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eBook Cogito, Ergo Sum: The Life of Rene Descartes epub

by Richard A. Watson

eBook Cogito, Ergo Sum: The Life of Rene Descartes epub
  • ISBN: 1567921841
  • Author: Richard A. Watson
  • Genre: Biographies
  • Subcategory: Arts & Literature
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: David R Godine Pub; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Pages: 384 pages
  • ePUB size: 1516 kb
  • FB2 size 1103 kb
  • Formats lit txt azw rtf


René Descartes is the philosophical architect of our modern world. So for an insight into Western Europe in the 17th century, and the events surrounding the life of René Descartes, I would recommend this book highly.

René Descartes is the philosophical architect of our modern world. In metaphysics, he established the view that mind and body are distinct substances. Descartes: A Very Short Introduction Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry.

Rene Descartes is the philosophical architect of our modern world. In metaphysics, he established the view that mind and body are distinct substances, a position foundational for any belief that the human soul is immortal. In mathematics, he invented analytic geometry - the basis of calculus - which makes physics as we know it possible. Descartes perfected the method of proposing and testing hypotheses with experiments that anyone can repeat, which forms the basis of modern science. In optics, he discovered and described laws of refraction and reflection.

Watson, Richard . 1931-. Descartes, René, 1596-1650, Philosophers. Boston : David R. Godine. Books for People with Print Disabilities. Internet Archive Books. Uploaded by Tracey Gutierres on November 13, 2015. SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata).

Cogito, Ergo Sum book. Descartes's motto was that a life well hidden is well lived  . It is also explicitly the life of Descartes, in the flesh and blood, not a compendium of technical analyses of philosophical positions found in "life and works" biographies so dear to contemporary professional philosophers. Cogito Ergo Sum is certain to be the standard life of Descartes against which all future biographies will be judged.

His book, Cogito, Ergo Sum: a life of René Descartes is a travelogue in the form of following Descartes's travels around Europe. Richard A. Watson's publications include the following books and articles

His book, Cogito, Ergo Sum: a life of René Descartes is a travelogue in the form of following Descartes's travels around Europe. It was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of its "25 Books to Remember from 2002. Watson's publications include the following books and articles: Cogito, Ergo Sum: a life of Rene Descartes.

In Cogito Ergo Sum, Richard Watson, a distinguished Cartesian scholar and a former professor of philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, takes us on a grand journey across Europe as he follows in the footsteps of Rene Descartes, the Father of Modern Philosophy.

Similar books and articles. Zu René Descartes' „Cogito, Ergo Sum. Johannes Dräseke - 1920 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 32 (1):48-55. Patrick Gerard Henry - 2002 - Philosophy and Literature 26 (2):465-468. Dennis des Chene - 2005 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 43 (1):113-115. III. Tom Sorell - 1987 - New York ;Oxford University Press. Descartes: A Very Short Introduction. Tom Sorell - 1987 - Oxford University Press. In metaphysics, he established the view that mind and body are distinct substances, which is foundational for any belief that the human soul is immortal. In mathematics, he invented analytic geometry the basis of calculus which makes physics as we know.

Probably the strangest biography of the year, this volume is the product of more than forty years of obsession by Watson, a professor of philosophy at Washington University, in St. Louis.

