Reading Questions for 9/9: Descartes’ Discourse on Method and Meditations

For Wednesday, 9/9, Read:

  • René Descartes, Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences (1637) (A & W, pp. 25-34)
  • René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) Letter of Dedication, Preface, and Synopsis (A & W, pp. 35-40)

Be ready to discuss the following questions:

  1. What does Descartes start off claiming to be “the best distributed thing in the world”? Why does it appear that way?
  2. What is the point of his going through the various stages of his education and what he learned from various kinds of study?
  3. What decision allowed him to free himself “little by little” from errors and obstacles to learning?
  4. From where does he derive the method he outlines with his four rules?
  5. What is it that following this method is supposed to promise?
  6. What are the two central issues that Descartes claims “are chief among those that ought to be demonstrated with the aid of philosophy rather than theology”? Why does he think this is the case?
  7. What advice do we find Descartes giving to his readers? Are you up to the task? Why or why not?

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