|About the Book|
3.0 to 3.5 stars (though as mentioned below, the first four sections get 4 to 5 stars).One of the most influential works in history of modern science/philosophy, the full name of the work is Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting Ones Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences. It is a work that deals with the ascertaining of knowledge from first principals and creates a method from which all research into scientific principals could be based.He begins by saying that because so many different (and contradictory) theories have been set forth by learned and great men that it is impossible to trust anything that you can not verify yourself based on your own observations. This skepticism of all that has come before was the cornerstone for modern scientific thinking and experimentation to prove results.Highlights of this very short work are as follows:THE METHOD: In Section II, Descartes defines the Method he will use to estblish knowledge of the world as the following four steps: (1) Be skeptical of everything and do not accept anything as truth until you can be certain of its correctness and completely free from doubt- (2) divide each problem into the smallest parts possible so that you can be looking at its component parts which will be the easiest to understand (3) start from most basic concept and add complexity slowly and in degrees so that you can be absolutely certain of each step along the way and (4) from your use of (1) through (3) create general rules applicable to the whole of the subject and that apply to the largest possible group.THE MORALS: In applying the Method, Descartes in Section III identifies 3 maxims (which ge calls morals) that he will adhere to in his studies: (1) obey the laws of his Country (2) be firm and resolute in the pursuit of knowledge and (3) conquer self rather than fortune (by which he means dont pursue truth based on your own material advantage lest you avoid a line of reasoning that may be true but would lead to a disadvantage for you. In other words, truth should be your only goal.APPLICATION OF THE METHOD: In Section IV, Descartes applies the Method and derives the basic truth of his existence by stating the famous line Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). He also goes on to prove the existence of God. This last proof is the most controversial aspect of the work and is called the negotiable ontological proof of the existence of God.Up through the end of Section IV, I would have given this 4 or 5 stars as it was both a important work and written such that it could be easily understood. Section 5 and 6 (the last half of this very short work) seemed to me to be very muddled and uninteresting and dealt with the difference between man and animals and the working of the human circulatory system. The meat of the work in is the first 4 sections and that is what I would recommend to anyone interested in the history of scientific and philosophical thought. Definitely, an important work.