September 16 2013
Rules [Regulae] of the Direction of the Understanding (written in Latin) – pgs.1-49
- Revolution (there was a complete break from the past)
- Clergies had some connection to the church
- Descartes had no connection to the church
- They thought that it was purely philosophic
- What is the proper starting point of this revolution? *
o It’s based on the failure of the medieval times
These people become exegetes
Wanted to be able to study the texts that were already written
o The break requires that they ignore learning from the past
o How could they push forward? Try to figure out where
learning/knowledge has advanced, where knowledge has made
o Conclusion: In the entire history of learning, there’s two areas where
new knowledge has been obtained
o New knowledge was possible because mathematics and empirical
sciences developed a method
- How are they going to proceed?
- Answer: Different answers
o Descartes: We have to emulate mathematics (the mathematization of
o What level of certainty do we expect in our quest for knowledge?
o Adapt mathematics
o The Cartesian book (The Regulae) will yield a mathematical type of
knowledge to learn generally
o Rules 1-4 discuss mathematics acquire knowledge
o Rules 5-8 shows the adaption of that method to learn generally Background
Until Descartes, knowledge was always tied to church doctrine. Theology drives
1) The Enlightment:
a. It is believed that philosophy is first, and theology comes later.
Philosophy is autonomous. Philosophy judges theology.
b. Explanations: The analysis of causality offered by Aristotle - 4 kinds of
Causes (all of them have to be involved to have a full possible
i. Material Cause: bricks, bronze, etc.
ii. Efficient Cause: brick layer
iii. Formal Cause: blueprint
iv. Final Cause: Purpose
c. Medieval Thinkers: WHY? When someone asks why something is
happening, there must be an intellect behind it.
d. Therefore, the enlightment thinkers think that the most important
aspect of causality is the efficient causality.
i. Metaphor: The purpose of a seed is to grow into a tree/flower.
The purpose pulls the seed and design to create the object in
ii. Therefore, the causality of early modern thinkers had nothing
to do with “pull.” It was “pushing.”
2) Medieval View:
a. The world is God’s product
b. Everything has a purpose, and things have to develop in accordance to
- If you have a mechanistic explanation, then there is no room for God in that
- The only explanations that will be acceptable are explanations in terms of
- Treating the world like a machine
3) New truths: Each candidate for truth had to be examined and tested
4) If you believe that the medieval thinkers (Plato, Aristotle) got it wrong, then
one of the consequences is that you have to believe the notion of a
person/human has to be rethought. Medieval Views:
In the medieval senses, everyone has a soul. The belief was that upon death, the soul
goes back to God. Plato believes this but says that only God knows if what he’s
saying is true.
If you believe that the world is a machine, then you must also believe that we are
machines. If you and I are machines, then this world/life is all there. There must be
no after life.
What is the hi