Descartes - Discourse on Method

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Today's society battles daily with the separation of church and state. In the United States, whether it is the small town or the sprawling metropolis, there will be some sort of conflict concerning the church and its rules warring against society's set of laws. In the early seventeenth century, the church's doctrines ruled the world. There was no separation; the kings governed the land according to their alliances with the religious leaders. There were harsh punishments for any who dared to question the church's views, no matter how logical. One of these who dared to dream, reason, and doubt was Rene Descartes, a French born mathematician and philosopher.

Descartes was born in a small village near Tours in France in the year 1596. He was lucky, compared to most in his time, to receive an extensive education. At the age of eight, he was sent to Jesuit school where he was instructed on varying disciplines and, of course, theology (Encarta).

At the age of nineteen, Descartes was faced with either becoming a man of the cloth or a man of war. He chose to join the army of Prince Maurice of Orange, then at Breda, where he fought in the Thirty Years War. After four years of service, he resigned his commission to travel Europe and study his first love, mathematics.

After many years of traveling and studying culture, Descartes settled in Paris. In 1628, he met Cardinal de Berulle, the founder of the Oratorians. Berulle was so impressed with Descartes' intellect, he urged him on the duty of devoting his life to the search for truth (Ball). Descartes was so inspired that he agreed, and began traveling again, conversing with others, and further developing his mathematical studies. He remained detached from the business of the world, acting as a...