The French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes challenged old ways of thinking about science. Descartes, for whom the Cartesian system of philosophy is named, argued that doubt and reason are both necessary for determining truth, and that the world and everything in it operates according to mechanical principles.

What is being expressed here?

And, in the context of this class, this is his most important thought:

By a method I mean certain and simple rules such that, if a man observe them accurately, he shall never assume what is false is true.

What is being stated here?

The Mechanical/Clockwork Universe

Descartes Method of "Reduction":

As a multitude of laws often furnishes excuses for vice, so that a state is much better governed when it has but few, and those few strictly observed, so in place of the great number of precepts of which logic is composed, I believed that I should find the following four sufficient, provided that I made a firm and constant resolve not once to omit to observe them.

Descartes' mechanical philosophy was to completely revolutionize science, and thus have far-reaching religious implications. The organic world view of Aristotelianism had been constructed in terms of sympathies, correspondences, purposes and the notion of 'form' as distinct from 'matter'. This was to be replaced with a vastly contrasting mechanical view:

In addition, Descartes argued for the conservation of motion. At creation, God had injected a certain amount of motion into the universe and this total quantity of motion had been conserved ever since.

Descartes also pronounced that a vacuum was impossible: Motion is transmitted from one object to another by contact, and there are no empty spaces between. What seems to us empty space is merely extremely extended, fine matter.

One of the most dangerous implications of Descartes' mechanical universe is that it raises sensitive questions about God's relationship to nature

What is the dangerous implication here?

As mechanical philosophy gained support in Descartes' native France, so did moves towards a centralised Government control .

Descartes' was quick to draw a parallel between the role of Ruler and Creator,

Descartes' belief in the existence of a rational human soul is based on the principle of the indivisibility of the human ego and underpinned by an unquestioning acceptance of the fundamental beliefs in one's own existence and the existence of God.

For Descartes the human body and the human mind were discrete entities. The human soul, unlike the mechanical world, was something that could not be broken down

One of the most challenging attacks on this aspect of Descartes' system was that if mind and matter are so radically different, how do they interact? Descartes' reaction to this criticism was that the pineal gland in humans formed a point of interaction between body and soul.

The inadequacy of this explanation was highlighted by the discovery that the pineal gland is also present in dogs, while Descartes had preserved the rational soul for only the human species.

the world is a Machine, but we must not forget that there is a Mechanic and that He designed the Machine for purposes which we might try to understand and that He is always present to supervise and maintain it


Summary of the Mechanical Philosophy: