Thursday, 20 October 2011

Some Brief Thoughts on Descartes

The topic of the great philosopher, Descartes, leads on nicely from my previous blog.

Now, 'The Wise Man and the Foolish Man' - as I said, this was a Christian chorus that I used to sing as a child at church.

So, what was the message in this Chorus? Well, that the Wise Man aimed to lead a good life, and to follow and pursue goodness, so his house was solid. But the Foolish Man was not pursuing that, so his house fell down. (bit sexist all this 'Wise Man' and 'Foolish Man' stuff - but won't pursue that one right now!).

Now, Descartes. The only subject that all 5 of us (Glenn, Alexander, Victor and Gregory and myself) have studied so far is Philosophy and guess what - yes, we have all read and studied some Descartes. I read Descartes as part of my Prelims at UEA when I was just 18 years old.

Now, Descartes has often been called 'the father of modern philosophy' - so he has to be taken seriously, does he not.

All of us (apart from Victor) have also all read Descartes 'The Meditations' but the other day, our youngest son, Gregory, decided to re-read it, and persuaded me to re-read it (which I am currently still reading). I have also just read Descartes 'Discourse on the Method of Properly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking the Truth in the Sciences'.

I will probably write more about all this later, but for now, I just wanted to draw attention to why Descartes argues for the existence of God - as this leads on nicely from 'The Wise Man' and his pursuit of goodness.

Descartes starts by doubting everything and then famously says, of course:

"I think, therefore I am."

However, he points out in Discourse that " was a greater perfection to know than to doubt..." (p.55 in Penguin edition, 1968) and that the fact that he doubted his existence at all, showed that he was imperfect.

And yet, he has some notion of perfection and he says:

"...I decided to inquire whence I had learned to think of some thing more perfect than myself; and I clearly recognised that this must have been from some nature which was in fact more perfect." (p. 55)

So, the idea of perfection:

"...must have been put into me by a being whose nature was truly more perfect than mine and which even had in itself all the perfections of which I could have any idea, that is to say, in a single word, which was God." (p.55)

Now, I am someone that rejected religion many years ago, but various circumstances and changes in ones life and around one lead one to continually think and re-evaluate. I seek the truth, knowledge and wisdom - as Descartes did. And within this, my aim is also to make some break-throughs in my own thinking and writing.

So, we ponder and we think on.

But at this point I would once again, like to give great praise and credit to these great philosophers, who help us to get away from the rubbish and to think clearly and coherently. I do not know how some people manage to get by in life without reading and thinking about some of these great philosophers. But there you go.

Over the last couple of years or so, I have been really influenced, helped and inspired by 4 great philosophers, in particular - Marx (as always), Wittgenstein, Sartre and now Descartes.

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