Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.


                       PREFATORY NOTE BY THE AUTHOR

    If this Discourse appear too long to be  read  at  once,  it  may  be
divided into  six  Parts:  and,  in  the  first,  will  be  found  various
considerations touching the Sciences; in the second, the  principal  rules
of the Method which the Author has discovered, in the  third,  certain  of
the rules of Morals which he has deduced from this Method; in the  fourth,
the reasonings by which he establishes the existence of  God  and  of  the
Human Soul, which are the foundations of his Metaphysic; in the fifth, the
order of the  Physical  questions  which  he  has  investigated,  and,  in
particular, the explication of the motion of the heart and of  some  other
difficulties pertaining to Medicine, as also the  difference  between  the
soul of man and that of the brutes; and, in  the  last,  what  the  Author
believes  to  be  required  in  order  to  greater  advancement   in   the
investigation of Nature than has yet been made, with the reasons that have
induced him to write.


    Good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed;
for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with  it,  that  those
even who are the most difficult to satisfy  in  everything  else,  do  not
usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess.
And in this it is not likely that  all  are  mistaken  the  conviction  is
rather to be held as testifying that the power of judging  aright  and  of
distinguishing truth from error, which is properly  what  is  called  good
sense or reason, is by nature equal in all men; and that the diversity  of
our opinions, consequently, does not arise from some being endowed with  a
larger share of reason than others, but solely from this, that we  conduct
our thoughts along different ways, and do not fix  our  attention  on  the
same objects. For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is  not  enough;  the
prime requisite is rightly to apply it. The greatest minds,  as  they  are
capable of the highest excellences, are  open  likewise  to  the  greatest
aberrations; and those who travel very slowly may  yet  make  far  greater
progress, provided they keep always to the straight road, than those  who,
while they run, forsake it.
    For myself, I have never fancied my mind to be in  any  respect  more
perfect than those of the generality; on the contrary, I have often wished
that I were equal  to  some  others  in  promptitude  of  thought,  or  in
clearness and distinctness of imagination, or in fullness and readiness of
memory. And besides these, I know of no other qualities that contribute to
the perfection of the mind; for as to the reason or sense, inasmuch as  it
is that alone which constitutes us men,  and  distinguishes  us  from  the
brutes, I am disposed to believe that it is to be found complete  in  each
individual; and on this point to adopt the common opinion of philosophers,
who say that the difference of greater  and  less  holds  only  among  the
accidents, and not among the forms or natures of individuals of  the  same
    I will not hesitate, however, to avow my belief that it has  been  my
singular good fortune to have very early in life fallen  in  with  certain
tracks which have conducted me to considerations and maxims,  of  which  I
have formed a method that gives me the means, as  I  think,  of  gradually
augmenting my knowledge, and of raising it by little  and  little  to  the
highest point which the mediocrity of my talents and the brief duration of
my life will permit me to reach. For I have already reaped  from  it  such
fruits that, although I have been accustomed  to  think  lowly  enough  of
myself, and although when I look with the eye  of  a  philosopher  at  the
varied courses and pursuits of mankind at large, I find scarcely one which
does not appear in vain and useless, I  nevertheless  derive  the  highest
satisfaction from the progress I conceive myself to have already  made  in
the search after truth, and cannot help entertaining such expectations  of
the future as to believe that if, among the occupations  of  men  as  men,
there is any one really excellent and important, it is that which  I  have
    After all, it is possible I may be mistaken; and it is but  a  little
copper and glass, perhaps, that I take for gold and diamonds. I  know  how
very liable we are to delusion in what relates to ourselves, and also  how
much the judgments of our friends are to be suspected when  given  in  our
favor. But I shall endeavor in this discourse to describe the paths I have
followed, and to delineate my life as in a picture, in order that each one
may also be able to judge of them for himself, and  that  in  the  general
opinion entertained of them, as gathered from current report, I myself may
have a new help towards instruction to be added to those I  have  been  in
the habit of employing.
    My present design, then, is not to teach the method which each  ought
to follow for the right conduct of his reason, but solely to describe  the
way in which I have endeavored to conduct my own. They who set  themselves
to give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of  greater
skill than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the  slightest
particular, they subject themselves to censure. But as this tract  is  put
forth merely as a history, or, if you will, as a tale, in which, amid some
examples worthy of imitation, there will be found, perhaps, as  many  more
which it were advisable not to follow, I hope it will prove useful to some
without being hurtful to any, and that my openness will  find  some  favor
with all.
    From my childhood, I have been familiar with letters; and  as  I  was
given to believe that by their help a clear and certain knowledge  of  all
that is useful in life might be  acquired,  I  was  ardently  desirous  of
instruction. But as soon as I had finished the entire course of study,  at
the close of which it is customary to be admitted into the  order  of  the
learned, I completely changed my opinion. For I found myself  involved  in
so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no  farther
in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own
ignorance. And yet I was studying in one of the most celebrated schools in
Europe, in which I thought  there  must  be  learned  men,  if  such  were
anywhere to be found. I had been taught all that others learned there; and
not contented with the sciences actually taught us, I  had,  in  addition,
read all the books that  had  fallen  into  my  hands,  treating  of  such
branches as are esteemed the most curious and rare. I  knew  the  judgment
which others had formed of me; and I did not find that  I  was  considered
inferior to my fellows, although there  were  among  them  some  who  were
already marked out to fill the places of our instructors.  And,  in  fine,
our age appeared to me as flourishing, and as fertile in powerful minds as
any preceding one. I was thus led to take the liberty of  judging  of  all
other men by myself, and of  concluding  that  there  was  no  science  in
existence that was of such a nature as I  had  previously  been  given  to
    I still continued, however, to hold in  esteem  the  studies  of  the
schools. I was aware that the languages taught in them  are  necessary  to
the understanding of the writings of the ancients; that the grace of fable
stirs the mind; that the memorable deeds of history elevate  it;  and,  if
read with discretion, aid in forming the judgment; that the perusal of all
excellent books is, as it were, to interview with the noblest men of  past
ages, who have written them, and even a studied interview,  in  which  are
discovered  to  us  only  their  choicest  thoughts;  that  eloquence  has
incomparable force and beauty; that poesy has  its  ravishing  graces  and
delights; that in the  mathematics  there  are  many  refined  discoveries
eminently suited to gratify the inquisitive, as well as  further  all  the
arts an lessen the labour of man; that numerous highly useful precepts and
exhortations to virtue are contained in treatises on morals; that theology
points out the path to  heaven;  that  philosophy  affords  the  means  of
discoursing with an appearance of truth on all matters, and  commands  the
admiration of the more simple; that jurisprudence, medicine, and the other
sciences, secure for their cultivators honors and riches;  and,  in  fine,
that it is useful to bestow some  attention  upon  all,  even  upon  those
abounding the most in superstition and error, that we may be in a position
to determine their real value, and guard against being deceived.
