Open main menu
WikiProject Philosophy (Rated Start-class, High-importance)
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of content related to philosophy on Wikipedia. If you would like to support the project, please visit the project page, where you can get more details on how you can help, and where you can join the general discussion about philosophy content on Wikipedia.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Books (Rated Start-class)
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Books. To participate in the project, please visit its page, where you can join the project and discuss matters related to book articles. To use this banner, please refer to the documentation. To improve this article, please refer to the relevant guideline for the type of work.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.


Citation for the start of Part 1Edit

I have a different translation (Laurence Lafleur) for the quotation recently tagged for a citation. I) could provide it, but that would mean changing the quote to match. I'll wait and see if the original editor can provide the sitation (its the very beginning of Part 1). (John User:Jwy talk) 00:39, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

External linksEdit

I just tried adding a link to a rather unique version of the Discourse on the Method that includes thoughtful hypertext commentary on all sections and allows other site visitors to create a login and add their own thoughts/commentary as well. ( Does anyone have a problem with my adding that link? Why was it deleted? Sorry if I stepped on any toes by just adding the link, but I've posted to talk pages before an no one has ever responded. In fact, I'd be surprised if anyone responded to this.

Andrewmagliozzi (talk) 19:14, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

With regards to this link, please see the existing discussions and review at User talk:Andrewmagliozzi. --Ckatzchatspy 19:22, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Discourse on Method - Audio file in FrenchEdit

What do you think about including this link to a full reading of the most famous french philosopher's text : René Descartes, Discourse on method - audio file It would be both a chance for the blind who understand french to have an easier access to the text, and a mean for those who want to learn it, for improving their french instructively. I let you do what you think the most judicious : to put it or not.

Gaiffelet (talk) 14:08, 11 August 2008 (UTC) (from the french wikipedia)


I'm a bit surprised to find bits of such an important article so broken William M. Connolley (talk) 19:04, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Some (but not all) was vandalism [1] only partly reverted [2] William M. Connolley (talk) 19:09, 15 November 2010 (UTC)


I think (following Butterfield) that this is more an introduction to three treatises (Dioptrique, Météores and Géométrie) rather than that they are just appendices to this text WMC 21:58, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

"je pense, donc je suis" para from AT VI, recent edition?Edit

Does someone here have access to Adam & Tannery vol. VI from 1963 or later? (Google Books offers only the 1902 edition and I don't currently have library access to the later editions.) If so, could you kindly post that rendition of the "je pens, donc je suis" para here? Also, if it's not too much trouble, could you include any front matter or other material describing changes from the 1902 version (AT VI 32)? Thanks in advance, humanengr (talk) 09:18, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

 Y AT VI 32 - This page is 100% the same in the latest edition (Vrin, Paris 1996. ISBN 978-2-7116-1267-3). -- (talk) 06:30, 19 January 2018 (UTC)

Translation of cognitoEdit

I have reverted this change ( twice. A translation of such an important quote should be well backed by references - and a qualification of one translation being better than others should also be backed by references. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 03:47, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

I responded here, but something went wrong.
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes, René, paragraph 5
Awien (talk) 06:29, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
The lost edit also explained that I can't add the ref to the article from this antique tablet, and suggested that you may be confusing cogitare with cognoscere. Awien (talk) 07:04, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
+1! Yes Awien, you are absolutely right here. To my mind that revert is heavyhanded and unjustified, shrinking Descartes whole line of argument down to a mere triviality. - I would rather suggest to first have a look at Descartes' own text itself: There he reaches the cogito, ergo sum only step by step. One of these steps is there is a something, that does the act of thinking etc. ... (At least this is what I've read in the french original.) - Or is having read the book (plus some language skills) already what they call original research by any means? ... It makes me so angry to see such deteriorations going on. -- (talk) 20:33, 12 November 2017 (UTC)
Respectfully, yes. That would be original research. If it is the appropriate translation, it should be easy to find it referenced by reliable sources. How do I know you have sufficient language skills to determine the nuances of this important phrase? I had never seen it translated that way before. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 23:45, 12 November 2017 (UTC)
It seems to me that you just can't grasp the difference between thought (as such) and the act of thinking. As for the latter - which is exactly from where Descartes derives the notion/certainty of his self - accordingly that must be the progressive form. This is even all the more clear when one reads the context. -- All this discussion here seems quite useless to me. We could even end up argueing about the meaning of the word exist as well, and I'm absolutely not willing to do that. -- (talk) 01:13, 13 November 2017 (UTC)

