Category: Philosophy Essay
Descartes’ Philosophy

The concept of “world view” is figurative-conceptual structure of the Universe in which the person and mankind aspire to define their place. The world pictures that are taking a person away to a certain place in the Universe and helping him to be guided in his life, grow out spiritually-practical activities of people. Scientific, religious and philosophical pictures of the world give the vision of the world and place a person has in it.

A very important point of the world view is that it is under construction of the semantic center. The scientific world view is under construction around the objects independent of the person; its kernel is the universal reality. The religious world view puts in the center heavenly and terrestrial parity, human sphere and sphere of the divine. The main theme of the philosophical world view is a duality of a person and the world, which is taken in all aspects: ontological, informative, valuable and active.

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Scientific world view aspires to represent the Universe as it is, irrespective of us. Up to the beginning of the 20th century the Newtonian-Cartesian system of thinking which was assuming strict division on the subject and object of knowledge dominated in New Time. The mechanistic world view believes that the world consists of atoms which are the smallest indivisible particles possessing the constant form and weight and connected by the law of gravitation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a variety of discoveries made by modern natural sciences has changed the world vision. Discovery of the electron, creation of the theory of relativity by Einstein, Rutherford’s experiences with alpha particles, Bohr's work and researches in chemistry, biology, psychology, and other sciences have shown that the world is much more various, more difficult than it seemed to be earlier.

According to the theory of relativity, the world is not linear, space and time create a uniform dynamical continuum, near huge space bodies space, are capable to be bent, and time to be slowed down. Elementary particles show field clots.

Religious pictures of the world start with the world doubling on the terrestrial, imperfect world and the world heavenly made – the world of God. The central point of any religious world view is the image of God or gods. God represents the higher authority that is above the terrestrial world; however, in different religions, this power can be either boundless or limited. Paradise and hell spheres concern the divine world.

Philosophical pictures of the world are very various. However, all of them are under construction around the relation of the “world-person”. Two leading lines in philosophical knowledge are under construction: objectivistic and subjectivistic. Objectivistic concepts give a priority to the world as to an objective reality which does not depend on the consciousness of a person. The truth for all is uniform; a person concerns the world spiritually-practically, he learns and transforms the world. Subjectivistic concepts consider the world from an individual point of view. All validity refracts through an individual, depends on him. The general truth and general rules are not present. Everyone passes through life at his own risk, doing all that he wishes and is responsible only for himself.

The initial concept, on which the philosophical world view is based, is under construction, the category is life. Life is the widest and most abstract concept. First of all, the term “to be” means to exist. Recognition of the fact of existence the diverse things of the world around, nature and society, the person is the first precondition of formation of a picture of the universe. The second aspect of the problem of life, which has an essential impact on the formation of the person’s outlook makes from this follows. Life something that exists as a reality and it is necessary for this reality to be constantly considered by the person. The third aspect of a problem of life is connected with recognition the unity with the universe. The person in his everyday life and practical activities comes to a conclusion about unity with other people, the nature of existence, etc. But at the same time distinctions which exist between people and things, between nature and society, etc. are not less obvious. And, naturally, a question arises on the possibility of general that is general for all phenomena of the world around. The answer to this question is also naturally connected with life recognition. All the variety of the real and spiritual phenomena, nature and culture unite what they are, what they present and their existence, despite distinction of forms of existence. And thanks to the fact of existence, they form the complete unity of the universe.

Monist approach prevails in the history of philosophy. The dualistic tendency was found out only in the Descartes and Kant’s philosophical systems. According to the decision of the basic world outlook question in the history of philosophy, there were two basic forms of monism: idealistic monism in the form of religious and secular version, and materialistic monism, also in various kinds. Idealistically, Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle were the fathers of monism. Numbers, ideas, forms, and other ideal beginnings act in monism as the substratum of the universe. The highest development the idealistic monism gets in Hegel’s system. According to Hegel, the fundamental principle of the world in the form of Absolute idea is erected to the substance level.

Thus, the science, religion, and philosophy create different pictures of the world, reflecting the difficult diverse real world.

Descartes tries to destroy skepticism from within – to finish a skeptical statement of the logic end, to reach such a position, which is not a subject of any skepticism. It is necessary to draw consistently the skeptical point of view, to stop at nothing. The doubt should be radical and regularly carried out. The doubt should be shown to the power of authorities. No judgment should be perceived as reliable, despite the reputation of its author. First of all, it is a rush on scholasticism.

Any authorities are not necessary to be recognized – it is a very hard line. Disrespectful attitude towards the tradition of scholasticism and Renaissance: humanists showed adherence to the book knowledge, leaned against authority.

Now – personal experience. Here, first of all, it is necessary to doubt the indications of sense organs. Sensations can deceive (a rectangular tower seems round; stick in a glass of water seems broken; the person has dreams and it is very difficult to distinguish between reality and dreams). If sensations deceive, it is impossible to trust them. It is possible to doubt that the world exists. Bodies are not present.