    But I believed that I had already given sufficient time to languages,
and likewise to the reading of the writings  of  the  ancients,  to  their
histories and fables. For to hold converse with those of other ages and to
travel, are almost the same thing. It is useful to know something  of  the
manners of different nations, that we  may  be  enabled  to  form  a  more
correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented  from  thinking  that
everything contrary  to  our  customs  is  ridiculous  and  irrational,  a
conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been  limited  to
their own country. On the other hand, when too much time  is  occupied  in
traveling, we become strangers to our native country; and the over curious
in the customs of the past are generally ignorant of those of the present.
Besides, fictitious narratives lead us to imagine the possibility of  many
events that are impossible; and even the most faithful histories, if  they
do not wholly misrepresent matters,  or  exaggerate  their  importance  to
render the account of them more worthy of perusal, omit, at least,  almost
always the meanest and least  striking  of  the  attendant  circumstances;
hence it happens that the remainder does not represent the truth, and that
such as regulate their conduct by examples drawn from this source, are apt
to fall into the extravagances of the knight-errants of  romance,  and  to
entertain projects that exceed their powers.
    I esteemed eloquence highly, and was in raptures with  poesy;  but  I
thought that both were gifts of nature rather than fruits of study.  Those
in whom the faculty of reason is  predominant,  and  who  most  skillfully
dispose their thoughts with a view to render them clear and  intelligible,
are always the best able to persuade others of the truth of what they  lay
down, though they should speak only in the language of Lower Brittany, and
be wholly ignorant of the rules of rhetoric; and  those  whose  minds  are
stored with the most agreeable fancies, and who  can  give  expression  to
them with the greatest embellishment  and  harmony,  are  still  the  best
poets, though unacquainted with the art of poetry.
    I was especially delighted with the mathematics, on  account  of  the
certitude and evidence of their reasonings; but I had not as yet a precise
knowledge of their true use; and thinking that they but contributed to the
advancement of the mechanical arts, I was astonished that foundations,  so
strong and solid, should have had  no  loftier  superstructure  reared  on
them. On the other hand, I  compared  the  disquisitions  of  the  ancient
moralists  to  very  towering  and  magnificent  palaces  with  no  better
foundation than sand and mud: they  laud  the  virtues  very  highly,  and
exhibit them as estimable far above anything on earth; but they give us no
adequate criterion of virtue, and frequently  that  which  they  designate
with so fine a name is but apathy, or pride, or despair, or parricide.
    I revered our theology, and aspired as  much  as  any  one  to  reach
heaven: but being given assuredly to understand that the way is  not  less
open to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and that the  revealed
truths which lead to heaven are above our comprehension, I did not presume
to subject them to the impotency of my reason; and I thought that in order
competently to undertake their examination, there was need of some special
help from heaven, and of being more than man.
    Of philosophy I will say nothing, except that when I saw that it  had
been cultivated for many ages by the most distinguished men, and that  yet
there is not a single matter within its  sphere  which  is  not  still  in
dispute, and nothing, therefore, which is above doubt, I did  not  presume
to anticipate that my success would be greater in it than that of  others;
and further, when I considered the number of conflicting opinions touching
a single matter that may be upheld by learned men, while there can be  but
one true, I reckoned as well-nigh false all that was only probable.
    As to the other sciences, inasmuch as these borrow  their  principles
from philosophy, I judged that no solid superstructures could be reared on
foundations so infirm; and neither the honor nor the gain held out by them
was sufficient to determine me to their cultivation: for I was not,  thank
Heaven, in a condition which compelled me to make merchandise  of  science
for the bettering of my fortune; and though I might not profess  to  scorn
glory as a cynic, I yet made very slight account of  that  honor  which  I
hoped to acquire only through fictitious titles. And, in  fine,  of  false
sciences I thought I knew the worth sufficiently to escape being  deceived
by the professions of an alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer,  the
impostures of a magician, or by the artifices and boasting of any of those
who profess to know things of which they are ignorant.
    For these reasons, as soon as my age permitted me to pass from  under
the control of my instructors, I entire y abandoned the study of  letters,
and resolved no longer to seek any other science  than  the  knowledge  of
myself, or of the great book of the world. I spent  the  remainder  of  my
youth in traveling, in visiting courts and armies, in holding  intercourse
with men  of  different  dispositions  and  ranks,  in  collecting  varied
experience, in proving myself  in  the  different  situations  into  which
fortune threw me, and, above all, in making such reflection on the  matter
of my experience as to secure my improvement. For it occurred to me that I
should find much more truth in the  reasonings  of  each  individual  with
reference to the affairs in which he is  personally  interested,  and  the
issue of which must presently punish him if he has judged amiss,  than  in
those conducted by a man of letters in his  study,  regarding  speculative
matters that are of no practical moment, and followed by  no  consequences
to himself, farther, perhaps, than that they foster his vanity the  better
the more remote they are from common sense; requiring,  as  they  must  in
this case, the exercise of  greater  ingenuity  and  art  to  render  them
probable. In addition, I had always a most earnest desire to know  how  to
distinguish the true from the false, in order that I might be able clearly
to discriminate the right path in life, and proceed in it with confidence.