───────────────────────── I am not expressing an opinion on the accuracy of the translation, only that if an alternate translation is suggested, that we have a citation for it. The same has been requested for the suggestion that this translation is "better." We can't just take the word of another editor - we need citations to support material that is questioned. For more detailed reasoning, see WP:OR. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 01:36, 13 November 2017 (UTC)

External links modifiedEdit

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Discourse on the Method. Please take a moment to review my edit. If necessary, add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true to let others know.

 Y An editor has reviewed this edit and fixed any errors that were found.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 20:58, 4 January 2016 (UTC)

Why is the language written in important?Edit

@Wcherowi: I failed trying to fit too many thoughts into too few characters in the edit comment: My primary concern is that article does not discuss WHY the choice of language is important, thus the citation request. I'm not questioning the choice of language. Additionally, I found the sentence a bit difficult to parse - those with poorer English skills than I might as well. It could be made clearer, especially when expanded to include the reasons it is important. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:00, 11 June 2017 (UTC)

Aah! Had you been able to express that in the edit summary I would have done something quite different. I misinterpreted your summary and acted on that, sorry. The fact that this was written in French is very important and has to do with Descartes' fear of the Inquisition. Descartes Dream Amir Aczel's Descartes' Secret Notebook can be used as a source for this. I don't know if the lead is the appropriate place for this material, perhaps a new section devoted to the social milieu of the times the book was written in could incorporate this and perhaps why his name does not appear on the title page. --Bill Cherowitzo (talk) 23:06, 11 June 2017 (UTC)
Yes! I hope you or someone closer to the topic (its been quite a while for me!) could expand on that in the article and - maybe - some words about how "sacrilegious" some might have considered the work belongs in the header... If I can track down my copy - maybe there is something in the forward. But I suspect others more knowledgable may do it more justice. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 23:13, 11 June 2017 (UTC)

See what Descartes writes about that in his own words:

And if I write in French, which is the language of my country, in preference to Latin, which is that of my preceptors, it is because I expect that those who make use of their unprejudiced natural reason will be better judges of my opinions than those who give heed to the writings of the ancients only; and as for those who unite good sense with habits of study, whom alone I desire for judges, they will not, I feel assured, be so partial to Latin as to refuse to listen to my reasonings merely because I expound them in the vulgar tongue.

The article has many issuesEdit

Just to illustrate this, take a look at section Part V. What the headline promises is: Physics, the heart, and the soul of man and animals.

  • Well, concerning the heart, I've already corrected the contrary false information about Harvey not beeing mentioned by name. (The truth is that he figuers very prominently, since there is only one single reference note in the whole Discourse, and that is the one explicitly naming Harvey and his work!)[note]
  • After his theory of the heart, Descartes continues by pondering on the problem of how to recognise automata that imitate living beeings. That important topic was in the article before, but it was erased as original research: Diff of the revert. - Yes, it's true that there were also added some (interesting) side aspects on how this question has evolved now in modern times with computers and artificial intelligence. One could have shifted all that downward into a footnote. - But not so! The whole stuff was deleted, and now this important topic is completely missing.
  • Why important? Oh, because from there then Descartes goes on to make the comparison between these automates and living animals. -- Ooops! look at the headline! ... Yes, the animals, where are they?? - And this is a matter of utmost importance, as Decartes is somewhat notorious for the outcome, where he is categorically stating: animals can't talk and can't think (what even human idiots can do), therefore their souls are inferior (if they have any). Furthermore their expressions and gestures e.g. feelings of joy, hunger or pain are just unimportant and meaningless reactions of nature. (You can easily imagine what sort of an outcry such a lack of compassion would cause nowadays, considering the work of Jane Goodall and many others.) - So the animals and the difference of their souls as compared to that of humans is missing alltogether.
  • And also that Descartes closes the chapter stating that the human soul should be immortal and will continue to exist after the death of the body.

