View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

Descartes, Rene (1596-1650)

French philosopher and natural scientist. He is often said to be father of modern philosophy. Descartes shifts attention from the question of what is the nature of what we know, to can I know anything at all for sure? The legacy of this is that modern philosophy effectively still deals with problems set by Descartes. In terms of scientific achievements he is the first to provide full world picture to challenge (and replace) Scholasticism. It is a fully mechanistic schema - including biological phenomena.

Cartesian thought holds that there are two worlds, one of mental objects and one of material things, including animals and human bodies. The mental objects are states of consciousness (e.g. pains, fear, joy, experiences), the material objects are more or less ‘bits of clockwork’. Mental states and states of the body are logically independent but causally interrelated: causal interaction is like glue, bonding mind to body in each individual person. The veracity of all our ideas in this system is guaranteed by God’s existence and goodness. His modern-day critics see him as the exponent par excellence of dualism, but contemporary scholarship is presently engaged in the task of trying to separate the man and his ideas from the caricature that has been assembled of him in the history of Western philosophy.

He was schooled at a Jesuit college called La Fleche, after this he joined the army and travelled around Europe. He had a revelation in 'well heated room' and decided to take up philosophy in a serious manner. Legend tells of his habit to meditate in bed until noon. In 1649, he took up a position with Queen Christina in Stockholm, but died of pneumonia.

His main works include: ‘The World’ (Le Monde), 1634; ‘Discourse on Method’, 1637; ‘Meditations’, 1642; ‘Principles of Philosophy’, 1644.

Contributed by: Richard P Whaite

Related Topics:

To return to the previous topic, click on your browser's 'Back' button.

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.