    It is true that, while busied only  in  considering  the  manners  of
other men, I found here, too, scarce any ground  for  settled  conviction,
and remarked hardly less contradiction among them than in the opinions  of
the philosophers. So that the greatest advantage I derived from the  study
consisted in this, that, observing many things which, however  extravagant
and ridiculous to our apprehension, are yet by common consent received and
approved by other great nations, I learned  to  entertain  too  decided  a
belief in regard to nothing of the truth of which  I  had  been  persuaded
merely by example and custom; and thus I gradually extricated myself  from
many errors powerful  enough  to  darken  our  natural  intelligence,  and
incapacitate us in great measure from listening to reason. But after I had
been occupied several years in thus studying the book of the world, and in
essaying to gather some experience, I at length resolved to make myself an
object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind in  choosing  the
paths I ought to follow, an undertaking which was accompanied with greater
success than it would have been had I  never  quitted  my  country  or  my


    I was then in Germany, attracted thither by the wars in that country,
which have not yet been brought to a termination; and as I  was  returning
to the army from the coronation of the emperor, the setting in  of  winter
arrested me in a locality where, as I found no society to interest me, and
was besides fortunately undisturbed by any cares or passions,  I  remained
the whole day in seclusion, with full opportunity to occupy  my  attention
with my own thoughts. Of these one of the very first that occurred  to  me
was, that there is seldom so much perfection in  works  composed  of  many
separate parts, upon which different hands had been employed, as in  those
completed by a single master. Thus it is  observable  that  the  buildings
which a single architect has planned  and  executed,  are  generally  more
elegant and commodious than those which several have attempted to improve,
by making old walls serve for purposes for which they were not  originally
built. Thus also, those ancient cities which, from  being  at  first  only
villages, have become, in course of time, large towns, are usually but ill
laid  out  compared  with  the  regularity  constructed  towns   which   a
professional architect has freely  planned  on  an  open  plain;  so  that
although the several buildings of the former may often equal or surpass in
beauty those of the latter, yet when  one  observes  their  indiscriminate
juxtaposition, there a large one and here  a  small,  and  the  consequent
crookedness and irregularity of the streets, one  is  disposed  to  allege
that chance rather than any human will guided by reason must have  led  to
such an arrangement. And if we consider that nevertheless there have  been
at all times certain officers whose  duty  it  was  to  see  that  private
buildings contributed to public ornament, the difficulty of reaching  high
perfection with but the materials of others to operate on, will be readily
acknowledged. In the same way I fancied that those nations which, starting
from a semi-barbarous state and advancing to civilization by slow degrees,
have had their laws successively determined, and, as it were, forced  upon
them simply by experience of the  hurtfulness  of  particular  crimes  and
disputes, would by this process come  to  be  possessed  of  less  perfect
institutions than those which, from the commencement of their  association
as communities, have followed the appointments of some wise legislator. It
is thus quite certain that the constitution  of  the  true  religion,  the
ordinances of which are derived from God, must be incomparably superior to
that of every other. And, to speak of human affairs, I  believe  that  the
pre-eminence of Sparta was due not to the goodness of each of its laws  in
particular, for many of these were very strange, and even opposed to  good
morals, but to the circumstance that, originated by a  single  individual,
they all tended to a single end. In  the  same  way  I  thought  that  the
sciences contained in books (such of them at  least  as  are  made  up  of
probable reasonings, without demonstrations), composed as they are of  the
opinions of  many  different  individuals  massed  together,  are  farther
removed from truth than the simple inferences which a man  of  good  sense
using his natural and unprejudiced judgment draws respecting  the  matters
of his experience. And because we have all to  pass  through  a  state  of
infancy to manhood, and have been of necessity,  for  a  length  of  time,
governed by our desires and preceptors  (whose  dictates  were  frequently
conflicting, while neither perhaps always counseled us for  the  best),  I
farther concluded that it is almost impossible that our judgments  can  be
so correct or solid as they would have been, had our  reason  been  mature
from the moment of our birth, and had we always been guided by it alone.
    It is true, however, that it is not customary to pull  down  all  the
houses of a town with the single design of  rebuilding  them  differently,
and thereby rendering the streets more handsome; but it often happens that
a private individual takes down his own with the view of erecting it anew,
and that people are even sometimes constrained to this when  their  houses
are in danger of falling from age, or when the foundations  are  insecure.
With this before me by way of example,  I  was  persuaded  that  it  would
indeed be preposterous for a private individual to think  of  reforming  a
state by fundamentally changing it throughout, and overturning it in order
to set it up amended; and the same I  thought  was  true  of  any  similar
project for reforming the body of the sciences, or the order  of  teaching
them established in the schools: but as for the opinions which up to  that
time I had embraced, I thought that I could not do better than resolve  at
once to sweep them wholly away, that I might afterwards be in  a  position
to admit either others more correct, or even perhaps the  same  when  they
had undergone the scrutiny of reason. I firmly believed that in this way I
should much better succeed in the conduct of my life, than if I built only
upon old foundations, and leaned upon principles which, in my youth, I had
taken upon trust. For although I recognized various difficulties  in  this
undertaking, these were not, however,  without  remedy,  nor  once  to  be
compared with such as attend the slightest reformation in public  affairs.
Large bodies, if once overthrown, are with great difficulty set up  again,
or even kept erect when once seriously shaken, and the  fall  of  such  is
always  disastrous.  Then  if  there  are   any   imperfections   in   the
constitutions of states  (and  that  many  such  exist  the  diversity  of
constitutions is alone sufficient to assure us), custom has without  doubt
materially smoothed their inconveniences, and has even  managed  to  steer
altogether clear of, or insensibly corrected a number which sagacity could
not have provided against with equal effect; and, in fine, the defects are
almost always more tolerable than the change necessary for their  removal;
in the same manner that highways which wind among mountains, by being much
frequented, become gradually so smooth and commodious,  that  it  is  much
better to follow them than to seek a straighter path by climbing over  the
tops of rocks and descending to the bottoms of precipices.
    Hence it is that I cannot in any degree approve of those restless and
busy meddlers who, called neither by birth nor fortune to take part in the
management of public affairs, are yet always projecting reforms; and if  I
thought that this tract contained aught which might justify the  suspicion
that I was a victim of  such  folly,  I  would  by  no  means  permit  its
publication.  I  have  never  contemplated  anything   higher   than   the
reformation of my own opinions, and basing them on a foundation wholly  my
own. And although my own satisfaction with my work has led me  to  present
here a draft of it, I do not by any means therefore recommend to every one
else to make a similar attempt. Those whom God has endowed with  a  larger
measure of genius will entertain, perhaps, designs still more exalted; but
for the many I am much afraid lest even the present  undertaking  be  more
than they can safely venture to imitate. The single design to strip  one's
self of all past beliefs is one that ought not to be taken by  every  one.
The majority of men is composed of two classes, for neither of which would
this be at all a befitting resolution: in the first place,  of  those  who
with more than a due confidence in their own powers,  are  precipitate  in
their  judgments  and  want  the  patience  requisite  for   orderly   and
circumspect thinking; whence it happens, that if men of  this  class  once
take the liberty to doubt of  their  accustomed  opinions,  and  quit  the
beaten highway, they will never be able to thread  the  byway  that  would
lead them by a shorter course, and will lose themselves  and  continue  to
wander for  life;  in  the  second  place,  of  those  who,  possessed  of
sufficient sense or modesty to determine that there are others  who  excel
them in the power of discriminating between truth and error, and  by  whom
they may be instructed,  ought  rather  to  content  themselves  with  the
opinions of such than trust for more correct to their own reason.
