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Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy [Paperback]

By Rene Descartes (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   136
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.46 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 9, 2007
ISBN  9562915573  
EAN  9789562915571  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This new edition contains Donald Cress's completely revised translation of the Meditations (from the corrected Latin edition) and recent corrections to Discourse on Method, bringing this version even closer to Descartes's original, while maintaining the clear and accessible style of a classic teaching edition.

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More About Rene Descartes

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Rene Descartes(1596-1650), French philosopher and mathematician, is generally regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.
Desmond Clarkeis professor of philosophy at Unviersity College, Cork."

Rene Descartes was born in 1596 and died in 1650.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Cart was put before the horse  Sep 9, 2007
Rene Descartes can go to a circle in hades for his mathmatics but his discourse on religion was flawed he had to first prove to himself he existed before he could prove God existed, there is the rub. He is justly regarded as the Father of Modern Philosophy because of the questions and problems he created. He helped to distinquish philosophy from science, which is a saving grace. This is a great addition to any library, since it serves to illustrate the evolution of philosophy in our civilization. I would also recommend Deism In American Thought by Woodbridge Riley and of course the Age of Reason by Thomas Paine.
It is what it is...I recommend a book with more commentary for beginners  May 29, 2007
The bare translation...with little to no commentary. It's cheap, though.
Rene Descarte  Mar 27, 2007
This is an excellent book with good reading and meditations to just sit back relax and enjoy.
Readable translation of two seminal works of philosophy  Mar 6, 2007
This is a review of the Donald A. Cress translation of Discouse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes.

Philosophers disagree about everything: except about the fact that modern philosophy begins with Descartes. No contemporary philosophers agree with Descartes' positive views. However, Descartes left Western philosophy with a series of puzzles that it continues to wrestle with: how is it possible to know anything? (Descartes' "dream argument" and "evil genius" argument are powerful sources of philosophical skepticism.) What is the relationship between mind and body? (Descartes argues that there is a fundamental metaphysical difference between the two, so they cannot be identical.) Is there some certain, indubitable foundation for knowledge? (Descartes thought that we need one to escape doubt, and that he could provide it.)

Some historical context helps to explain certain features of his writing. In 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated, beginning the Protestant Reformation and dividing Christianity. Luther encouraged Christians to read the Bible translated into their own languages (e.g., the King James Bible) and use their own individual judgment to interpret it. In 1543, on his deathbed, Copernicus published his book arguing that the sun was the center of the solar system, not the earth (as had been taught by Aristotle). In 1633, Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to renounce his defense of the Copernican hypothesis.

Given the sharp intellectual controversies of his era, it is not surprising that Descartes says he has "realized how numerous were the false opinions that in my youth I had taken to be true, and thus how doubtful were all those that I had subsequently built upon them" (59). Descartes concludes that the only way to escape his doubts is to reconstruct his beliefs using his own reason, rather than relying on traditional views. In this respect, he is somewhat like Luther. However, mindful of what happened to Galileo, Descartes begins the Meditations with a letter to the Faculty of Sacred Theology in Paris, defending the orthodoxy of his views and pleading for their support. In addition, Descartes wrote the Discourse in French (his own vernacular), but wrote the Meditations in Latin (the language of the Church), "lest weaker minds be in a position to think that they too ought to set out on this path" that he has followed (51).

If you are going to read only one work by Descartes, I recommend the Meditations. (However, you might want to quickly read Part 4 of the Discourse first, since it gives an overview of the whole Meditations.) In the Meditations, Descartes decides that, paradoxically, the only way to overcome his doubts is to doubt everything that can be doubted, until he finds something absolutely certain, upon which he can build up knowledge. (Descartes is therefore an epistemological foundationalist.) Descartes notes that his senses sometimes deceive him. Furthermore, for all he knows, he is merely dreaming right now that he has a body and is sitting in a room writing. It is hard to maintain such doubts, so Descartes resolves to pretend that an "evil genius, supremely powerful and clever," is attempting to deceive him at every step of the way. Descartes ends his First Meditation in this pit of uncertainty.

