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= ROOT|Philosophy|1600-1699|descartes-discourse-124.txt =

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This work is one of the most influential in history.  The famous
phrase, "COGITO ERGO SUM" (I think, therefore I am) is a central
theme.  Descartes' beliefs on that dual nature of mind and body,
and his emphasis on the role of doubt in all inquiry, formed the
basis for centuries of science and social thought.

This etext was created by Ilana and Greg Newby.  They used a Mac
IIci and Apple One Flatbed Scanner donated by Apple.  Caere text
scanning and character recognition software (OmniPage) was used.
Greg is a professor in the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in
the Grad. School of Library and Information Science.  Ilana is a
reference librarian at the Urbana Free Library.  Thanks to Apple
and Caere for their donations and to the Computer Service Office
of the University of Illinois for their unofficial support.


                           by Rene Descartes


If this Discourse appear too long to be read at once, it may be divided
into six Parts:  and, in the first, will be found various considerations
touching the Sciences; in the second, the principal rules of the Method
which the Author has discovered, in the third, certain of the rules of
Morals which he has deduced from this Method; in the fourth, the
reasonings by which he establishes the existence of God and of the Human
Soul, which are the foundations of his Metaphysic; in the fifth, the order
of the Physical questions which he has investigated, and, in particular,
the explication of the motion of the heart and of some other difficulties
pertaining to Medicine, as also the difference between the soul of man and
that of the brutes; and, in the last, what the Author believes to be
required in order to greater advancement in the investigation of Nature
than has yet been made, with the reasons that have induced him to write.


Good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed; for
every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even
who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually
desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess.  And in
this it is not likely that all are mistaken the conviction is rather to be
held as testifying that the power of judging aright and of distinguishing
truth from error, which is properly what is called  good sense or reason,
is by nature equal in all men; and that the diversity of our opinions,
consequently, does not arise from some being endowed with a larger share
of reason than others, but solely from this, that we conduct our thoughts
along different ways, and do not fix our attention on the same objects.
For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite
is rightly to apply it.  The greatest minds, as they are capable of the
highest excellences, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations; and
those who travel very slowly may yet make far greater progress, provided
they keep always to the straight road, than those who, while they run,
forsake it.

For myself, I have never fancied my mind to be in any respect more perfect
than those of the generality; on the contrary, I have often wished that I
were equal to some others in promptitude of thought, or in clearness and
distinctness of imagination, or in fullness and readiness of memory.  And
besides these, I know of no other qualities that contribute to the
perfection of the mind; for as to the reason or sense, inasmuch as it is
that alone which constitutes us men, and distinguishes us from the brutes,
I am disposed to believe that it is to be found complete in each
individual; and on this point to adopt the common opinion of philosophers,
who say that the difference of greater and less holds only among the
accidents, and not among the forms or natures of individuals of the same

I will not hesitate, however, to avow my belief that it has been my
singular good  fortune to have very early in life fallen in with certain
tracks which have conducted me to considerations and maxims, of which I
have formed a method that gives me the means, as I think, of gradually
augmenting my knowledge, and of raising it by little and little to the
highest point which the mediocrity of my talents and the brief duration of
my life will permit me to reach.  For I have already reaped from it such
fruits that, although I have been accustomed to think lowly enough of
myself, and although when I look with the eye of a philosopher at the
varied courses and pursuits of mankind at large, I find scarcely one which
does not appear in vain and useless, I nevertheless derive the highest
satisfaction from the progress I conceive myself to have already made in
the search after truth, and cannot help entertaining such expectations of
the future as to believe that if, among the occupations of men as men, there
is any one really excellent and important, it is that which I have chosen.

After all, it is possible I may be mistaken; and it is but a little
copper and glass, perhaps, that I take for gold and diamonds.  I know how
very liable we are to delusion in what relates to ourselves, and also how
much the judgments of our friends are to be suspected when given in our
favor.  But I shall endeavor in this discourse to describe the paths I
have followed, and to delineate my life as in a picture, in order that
each one may also be able to judge of them for himself, and that in the
general opinion entertained of them, as gathered from current report, I
myself may have a new help towards instruction to be added to those I have
been in the habit of employing.

My present design, then, is not to teach the method which each ought to
follow for the right conduct of his reason, but solely to describe the way

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