    For my own part, I should  doubtless  have  belonged  to  the  latter
class, had I received instruction from but one  master,  or  had  I  never
known the diversities of opinion that from time immemorial have  prevailed
among men of the greatest learning. But I had become aware, even so  early
as during my college life, that no opinion, however absurd and incredible,
can be imagined,  which  has  not  been  maintained  by  some  on  of  the
philosophers; and afterwards in the course of my travels I  remarked  that
all those whose opinions are decidedly repugnant to ours are not  in  that
account barbarians and savages, but on the contrary  that  many  of  these
nations make an equally good, if not better, use of their reason  than  we
do. I took into account also the very different character which  a  person
brought up from infancy in France or Germany exhibits,  from  that  which,
with the same mind originally, this individual would have possessed had he
lived always among the Chinese or with savages, and the circumstance  that
in dress itself the fashion which pleased us ten years ago, and which  may
again, perhaps, be received into favor before ten years have gone, appears
to us at this moment extravagant and ridiculous. I was thus led  to  infer
that the ground of our opinions is far more custom and  example  than  any
certain knowledge. And, finally,  although  such  be  the  ground  of  our
opinions, I remarked that a plurality of  suffrages  is  no  guarantee  of
truth where it is at all of difficult discovery, as in such  cases  it  is
much more likely that it will be found by  one  than  by  many.  I  could,
however, select from the crowd no one  whose  opinions  seemed  worthy  of
preference, and thus I found myself constrained, as it were, to use my own
reason in the conduct of my life.
    But like one walking alone and in the dark, I resolved to proceed  so
slowly and with such circumspection, that if I  did  not  advance  far,  I
would at least guard against falling. I did not  even  choose  to  dismiss
summarily any of the opinions that had crept into my belief without having
been introduced by reason, but first of all took sufficient time carefully
to satisfy myself of the general nature of the task I was setting  myself,
and ascertain the true method by which  to  arrive  at  the  knowledge  of
whatever lay within the compass of my powers.
    Among the branches of philosophy, I had, at an earlier period,  given
some attention to logic, and among those of the mathematics to geometrical
analysis and  algebra,  -  three  arts  or  sciences  which  ought,  as  I
conceived, to contribute something to my design. But,  on  examination,  I
found that, as for logic, its syllogisms and the  majority  of  its  other
precepts are of avail- rather in the  communication  of  what  we  already
know, or even as the art of Lully, in speaking without judgment of  things
of which we are ignorant, than in the investigation of  the  unknown;  and
although this science  contains  indeed  a  number  of  correct  and  very
excellent precepts, there are, nevertheless, so  many  others,  and  these
either injurious or superfluous, mingled  with  the  former,  that  it  is
almost quite as difficult to effect a severance of the true from the false
as it is to extract a Diana or a Minerva from a  rough  block  of  marble.
Then as to the analysis of the ancients and the algebra  of  the  moderns,
besides  that  they  embrace  only  matters  highly  abstract,   and,   to
appearance, of no use, the former is  so  exclusively  restricted  to  the
consideration of figures, that it can exercise the understanding  only  on
condition of greatly fatiguing the imagination; and, in the latter,  there
is so complete a subjection to certain  rules  and  formulas,  that  there
results an art full of confusion and obscurity  calculated  to  embarrass,
instead of a science fitted to cultivate the mind. By these considerations
I was  induced  to  seek  some  other  method  which  would  comprise  the
advantages of the three and  be  exempt  from  their  defects.  And  as  a
multitude of laws often only hampers justice, so  that  a  state  is  best
governed when, with few laws, these  are  rigidly  administered;  in  like
manner, instead of  the  great  number  of  precepts  of  which  logic  is
composed, I  believed  that  the  four  following  would  prove  perfectly
sufficient for me, provided I took  the  firm  and  unwavering  resolution
never in a single instance to fail in observing them.
    The first was never to accept anything  for  true  which  I  did  not
clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to  avoid  precipitancy
and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgement than what  was
presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of
    The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into
as many parts as possible, and as might  be  necessary  for  its  adequate
    The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that,  by  commencing
with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might  ascend  by  little
and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge  of  the  more
complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects  which
in their own nature  do  not  stand  in  a  relation  of  antecedence  and
    And the last, in every case to make  enumerations  so  complete,  and
reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted.
    The long chains of simple and  easy  reasonings  by  means  of  which
geometers are accustomed to reach the conclusions of their most  difficult
demonstrations, had led me to imagine that all things, to the knowledge of
which man is competent, are mutually connected in the same way,  and  that
there is nothing so far removed from us as to be beyond our reach,  or  so
hidden that we cannot discover it, provided only we abstain from accepting
the false for the true, and always preserve  in  our  thoughts  the  order
necessary for the deduction of one truth from another. And  I  had  little
difficulty in determining the objects  with  which  it  was  necessary  to
commence, for I was already persuaded that it must be  with  the  simplest
and easiest to know, and, considering that of all those who have  hitherto
sought truth in the sciences, the mathematicians alone have been  able  to
find any demonstrations, that is, any certain and evident reasons,  I  did
not doubt but that such must have been the rule of their investigations. I
resolved to commence, therefore, with  the  examination  of  the  simplest
objects, not anticipating, however, from this  any  other  advantage  than
that to be found in accustoming my mind to the  love  and  nourishment  of
truth, and to a distaste for all such reasonings as were  unsound.  But  I
had no  intention  on  that  account  of  attempting  to  master  all  the
particular sciences commonly denominated mathematics: but observing  that,
however different their objects, they all agree in  considering  only  the
various relations or proportions subsisting among those objects, I thought
it best for my purpose to consider these proportions in the  most  general
form possible, without referring them to any objects in particular, except
such as would most facilitate the knowledge of them, and  without  by  any
means restricting them to these, that  afterwards  I  might  thus  be  the
better able to apply them to every other class of objects  to  which  they
are  legitimately  applicable.  Perceiving  further,  that  in  order   to
understand these relations I should sometimes have to consider them one by
one and sometimes only to bear them  in  mind,  or  embrace  them  in  the
aggregate,  I  thought  that,  in  order  the  better  to  consider   them
individually, I should view them as  subsisting  between  straight  lines,
than which I could find no objects more simple, or capable of  being  more
distinctly represented to my imagination and  senses;  and  on  the  other
hand, that in order to retain them in the memory or embrace  an  aggregate
of many,  I  should  express  them  by  certain  characters  the  briefest
possible. In this way I believed that I could borrow  all  that  was  best
both in geometrical analysis and in algebra, and correct all  the  defects
of the one by help of the other.
