Rene Descartes

The French philosopher Rene Descartes lived from March 31, 1596 through February 11, 1650. Rene Descartes also worked in other fields besides philosophy, including science, mathematics, and writing. Much of later Western philosophy responds to the work of Rene Descartes, which people have studied ever since the days of Rene Descartes. In face, many people refer to Rene Descartes as the "Father of Modern Mathematics" and the "Father of Modern Philosophy." In addition to his influence on philosophy, Rene Descartes also influenced mathematics, so much that the Cartesian coordinate system took its name from him. (His name is Renatus Cartesius in Latin.) Descartes also played a key role in the Scientific Revolution.

Rene Descartes often contrasted his opinions and philosophical ideas with the ideas of previous philosophers and thinkers. In the beginning part of the Passions of the Soul, Descartes even says that he intends to write on the topic "as if no one had written on these matters before." Several parts of his philosophy have precedents in philosophies such as late Aristotelianism and in philosophers such as St. Augustine.

In his natural philosophy, Rene Descartes disagrees with the Schools on two significant points. For one, Descartes rejected the analysis of corporeal substance into form and matter. Secondly, Descartes rejected any appeal to both natural and divine ends in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, Descartes maintained the absolute freedom of god's (alleged) choice to create the universe.

Rene Descartes significantly contributed to 17th century continental rationalism, which philosophers such as Leibniz and Spinoza later advocated, and empiricist philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, Hume, and Berkeley opposed. Together, Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza also greatly contributed to science. Descartes invented Cartesian coordinate system and also he founded analytic geometry, which geometry and algebra, a crucial part of the invention of analysis and calculus.

Descartes' writings on mind and mechanism laid the foundation in western thought that much later developed into the Turing test and related thought, as a result of the advent of the electronic computer and the prospect of machine intelligence.

Rene Descartes most famously made the statement, "Cogito ergo sum," which means "I think, therefore I am."

We hope this article answered all of your questions about Rene Descartes. If you have any remaining questions, or if you have any comments or suggestions, please post them in our Philosophy Forums.

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