Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason ... »


By Ren*escartes

Part. V.

I should be glad to pursue this Discourse, and shew you the whole Series of the following Truths, which I have drawn from the former: But because for this purpose, it were now necessary for me to treat of severall questions, which are controverted by the learned, with whom I have no desire to imbroil my self, I beleeve it better for me to abstain from it; and so in generall onely to discover what they are, that I may leave the wisest to judge whether it were profitable to inform the publick more particularly of them. I alwayes remained constant to my resolution, to suppose no other Principle but that which I now made use of, for the demonstration of the Existence of God, and of the Soul; and to receive nothing for true, which did not seem to me more clear and more certain then the demonstrations of Geometry had formerly done. And yet I dare say, that I have not onely found out the means to satisfie my self, in a short time, concerning all the principall difficulties which are usually treated in Philosophy. But that also I have observed certain Laws which God hath so established in Nature, and of which he hath imprinted such notions in our Souls, that when we shall have made sufficient reflections upon them we cannot doubt but that they are exactly observed in whatsoever either is, or is done in the World. Then considering the connexion of these Laws, me thinks, I have discovercd divers Truths, more usefull and important then whatever I learn’d before, or ever hop’d to learn.

But because I have endeavoured to lay open the principall of them in a Treatise, which some considerations hinder me from publishing; I can no way better make them known, then by relating summarily what it contains.

I had a designe to comprehend all what I thought I knew, before I would write it, touching the nature of material things. But even as Painters, not being able equally well to represent upon a flat all the severall facies of a solid body, chuse the principall of them, which they place towards the light; and shadowing the others, make them appear no more then they do to our sight: So, fearing lest I should not bring into this Discourse all which was in my thoughts, I onely undertook to set forth at large my conceptions touching the light; and upon that occasion to add somewhat of the Sun, and of the fix’d Stars, by reason that it proceeds almost all from thence; of the Heavens, because they transmit it; of the Planets, of the Comets, and of the Earth, because they cause it to reflect; and in particular, of all Bodies which are on the earth, whether for that they are either coloured, or transparent, or luminous; and last of all, of Man, because he is the Spectator thereof. As also, in some manner to shadow out all these things, and that I might the more freely speak what I judg’d, without being obliged to follow, or to refute the opinions which are received amongst the Learned, I resolved to leave all this world here to their disputes, and to speak onely of what would happen in a new one, if God now created some where in those imaginary spaces matter enough to compose it, and that he diversly and without order agitated the severall parts of this matter, so as to compose a Chaos of it as confused as the Poets could feign one: and that afterwards he did nothing but lend his ordinary concurrence to Nature, and leave her to work according to the Laws he hath established.

Thus first of all I described this Matter, and endevoured to represent it such, that me thinks there is nothing in the world more clear, or more intelligible, except what was beforesaid of God, and of the Soul. For even I expresly supposed that there was in it none of those forms and qualities which are disputed in the Schools; nor generally any thing but that the knowledge thereof was so naturall to our understandings, that we could not even feigne to be ignorant of it. Besides, I made known what the Laws of Nature were; and without grounding my reasons on any other principles, but on the infinite perfections of God, I did endeavour to demonstrate all those which might be questioned, and to make them appear to be such, that although God had created divers worlds, there could have been none where they were not observed. Afterwards I shewed how the greater part of the Matter of this Chaos ought, according to those Laws, to dispose and order it self in a certain manner, which would make it like our Heavens: And how some of these parts were to compose an Earth, and some Planets and Commets, some others a Sun and fix’d Starrs. And here enlarging my self on the subject of Light, I at length explain’d what that light was, which was to be in the Sun and Stars; and thence how it travers’d in an instant the immense spaces of the Heavens, and how it reflected it self from Planets and Commets towards the Earth. I added also divers things touching the substance, situation, the motions, and all the several qualities of these heavens and these stars: So that I thought I had said enough to make known, That there is nothing remarkable in those of this world, which ought not, or at least could not appear altogether like to these of that world which I described.

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