    And, in point of fact, the accurate observance of these few  precepts
gave me, I take the liberty of saying, such ease  in  unraveling  all  the
questions embraced in these two sciences, that in the two or three  months
I devoted to  their  examination,  not  only  did  I  reach  solutions  of
questions I had formerly deemed exceedingly difficult but even as  regards
questions of the solution of which I continued ignorant, I was enabled, as
it appeared to me, to determine the means whereby, and the extent to which
a solution was possible; results attributable to the circumstance  that  I
commenced with the simplest and most general truths, and  that  thus  each
truth discovered was a rule available in the discovery of subsequent  ones
Nor in this perhaps shall I appear too vain, if it be considered that,  as
the truth on any particular point is one  whoever  apprehends  the  truth,
knows all that on that point can be known. The child, for example, who has
been instructed in the elements of arithmetic, and has made  a  particular
addition, according to rule, may  be  assured  that  he  has  found,  with
respect to the sum of the numbers before him, and that in this instance is
within the reach of human genius. Now, in  conclusion,  the  method  which
teaches adherence to the true order, and an exact enumeration of  all  the
conditions of the thing .sought includes all that gives certitude  to  the
rules of arithmetic.
    But the chief ground of my satisfaction with  thus  method,  was  the
assurance I had of thereby exercising my reason in  all  matters,  if  not
with absolute perfection, at least with the  greatest  attainable  by  me:
besides, I was conscious that by its use my mind  was  becoming  gradually
habituated to clearer and more distinct conceptions of its objects; and  I
hoped also, from not having  restricted  this  method  to  any  particular
matter, to apply it to the difficulties of the other  sciences,  with  not
less success than to those of algebra. I  should  not,  however,  on  this
account have ventured at once on the examination of all  the  difficulties
of the sciences which presented themselves to me, for this would have been
contrary to the order prescribed in the method,  but  observing  that  the
knowledge of such is dependent on principles borrowed from philosophy,  in
which I found nothing certain, I thought it  necessary  first  of  all  to
endeavor to establish its principles. .And because  I  observed,  besides,
that an inquiry of this kind was of all others of the greatest moment, and
one in which precipitancy and anticipation in judgment  were  most  to  be
dreaded, I thought that I ought not to approach it till I  had  reached  a
more mature age (being at that time but twenty-three), and  had  first  of
all employed much of my time in preparation  for  the  work,  as  well  by
eradicating from my mind all the erroneous  opinions  I  had  up  to  that
moment accepted, as by amassing variety of experience to afford  materials
for my reasonings, and by  continually  exercising  myself  in  my  chosen
method with a view to increased skill in its application.


    And finally, as it is not enough, before commencing  to  rebuild  the
house in which we live, that it be pulled down, and materials and builders
provided, or that we engage in the work ourselves,  according  to  a  plan
which we have beforehand carefully  drawn  out,  but  as  it  is  likewise
necessary that we be furnished with some other house in which we may  live
commodiously during the operations, so that I might not remain  irresolute
in my actions, while my reason compelled me to suspend my  judgement,  and
that I might not be prevented from living thenceforward  in  the  greatest
possible felicity, I formed a provisory code of morals, composed of  three
or four maxims, with which I am desirous to make you acquainted.
    The first was to obey the laws and customs of  my  country,  adhering
firmly to the faith in which, by the grace of God,  I  had  been  educated
from my  childhood  and  regulating  my  conduct  in  every  other  matter
according to the most moderate opinions, and  the  farthest  removed  from
extremes, which should happen to  be  adopted  in  practice  with  general
consent of the most judicious of those among whom I might be  living.  For
as I had from that time begun to hold my own opinions for nought because I
wished to subject them all to examination, I was convinced  that  I  could
not do better than follow  in  the  meantime  the  opinions  of  the  most
judicious; and although there are some  perhaps  among  the  Persians  and
Chinese as judicious as among ourselves, expediency seemed to dictate that
I should regulate my practice conformably to the opinions  of  those  with
whom I should have to live; and it  appeared  to  me  that,  in  order  to
ascertain the real opinions of such, I ought rather to take cognizance  of
what they practised than of what they  said,  not  only  because,  in  the
corruption of our manners, there are few disposed to speak exactly as they
believe, but also because very many are not aware of what it is that  they
really believe; for, as the act of mind by which a thing  is  believed  is
different from that by which we know that we believe it, the  one  act  is
often found without the other. Also, amid  many  opinions  held  in  equal
repute, I chose always the most moderate, as  much  for  the  reason  that
these are always the most convenient for practice, and probably  the  best
(for all excess is generally vicious), as that, in the event of my falling
into error, I might be at less distance from the  truth  than  if,  having
chosen one of the extremes, it should turn out to be  the  other  which  I
ought to have adopted. And I placed in the class  of  extremes  especially
all promises by which somewhat of our freedom  is  abridged;  not  that  I
disapproved of the laws which, to provide against the instability  of  men
of feeble resolution, when what is sought to be accomplished is some good,
permit engagements by vows and contracts binding the parties to  persevere
in it, or even, for the security of commerce, sanction similar engagements
where the purpose sought to be realized is indifferent: but because I  did
not find anything on earth  which  was  wholly  superior  to  change,  and
because, for myself  in  particular,  I  hoped  gradually  to  perfect  my
judgments, and not to suffer them to deteriorate, I would have deemed it a
grave sin against good sense, if,  for  the  reason  that  I  approved  of
something at a particular time, I therefore bound myself to  hold  it  for
good at a subsequent time, when perhaps it had ceased to be so, or  I  had
ceased to esteem it such.