As I said before, all this is just one sample for illustrating the rather poor quality of the whole article. (Btw. the intro of Part V about cosmology also needs some refurbishing and could be a lot more concise.) I would recommend that editors should read the book. It's just some 80 pages or so, one could do that on an afternoon and still have time for an evening walk. Instead of deleting, then one could just add any missing quotes from the book. Such a better informed and more cooperative attitude would make for a good start. ;-) To my mind, the article should be rewritten from scratch. - But as for me, I prefer continuing my own studies instead of engaging in useless disputes (which is what Descartes also says in chapter 6). I have come to the conclusion, that my efforts here are just a waste of time. -- (talk) 23:41, 13 November 2017 (UTC)

[note] Heruæus (Latin) (Harvaeus) = Harvey, cf. also latin WP Gulielmus Harvaeus. -- (talk) 08:42, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

The main thing wrong with the article is that it fails to point out how much of the Discourse is bollox (although, to be fair, this may be because academic sources treat it with far more respect than it is due). For example, expounded at considerable length what the nature of that light must be which is found in the sun and the stars, and how thence in an instant of time it traverses the immense spaces of the heavens is rubbish, and yet Descartes calims to be deducing all this from first principles William M. Connolley (talk) 17:06, 15 November 2017 (UTC)
Hi, William. - I would be glad to discuss all this stuff. It's very interesting. - Descartes may be forgiven for his errors about the nature (speed) of light. It took a very long time (until Michelson/Morley, Einstein and Planck) to oust the "ether"-theory, as you certainly know. - To my mind his theory of the heart is the most awkward scientific blunder, because what he wrote is against the better knowledge of his time. Harvey was absolutely right on every point, and Descartes opposes him and makes up his sloppy "theory". (Passive dilatation by heat instead of active muscular contraction.) What's more: this happens because he himself deviates from his own rules, e.g. not to rush to judgement, beeing open-minded, not to follow prejudice. And it's shameful too: in chapter six he writes others should leave him alone and not send him reports of their experiments, since they were bad science and were mostly distorted perceptions which only were made up to proof their own favorite principles/theories (i.e. rubbish). - Hear, hear! ... Usually the academic philosophers leave all these blunders untouched. (Don't mention the elephant in the room!) - Hm, sry, this interesting stuff transcends the scope of Wikipedia, as of course it's original research (which in this case is true!) and can't be discussed here at length. - Greetings -- (talk) 01:49, 16 November 2017 (UTC)
The French Wikipédia has a lot more about all this here: Controverses du cartésianisme.-- (talk) 00:27, 17 November 2017 (UTC)
  • But of course the most important topic missing in the whole article so far is: Descartes attack on Scholasticism (ancient books)! -- (talk) 00:51, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

→ More about this in the new section below. -- (talk) 05:56, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

"... how much of the Discourse is bollox" - Since I'm no native speaker of English, I had to look up the meanining of this word, obviously it's inadequate vulgar and obscene language and is no part of my vocabulary. -- (talk) 05:16, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
Minor glitch with my reply to William M. Connolley (16 November 2017, 01:49 UTC).
I was using a tiny Netbook then, and sometimes after a while Firefox grabs too much RAM so that the rendition freezes and becomes very slow. I could not notice, that inadvertently his signature was altered. (Sorry for that.) - But anyway, I'm not amused to see such curses in an edit note as this: "some scurm breaka my signature!$^&!". -- (talk) 15:06, 26 January 2018 (UTC)
You're remarkably humourless, even for a philosopher William M. Connolley (talk) 15:38, 26 January 2018 (UTC)

Is there an english reference edition?Edit

Above here there was some useless quarrel about the translation going on ...
Is there any english translation upon which researchers would agree as the universally accepted reference edition??? - Otherwise, and in the first place, this article must be based solely on the french original text (and nothing else!); and the quotation of english translations (which always are best approximations, as one should bear in mind) can only serve to illustrate anything that is written in the article.-- (talk) 04:27, 15 November 2017 (UTC)

To my knowledge the (scholarly) English reference edition today is:

The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vol 1 (of 3). Translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch, and Anthony Kenny. Cambridge University Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0521288071 (cited as CSM for short).

