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By Stephen Menn

This ebook is the 1st systematic examine of Descartes' courting to Augustine. It deals an entire reevaluation of Descartes' notion and as such might be of significant significance to all historians of medieval, neo-Platonic, or early smooth philosophy. precise positive aspects contain a analyzing of the Meditations, a complete ancient and philosophical advent to Augustine's suggestion, a close account of Plotinus, and a contextualization of Descartes' mature philosophical undertaking.

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16, Descartes notes that he had learned in school that "one could not imagine anything so strange or so incredible that it has not been said by one of the philosophers," which is a direct citation of Cicero (De Divinatione II,lviii,i 19). Descartes intends this citation as a tribute to his humanist education, not as a criticism of his teachers. INTRODUCTION through reflection on experience. We are no more likely to find a positive knowledge abroad than at home, but at least we will observe the variability of customs and beliefs, and thus learn to avoid excessive confidence in our own judgments.

4) Descartes enumerates the scholastic disciplines, or "exercises" as he calls them, more or less ironically praising the utility of each; he then goes on to show, again by enumeration, that none of these disciplines fulfills the promise of a knowledge both certain in itself and usable as a guide for practical conduct. The best of the existing disciplines can satisfy only half of the promise. Descartes praises the existing disciplines of mathematics and morals, and by a formal comparison reveals the weaknesses of each.

The "work of many pieces" that Descartes is thinking of is the body of our received opinions, and specifically the received system of the sciences. Descartes begins by giving some innocent practical examples from architecture and legislation, but the value of these examples is as analogies to support Descartes' analysis of what is wrong with the present condition of the sciences. Descartes first observes that "buildings that a single architect has undertaken and completed are generally more beautiful and better ordered than those that several architects have tried to patch up, making use of old walls that had been built for other purposes.

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