Rene Descartes is the philosophical architect of our modern world. In metaphysics, he established the view that mind and body are distinct substances, a position foundational for any belief that the human soul is immortal. In mathematics, he invented analytic geometry - the basis of calculus - which makes physics as we know it possible. Descartes perfected the method of proposing and testing hypotheses with experiments that anyone can repeat, which forms the basis of modern science. In optics, he discovered and described laws of refraction and reflection. In medicine, he was a pioneer in vivisection and anatomical description for understanding the human body. In physiology, his analysis of the relations among the sense organs, nerves, and the brain is still taught today. In psychology, he discovered conditioned reflexes and investigated the role of the emotions in human behavior. Descartes said there was no point in trying to refute Aristotelian Scholasticism; rather, he would simply show a better way. Some 350 years after his death, our twenty-first-century world - from mind-body dualism to heart pumps, from pop psychology to personal computers - is thoroughly Cartesian. Nothing in the modern world would alarm or surprise him were he alive today.
Comments: (7)
hulk
When I purchased this book, I was afraid it might be overly academic and a bit "dry" for me (I admit it, I'm mostly a fiction reader). However, I found it to be very engaging. I loved the way the author used personal asides and light humor to make the story more readable, and I also liked the way he used his own travel experiences to add extra "flavor". I'd recommend this book to anyone who'd like to learn about DeCartes, even (more mature)high schoolers.
Xig
This is truly a dreadful book.

The author attempts to do something loosely along the lines of Samuel Eliot Morison's "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," a fascinating, though dated, book that combines Morison's knowledge of the sea and sailing with a biography of Columbus. The author of "Cogito Ergo Sum," however, fails entirely.

In Wilson's effort - a very thin volume for a book purporting to be a biography of a major intellectual figure - we read almost as much about Wilson and his wife touring locations in Europe as we do about Descartes. The result is something a little like a poorly written script for one of those old corny school film strips.

Wilson never comes to grips with what makes Descartes great, and the vocabulary he uses - when he isn't saying things like "Gee!" or "Awesome!" - is that tiresome, annoying one typical of American social science academics of the second or third order.

The book actually contains errors regarding the period that even an amateur can spot.

This book is recommended only to be avoided.
Rko
Cogito Ergo Sum: The life of René Descartes by Richard Watson, David R. Godine, Boston; 2002, 384 ff.

The life and times of philosopher René Descartes

Descartes was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant and innovative of philosophers and mathematicians from the Enlightenment to influence our world today: as the author says in his Introduction, he `laid the foundations for the dominance of reason in science and human affairs. He desacralized nature and set the individual human being above church and state.' Richard A. Watson is now an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the Washington University of St. Louis and this is a book that was rated by the New York Public Library as one of the most memorable published in 2002.

Descartes, like Plato before him and like Locke and Kant who followed, distinguished the world of the senses that we know and its underlying reality: `we can never know if the material world is like the sensory experiences we have of it.' But Descartes was just as sceptical of our assessment of the world through reason for, in essence, we know nothing except the contents of our own minds. It was the pragmatists who crystallized this idea into a formal philosophy - that the quest for certainty, whether it was about God or about the world, was hopeless: we should believe and act on that which is most expedient - to face reality as we know it. According to Watson, it was Descartes' possessive individualism that `has made consumer capitalism the dominant social and political force of our time.'

The book as a whole gives an engaging description of seventeenth-century Europe and particularly of the United Provinces - essentially the territory we now know as the Netherlands. There are details of incidentals, like the Maunder Minimum - the little ice-age - that gripped Europe at that time. The virtual absence of sunspot activity produced a drop in temperature of some five degrees Fahrenheit, with consequent crop failure. The way that Descartes dealt with these challenges gives an interesting insight into the man: in such times of famine Descartes grew his own vegetables.

The 16th and 17th centuries were also a time when magic and alchemy attracted the attention of all men of letters, and Newton and Descartes were no exception. They investigated these subjects because they felt that they would help them `to penetrate the mysteries of the natural world'; but `Descartes did not believe in ghosts or witches or tree fairies, or in the powers of crystals, pyramids, magic numbers and planetary conjunctions.' Was Descartes a Rosicrucian? Watson discusses at some length the evidence concerning Descartes' religious beliefs and the interpretation of his famous dreams. Descartes did give proofs of the existence of God, but his metaphysics is primarily the foundation of his physics, as he remarked to his friend, the philosopher and mathematician Père Marin Mersenne. Descartes involvement in the religious controversy concerning predestination that was rife in the United Provinces at that time, make fascinating reading.

