Friday, November 13, 2009

Discourse on the Method

I came across this item in the Wikipedia the other day and thought it was well worth posting on the Joe Blow Report too.

How to think correctly

"Good sense is mankind's most equitably divided endowment. . .the differences of opinion are not due to difference in intelligence, but merely to the fact that we use different approaches and consider different things. For it is not enough to have a good mind: one must use it well."

In the "building metaphor" laid forth by Descartes, opinions and our own thoughts are the ground upon which our later perceptions are built. Descartes remarks on the sedentary nature of ideas and opinions, saying “I firmly believed that in this way I should much better succeed in the conduct of my life, than if I built only upon old foundations, and leaned upon principles which, in my youth, I had taken upon trust.” In other words, the core principle is that one must seek not only to build on old foundations of knowledge, but should look for other fertile land to build knowledge upon.

The Discourse on the Method is one of the most influential works in the history of modern science. It is a method which gives a solid platform from which all modern natural sciences could evolve.
Morals, and Maxims accepted while conducting Method
The following three maxims were adopted by Descartes so that he could effectively function in the "real world" while experimenting with his method of radical doubt. They formed a rudimentary belief system from which to act before he developed a new system based on the truths he discovered using his method.
  1. Obey the laws and customs of my country and religion
  2. Be as firm and resolute in my actions as I was able
  3. Endeavor always to conquer myself rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the world, and in general, accustom myself to the persuasion that, except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power; so that when we have done our best in things external to us, all wherein we fail of success is to be held, as regards us, absolutely impossible.
Descartes uses the analogy of tearing down the house to its foundation in order to build a secure edifice (He even extends the analogy to move next door into a house of morality, while his own house is being rebuilt). The foundation he reveals appears to have three parts.

Radical doubt and morals, something in short supply today!