-- (talk) 19:10, 25 November 2017 (UTC)

Quoting the French reference edition (AT VI)Edit

That should be no obstacle for English readers at all!

René Descartes: Discourse On Method and Meditations On First Philosophy, 4th ed., translated by Donald A. Cress, Hackett Classics, ISBN 978-0872204201

  • 3rd ed. (Discourse only): "By far the most widely used translation in North American college classrooms, Donald A. Cress's translation from the French of the Adam and Tannery critical edition is prized for its accuracy, elegance, and economy. The translation featured in the Third Edition has been thoroughly revised from the 1979 First Edition and includes page references to the critical edition for ease of comparison."
  • 4th ed. (combined with Meditations): "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."

I had a look at both of them on google-books: the AT page numbers are always given and easy to find. -- (talk) 19:10, 25 November 2017 (UTC)

Proposition how to quoteEdit

So I would suggest

  • to cite the exact locations according to AT VI,
  • and as for the best English translation (wording) that would most probably be the CSM.

Just my proposition. (I don't have these books at hand myself. I'm working with the French texts.) -- (talk) 16:30, 26 November 2017 (UTC)

Other major errors and omissions in the articleEdit

Here's some more:

  • Descartes does not want to teach his method, he just gives an outline or a sketch of it (he says so explicitly). - All this and the following can be backed up by quotes from the Discourse.
  • Cosmology (pt. V): He says what could [!] be found in his big treatise (i.e. The World, Le monde et la lumière), which he does not publish (should be published posthumously). - So N.B.: The beginning of Part V is only an abstract of that contents!
  • He does not like idle talk and philosophy. - Here his literary style is quite brilliant: He enumerates at length all the usefulness of several fields of science and arts, and ends up in contrast by stating about philosophy only bluntly that it serves fine for people who want to be admired for their hollow talk about matters, about which otherwise they have no knowledge at all. (Btw. in german editions usually here you will find a note citing the parallel to the scene in the study of Goethe's Faust.)
    • He also criticises (the then contemporary) scholastic philosophy as distortions and misuses of the work of the most intelligent people of ancient times (e.g. Aristotle) by stupid, ignorant and uninspired disciples. - N.B.: That was quite a risky position because Thomas Aquinas was (and still is) the Doctor ecclesiae par excellence.
    • With tongue in cheek he makes Plato's cave into a new allegory, comparing the adepts of scholasticism to the blind who can only compensate their handicap against enlightend minds by staging their fight in a dark cave of sophistic syllogisms. Hence, he says, no use to fight on their terms, just open the window and let in some daylight.
  • He aims to overcome scepticism and find secure grounds. - Other than that he considers pure scepticism (l'art pour l'art) as a pretentious attitude to impress other people.
  • He sets aside biblical revelation and theology, as they transcend human understanding. (Btw. this is the traditional concept that you need the assistance of the holy spirit when reading the scriptures.)
  • The start of chapter 6 also is a literary masterpiece: everyone knows that it is about Galilei and Heliocentrism, but he carefully avoids mentioning neither the one nor the other. (Condamnation of Galilei for the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems 1633, only 3 years before.) He even dares a bit of solidarity saying: the idea could have been his own and he would not have seen anything wrong with it before the authorities decided. (... if it were not that the ministry of truth at Rome always knew the better. - I can no longer conceal my sarcasm here.) - Opportunism would have been the easiest way out, but Descartes was no coward. He should be given extra credit for that.
    • He always tells at length what is in his big treatise, which clearly in the subtext gives the readers a fairly good impression of the consequences of this barbaric act of censorship by the Roman Inquisition. (A clever strategy! At least it seems to me that this was his intention.) Another one that he mentions is: The Description of the Human Body (L'homme et un traitte de la formation du foetus du mesme autheur), also published posthumously.
  • To sum it up: Descartes only wanted to outline his approach as an introduction for the following essais. - It was not ment to be published as a seperate treatise on philosopy at all.
  • Main purpose is the appeal to make a fresh start and leave scholasticism behind for good. - But imho the main tribute here should be given to Francis Bacon.

