René Descartes: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason

(ca. 1637)

René Descartes (1596–1650) published Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences in 1637. It is a key document in the early-modern separation of science from theology and is generally acknowledged to be a pivotal moment in the advance of science. Descartes has often been dubbed the father of both modern philosophy and analytical geometry, and he was a crucial figure in the scientific revolution that was born in the seventeenth century. A rationalist, Descartes is perhaps most famous for his statement “I think, therefore I am” (in French, “Je pense, donc je suis” and often rendered in Latin as “Cogito ergo sum.”)


Descartes notes in the preface that the Discourse is divided into six parts, or chapters. Reproduced here is an excerpt from chapter 1, which the preface says deals with “various considerations touching the Sciences,” and the whole of chapter 4, which treats “the reasonings by which he [Descartes] establishes the...

Image for: René Descartes: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason

Portrait of Rene Descartes by Thomas Brown Cornell (Yale University Art Gallery)

View Full Size