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Ideas of René Descartes, by Text

[French, 1596 - 1650, Born at La Haye. Pupil at Jesuit College. Lived mostly in Holland. Died working for Queen Christina in Stockholm.]

1628 Rules for the Direction of the Mind
Rule II p.8 In pursuing truth, anything less certain than mathematics is a waste of time
1631 The World
p.18 Our sensation of light may not be the same as what produces the sensation
p.234 Descartes said there was conservation of 'quantity of motion' [Papineau]
9:25-6 p.10 The Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry of the philosophers need themselves to be explained
1637 A Discourse on Method
§1.2 p.27 Slow and accurate thought makes the greatest progress
§1.3 p.28 Most things in human life seem vain and useless
§1.8 p.31 Greeks elevate virtues enormously, but never explain them
§2.16 p.39 Almost every daft idea has been expressed by some philosopher
§2.18 p.41 Methodical thinking is cautious, analytical, systematic, and panoramic [PG]
§3.22 p.45 When rebuilding a house, one needs alternative lodgings
§3.23 p.46 We can believe a thing without knowing we believe it
§3.23 p.73 In morals Descartes accepts the conventional, but rejects it in epistemology [Roochnik]
§3.29 p.50 I was searching for reliable rock under the shifting sand
§4.32 p.53 In thinking everything else false, my own existence remains totally certain
§4.32 p.54 I can deny my body and the world, but not my own existence
§4.33 p.54 I am a thinking substance, which doesn't need a place or material support
§4.33 p.54 Truth is clear and distinct conception - of which it is hard to be sure
§4.37 p.58 Understanding, rather than imagination or senses, gives knowledge
§4.38 p.58 Clear and distinct conceptions are true because a perfect God exists
§5.56 p.74 A machine could speak in response to physical stimulus, but not hold a conversation
§5.57 p.74 Reason is universal in its responses, but a physical machine is constrained by its organs
§5.58 p.75 Little reason is needed to speak, so animals have no reason at all
§5.59 p.76 The soul must unite with the body to have appetites and sensations
§6.64 p.80 I aim to find the principles and causes of everything, using the seeds within my mind
§6.65 p.81 Only experiments can settle disagreements between rival explanations
pt 5 p.321 God has established laws throughout nature, and implanted ideas of them within us
1640 Letters to Mersenne
1640.02.24 p.92 I can't prove the soul is indestructible, only that it is separate from the mortal body
1641.01.28 p.96 My Meditations are the complete foundation of my physics
1642 p.6 Truth is such a transcendentally clear notion that it cannot be further defined
1640 Letters to Voetius
VIIIB:174 p.433 Atheism is an atrocious and intolerable crime in any country
1641 Reply to First Objections
p.150 I can't be unaware of anything which is in me
106 p.87 We can't prove a first cause from our inability to grasp infinity
108 p.88 Essence must be known before we discuss existence
1641 Reply to Second Objections
140 p.68 The Cogito is not a syllogism but a self-evident intuition
1641 Reply to Fourth Objections
225 p.111 The concept of mind excludes body, and vice versa
1641 Reply to Fifth Objections
360 p.72 Knowing the attributes is enough to reveal a substance
362 p.79 Our thinking about external things doesn't disprove the existence of innate ideas
363 p.79 A blind man may still contain the idea of colour
383 p.97 Possible existence is a perfection in the idea of a triangle
383 p.97 Necessary existence is a property which is uniquely part of God's essence
1641 Reply to Sixth Objections
432 p.93 Ideas in God's mind only have value if he makes it so
439 p.65 Only judgement decides which of our senses are reliable
444 p.115 Two things being joined together doesn't prove they are the same
1641 Meditations
p.-5 Descartes impoverished the classical idea of logos, and it no longer covered human experience [Roochnik]
p.11 Interaction between mental and physical seems to violate the principle of conservation of energy [Rowlands]
p.15 For Descartes, objects have one primary quality, which is geometrical [Robinson,H]
p.55 Modern philosophy set the self-conscious ego in place of God [Feuerbach]
p.96 Since Plato all philosophers have followed the herd, except Descartes, stuck in superficial reason [Nietzsche]
p.156 Descartes created the modern view of rationality, as an internal feature instead of an external vision [Taylor,C]
p.279 Modern science comes from Descartes' view that knowledge doesn't need moral purity [Foucault]
p.362 Descartes gives an essence by an encapsulating formula [Almog]
(VII:30-1) p.138 If we remove surface qualities from wax, we have an extended, flexible, changeable thing
§1 p.6 Descartes can't begin again, because sceptics doubt cognitive processes as well as beliefs [Pollock/Cruz]
§1 p.76 Descartes tried to model reason on maths instead of 'logos' [Roochnik]
§1 p.110 Arithmetic and geometry achieve some certainty without worrying about existence
§1.17 p.72 Labelling slightly doubtful things as false is irrational [Roochnik]
§1.17 p.95 To achieve good science we must rebuild from the foundations
§1.18 p.63 The senses can only report, so perception errors are in the judgment [Gassendi]
§1.18 p.64 We correct sense errors with other senses, not intellect [Mersenne]
§1.18 p.95 Reason says don't assent to uncertain principles, just as much as totally false ones
§1.18 p.96 It is prudent never to trust your senses if they have deceived you even once
§1.20 p.97 Even if my body and objects are imaginary, there may be simpler things which are true
§1.20 p.98 Surely maths is true even if I am dreaming?