-- (talk) 10:15, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

-- (talk) 08:18, 18 November 2017 (UTC)

As with the translation discussion above, I will not dispute the content: But if this is to be part of the article content(which I hope it will) most of it would would have to be backed up by secondary sources - as much of it is interpretation of the original document, the circumstances under which it was written and translation. To ensure that the interpretation is generally accepted by experts in the area, Wikipedia has the WP:OR policy.
If the above is supported in reasonable sources, let's get it into the article! --John (User:Jwy/talk) 17:56, 18 November 2017 (UTC)

Edit: Added Mathesis universalis to Section See also. -- (talk) 04:58, 21 November 2017 (UTC)


Here are the essential references quoted verbatim from the scientific reference edition, so they are exactly located and easy to verify. (Could also be more.) - AT = Oeuvres de Descartes, tome VI : Discours de la méthode et Essais (1637), Texte établi par Charles Adam et Paul Tannery, Léopold Cerf, 1902.

• [AT p4] Ainſi mon deſſein n’eſt pas d’enſeigner icy la Methode que chaſcun doit ſuiure pour bien conduire ſa raiſon, mais ſeulement de faire voir en quelle ſorte i’ay taſché de conduire la miene.

• [AT p41] Mais pourceque i’ay taſché d’en expliquer les principales dans vn Traité, que quelques conſiderations m’empeſchent de publier, ie ne les ſçaurois mieux faire connoiſtre, qu’en diſant icy ſommairement ce qu’il contient.

• [AT p42f] Ainſi, premierement, ie deſcriuis cete Matiere, & taſchay de la repreſenter telle qu’il n’y a rien au monde, ce me ſemble, de plus clair ny plus intelligible, excepté ce qui a tantoſt eſté dit de Dieu & de lame : car meſme ie ſuppoſay, expreſſement, qu’il n’y auoit en elle aucune de ces Formes ou Qualitez dont on diſpute dans les Eſcholes, ...
[AT p45] Toutefois ie ne voulois pas inferer de toutes ces choſes, que ce monde ait eſté creé en la façon que ie propoſois ; car il eſt bien plus vrayſemblable que, dés le commencement, Dieu l’a rendu tel qu’il deuoit eſtre. Mais il eſt certain, & c’eſt vne opinion communement receuë entre les Theologiens, que l’action, par laquelle maintenant il le conſerue, eſt toute la meſme que celle par laquelle il l’a creé ; de façon qu’encore qu’il ne lui auroit point donné, au commencement, d’autre forme que celle du Chaos, pouruû qu’ayant eſtabli les Loix de la Nature, il luy preſtaſt ſon concours, pour agir ainſi qu’elle a de couſtume, on peut croyre, ſans faire tort au miracle de la creation, que par cela ſeul toutes les choſes qui ſont purement materielles auroient pû, auec le tems, s’y rendre telles que nous les voyons a preſent. Et leur nature eſt bien plus ayſée a conceuoir, lorſqu’on les voit naiſtre peu a peu en cete ſorte, que lorſqu’on ne les conſidere que toutes faites.

• [AT p17] Mais, en les examinant, ie pris garde que, pour la Logique, ſes ſyllogiſmes & la pluſpart de ſes autres inſtructions ſeruent plutoſt a expliquer a autruy les choſes qu’on ſçait, ou meſme, comme l’art de Lulle, a parler, ſans iugement, de celles qu’on ignore, qu’a les apprendre.