The reason is that it is necessary to doubt. The most reliable application of a reason is mathematics. But mathematicians also are mistaken and they agree when their mistakes are specified.

It is necessary to ask – maybe I do not exist. Here, with Descartes, we come to a situation when we face the doubtless truth. I am capable to doubt – hence, I exist. Not as a corporal being, and as a subject of thinking, doubting, as a conceived being. To doubt own existence is the most radical doubt. On this limit of doubt, we reach the doubtless truth. Cogito, ergo sum is necessary to make a starting point in the development of all consequent philosophical systems. Here two moments:

  • 1 starting point – the thought of the subject;
  • 2 starting point – the thought of the subject.

There is a germ of all the balls of contradictions in the philosophy of Descartes and all the balls of problems of the new time philosophy – all sets of philosophical tendencies which had developed.

Rene Descartes's dualism

As a whole – Philosophy of Descartes has two displays of dualism:

  1. Dualism of soul and body in the person. Two substances – conceiving and corporeal, extended, absolutely separated from each other. Descartes speaks, however, about pineal gland in which they incorporate, but this reasoning has no consequences. The conceiving substance has no spatial parameters, and a corporeal substance does not have an extended substance (it has spatial parameters). Descartes rejects recognition of the existence of a body; he leaves conceiving extracorporeal substance, on himself, and a body – in itself if it is to recognize.
  2. Duality of God and the world. The Deistic position: God is the creator of the world; having created the world as an extended substance, He has given to the world laws of mechanics and push (quantity of movement, weight to increase for the speed, it is invariable). God does not interfere with the cause of the world. Everything develops according to the laws of mechanics. It is impossible to name rigid dualism – absolute independence after the primary certificate in communication.

Result: by means of these two displays of dualism the problem of parity of thinking and life (the basic question of philosophy) is pointed. All possible variants of answers to this question are outlined: materialism, idealism (objective and subjective) and dualism.

Unlike the antique rationalism of the New Time in the name of beliefs of Descartes, the consciousness is the necessary condition of the thinking moment. Therefore, exaggeration will not tell what exactly is the starting point of Descartes philosophy, which, thanks to Kant, has subsequently received the name transcendental. The thinking cannot be torn off from “I” – the precondition transcendental philosophies are in it as it has been developed subsequently by Kant. As Descartes wrote, “Under a word the thinking (cogitatio) I understand all that occurs in us in such a manner that we perceive it's ourselves; and consequently not only to understand, wish, imagine, but also and to feel means here the same what to think”. It is not characteristic at all for the antiquity and Middle Age judgments: Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas distinguished spiritual activity connected with mind and soul activity of the person. They carried to the end both feeling and imagination, separating them as certificates subjective from thinking. As we will see further, Descartes, in general, eliminates the traditional concept of soul and consequently, the imagination and feeling act in this desire simply as models of thinking, a characteristic feature of Cartesian philosophies intellectuality.

Descartes considers this circumstance to be a consciousness, which as a starting point of thinking, has allowed an occasion to a variety of researchers to consider that the last reliability is found in “cogito” rationalism of the new time. Undoubtedly, the reference to the consciousness at Descartes is the evidence that the philosophy of 17th century aspires to find the known autonomy it did not have in the Middle Ages and even in Renaissance, as Nicholas of Cusa’s examples proves. However, the consciousness as a principle of philosophy and culture of new time at Descartes yet has not found a full autonomy. It is true, as he recognizes the judgment, “I think, therefore I exist” to be authentic, because it possesses the signs of clearness and distinctness, and these are, according to Descartes, the criteria of the validity of knowledge.


Thus, the validity of clear and distinct knowledge is guaranteed by the existence of God who is a perfect being and consequently cannot be the deceiver (for the deceit is a theoretical, epistemological aspect of imperfection, i.e. non-existence). The major perfection of God, according to Descartes, is His omnipotence, thanks to which He has created us capable to authentic knowledge, having enclosed in us the natural light of reason, or clear and distinct ideas, which is the same. After all, the soul can see clearly and distinctly, thanks to the natural light of reason. Only due to the omnipotence of God, who has created consciousness, it can be the true pledge. As we see, the consciousness, according to Descartes, is not closed in itself and opened to God, or is opened to life, which is the same. After all, Descartes has thought of God as perfect; and perfection is a medieval name of life. Thanks to this openness of consciousness or mind, Descartes is protected from that purely psychological, subjective-idealistic treatment, at which the consciousness is considered simply as an expression of conditions and maintenances of an individual – the carrier of this consciousness. Such treatment is quite natural consequence of consideration of consciousness only as reflections, and, according to Descartes, it is a well-known danger of subjectivity and relativism, generated by such treatment of consciousness. The omnipotence of God and His subjective correlate, which is an evidence principle, is the objective importance of human thinking, the antidote against psychologism. All vague ideas are essentially products of my subjectivity. That is why they are false. On the contrary, all clear ideas express not my condition and something more than that. That is why I can be taken “in an objective sense”.

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