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Descartes

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.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    enjoyed the session; Descartes was an important intermediate figure in western philosophy. Not the sharpest, but one of the first skeptics allowed to survive.

    March 26, 2011

  • Alex R.

    Best discussion yet. Great participation and diversity of viewpoints. I think it helped that I was able to read the material this time. Thanks everyone! This is the highlight of my month.

    March 21, 2011

  • Kyongsook K.

    It was an intellectually stimulating session to learn about such an important philosopher. I liked the way people provided ideas from different perspectives. I think the organizer led the group very well throughout the session.

    March 20, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Enjoyed revisiting this formative thinker.

    March 19, 2011

  • Alex R.

    And, Scott, just so you know- I'm actually reading the book this time!! My goal (I will have to call upon all the powers of the universe for this) is to actually be able to point to the text at least once and comment on it :)

    March 5, 2011

  • Scott

    Brian,
    Sorry, we don't have anyone taking collective notes during our meetings. I suggest you go to the links in the Descartes announcement--those articles are excellent and represent a variety of opinions.

    March 5, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Want to attend but can't.
    I'll be out of state the particular weekend this discussion occurs. Would there be a way to obtain notes from the discussion?

    March 5, 2011

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  • Scott
    Organizer,
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  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
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