    My second maxim was to be as firm and resolute in my actions as I was
able, and not to adhere less steadfastly to the  most  doubtful  opinions,
when once adopted, than if they had been highly certain; imitating in this
the example of travelers who, when they have lost their way in  a  forest,
ought not to wander from side to side, far less remain in one  place,  but
proceed constantly towards  the  same  side  in  as  straight  a  line  as
possible, without changing their direction for  slight  reasons,  although
perhaps it might be chance alone which at first determined the  selection;
for in this way, if they do not exactly reach the point they desire,  they
will come at least in  the  end  to  some  place  that  will  probably  be
preferable to the middle of a forest. In the same way, since in action  it
frequently happens that no delay is permissible, it is very certain  that,
when it is not in our power to determine what is true,  we  ought  to  act
according to what is most probable; and even although we should not remark
a  greater  probability  in  one  opinion  than  in  another,   we   ought
notwithstanding to choose one or the other, and afterwards consider it, in
so far as it relates to practice, as no  longer  dubious,  but  manifestly
true and certain, since the reason by which our choice has been determined
is itself possessed of these  qualities.  This  principle  was  sufficient
thenceforward to rid me of all those repentings and pangs of remorse  that
usually disturb the consciences of such feeble  and  uncertain  minds  as,
destitute  of  any  clear  and  determinate  principle  of  choice,  allow
themselves one day to adopt a course of action as  the  best,  which  they
abandon the next, as the opposite.
    My third maxim was to endeavor always to conquer myself  rather  than
fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the world, and  in
general, accustom myself to the persuasion that, except our own  thoughts,
there is nothing absolutely in our power; so that when we  have  done  our
best in things external to us, all wherein we fail of  success  is  to  be
held, as regards us, absolutely  impossible:  and  this  single  principle
seemed to me sufficient  to  prevent  me  from  desiring  for  the  future
anything which I could not obtain, and thus render me contented; for since
our will naturally seeks  those  objects  alone  which  the  understanding
represents as in some way possible of attainment, it is plain, that if  we
consider all external goods as equally beyond our power, we shall no  more
regret the absence of such goods as seem due to our birth,  when  deprived
of them without any fault of ours, than our not possessing the kingdoms of
China or Mexico, and thus making, so to speak, a virtue of  necessity,  we
shall no more desire health in disease, or freedom in  imprisonment,  than
we now do bodies incorruptible as diamonds, or the wings of birds  to  fly
with. But I confess there is need of prolonged discipline  and  frequently
repeated meditation to accustom the mind  to  view  all  objects  in  this
light; and I believe that in this chiefly  consisted  the  secret  of  the
power of such philosophers  as  in  former  times  were  enabled  to  rise
superior to the influence of fortune, and,  amid  suffering  and  poverty,
enjoy a happiness which  their  gods  might  have  envied.  For,  occupied
incessantly with the consideration of the limits prescribed to their power
by nature, they became so entirely convinced that  nothing  was  at  their
disposal except their own thoughts, that this  conviction  was  of  itself
sufficient to prevent their entertaining any desire of other objects;  and
over their thoughts they acquired a sway so absolute, that they  had  some
ground on this  account  for  esteeming  themselves  more  rich  and  more
powerful, more free and more happy, than other men who,  whatever  be  the
favors heaped on  them  by  nature  and  fortune,  if  destitute  of  this
philosophy, can never command the realization of all their desires.
    In fine, to conclude this code of morals, I thought of reviewing  the
different occupations of men in this life, with the view of making  choice
of the best. And, without wishing to offer any remarks on the  employments
of others, I may state that it was my  conviction  that  I  could  not  do
better than continue in that in which I was engaged, viz., in devoting  my
whole life to the culture  of  my  reason,  and  in  making  the  greatest
progress I was able in the knowledge of truth, on the  principles  of  the
method which I had prescribed to myself. This method, from the time I  had
begun to apply it, had been to me the source of satisfaction so intense as
to lead me to, believe that more perfect or more  innocent  could  not  be
enjoyed in this life; and as by its means I daily discovered  truths  that
appeared to me of some importance, and of which other men  were  generally
ignorant, the gratification thence arising so occupied my mind that I  was
wholly indifferent to every other object.  Besides,  the  three  preceding
maxims were founded singly  on  the  design  of  continuing  the  work  of
selfinstruction. For since God has endowed each of us with some  light  of
reason by which to distinguish truth from error, I could not have believed
that I ought for a single moment to rest satisfied with  the  opinions  of
another, unless I had resolved to exercise my own  judgment  in  examining
these whenever I should be duly qualified for the task. Nor could  I  have
proceeded on such opinions without scruple, had I supposed that  I  should
thereby forfeit any advantage for attaining still  more  accurate,  should
such exist. And, in fine, I could not  have  restrained  my  desires,  nor
remained satisfied had I not followed a path in  which  I  thought  myself
certain of attaining all the knowledge to the acquisition of which  I  was
competent, as well as the largest amount of what is  truly  good  which  I
could ever hope to secure Inasmuch as we neither seek nor shun any  object
except in so far as our understanding represents it as good  or  bad,  all
that is necessary to right action is  right  judgment,  and  to  the  best
action the most correct judgment, that is, to the acquisition of  all  the
virtues with all else that is truly valuable and within our reach; and the
assurance of such an acquisition cannot fail to render us contented.
    Having thus provided myself with these maxims, and having placed them
in reserve along with the truths of faith, which have  ever  occupied  the
first place in my belief, I came to  the  conclusion  that  I  might  with
freedom set about ridding myself of what remained  of  my  opinions.  And,
inasmuch as I hoped to be better able successfully to accomplish this work
by holding intercourse with mankind, than by remaining longer shut  up  in
the retirement where these thoughts had occurred to me, I betook me  again
to traveling before the winter  was  well  ended.  And,  during  the  nine
subsequent years, I did nothing  but  roam  from  one  place  to  another,
desirous of being a spectator rather than an actor in the plays  exhibited
on the theater of the world; and, as I made it my business in each  matter
to reflect particularly upon what might fairly  be  doubted  and  prove  a
source of error, I gradually rooted out from my mind all the errors  which
had hitherto crept into it. Not that in this I imitated the  sceptics  who
doubt only that they  may  doubt,  and  seek  nothing  beyond  uncertainty
itself; for, on the contrary, my design  was  singly  to  find  ground  of
assurance, and cast aside the loose earth and sand, that I might reach the
rock or the clay. In this, as appears to me, I was successful enough; for,
since I endeavored  to  discover  the  falsehood  or  incertitude  of  the
propositions I examined, not by  feeble  conjectures,  but  by  clear  and
certain reasonings, I met with nothing so doubtful as not  to  yield  some
conclusion of adequate certainty, although this were merely the inference,
that the matter in question contained nothing certain.  And,  just  as  in
pulling down an old house, we usually  reserve  the  ruins  to  contribute
towards the erection, so, in destroying such of my opinions as I judged to
be Ill-founded, I made a variety of observations and acquired an amount of
experience of which I availed myself in the establishment of more certain.