  [AT p6] ... que la Philoſophie donne moyen de parler vrayſemblablement de toutes choſes, & ſe faire admirer des moins ſçauans ...

  [AT p9] ... ny par les artifices ou la venterie d’aucun de ceux qui font profeſſion de ſçauoir plus qu’ils ne ſçauent.

  for Goethe's Faust cf. e.g. → note p. 25 in the german translation by J. H. v. Kirchmann: René Descartes philosophische Werke, PhB 25, 1. Abt. (Berlin, 1870); available at the Internet Archive.

• [AT p70f] Comme on voit auſſy que preſque iamais il n’eſt arriué qu’aucun de leurs ſectateurs les ait ſurpaſſez ; et ie m’aſſure que les plus paſſionnez de ceux qui ſuiuent maintenant Ariſtote, ſe croyroient hureux, s’ils auoient autant de connoiſſance de la Nature qu’il en a eu, encore meſme que ce fuſt a condition qu’ils n’en auroient iamais dauantage. [...] Toutefois, leur façon de philoſopher eſt fort commode, pour ceux qui n’ont que des eſprits fort mediocres ; car l’obſcurité des diſtinctions & des principes dont ils ſe ſeruent, eſt cauſe qu’ils peuuent parler de toutes choſes auſſy hardiment que s’ils les ſçauoient, & ſouſtenir tout ce qu’ils en diſent contre les plus ſubtils & les plus habiles, ſans qu’on ait moyen de les conuaincre.
• [AT p71] En quoy ils me ſemblent pareils a vn aueugle, qui, pour ſe battre ſans deſauantage contre vn qui voit, l’auroit fait venir dans le fonds de quelque caue fort obſcure ; et ie puis dire que ceux cy ont intereſt que ie m’abſtiene de publier les principes de la Philoſophie dont ie me ſers : car eſtans tres ſimples & tres euidens, comme ils ſont, ie ferois quaſi le meſme, en les publiant, que ſi i’ouurois quelques feneſtres, & faiſois entrer du iour dans cete caue, ou ils ſont deſcendus pour ſe battre. Mais meſme les meilleurs eſprits n’ont pas occaſion de ſouhaiter de les connoiſtre : car, s’ils veulent ſçauoir parler de toutes choſes, & acquerir la reputation d’eſtre doctes, ils y paruiendront plus ayſement en ſe contentant de la vrayſemblance, qui peut eſtre trouuée ſans grande peine en toutes ſortes de matieres, qu’en cherchant la verité, qui ne ſe découure que peu a peu en quelques vnes, & qui, lorſqu’il eſt queſtion de parler des autres, oblige a confeſſer franchement qu’on les ignore.

• [AT p29] Non que i’imitaſſe pour cela les Sceptiques, qui ne doutent que pour douter, & affectent d’eſtre touſiours irreſolus : car, au contraire, tout mon deſſein ne tendoit qu’a m’aſſurer, & a reietter la terre mouuante & le ſable, pour trouuer le roc ou l’argile.

• [AT p8] ... que les veritez reuelées, qui y conduiſent, ſont au deſſus de noſtre intelligence, ie n’euſſe oſé les ſoumettre a la foibleſſe de mes raiſonnemens, & ie penſois que, pour entreprendre de les examiner & y reuſſir, il eſtoit beſoin d’auoir quelque extraordinaire aſſiſtence du ciel, & d’eſtre plus qu’homme.

• [AT p60] Or il y a maintenant trois ans que i’eſtois paruenu a la fin du traité qui contient toutes ces choſes, & que ie commençois a le reuoir, affin de le mettre entre les mains d’vn imprimeur, lorſque i’appris que des perſonnes, a qui ie defere & dont l’authorité ne peut gueres moins ſur mes actions, que ma propre raiſon ſur mes penſées, auoient deſapprouué vne opinion de Phyſique, publiée vn peu auparauant par quelque autre, de laquelle ie ne veux pas dire que ie fuſſe, mais bien que ie n’y auois rien remarqué, auant leur cenſure, que ie puſſe imaginer eſtre preiudiciable ny a la Religion ny a l’Eſtat, ny, par conſequent, qui m’euſt empeſché de l’eſcrire, ſi la raiſon me l’euſt perſuadée, & que cela me fit craindre qu’il ne s’en trouuaſt tout de meſme quelqu’vne entre les mienes, en laquelle ie me fuſſe mépris, nonobſtant le grand ſoin que i’ay touſiours eu de n’en point receuoir de nouuelles en ma creance, dont ie n’euſſe des demonſtrations tres certaines, & de n’en point eſcrire, qui puſſent tourner au deſauantage de perſonne.

