René Descartes Criticism - Essay

Edwin Arthur Burtt (essay date 1925)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Descartes," in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1925, pp. 96–116.

[In the following essay, Burtt examines Descartes' mathematical conception of nature and his motives for proposing a mind-body dualism.]

Descartes' importance in [the] mathematical movement [in science] was twofold; he worked out a comprehensive hypothesis in detail of the mathematical structure and operations of the material universe, with clearer consciousness of the important implications of the new method than had been shown by his predecessors; and he attempted both to justify and atone...

(The entire section is 7069 words.)

Daniel Garber (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Science and Certainty in Descartes," in Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays, edited by Michael Hooker, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978, pp. 114–51.

[In the following essay, Garber traces Descartes' approach to science and scientific practice from the Regulae to the Principia Philosopiae, contending that Descartes abandoned his early philosophy that science must be deductively certain, instead nearly coming to the conclusion that science relies on hypothetical arguments and experimentation.]

Descartes's principal project was to build a science of nature about which he could have absolute certainty. From his earliest writings he...

(The entire section is 17554 words.)

Charles Larmore (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Descartes' Empirical Epistemology," in Descartes: Philosophy, Mathematics and Physics, edited by Stephen Gaukroger, The Harvester Press, Sussex, 1980, pp. 6–22.

[In the essay that follows, Larmore contends that Descartes' epistemology uses experimentation within a framework of a priori principles to advance human knowledge.]

There is something close to a general consensus that Descartes initiated a search for incorrigible foundations of knowledge that deeply shaped modern philosophy and that we have now learned to reject or even ignore. Characteristic of the Cartesian search for certainty, as opposed for example to some tendencies in Greek thought,...

(The entire section is 8868 words.)

Desmond M. Clarke (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Descartes' Philosophy of Science and the Scientific Revolution," in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, edited by John Cottingham, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 258–85.

[In the following essay, Clarke examines the epistemological and metaphysical underpinnings of Descartes' philosophy of science, contrasting it with scholasticism.]

Descartes' concept of science can be understood only by paying careful attention to the historical context in which it was constructed. The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century involved two related developments: a change in scientific practice (or, more accurately, a whole series of such changes) which is...

(The entire section is 10940 words.)

Jean-Marie Beyssade (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "On the Idea of God: Incomprehensibility of Incompatibilities?" translated by Charles Paul, in Essays on the Philosophy and Science of René Descartes, edited by Stephen Voss, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 85–94.

[In the essay that follows, Beyssade examines the paradoxical claims that form the basis of Descartes' metaphysics: that God is incomprehensible and that, to know anything, one must have a clear and distinct understanding of God.]

Here I would like to raise the question of the idea of God and its nature, because in the metaphysics of Descartes one thesis remains constant from his lost first draft, written in 1628–29, and because this thesis is...

(The entire section is 5301 words.)