René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist who broke with the mold of his time. His ideas had a great impact on European thought and much influence on subsequent philosophical currents.
He was one of the first to abandon conventional Aristotelian scholasticism, which advocated a clear subordination of reason to the Christian faith. He also formulated the first modern version of the famous mind-body dualism and promoted the development of a new science based on reason.
These revolutionary contributions, which break with the religious scheme of medieval thought, make him the father of modern philosophy. Below we will see in detail the most relevant contributions of him.
Short biography of René Descartes
Descartes was born on March 31, 1596 in Touraine (France).called today waste in his honour. He was the third child of the marriage between Joachim Descartes, MP for Rennes, and Jeanne Brochard, who died a few months after his birth. Therefore, the child was left in the care and education of his grandmother, father and nurse.
In 1606 he was sent to the Jesuit college of La Flèche, where he received a solid education in classical culture, having learned Latin and Greek by reading from renowned philosophers. Furthermore, his curriculum also included an introduction to mathematics, both pure and applied.
At 18 years he entered the University of Poitiers to study law and medicine. In 1616 he already had a bachelor’s degree and a law degree, but he never practiced this profession.
In 1618 Descartes enlisted in the Dutch army and intended to pursue a military career for several years. However, in 1619 he renounced this claim.
Subsequently, between 1619 and 1628 he traveled through northern and southern Europe. During this period he devoted himself to the study of philosophy and science.
He would later publish a series of works of enormous repercussion in their respective fields.like the following:
- Method discourse (1637).
- The geometry (1637).
- metaphysical meditations (1641).
- principles of philosophy (1644).
In 1649, Rene Descartes was invited to the court of Queen Christina of Sweden in Stockholm to teach her philosophy. However, 4 months after his arrival in the Swedish capital, the philosopher contracted pneumonia which led to his death in 1650when he was 53 years old.
Works and contributions of René Descartes
Contributions of Descartes are recognized in various fields, such as those of modern philosophy and mathematics. For this reason he is often considered one of the most influential scholars of Western thought.
Philosophy was one of the fields that received the greatest contributions from Descartes. One of them was the critique of established methods of thinking and building a new onein which doubt and intuition will play a fundamental role.
His method (called methodological skepticism) is that everything must be questioned until it can be proven. Thus he rejects scholastic practice, which defended the apparent knowledge derived from authority.
On the other hand, his thinking recognized the existence of a Godcreator of the two kinds of substances which, according to him, made up the world: extended res (corresponds to the physical matter of which things are made) and the res cogitans (of which the spirit is made). In this way, he proposes the existence of a dualism, a division between the soul and the body, which left the Aristotelian beliefs.
Descartes also made the groundbreaking discovery of solve geometry problems by turning them into algebra problems. To do this, he originated Cartesian coordinates and curves, whose system tends to explain algebraic equations through geometric shapes.
He also invented the convention of representing unknowns in equations using the last letters of the alphabet (X, for example). Subsequently, his calculating work is used by Newton to develop a new branch of mathematics.
A new approach to science
Descartes also presented a different approach to science than the traditional one, arguing that truth is obtained through rationalism and logic. Thus assumes the idea of a science firstwhose method is based on demonstrations of pure reason.
Descartes and his influence
René Descartes had a great impact on the development of Western philosophymathematics, science, as well as justice and theology.
Furthermore, his philosophical ideas had an important influence on Western thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, philosophers such as Locke, Hume and Kant used his theories and his principles.
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