In the Second Meditation, Descartes realizes that, even if he is mistaken about everything, he still has to think to be deceived, and if he thinks, then he exists. (In Part Four of the Discourse, he phrases this concisely as "I think, therefore I am.") Descartes then realizes that, while he can conceive of himself as a thinking thing without a body, he cannot conceive of himself as a body that never thinks. So while he may, in fact, have a body, his body and his mind are metaphysically distinct. (Basically, since he can conceive of body and mind as separate, therefore they are, in principle, separate.) Thus, Descartes is a metaphysical dualist.

In the Third Meditation, Descartes argues that God exists. He gives a version of the ontological argument for the existence of God (defended before Descartes by St. Anselm, criticized after Descartes by Kant, and still later resurrected by Alvin Plantinga). Contemporary readers, even ones who believe in God, are unlikely to find Descartes' argument here compelling, but it is an important part of his philosophy. Descartes argues that, since we know that God exists, and since we know that God is all good, we can be sure that our senses and our reason are not fundamentally deceptive. (Why would an all-good God make us prone to systematic mistakes?)

But the Third Meditation suggests a puzzle: since God created us, and God is all-good, why do we humans EVER make mistakes? Descartes' answer in the Fourth Meditation is that belief requires both the intellect, which simply perceives ideas, and the will, which chooses whether to believe those ideas. So long as we only choose to believe ideas that we "clearly and distinctly" (87) perceive, we will only believe what is true. Error occurs when we precipitately choose to believe unclear or confused ideas. (Part Two of the Discourse describes the methodology Descartes recommends in a bit more detail.) This may seem like a trivial claim, but Descartes is actually arguing for something controversial (and probably false): we can and should withhold belief from anything of which we are not absolutely certain, and so long as we use our minds correctly, we can be guaranteed to never believe anything false.

The Fifth Meditation gives an alternative formulation of the ontological argument for the existence of God, and suggests that some ideas (such as those of mathematical objects) are innate, so that, "when I first discover them, it seems I am not so much learning something new as recalling something I knew beforehand" (88).

Finally, in the Sixth Meditation, Descartes turns to material objects and sensory knowledge. His general conclusion is that "I must not rashly admit everything that I seem to derive from the senses; but neither, for that matter, should I call everything into doubt" (97). In general, Descartes is concerned in this meditation with how we can have a God-given faculty for discovering the truth, yet so often be in error over sensory matters (e.g., the Sun appearing to be the size of a fist).

I do not read French or Latin myself, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation. However, I will say that it is very readable. Furthermore, the selected bibliography is helpful. I do miss three things that were left out of this translation, though. First, Descartes meant for the Meditations to be read along with a series of "Objections" written by his correspondents and "Replies" he wrote in response. Second, perhaps the most insightful critic of Descartes was Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, who raised in correspondence what is still generally considered one of the strongest objections to Descartes' dualism: how can soul and body interact if they are as radically distinct as Descartes suggests? Finally, Descartes' Fourth Meditation emphasizes the distinction between having a property "formally" and "eminently." In Cress's original translation of the Meditations, he has a footnote explaining this distinction. That footnote was left out of this enlarged edition. If these three things were included in this translation, I think I would give it five stars instead of four.
Overly repetitious  Dec 6, 2006
Descartes seems like the sort of guy who likes the sound of his own voice, not unlike a philosophy professor! He has only a handful of points, a few of them interesting but the majority pure academic fluff, and he spends over 100 pages just reiterating his ideas and logic behind them. It seemed like a modern editor would read the manuscript, and whittle it down to a maximum of 25 pages. I am not surprised that various classes on philosophy only use excerpts of Descartes' work.

I would HIGHLY recommend instead buying an analysis of Descartes' works so that you can alternate back and forth between his original writings and commentary on these writings, as well as responses by other philosophers like Pascal.

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