Celebrating René Descartes on his 420th Birthday!

Today, Philosophical Library would like to take a moment to celebrate the father of modern western philosophy René Descartes on his 420th birthday. Descartes was born in France on March 31, 1596 and was raised by his father, grandmother, great-uncle. He attended the Jesuit College Royal Henry-Le-Grand in 1607 where he studied mathematics and physics, including work by Galileo. He graduated in 1614 and continued to pursue his education at the University of Poitiers and, in an effort to fulfill his father’s wish that he become a lawyer, he earned a degree in Canon and Civil Law.

Descartes had ambitions other than practicing law. In 1618, he became a professional military officer and joined the Dutch States Army where he took the opportunity to study military engineering, believing it necessary to create a method that thoroughly linked mathematics and physics.

A year later while stationed in Neuburg an der Donau, Descartes claimed to have experienced three visions of a divine spirit revealing to him a new philosophy. Afterward, he had formulated analytical geometry and the idea that mathematical methods can be applied to philosophy. He believed that all truths were linked together and that if you could unlock one truth, other truths would be revealed. Descartes came to the conclusion that, because he thinks, he exists.

I think, therefore I am.”


René Descartes spent many years traveling through Europe, interacting with people from all stations in life including nobles, soldiers and laborers. In doing so, his experiences led him to form his greatest work titled Discourse On Method. Here, Descartes offers a new approach in gaining knowledge based on reason and skepticism and explores the deconstruction of once deeply regarded beliefs to the rebuilding of the most basic truth: “I think, therefore I am.” To read more about this work by René Descartes, please click here. 




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