When studying the work of anybody I feel that it is necessary not only to have an understanding of the work they produce, but to fully comprehend we must also know what inspired them or encouraged them to undertake the challenges they did. In the case of Rene Descartes this point in my opinion, can not be understated. The environment, in which he lived and worked, had an enormous impact on his thought and that of his contemporaries. I feel therefore it is essential to begin this assignment by mentioning briefly some of the factors, which influenced his thinking.
Descartes was born in France in 1598. He lived and worked in a rapidly changing and turbulent world. France at this time was a country divided on religious grounds. Sectarian violence often occurred between the Huguenot and Catholic populations of the country. (1) Europe generally was in conflict. New ideas were coming to the fore at an alarming rate for some.
The ideas of Aristotle concerning the natural world were challenged by the scientific community of the time. Men such as Copernicus, Kepler, Brahe and Galileo proposed new theories in the fields of science and mathematics. (2) Descartes himself broke conclusively with the Aristolian and Scholasticism of his time. The beliefs and ideas he proposed have had an enormous impact on philosophy from his day right to the present. For that reason he is often referred to as the "father of modern philosophy." (3)
At the beginning of Descartes career, education was based on the humanities and the use Aristotelian philosophy was almost exclusive. Descartes saw Aristotelian thought as very vague and inconclusive. On any given subject, you can have a multitude of possible opinions, all of which could be debated in favour of there truth. Descartes detested this uncertainty. For...