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The Selections from the Principles of Philosophy
TRANSLATED BY JOHN VEITCH, LL. D. LATE PROFESSOR OF LOGIC AND RHETORIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
From the Publisher’s Preface.
The present volume contains a reprint of the preface and the first part of the Principles of Philosophy, together with selections from the second, third and fourth parts of that work, corresponding to the extracts in the French edition of Gamier, are also given, as well as an appendix containing part of Descartes’ reply to the Second Objections (viz., his formal demonstrations of the existence of Deity). The translation is based on the original Latin edition of the Principles, published in 1644.
The work had been translated into French during Descartes’ lifetime, and personally revised and corrected by him, the French text is evidently deserving of the same consideration as the Latin originals, and consequently, the additions and variations of the French version have also been given–the additions being put in square brackets in the text and the variations in the footnotes.
A copy of the title—page of the original edition, as given in Dr. C. Guttler’s work (Munich: C. H. Beck. 1901), are also reproduced in the present volume.
SELECTIONS FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN AND COLLATED WITH THE FRENCH
LETTER OF THE AUTHOR
TO THE FRENCH TRANSLATOR OF THE PRINCIPLES OF PHILOSOPHY SERVING FOR A PREFACE.
Sir,–The version of my principles which you have been at pains to make, is so elegant and finished as to lead me to expect that the work will be more generally read in French than in Latin, and better understood. The only apprehension I entertain is lest the title should deter some who have not been brought up to letters, or with whom philosophy is in bad repute, because the kind they were taught has proved unsatisfactory; and this makes me think that it will be useful to add a preface to it for the purpose of showing what the MATTER of the work is, what END I had in view in writing it, and what UTILITY may be derived from it. But although it might be my part to write a preface of this nature, seeing I ought to know those particulars better than any other person, I cannot nevertheless prevail upon myself to do anything more than merely to give a summary of the chief points that fall, as I think, to be discussed in it: and I leave it to your discretion to present to the public such part of them as you shall judge proper.
I should have desired, in the first place, to explain in it what philosophy is, by commencing with the most common matters, as, for example, that the word PHILOSOPHY signifies the study of wisdom, and that by wisdom is to be understood not merely prudence in the management of affairs, but a perfect knowledge of all that man can know, as well for the conduct of his life as for the preservation of his health and the discovery of all the arts, and that knowledge to subserve these ends must necessarily be deduced from first causes; so that in order to study the acquisition of it (which is properly called philosophizing), we must commence with the investigation of those first causes which are called PRINCIPLES. Now these principles must possess TWO CONDITIONS: in the first place, they must be so clear and evident that the human mind, when it attentively considers them, cannot doubt of their truth; in the second place, the knowledge of other things must be so dependent on them as that though the principles themselves may indeed be known apart from what depends on them, the latter cannot nevertheless be known apart from the former. It will accordingly be necessary thereafter to endeavour so to deduce from those principles the knowledge of the things that depend on them, as that there may be nothing in the whole series of deductions which is not perfectly manifest. God is in truth the only being who is absolutely wise, that is, who possesses a perfect knowledge of all things; but we may say that men are more or less wise as their knowledge of the most important truths is greater or less. And I am confident that there is nothing, in what I have now said, in which all the learned do not concur.
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