Segments in this Video

Creative Contributions of Rene Descartes (02:50)


Philosophy from Descartes onward is considered "modern philosophy." The vast body of work of this philosopher includes the concept known as Cartesian coordinates.

Knowledge, Truth, and Skepticism (02:27)

Descartes asserted that there was no certain way of acquiring knowledge. The religious Reformation contributed to the general skepticism of Descartes' time.

Foundation of Scientific Knowledge (02:26)

In the early 17th century, it was thought that one man alone could lay the future foundation for all science. In his search for a method of discovering scientific knowledge, Descartes saw himself as that man.

Truth, Certainty, and Skepticism (02:51)

Descartes believed in the fundamental need to start the search for truth with the search for certainty. He desired that science should be put in such a shape that was impervious to skepticism.

How Descartes Used Doubt (03:11)

Descartes adopted "the method of doubt," which laid aside anything that he could find to doubt. In order to do this, he had to empty his mind of all beliefs, a process that occurred in three phases.

Propositions for Validating Methods of Inquiry (02:48)

By winnowing out doubts, Descartes set out to find hard, indubitable propositions that could not be doubted; he also set out to find propositions that could serve as background for validating the methods of inquiry.

Descartes' Thoughts on Existence (03:10)

Arriving at indubitable propositions, Descartes did not infer that what he was thinking guaranteed the existence of anything outside himself.

Descartes' Concept of God (03:31)

Descartes finds among the contents of his consciousness the conception of God. He argues that this concept is unique among all the ideas that are in his mind. He concludes that there really is a God.

Proof of God's Existence (01:40)

Descartes believes that his arguments that involve God will be assented to by any person of good faith who concentrates on them. Descartes believes he proves that God's existence is self-evident.

Scientific View of the External World (04:44)

The essence of the external world is extension--and occupancy of space.

Importance of Reflection on Knowing Properties of the World (02:54)

Descartes' intellectual influence on the scientific revolution was enormous, though the details of his physics were not fully developed. Descartes believes that the fundamental properties of the world and of the mind can be discovered by reflection.

Descartes the Rationalist and the Experimenter (02:48)

Descartes the rationalist thought that sometimes science could be deduced by purely mathematical or logical reasoning. Using models of deduction, Descartes initiated systems similar to what physicists do today.

Mind and Body Dichotomy (02:44)

Descartes did not satisfactorily explain the connection between mind and body--that was left to later philosophers to contend with. This segment examines Cartesian dualism.

Descartes and Western Philosophy (04:54)

Descartes essentially established that the theory of knowledge is the center of Western philosophy.

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Part of the Series : Great Philosophers
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"I think, therefore I am." Rationalist philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, considered the father of modern philosophy, held this as self-evidently true. In this program, world-renowned author and professor Bryan Magee and Bernard Williams of Kings College examine Descartes’s theory of knowledge and his use of skeptical inquiry to affirm reality, including the existence of God. Descartes’s theory of physical and mental substances, and Cartesian dualism—which allows the concept of science to coexist with the notion of God—are also examined. A BBC Production. Part of the series Great Philosophers. (45 minutes)

Length: 46 minutes

Item#: BVL7282

ISBN: 978-1-4213-8708-6

Copyright date: ©1987

Closed Captioned

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