New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

By Norman Kemp Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X

"The method of proof is twofold, one being analytic, the other synthetic. Analysis shows the way by which a thing is discovered methodically and as it were a priori, in such wise that if the reader cares to follow and gives sufficient attention to everything, he then understands it no less perfectly, and makes it as much his own, as if he had himself been the first to discover it. But it contains nothing to impose belief on an inattentive or hostile reader. . . . Synthesis employs an opposite procedure in which the reader proceeds, as it were, a posteriori, from the already known . . . so that the reader, however hostile and obstinate, is compelled to yield his assent. . . . It was this synthesis alone that the ancient geometers employed in their writings; [appealing, at every step, to antecedently accepted definitions, postulates, axioms and theorems] not because they were wholly ignorant of the analytic method, but, in my opinion, because they set so high a value on it that they wished to keep it to themselves as an important secret.

"Now in my Meditations I have used only analysis, the truest and best method of teaching. The synthesis you are asking me to use . . . cannot be so suitably applied in these metaphysical inquiries. For there is this difference between the two disciplines, viz. that the primary notions presupposed in geometrical proofs are congruent with the use of the senses, and are readily agreed to by everyone. There is here, therefore, no difficulty, save in the proper deduction of their consequences. . . . In metaphysics, on the other hand, nothing is more difficult than the making clear and distinct our awareness of its primary notions. For though they are, in their own nature, no less known, and even better known, than those studied by geometers, yet being as they are in conflict with the many sensuous prejudices to which we have been accustomed from our earliest years, they can be adequately apprehended only by those who are properly attentive to and meditative of them, those who thereby withdraw their minds as far as possible from things corporeal. This is why my writing has taken the form of Meditations rather than of disputations, in the manner of the philosophers, or of the theorems and problems of the geometers, that I might thereby show I had written only for those who do not shrink from joining with me in attentive and serious meditation. "-- DESCARTES, Reply to Objections II; A.T. vii, pp. 155-7.

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New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Bibliography vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter I 2
  • Appendix A DESCARTES' THREEFOLD DREAM 33
  • Appendix B DESCARTES' ENCOUNTER WITH CHANDOUX, AND SUBSEQUENT INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL DE BÉRULLE 40
  • Chapter II 48
  • Chapter III 84
  • Chapter IV 102
  • Chapter IV Descartes' Universal Physics as Outlined in His Traité De La Lumière 103
  • Chapter V 124
  • Chapter VI 138
  • Chapter VII 162
  • Chapter VIII 190
  • Chapter IX 220
  • Chapter X 259
  • Chapter XI 294
  • Chapter XII 308
  • Chapter XIII 322
  • INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 365
  • INDEX OF SUBJECTS 367
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