Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
To the French philosopher René Descartes, the act of doubting seemed clearly to mark the proper starting point for all philosophical inquiries. The methodology that flows from this approach, many of Descartes’s successors have insisted, laid the foundations of modern philosophy. The beginning of Discourse on Method is a systematic tearing down of learning and education; understanding does not rest, Descartes implies, on received information.
Although usually identified simply as the Discourse on Method, the full title Descartes gave to his brief, five-part essay more accurately reveals the nature of his subject. The full title is Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison & chercher la vérité dans les sciences (Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences). The Discourse on Method appeared along with three other essays that augment Descartes’s fundamental propositions with details. They were all incorporated in his Philosophical Essays. Descartes believed that all people possess good sense and the unique ability to reason, so the Discourse on Method was written in French in an era when Latin was the language of Europe’s academic, intellectual, and religious elites. It was Descartes’s intention to reach a relatively large audience.
Descartes completed this essay well before 1637. When he was twenty-three, in...
(The entire section is 1779 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Discourse on Method Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!