And  further,  I  continued  to  exercise  myself  in  the  method  I  had
prescribed; for, besides taking care in general to conduct all my thoughts
according to its rules, I reserved some hours from time to  time  which  I
expressly devoted to the employment of  the  method  in  the  solution  of
mathematical difficulties, or  even  in  the  solution  likewise  of  some
questions belonging to other sciences, but which, by  my  having  detached
them from  such  principles  of  these  sciences  as  were  of  inadequate
certainty, were rendered almost mathematical: the truth of  this  will  be
manifest from the numerous examples contained in this  volume.  And  thus,
without in appearance living otherwise  than  those  who,  with  no  other
occupation than that of spending their  lives  agreeably  and  innocently,
study to sever pleasure from vice, and who,  that  they  may  enjoy  their
leisure without ennui, have recourse to such pursuits as are honorable,  I
was nevertheless prosecuting my design, and making greater progress in the
knowledge of truth, than I might, perhaps, have made had I been engaged in
the perusal of books merely, or in holding converse with men of letters.
    These nine years passed away, however,  before  I  had  come  to  any
determinate judgment respecting the  difficulties  which  form  matter  of
dispute among the learned, or had commenced to seek the principles of  any
philosophy more certain than the vulgar. And the examples of many  men  of
the highest genius, who had, in former times,  engaged  in  this  inquiry,
but, as appeared to me, without success, led me to imagine it to be a work
of so much difficulty, that I would not perhaps have  ventured  on  it  so
soon had I not heard it currently rumored that I had already completed the
inquiry. I know not what were the grounds of  this  opinion;  and,  if  my
conversation contributed in any  measure  to  its  rise,  this  must  have
happened rather from my having confessed my Ignorance with greater freedom
than those are accustomed to do who have studied a little,  and  expounded
perhaps, the reasons that led me to doubt of many of those things that  by
others are esteemed certain, than from my having boasted of any system  of
philosophy. But, as I am of a disposition that makes me  unwilling  to  be
esteemed different from what I  really  am,  I  thought  it  necessary  to
endeavor by all means to render myself worthy of the  reputation  accorded
to me; and it is now exactly eight years since this desire constrained  me
to remove from  all  those  places  where  interruption  from  any  of  my
acquaintances was possible, and betake myself to this  country,  in  which
the long duration of  the  war  has  led  to  the  establishment  of  such
discipline, that the armies maintained seem to be of use only in  enabling
the inhabitants to enjoy more securely the blessings of peace  and  where,
in the midst of a great crowd  actively  engaged  in  business,  and  more
careful of their own affairs than curious about those of  others,  I  have
been enabled to live without being deprived of any of the conveniences  to
be had in the most populous cities, and yet as solitary and as retired  as
in the midst of the most remote deserts.


    I am in doubt as to the propriety of making my first  meditations  in
the  place  above  mentioned  matter  of  discourse;  for  these  are   so
metaphysical, and so uncommon, as not, perhaps, to be acceptable to  every
one. And yet, that it may be determined whether  the  foundations  that  I
have laid are sufficiently secure, I find myself in a measure  constrained
to advert to them. I  had  long  before  remarked  that,  in  relation  to
practice, it is sometimes necessary to adopt, as if above doubt,  opinions
which we discern to be highly uncertain, as has been already said; but  as
I then desired to give my attention solely to the search  after  truth,  I
thought that a procedure exactly the opposite was called for, and  that  I
ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions  in  regard  to  which  I
could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order  to  ascertain  whether
after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly  indubitable.
Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to
suppose that there existed nothing really such as they  presented  to  us;
and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, even  on
the simplest matters of geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error
as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I  had  hitherto  taken
for demonstrations; and finally, when I  considered  that  the  very  same
thoughts (presentations) which  we  experience  when  awake  may  also  be
experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that  time  not  one  of
them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that  had  ever
entered into my mind when awake, had  in  them  no  more  truth  than  the
illusions of my dreams. But immediately upon this I observed that,  whilst
I thus wished to think that all was false,  it  was  absolutely  necessary
that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that  this
truth, I think, therefore I am (COGITO ERGO SUM), was so  certain  and  of
such evidence that no ground  of  doubt,  however  extravagant,  could  be
alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that  I  might,
without scruple, accept it as the first principle  of  the  philosophy  of
which I was in search
    In the next place, I  attentively  examined  what  I  was  and  as  I
observed that I could suppose that I had no body, and that  there  was  no
world nor any place in which I might be; but that I  could  not  therefore
suppose that I  was  not;  and  that,  on  the  contrary,  from  the  very
circumstance that I thought to doubt of the truth of other things, it most
clearly and certainly followed that I was; while, on the other hand, if  I
had only ceased to think, although all the other objects which I had  ever
imagined had been in reality existent, I  would  have  had  no  reason  to
believe that I existed; I thence concluded that I was  a  substance  whose
whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it  may
exist, has need of no place, nor is dependent on any  material  thing;  so
that " I," that is to say, the mind by which I am what  I  am,  is  wholly
distinct from the body, and is even more easily known than the latter, and
is such, that although the latter were not, it would still continue to  be
all that it is.
    After this I inquired in general into what  is  essential  I  to  the
truth and certainty of a proposition; for since I had discovered one which
I knew to be true, I thought that I must likewise be able to discover  the
ground of this certitude. And as I observed that in  the  words  I  think,
therefore I am, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of  their
truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to  think  it  is
necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule,  the
principle, that all the  things  which  we  very  clearly  and  distinctly
conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some  difficulty
in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive.
