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

But to conclude, I could not have bounded my desires, nor have been content, had I not followed a way, whereby thinking my self assured to acquire all the knowledge I could be capable of: I thought I might by the same means attain to all that was truly good, which should ever be within my power; forasmuch as our Will inclining it self to follow, or fly nothing but what our Understanding proposeth good or ill, to judge well is sufficient to do well, and to judge the best we can, to do also what’s best; to wit, to acquire all vertues, and with them all acquirable goods: and whosoever is sure of that, he can never fail of being content.

After I had thus confirmed my self with these Maximes, and laid them up with the Articles of Faith, which always had the first place in my Belief, I judg’d that I might freely undertake to expell all the rest of my opinions. And forasmuch as I did hope to bring it the better to passe by conversing with men, then by staying any longer in my stove, where I had had all these thoughts: before the Winter was fully ended, I returned to my travels; and in all the nine following yeers I did nothing but rowl here and there about the world, endeavouring rather to be a spectator, then an actor in all those Comedies which were acted therein: and reflecting particularly on every subject which might render it suspected, or afford any occasion mistake. In the mean time I rooted out of my minde all those errours which formerly had crept in. Not that I therein imitated the Scepticks, who doubt onely to the end they may doubt, and affect to be always unresolved: For on the contrary, all my designe tended onely to fix my self, and to avoid quick—mires and sands, that I might finde rock and clay: which (me thought) succeeded well enough; forasmuch as, seeking to discover the falshood or uncertainty of those propositions I examined, (not by weak conjectures, but by clear and certain ratiocinations) I met with none so doubtfull, but I thence drew some conclusion certain enough, were it but onely this, That it contained nothing that was certain. And as in pulling down an old house, commonly those materials are reserved which may serve to build a new one; so in destroying all those my opinions which I judg’d ill grounded, I made divers observations, and got severall experiences which served me since to establish more certain ones. And besides I continued to exercise my self in the Method I had prescribed.

For I was not only carefull to direct all my thoughts in generall according to its rules, but I from time to time reserv’d some houres, which I particularly employd to practice it in difficulties belonging to the Mathematicks, loosening from all the principles of other Sciences, which I found not stable enough, as you may see I have done in divers explain’d in my other following discourses. And thus not living in appearance otherwise then those who having no other business then to lead a sweet and innocent life, study to separate pleasures from vices, and use honest recreations to enjoy their ease without wearinesse; I did not forbear to pursue my design, and advance in the knowledg of truth, perhaps more, then if I had done nothing but read books or frequent learned men.

Yet these nine years were vanished, before I had engaged my self in those difficulties which use to be disputed amongst the learned; or begun to seek the grounds of any more certain Philosophy then the Vulgar: And the example of divers excellent Men who formerly having had the same designe, seem’d not to me to have succeeded therein, made me imagine so much difficulty, that I had not perhaps dar’d so quickly to have undertaken it, had I not perceiv’d that some already had given it out that I had already accomplished it. I know not whereupon they grounded this opinion, and if I have contributed any thing thereto by my discourse, it must have been by confessing more ingeniously what I was ignorant of, then those are wont to do who have a little studyed, and perhaps also by comunicating those reasons, I had to doubt of many things which others esteem’d most eminent, rather then that I bragg’d of any learning. But having integrity enough, not to desire to be taken for what I was not, I thought that I ought to endeavour by all means to render my self worthy of the reputation which was given me. And ’tis now eight years since this desire made me resolve to estrange my self from all places where I might have any acquaintance, and so retire my self hither in a Country where the long continuance of the warre hath established such orders, that the Armies which are intertain’d there, seem to serve onely to make the inhabitants enjoy the fruits of peace with so much the more security; and where amongst the croud of a great people more active and solicitous for their own affaires, then curious of other mens, not wanting any of those necessaries which are in the most frequented Towns, I could live as solitary and retired as in the most remote deserts.

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