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

After this I had described the reasonable Soul, and made it appear, that it could no way be drawn from the power of the Matter, as other things whereof I had spoken; but that it ought to have been expresly created: And how it suffiseth not for it to be lodg’d in our humane body as a Pilot in his ship, to move its members onely; but also that its necessary it be joyned and united more strongly therewith to have thoughts and appetites like ours, and so make a reall man.

I have here dilated my self a little on the subject of the Soul, by reason ’tis of most importance; for, next the errour of those who deny God, which I think I have already sufficiently confuted, there is none which sooner estrangeth feeble minds from the right way of vertue, then to imagine that the soul of beasts is of the same nature as ours, and that consequently we have nothing to fear nor hope after this life, no more then flies or ants. Whereas, when we know how different they are, we comprehend much better the reasons which prove that ours is of a nature wholly independing from the body, and consequently that it is not subject to die with it. And that when we see no other cause which destroys it, we are naturally thence moved to judge that it’s immortall.


Its now three years since I ended the Treatise which contains all these things, and that I began to review it, to send it afterwards to the Presse, when I understood, that persons to whom I submit, and whose authority can no lesse command my actions, then my own Reason doth my thoughts, had disapproved an opinion in Physicks, published a little before by another; of which I will not say that I was, but that indeed I had observed nothing therein, before their censure, which I could have imagined prejudiciall either to Religion or the State; or consequently, which might have hindred me from writing the same, had my Reason perswaded mee thereto. And this made me fear, lest in the same manner there might be found some one amongst mine, in which I might have been mistaken; notwithstanding the great care I always had to admit no new ones into my belief, of which I had not most certain demonstrations; and not to write such as might turn to the disadvantage of any body. Which was sufficient to oblige me to change my resolution of publishing them. For although the reasons for which I had first of all taken it, were very strong; yet my inclination, which alwayes made me hate the trade of Book—making, presently found me out others enough to excuse my self from it. And these reasons on the one and other side are such, that I am not only somewhat concern’d to speak them; but happily the Publick also to know them.

I never did much esteem those things which proceeded from mine own brain; and so long as I have gathered no other fruits from the Method I use, but onely that I have satisfied my self in some difficulties which belong to speculative Sciences, or at least endeavoured to regulate my Manners by the reasons it taught me, I thought my self not obliged to write any thing of them. For, as for what concerns Manners, every one abounds so much in his own sense, That we may finde as many Reformers as heads, were it permitted to others, besides those whom God hath established as Soveraigns over his people, or at least, to whom he hath dispensed grace and zeal enough to be Prophets, to undertake the change of any thing therein. And although my Speculations did very much please me, I did beleeve that other men also had some, which perhaps pleas’d them more. But as soon as I had acquired some generall notions touching naturall Philosophy, and beginning to prove them in divers particular difficulties, I observed how far they might lead a man, and how far different they were from the principles which to this day are in use; I judg’d, that I could not keep them hid without highly sinning against the Law, which obligeth us to procure, as much as in us lies, the general good of all men. For they made it appear to me, that it was possible to attain to points of knowledge, which may be very profitable for this life: and that in stead of this speculative Philosophy which is taught in the Schools, we might finde out a practicall one, by which knowing the force and workings of Fire, Water, Air, of the Starrs, of the Heavens, and of all other Bodies which environ us, distinctly, as we know the several trades of our Handicrafts, we might in the same manner employ them to all uses to which they are fit, and so become masters and possessours of Nature. Which is not onely to be desired for the invention of very many expedients of Arts, which without trouble might make us enjoy the fruits of the earth, and all the conveniences which are to be found therein: But chiefly also for the preservation of health, which (without doubt) is the first good, and the foundation of all other good things in this life. For even the minde depends so much on the temper and disposition of the organs of the body, that if it be possible to finde any way of making men in the generall wiser, and more able then formerly they were, I beleeve it ought to be sought in Physick. True it is, that which is now in use contains but few things, whose benefit is very remarkable: But (without any designe of slighting of it) I assure my self, there is none, even of their own profession, but will consent, that whatsoever is known therein, is almost nothing in companion of what remains to be known. And that we might be freed from very many diseases, aswell of the body as of the mind, and even also perhaps from the weaknesses of old age, had we but knowledge enough of their Causes, and of all the Remedies wherewith Nature hath furnished us. Now having a designe to employ all my life in the enquiry of so necessary a Science; and having found a way, the following of which me thinks might infallibly lead us to it, unless we be hindred by the shortness of life, or by defect of experiments. I judg’d that there was no better Remedie against those two impediments, but faithfully to communicate to the publique, all that little I should discover, and to invite all good Wits to endevour to advance farther in contributing every one, according to his inclination and power, to those Experiments which are to be made, and communicating also to the publique all the things they should learn; so that the last, beginning where the precedent ended, and so joyning the lives and labors of many in one, we might all together advance further then any particular Man could do.

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