I learned more from this biography about the background to Descartes' life and philosophy than from any other I have read, but if you want an exploration of the philosophical ideas of René Descartes, then you will need to look elsewhere, such as the Bernard Williams biography for Penguin or even the little monograph from Tom Sorell for Oxford University Press. The nearest Watson comes to an exploration of Descartes philosophy is in the fifteen-page Conclusion. The book has detailed Indexes of people and subjects.

Being quite a large and detailed book, this could have been boring to read - but it is not. Watson's style is such as to make you feel you are in the settings he describes. So for an insight into Western Europe in the 17th century, and the events surrounding the life of René Descartes, I would recommend this book highly.

Descartes: A Very Short Introduction
Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry
Kulwes
This is a jauntily written and idiosyncratic life of Descartes. The Introduction summarizes his importance: "the modern world", Watson writes, "is Cartesian to the core". This is followed by a Prologue which is a rambling and largely irrelevant account of the author's and his wife's stay in Friesland (where Descartes had lived for a while); and such autobiographical diversions are to be found several times in the rest of the book.

While Watson casts healthy doubt on earlier biographies of Descartes, he goes in for a lot of speculation himself - fair enough, when he can't be certain, but less so when his totally unsubstantiated conjecture that, while in the army, Descartes "perhaps even insulted another officer sufficiently to provide grounds for the great excitement of a duel" is merely a peg on which to hang three paragraphs on duelling in 17th century France.

Watson discusses at length whether Descartes was influenced by the Rosicrucians - he believes that he was; and whilst he is convinced that the story of Descartes' famous three dreams is a myth (Descartes refers to that day in a stove-heated room, but makes no mention of the dreams), Watson is fascinated by the various interpretations that other writers have given of these mythical dreams. There are mysteries about Descartes' military service between 1618 and 1620: he originally enlisted in a French regiment put at the disposal of France's ally the Stadtholder of Holland; but he may subsequently have joined the army of France's enemy, the Habsburg Emperor.

Watson is interesting about the last years of Descartes' life, when it seems he suddenly wanted preferment at a court. He had sought it in Paris in 1648, only to flee when the Fronde broke out. When he heard that Queen Christina of Sweden was interested in his books, it was he who first suggested that he would do anything for her - fishing for an invitation which, when it came, he accepted with the mixed feelings of a man who, at 53, was feeling too old for this adventure which, as we know, would in fact kill him.

Watson's most coherent account of Descartes' philosophy is in his 20-page Introduction; for the rest, references to his philosophy are scattered; and Watson is at least as interested in Descartes' mathematics and geometry and in his rancorous rivalry with other mathematicians as he is in the philosophical controversies in which Descartes was engaged. Only in his conclusion does Watson again engage at some length with one part of Descartes' philosophy, and discusses the battle between mentalists (those who think, as Descartes did, that somehow an independent human mind or soul can influence an entirely mechanical body) and the materialists (who believe that all mental processes are really physical ones.) Watson sees this controversy as "the last battle for the human soul"; and at the end he thinks that victory will be with the materialists.

The book is very poorly organized: the Prologue is not the only chapter in which undisciplined rambling prevails (which would have horrified the Descartes who discoursed on method). Chapter 8 is an extreme example of it, in which, incidentally, Watson says, on p.186, that Helena, the unmarried mother of Descartes daughter, possibly died of a fever along with her daughter (i.e. in 1640), while on p.188 he has Descartes paying a dowry to Helena on her marriage in 1644! Did anyone proof-read the book? I am reviewing its second edition, in which some errors on p.160 of the first edition, noted by another reviewer on this site, have been replaced - by further errors, and with the original error being repeated on p. 235.

All that being said, the bibliography runs to 15 pages in small print, and in many instances Watson has examined and reflected upon his sources with the meticulousness of a real scholar. If one is interested in Descartes life rather than in his thought, the book is, with all its irritating faults and errors, worth reading.
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