- Series: Oxford World's Classics
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 16, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0192825143
- ISBN-13: 978-0192825148
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.3 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,551,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Discourse on the Method (Oxford World's Classics)
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...what sets this edition apart is its substantial introduction...its copious explanatory notes...The translation is clean and clear. Overall the work is to be recommended. Roger Ariew, Modern Languages Review, vol 102, part 1 'The care and accuracy of Ian Maclean's new translation are immediately apparentThis edition is remarkable for the ample introductory material which will be of great use to beginners and specialists alike[it] displays impeccable erudition and exemplary clarity.' s The challenge for any translator, as Maclean acknowledges, is to make it accessible to a new generation of readers, without anachronism if possible. This objective is achieved admirably in this edition by informed and confident choices in English...and the addition of explanatory notes when necessary. French Studies
About the Author
Ian Maclean is a Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Oxford.
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Top Customer Reviews
Communism is explained in this book. I was only required to read sections of this.
The book proposes a new, orderly approach to knowledge based on reason. Reason, after all is what distinguishes humans from other creatures. Descartes's method has four steps: One, never accept anything as true unless it was the incontrovertible truth; Two, simplify the problem to be solved into as many smaller parts as possible; Three, move gradually from the simple parts to the more difficult; Four, be comprehensive and do not leave any matter unexamined. This approach, which was published in the first half of the seventeenth century, remains totally relevant for solving scientific and life problems.
In the book, Descartes describes his own intellectual development and offers the truths aided him with his discoveries: One, obey the laws and customs of his country and religion and take a moderate course; Two, be resolute and firm in actions once a conclusion was reached; Three, learn to control his own thoughts, which he has power over, rather than try to change a world that he cannot control.
On the metaphysical front, The Discourse presents Descartes's approach to the proof of God's existence. He notes the imperfections of humans and their dependence on a more perfect Being. The creation, according to Descartes, is a composite where the parts depend on the composition and the whole depends on the parts. To Descartes, independence is perfection. Finally, Descartes is a supporter of occasionalism, which holds the view that the creation depends on the Creator all the time and will cease to exist without His power.
Descartes' work consists of six parts, which can be summarized thus:
Part 1: Descartes echoes the opening chapters of Ecclesiastes in lamenting that learning and worldly experience are empty. He then says that when he achieved this realization, he devoted himself to introspection.
Part 2: He outlines his method of introspection as follows: 1. Accept nothing that is not incontrovertible. 2. Break large problems down into their component parts. 3. Solve the easier components before tackling the more complex components. 4. Be careful to be thorough in your assessment of the problem.
Part 3: He outlines his plan for a life of virtue: 1. Obey the laws of God and man, but do so in moderation. 2. Be firm and resolute in your actions, whether right or wrong. He would have approved of my high school football coach, who taught us, "If you're going to make a mistake, make it at full speed." 3. Master yourself, not your circumstances. 4. Pursue the best of occupations. Descartes decided that the best of occupations was that of the curious idler. He formulated these maxims at age 23 and spent the next 9 years idling curiously and introspecting.
Part 4: The core of the work. Here Descartes begins by rejecting as untrue everything that he has ever been taught. Assuming that as a given, what can he know for a fact? "I think, therefore I am." From this dictum he deduces the the existence and immortality of the human soul, the existence and nature of God, and the nature of reality. His proof of God's existence reminds one of St. Anselm's ontological proof of God.
Parts 5 & 6: The weakest part of the work. Here Descartes describes a book he wrote in which he solved all the problems of the universe. He then explains that he decided not to publish it because somebody might find mistakes in it. If his description of how the heart works is any indication of the accuracy of the rest of his book, he was quite correct that mistakes would be found by others. He then talks about other books he actually published more or less at the same time as this work.
Parts 1-3 seem somewhat trite and arrogant. Parts 5 & 6 reveal a man whose ego cannot stand being shown to be wrong. Part 4 is brilliant and worth the tedium of the rest of the book.