§1.21 p.98 God may have created nothing, but made his creation appear to me as it does now
§1.22 p.100 To achieve full scepticism, I imagine a devil who deceives me about the external world and my own body and senses
§2 p.44 "I think therefore I am" is the absolute truth of consciousness [Sartre]
§2 p.45 We discovers others as well as ourselves in the Cogito [Sartre]
§2.24 p.102 Only one certainty is needed for progress (like a lever's fulcrum)
§2.24 p.102 Maybe there is only one certain fact, which is that nothing is certain
§2.24 p.103 I myself could be the author of all these self-delusions
§2.25 p.103 "I am, I exist" is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind
§2.25 p.103 I must even exist if I am being deceived by something
§2.26 p.8 The Cogito proves subjective experience is basic, but makes false claims about the Self [Russell]
§2.26 p.8 The thing which experiences may be momentary, and change with the next experience [Russell]
§2.26 p.28 'I think' assumes I exist, that thinking is known and caused, and that I am doing it [Nietzsche]
§2.26 p.50 It is a precondition of the use of the word 'I' that I exist [Ayer]
§2.26 p.62 Maybe 'I' am not the thinker, but something produced by thought [Nietzsche]
§2.26 p.63 A thought doesn't imply other thoughts, or enough thoughts to make up a self [Ayer]
§2.26 p.69 The Cogito only works if you already understand what thought and existence are [Mersenne]
§2.26 p.70 That I perform an activity (thinking) doesn't prove what type of thing I am [Hobbes]
§2.26 p.78 The Cogito is a transcendental argument, not a piece of a priori knowledge [Rey]
§2.26 p.109 Autistic children seem to use the 'I' concept without seeing themselves as thinkers [Segal]
§2.26 p.268 The Cogito assumes a priori the existence of substance, when actually it is a grammatical custom [Nietzsche]
§2.26 p.414 How can we infer that all thinking involves self-consciousness, just from my own case? [Kant]
§2.26 p.419 My self is not an inference from 'I think', but a presupposition of it [Kant]
§2.26 p.440 We cannot give any information a priori about the nature of the 'thing that thinks' [Kant]
§2.26 p.446 The fact that I am a subject is not enough evidence to show that I am a substantial object [Kant]
§2.27 p.70 The 'thinking thing' may be the physical basis of the mind [Hobbes]
§2.27 p.105 If I don't think, there is no reason to think that I exist
§2.29 p.107 My perceiving of things may be false, but my seeming to perceive them cannot be false
§2.31 p.77 Substance cannot be conceived or explained to others [Gassendi]
§2.31 p.110 The wax is not perceived by the senses, but by the mind alone
§2.32 p.77 Dogs can make the same judgements as us about variable things [Gassendi]
§2.32 p.110 We don't 'see' men in heavy clothes, we judge them to be men
§2.34 p.112 We perceive objects by intellect, not by senses or imagination
§3.35 p.113 My general rule is that everything that I perceive clearly and distinctly is true
§3.36 p.49 Someone may think a thing is 'clear and distinct', but be wrong [Leibniz]
§3.37 p.114 In some thoughts I grasp a subject, but also I will or fear or affirm or deny it
§3.37 p.114 True ideas are images, such as of a man, a chimera, or God
§3.38 p.78 All ideas are adventitious, and come from the senses [Gassendi]
§3.42 p.120 One idea leads to another, but there must be an initial idea that contains the reality of all the others
§3.44 p.123 I can learn the concepts of duration and number just from observing my own thoughts
§3.45 p.123 God the creator is an intelligent, infinite, powerful substance
§3.49 p.127 Some cause must unite the separate temporal sections of a person
§3.49 p.128 There must be at least as much in the cause as there is in the effect
§3.51 p.130 The idea of God in my mind is like the mark a craftsman puts on his work
§3.51 p.130 The ideas of God and of my self are innate in me
§3.52 p.131 It is self-evident that deception is a natural defect, so God could not be a deceiver
§4.53 p.132 The mind is a non-extended thing which thinks
§4.54 p.133 Since God does not wish to deceive me, my judgement won't make errors if I use it properly
§4.54 p.134 Error arises because my faculty for judging truth is not infinite
§4.55 p.135 If we ask whether God's works are perfect, we must not take a narrow viewpoint, but look at the universe as a whole