• [AT p55] I’auois expliqué aſſez particulierement toutes ces choſes, dans le traité que i’auois eu cy deuant deſſein de publier. Et enſuite i’y auois monſtré quelle doit eſtre la fabrique des nerfs & des muſcles du cors humain, [...]

• [AT p75] Et i’ay penſé qu’il m’eſtoit ayſé de choiſir quelques matieres, qui, ſans eſtre ſuietes a beaucoup de controuerſes, ny m’obliger a declarer dauantage de mes principes que ie ne deſire, ne lairroient pas de faire voir aſſez clairement ce que ie puis, ou ne puis pas, dans les ſciences.

  [AT p76f] ... pour empeſcher que certains eſprits, qui s’imaginent qu’ils ſçauent en vn iour tout ce qu’vn autre a penſé en vingt années, ſi toſt qu’il leur en a ſeulement dit deux ou trois mots, & qui ſont d’autant plus ſuiets a faillir, & moins capables de la verité, qu’ils ſont plus penetrans & plus vifs, ne puiſſent de la prendre occaſion de baſtir quelque Philoſophie extrauagante ſur ce qu’ils croyront eſtre mes principes, & qu’on m’en attribue la faute.

• [AT p77] ... c’eſt a cauſe que i’eſpere que ceux qui ne ſe ſeruent que de leur raiſon naturelle toute pure, iugeront mieux de mes opinions, que ceux qui ne croyent qu’aux liures anciens.

The pattern of indentation is the same, so as to match the corresponding statements above. As you see it's not OR, but a conspectus, highlighting some relevant topics contained in the Discourse and missing so far. - As I already said before, I won't edit the article. (At age 60+ still busy studying and lots of work to do.) But I think this may help others to do so. -- (talk) 07:54, 19 November 2017 (UTC)

Form and Purpose of the DiscourseEdit

I had already written about that, and also that most of it must be regarded rather as an introductory series of summaries outlining the guidelines and principles with addition of some abstracts of his research (taken from Le Monde et la Lumière and Traité de l'Homme). - Without this mentioned beforehand, the reader might indeed get the impression all these parts of the Discoure were only a heap of boastful and preposterous nonsense. This is all the more likely e.g. at the beginning of Section Part V of the article, which only consists of a heavy overdose of quotations without making the point, and omitting this essential information.

References for this and for what I also wrote more in general:

1) « [L]e Discours de la méthode ne constitue en aucun cas, comme voudront l'être par exemple en 1644 les Principes de la philosophie, une « somme », un exposé complet et détaillé de la pensée de Descartes. Il s'agit plutôt d'une sorte de prudent ballon d'essai, ou, si l'on veut, de prospectus destiné à rendre désirable la grande œuvre qu'il annonce. Comme dans un prospectus, et comme souvent aussi les philosophes dans leur premier grand ouvrage, Descartes dit tout, et de façon presque haletante, comme s'il avait urgence à enfin « faire voir » les résultats auxquels il est parvenu : les thèmes et les propositions se succèdent à vive allure, et on retrouve ainsi dans le Discours les thèses essentielles du cartésianisme. Mais les détails, les nuances, les explications même, sont souvent remis à plus tard. En conséquence, il ne faut surtout pas perdre de vue que les parties théoriques du Discours sont avant tout des résumés, c'est-à-dire des présentations condensées, voir sommaires, de thèses exposées de façon beaucoup plus développée dans d'autres œuvres de Descartes ... »
Denis Moreau (éd.), Introduction p. 21
René Descartes, Discours de la méthode, LGF (Hachette), Paris 2016. ISBN 978-2-253-06741-2

