Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, Paperback

Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy Paperback

3 out of 5 (4 ratings)


This edition contains Donald Cress's completely revised translation of the Meditations (from the corrected Latin edition) and recent corrections to Discourse on Method , bringing this version even closer to Descartes's original, while maintaining the clear and accessible style of a classic teaching edition.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Co, Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of Western philosophy
  • ISBN: 9780872204201


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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

The Cartesian subject gets a bad wrap these days, but I'm down with "cogito, ergo sum" with a couple of (admittedly pretty major) modifications from psychoanalysis and poststructuralism.<br/><br/>First, when I'm assuring myself of my own ego-existence by thinking, "I am thinking, therefore I am," that's all well and good. But sometimes I might slip and think something like, "I am winking, therefore I am" becuase I'm distracted by the memory of a cute girl that winked at me today--in other words, the smooth functioning of the internal monologue that assures "me" that "I" exist is constantly being interrupted by the unconscious. That's why we need to add insights from psychoanlysis to Descarte's subject.<br/><br/>Second, the "I am" bit needs to undergo a critique of the metaphysics of presence based upon Derrida's discussions of signification and being. The auto-affecting interior monologue happens in language, and language works by difference and reference to a whole system that must have a ghostly presence-yet-abscence to function. <br/><br/>So when I say "I am," I'm also referring to a whole system of signification which is not "present" in the way we usually mean. So, the being indicated by the "I am" of the Cartesian subject should be modified by poststructuralist critique so that we understand it as a kind of being that is not simply unified, proximate, and present-to-itself. That being is necessarily characterized by difference, dispersion, and deferral in time.<br/><br/>On another note, the God proofs--a restatement of Anselm's ontological argument along with Descarte's own version--are intriguing but still don't cut it for me. Ultimately, I don't think reason can pull that off--I think it's revelation or nothing (in my view as an athiest-leaning agnostic the answer is, "nothing," but that's up for debate).

Review by

These are undeniably important works. The introduction calls Descartes the "originator of modern philosophy." This is also very lucidly written--I think the arguments are perfectly accessible to the layman, it's just I don't think much of them. The full title of the first treatise of only 54 pages is "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences" but would more correctly be titled, "A Rehash of Just about the Lamest Philosophical Proof of God Ever." The first three sections of the six section treatise sound pretty commonsensical for the most part, the core of the "method" seems to be detailed in Part II:<i>The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt. The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution. The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence. And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted.</i>It would be nice if Descartes then gave an example of how by such principles he solved a scientific problem, but no. He then proceeds in Part IV to decide that the first principle from which all else is to be deduced is the famous dictum, "I think, therefore I am." Except I'd stop right there and challenge that as a first principle. We think based on our experiences of the world as meditated by the senses. Read Helen Keller's autobiography some time for some appreciation of how impossible it is to think without language, and to get language without association between a discrete experience and means of communication. But that's not all, from that first principle Descartes proceeds to leap to the the conclusion that there must be a God. Why? Because since he has doubts in this thinking he's not perfect, but something must be, and nothing is perfect but God. That is the ontological argument for God, which is not original to Descartes but is attributed to the 11th Century Anselm of Canterbury. Descartes even claims this "proof" is more solid than the experience of our own bodies, and from this deduces the idea of the mind/body dichotomy. The six Meditations are basically an elaboration on this theme.So why am I even rating it as high as three stars? This isn't a philosophy I can and wish to ascribe to, but yes, given its importance I do recommend reading it--it's not long either, the book containing both treatises is only 143 pages. Descartes treatises were tremendously influential in provoking disparate philosophers from Spinoza to Berkeley to Hobbes to form their own views as they sought to refine or refute Descartes arguments.

Review by

This book marks the shift in philosophical speculation, from the Nature-Grace ethos of the Medieval age to that of Nature-Freedom of the Enlightenment. Descartes essentially put an X through the then standing assumptions regarding knowledge. Agree or disagree, this book defines much of Western thought to this day. This is an important book. Funny, most of the really powerful and long-lasting ideas have been in brief books like this one.

Review by

Since Descartes is one of the most famous modern philosophers, it was interesting to see how blatantly illogical most of his argument is. When I say most, I'm talking about everything that comes after, "I think, therefore I am." Quite accessible though, as far as philosophy goes.