§4.55 p.135 Many causes are quite baffling, so it is absurd to deduce causes from final purposes
§4.56 p.136 My capacity to make choices with my free will extends as far as any faculty ever could
§4.57 p.136 Our 'will' just consists of the feeling that when we are motivated to do something, there are no external pressures
§4.58 p.91 God didn't give us good judgement even about our own lives [Gassendi]
§4.58 p.137 I make errors because my will extends beyond my understanding
§5.64 p.143 I can think of innumerable shapes I have never experienced
§5.64 p.143 A triangle has a separate non-invented nature, shown by my ability to prove facts about it
§5.65 p.80 We mustn't worship God as an image because we have no idea of him [Hobbes]
§5.65 p.81 We can never conceive of an infinite being [Gassendi]
§5.65 p.144 The idea of a supremely perfect being is within me, like the basic concepts of mathematics
§5.66 p.145 Existence and God's essence are inseparable, like a valley and a mountain, or a triangle and its properties
§5.67 p.76 Descartes cannot assume that a most perfect being exists without contradictions [Leibniz]
§5.67 p.96 Existence is not a perfection; it is what makes perfection possible [Gassendi]
§5.67 p.145 I cannot think of a supremely perfect being without the supreme perfection of existence
§5.68 p.147 Nothing apart from God could have essential existence, and such a being must be unique and eternal
§5.70 p.149 Once it is clear that there is a God who is no deceiver, I conclude that clear and distinct perceptions must be true
§5.71 p.106 It is circular to make truth depend on believing God's existence is true [Arnauld]
§5.71 p.240 Descartes is right that in the Christian view only God can guarantee the reliability of senses [Nietzsche]
§6.73 p.151 Imagination and sensation are non-essential to mind
§6.75 p.153 I can only sense an object if it is present, and can't fail to sense it when it is
§6.76 p.154 Why does pain make us sad?
§6.77 p.155 If pain is felt in a lost limb, I cannot be certain that a felt pain exists in my real limbs
§6.78 p.29 Knowing different aspects of brain/mind doesn't make them different [Rorty]
§6.78 p.86 Descartes gives no clear criterion for individuating mental substances [Cottingham]
§6.78 p.109 Pythagoras' Theorem doesn't cease to be part of the essence of triangles just because we doubt it [Arnauld]
§6.78 p.156 If I can separate two things in my understanding, then God can separate them in reality
§6.78 p.156 Since I only observe myself to be thinking, I conclude that that is my essence
§6.78 p.156 Mind is not extended, unlike the body
§6.78 p.157 I can exist without imagination and sensing, but they can't exist without me
§6.78 p.211 Descartes is a substance AND property dualist [Kim]
§6.82 p.160 We know by thought that what is done cannot be undone
§6.82 p.246 Can the pineal gland be moved more slowly or quickly by the mind than by animal spirits? [Spinoza]
§6.82 p.246 Does Descartes have a clear conception of how mind unites with body? [Spinoza]
§6.85 p.164 The mind is utterly indivisible
§6.86 p.164 Faculties of the mind aren't parts, as one mind uses them
§6.89 p.168 Waking actions are joined by memory to all our other actions, unlike actions of which we dream
2 p.26 For Descartes a person's essence is the mind because objects are perceived by mind, not senses [Feuerbach]
2 p.31 Descartes transformed 'God is thinkable, so he exists' into 'I think, so I exist' [Feuerbach]
2 p.40 Descartes' claim to know his existence before his essence is misleading or absurd [Lowe]
2 p.55 Modern self-consciousness is a doubtful abstraction; only senses and feelings are certain [Feuerbach]
2 p.67 Descartes put thought at the centre of the mind problem, but we put sensation [Rey]
2 p.116 In the Meditations version of the Cogito he says "I am; I exist", which avoids presenting it as an argument [Baggini /Fosl]
4 p.159 Descartes mentions many cognitive faculties, but reduces them to will and intellect [Schmid]
6 p.51 Even Descartes may concede that mental supervenes on neuroanatomical [Lycan]
IV p.63 Belief is not an intellectual state or act, because propositions are affirmed or denied by the will [Zagzebski]
p.156 p.55 Superman's strength is indubitable, Clark Kent's is doubtful, so they are not the same? [Maslin]
1642 Letter to Mersenne
