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

It’s true, That one man will not be sufficient to make all the experiments which may conduce thereunto: But withall, he cannot profitably imploy other hands then his own, unlesse it be those of Artists, or others whom he hires, and whom the hope of profit (which is a very powerfull motive) might cause exactly to do all those things he should appoint them: For as for voluntary persons, who by curiosity or a desire to learn, would perhaps offer themselves to his help, besides that commonly they promise more then they perform, and make onely fair propositions, whereof none ever succeeds, they would infallibly be paid by the solution of some difficulties, or at least by complements and unprofitable entertainments, which could not cost him so little of his time, but he would be a loser thereby. And for the Experiments which others have already made, although they would even communicate them to him (which those who call them Secrets would never do,) they are for the most part composed of so many circumstances, or superfluous ingredients, that it would be very hard for him to decypher the truth of them: Besides, he would find them all so ill exprest, or else so false, by reason that those who made them have laboured to make them appear conformable to their principles; that if there were any which served their turn, they could not at least be worth the while which must be imployed in the choice of them. So that, if there were any in the world that were certainly known to be capable of finding out the greatest things, and the most profitable for the Publick which could be, and that other men would therefore labour alwayes to assist him to accomplish his Designes; I do not conceive that they could do more for him, then furnish the expence of the experiments whereof he stood in need; and besides, take care only that he may not be by any body hindred of his time. But besides that, I do not presume so much of my Self, as to promise any thing extraordinary, neither do I feed my self with such vain hopes, as to imagine that the Publick should much interesse it self in my designes; I have not so base a minde, as to accept of any favour whatsoever, which might be thought I had not deserved.

All these considerations joyned together, were the cause three years since why I would not divulge the Treatise I had in hand; and which is more, that I resolved to publish none whilest I lived, which might be so general, as that the Grounds of my Philosophy might be understood thereby. But since, there hath been two other reasons have obliged me to put forth some particular Essays, and to give the Publick some account of my Actions and Designes. The first was, that if I failed therein, divers who knew the intention I formerly had to print some of my Writings, might imagine that the causes for which I forbore it, might be more to my disadvantage then they are. For although I do not affect glory in excess; or even, (if I may so speak) that I hate it, as far as I judge it contrary to my rest, which I esteem above all things: Yet also did I never seek to hide my actions as crimes, neither have I been very wary to keep my self unknown; as well because I thought I might wrong my self, as that it might in some manner disquiet me, which would again have been contrary to the perfect repose of my minde which I seek. And because having alwayes kept my self indifferent, caring not whether I were known or no, I could not chuse but get some kinde of reputation, I thought that I ought to do my best to hinder it at least from being ill. The other reason which obliged me to write this, is, that observing every day more and more the designe I have to instruct my self, retarded by reason of an infinite number of experiments which are needful to me, and which its impossible for me to make without the help of others; although I do not so much flatter my self, as to hope that the Publick, shares much in my concernments; yet will I not also be so much wanting to my self, as to give any cause to those who shall survive me, to reproach this, one day to me, That I could have left them divers things far beyond what I have done, had I not too much neglected to make them understand wherein they might contribute to my designe.

And I thought it easie for me to choose some matters, which being not subject to many Controversies, nor obliging me to declare any more of my Principles then I would willingly, would neverthelesse expresse clearly enough, what my abilities or defects are in the Sciences. Wherein I cannot say whether I have succeeded or no; neither will I prevent the judgment of any man by speaking of my own Writings: but I should be glad they might be examin’d; and to that end I beseech all those who have any objections to make, to take the pains to send them to my Stationer, that I being advertised by him, may endeavour at the same time to adjoyn my Answer thereunto: and by that means, the Reader seeing both the one and the other, may the more easily judge of the Truth. For I promise, that I will never make any long Answers, but only very freely confesse my own faults, if I find them; or if I cannot discover them, plainly say what I shal think requisite in defence of what I have writ, without adding the explanation of any new matter, that I may not endlesly engage my self out of one into another.

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