2) « ... [L]e Traité du Monde et de la Lumière. Tout était achevé et prêt pour l'impression quand Descartes apprit la condamnation de Galilée, motivée par le mouvement de la terre, qu'il avait lui-même repris à son compte. Par amour de la tranquillité et par désir de ne pas se brouiller avec l'Église, il renonça la publication. Ce fut un événement irréparable, car son œuvre entière devait en demeurer mutilée et déformée ; d'autre part, sa prudence, déjà excessive, s'accrût, avec sa tendance à s'exprimer d'une manière enveloppée et ambiguë.
En 1637, Descartes, qui avait d'abord résolu de ne plus faire rien imprimer, se ravisa ; pour donner un spécimen de sa doctrine et tâter l'opinion, il publia trois petits traités : la Dioptrique, les Météores et la Géométrie, précédés du Discours de la Méthode ... »
André Bridoux (éd.), Introduction p. 11 sq.
René Descartes, Œuvres et Lettres, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade N° 40 (Gallimard), Paris 2012. ISBN 978-2-07-010166-5

Nope, I won't translate that, no original research or language skills wasted here. - Any respectable edition would come with such an introduction or foreword, that tells you the same. - Or at least it should. -- (talk) 17:33, 19 November 2017 (UTC)

Further information
The complete works (unpublished at the time) which Descartes mentions and describes in the Discourse are available here:

Of course, "complete" here only means: the best unabridged texts available. - Le Monde and L'Homme were published posthumously, Descartes did not finish these works. -- (talk) 06:31, 20 November 2017 (UTC)

Descartes' style
His prose style is rather complicated. To my mind, though the vocabulary is french, the syntax is rather similar to that of the classical latin authors: He always stuffs one clause after the other into each sentence. So to understand and to translate it, usually one has to unravel that and split it into seperate sentences. The odd consequence of this is, that you would recognise the structure with greater ease in the old version of 1637, whereas modern french uses punctuation a lot more sparingly. - (This only meant as an additional info.) -- (talk) 04:21, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

Section QuotationsEdit

It's a nice feature, but it should be sorted by order of appearance and allocated where to find these quotes. (N.B.: Edition Adam & Tannery is the scientific reference to be used.) -- (talk) 06:38, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

Edit: Just added loc. of quotes, but left sequence unchanged. -- (talk) 16:11, 26 November 2017 (UTC)

Thank you very much for your contribs, UpdateNerd! - I just made these 2 minor corrections:

  • I believed that I had already given sufficient time to languages, and likewise to the reading of the writings of the ancients, to their histories and fables. For to hold converse with those of other ages and to travel, are almost the same thing.
FR: Mais ie croyois auoir deſia donné aſſez de tems aux langues, & meſme auſſy a la lecture des liures anciens, & a leurs hiſtoires, & a leurs fables. Car c’eſt quaſi le meſme de conuerſer auec ceux des autres ſiecles, que de voyaſger. (AT p. 6 line 17 - 21)
  • Of philosophy I will say nothing, except that when I saw that it had been cultivated for so many ages by the most distinguished men; and that yet there is not a single matter within its sphere which is still not in dispute and nothing, therefore, which is above doubt, I did not presume to anticipate that my success would be greater in it than that of others.
FR: Ie ne diray rien de la Philoſophie, ſinon que, voyant qu’elle a eſté cultiuée par les plus excellens eſprits qui ayent veſcu depuis pluſieurs ſiecles, & que neanmoins il ne s’y trouue encore aucune choſe dont on ne diſpute, & par conſequent qui ne ſoit douteuſe, ie n’auois point aſſés de preſomption pour eſperer d’y rencontrer mieux que les autres ... (AT p. 8 line 18 - 24)
-- (talk) 20:03, 23 October 2018 (UTC)
Return to "Discourse on the Method" page.