p.20 The more reasons that compel me, the freer I am
1642 Letters to Regius
1642.01 p.267 Substantial forms are not understood, and explain nothing
III:493 p.601 An angelic mind would not experience pain, even when connected to a human body [Pasnau]
1643 works
p.18 Descartes showed a one-one order-preserving match between points on a line and the real numbers [Hart,WD]
p.21 Descartes said images can refer to objects without resembling them (as words do) [Tuck]
p.124 Nature is devoid of thought [Meillassoux]
p.131 Descartes discussed the interaction problem, and compared it with gravity [Lycan]
p.160 We have inner awareness of our freedom
p.219 Matter can't just be Descartes's geometry, because a filler of the spaces is needed [Robinson,H]
p.604 Descartes thinks distinguishing substances from aggregates is pointless [Pasnau]
1644 Comments on a Certain Broadsheet
p.365 p.365 The mind's innate ideas are part of its capacity for thought
p.365 p.365 Qualia must be innate, because physical motions do not contain them
p.366 p.366 What experience could prove 'If a=c and b=c then a=b'?
1645 Letters to Antoine Arnauld
p.33 It is possible that an omnipotent God might make one and two fail to equal three
1646 Principles of Philosophy
Pref p.222 We can know basic Principles without further knowledge, but not the other way round
Pref p.223 The greatest good for a state is true philosophers
Pref p.226 Total doubt can't include your existence while doubting
§28 p.238 We will not try to understand natural or divine ends, or final causes
2.4 p.74 Matter is not hard, heavy or coloured, but merely extended in space
2.64 p.164 Physics only needs geometry or abstract mathematics, which can explain and demonstrate everything
I.07 p.232 I think, therefore I am, because for a thinking thing to not exist is a contradiction
I.09 p.232 'Thought' is all our conscious awareness, including feeling as well as understanding
I.33 p.239 Most errors of judgement result from an inaccurate perception of the facts
I.37 p.240 The greatest perfection of man is to act by free will, and thus merit praise or blame
I.37 p.240 We do not praise the acts of an efficient automaton, as their acts are necessary
I.39 p.241 Our free will is so self-evident to us that it must be a basic innate idea
I.48 p.243 There are two ultimate classes of existence: thinking substance and extended substance
I.49 p.243 'Nothing comes from nothing' is an eternal truth found within the mind
I.51 p.244 A substance needs nothing else in order to exist
I.52 p.136 If we perceive an attribute, we infer the existence of some substance
I.53 p.145 A substance has one principal property which is its nature and essence
I.53 p.245 We can understand thinking occuring without imagination or sensation
I.59 p.246 Five universals: genus, species, difference, property, accident
I.59 p.246 A universal is a single idea applied to individual things that are similar to one another
I.60 p.247 In thinking we shut ourselves off from other substances, showing our identity and separateness
I.60 p.247 Even if tightly united, mind and body are different, as God could separate them
IV.187 p.540 All powers can be explained by obvious features like size, shape and motion of matter
1647 Preface to 'Principles of Philosophy'
p.28 Metaphysics is the roots of the tree of science
p.177 p.177 Understanding, not the senses, gives certainty
p.180 p.180 I know the truth that God exists and is the author of truth
p.180 p.180 Atheism arises from empiricism, because God is intangible
1649 unfinished dialogue
p.7 All items of possible human knowledge are interconnected, and can be reached by inference
1649 Two letters on mind
Feb 1649 p.157 Incorporeal substances are powers or forces [Pasnau]
More, Apr 1649 p.318 Impenetrability only belongs to the essence of extension
1649 The Passions of the Soul
p.150 For Descartes passions are God-given preservers of the mind-body union [Taylor,C]
p.153 Descartes makes strength of will the central virtue [Taylor,C]
p.172 Are there a few primary passions (say, joy, sadness and desire)? [Cottingham]
§31 p.307 The pineal gland links soul to body, and unites the two symmetrical sides of the body [PG]
18 p.8 Merely willing to walk leads to our walking
I.5 p.572 We don't die because the soul departs; the soul departs because the organs cease functioning