which allowed equations to be graphed, and the Cartesian coordinate system allowing geometric shapes to be expressed in algebraic equations. This was truly revolutionary.

The six Meditations and selections from the Objections and Replies provide a definitive statement of what Descartes intended as the foundations of his whole philosophy. His project was to resolve the epistemological questions brought about by the prevailing skepticism of his age; to build, from the basis of self-awareness (Cogito, ergo sum), through the notion of a benevolent God, to a systematic and novel approach to metaphysics; and to construct a secure starting-point for science.