In the coming months we will examine two philosophical schools dominant during the 17th and 18th centuries: Rationalism and Empiricism. The Rationalists believed that truth could be deduced primarily from logical analysis; not surprisingly, many of them were mathematicians who at times appropriated mathematical formats or terminology to advance their arguments. The Empiricists, on the other hand, believed that knowledge is derived largely from our senses and because those senses are imperfect, so is the knowledge . The leading representatives of Rationalism were Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz; the major Empiricists were Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
For this meetup we will be discussing Descarte's Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. If you don't yet have your own copies of these works, an inexpensive way to acquire them, as well as those for the other Rationalists we will be reading, is to purchase The Rationalists: Descartes: Discourse on Method & Meditations; Spinoza: Ethics; Leibniz: Monadology & Discourse on Metaphysics. Anchor Press, 1960 (reprint of 1929 edition). It is available from amazon.com for $11.53 and $8.50 (new) and $5.45 (used).
The following resources are useful for background information, commentary, and bibliographies:
"Rational vs Empiricism" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"René Descartes" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"René Descartes: The Mind-Body Distinction" in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"René Descartes: Scientific Method" in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Alex Gillespie. "Descartes' Demon: A Dialogical Analysis of Meditations on First Philosophy". Theory & Psychology 16:6 (2009).
Lex Newman. "Descartes' Rationalist Epistemology." In A Companion to Rationalism, ed. Alan Nelson. Blackwell, 2005.