    In the next  place,  from  reflecting  on  the  circumstance  that  I
doubted, and that consequently my being was  not  wholly  perfect  (for  I
clearly saw that it was a greater perfection to know than to doubt), I was
led to inquire whence I had learned to think  of  something  more  perfect
than myself; and I clearly recognized that I must hold  this  notion  from
some nature which in reality was more perfect. As for the thoughts of many
other objects external to me, as of the sky, the earth, light, heat, and a
thousand more, I was less at a loss to know whence these came; for since I
remarked in them nothing which seemed to render them superior to myself, I
could believe that, if these were true, they were dependencies on  my  own
nature, in so far as it possessed a certain perfection, and, if they  were
false, that I held them from nothing, that is to say, that they were in me
because of a certain imperfection of my nature. But this could not be  the
case with-the idea of a nature more perfect than myself; for to receive it
from nothing was a thing manifestly impossible; and,  because  it  is  not
less repugnant  that  the  more  perfect  should  be  an  effect  of,  and
dependence on the less perfect, than that something  should  proceed  from
nothing, it was equally impossible that  I  could  hold  it  from  myself:
accordingly, it but remained that it had been placed in  me  by  a  nature
which was in reality more perfect than  mine,  and  which  even  possessed
within itself all the perfections of which I could form any idea; that  is
to say, in a single word, which was God. And to this I added that, since I
knew some perfections which I did not possess, I was not the only being in
existence (I will here, with your permission, freely use the terms of  the
schools); but, on the contrary, that there was  of  necessity  some  other
more perfect Being upon whom I was dependent, and from whom I had received
all that I possessed; for if I had existed  alone,  and  independently  of
every other being, so as to have  had  from  myself  all  the  perfection,
however little, which I actually possessed, I should have been  able,  for
the  same  reason,  to  have  had  from  myself  the  whole  remainder  of
perfection, of the want of which I was conscious, and thus could of myself
have become infinite, eternal, immutable, omniscient,  all-powerful,  and,
in fine, have possessed all the perfections which  I  could  recognize  in
God. For in order to know the nature of  God  (whose  existence  has  been
established by  the  preceding  reasonings),  as  far  as  my  own  nature
permitted, I had only to consider in reference to all  the  properties  of
which I found in my mind some idea, whether their possession was a mark of
perfection; and I was assured that no one which indicated any imperfection
was in him, and that none of the rest was awanting. Thus I perceived  that
doubt, inconstancy, sadness, and such like, could not  be  found  in  God,
since I myself would have been happy to be free from them. Besides, I  had
ideas of many sensible and corporeal things; for although I might  suppose
that I was dreaming, and that all which I saw or  imagined  was  false,  I
could not, nevertheless, deny  that  the  ideas  were  in  reality  in  my
thoughts. But, because I had already very  clearly  recognized  in  myself
that the intelligent nature is distinct  from  the  corporeal,  and  as  I
observed that all composition is an evidence of  dependency,  and  that  a
state of dependency is manifestly a state  of  imperfection,  I  therefore
determined that it could not be a perfection in God to  be  compounded  of
these two natures and that consequently he was not so compounded; but that
if there were any bodies in the world, or even any intelligences, or other
natures that were not wholly perfect,  their  existence  depended  on  his
power in such a way that they could not subsist without him for  a  single
    I was disposed straightway to search for other truths and when I  had
represented to myself the object of the geometers, which I conceived to be
a continuous body or a space indefinitely extended in length, breadth, and
height or depth, divisible into divers  parts  which  admit  of  different
figures and sizes, and of being moved or transposed in all manner of  ways
(for all this the geometers suppose to be in the object they contemplate),
I went over some of their  simplest  demonstrations.  And,  in  the  first
place, I observed, that the great certitude which  by  common  consent  is
accorded to these demonstrations, is founded solely upon this,  that  they
are clearly conceived in accordance with the rules  I  have  already  laid
down In the next place, I perceived that there was nothing at all in these
demonstrations which could assure me of the  existence  of  their  object:
thus, for  example,  supposing  a  triangle  to  be  given,  I  distinctly
perceived that its three  angles  were  necessarily  equal  to  two  right
angles, but I did not on that account perceive anything which could assure
me that any triangle existed: while, on the  contrary,  recurring  to  the
examination of the idea of a Perfect Being, I found that the existence  of
the Being was comprised in the idea in the same way that the  equality  of
its three angles to two right  angles  is  comprised  in  the  idea  of  a
triangle, or as in the idea of a sphere, the equidistance of all points on
its surface from  the  center,  or  even  still  more  clearly;  and  that
consequently it is at least as certain  that  God,  who  is  this  Perfect
Being, is, or exists, as any demonstration of geometry can be.
    But the reason which leads many to persuade them selves that there is
a difficulty in knowing this truth, and even also in  knowing  what  their
mind really is, is that they never raise  their  thoughts  above  sensible
objects, and are so accustomed  to  consider  nothing  except  by  way  of
imagination, which is a mode of thinking limited to material objects, that
all that is not imaginable seems to them not intelligible.  The  truth  of
this is sufficiently manifest  from  the  single  circumstance,  that  the
philosophers of the schools accept as a maxim that there is nothing in the
understanding which was not previously in the senses, in which however  it
is certain that the ideas of God and of the soul have never been;  and  it
appears to me that they who make use of their  imagination  to  comprehend
these ideas do exactly the some thing as if, in order to  hear  sounds  or
smell odors, they strove to avail themselves of their eyes; unless  indeed
that there is this difference, that the sense of sight does not afford  us
an inferior assurance to those of smell or hearing;  in  place  of  which,
neither our imagination nor our senses can give us assurance  of  anything
unless our understanding intervene.
    Finally, if there be still persons who are not sufficiently persuaded
of the existence of God and of the soul, by the reasons I have adduced,  I
am desirous that they should know that all the other propositions, of  the
truth of which they deem themselves perhaps more assured, as that we  have
a body, and that there exist stars and an earth, and such like,  are  less
certain; for, although we have a moral assurance of these things, which is
so strong that there is an appearance of extravagance in doubting of their
existence, yet at the same time no one, unless his intellect is  impaired,
can deny, when the question relates  to  a  metaphysical  certitude,  that
there is sufficient reason to exclude entire assurance, in the observation
that when asleep we can in the same way  imagine  ourselves  possessed  of
another body and that we see other stars and another earth, when there  is
nothing of the kind. For how do we know that the thoughts which  occur  in
dreaming are false rather than those other which we experience when awake,
since the former are often not less vivid and distinct  than  the  latter?
And though men of the highest genius study this question as long  as  they
please, I do not believe that they will be able to give any  reason  which
can be sufficient  to  remove  this  doubt,  unless  they  presuppose  the
existence of God. For, in the first place even the principle which I  have
already taken as a rule, viz., that all the things which  we  clearly  and
distinctly conceive are true, is certain only because God is or exists and
because he is a Perfect Being, and because all that we possess is  derived
from him: whence it follows that our ideas or notions, which to the extent
of their clearness and distinctness are real, and proceed from  God,  must
to that extent be true. Accordingly,  whereas  we  not  infrequently  have
ideas or notions in which some falsity is contained, this can only be  the
case with such as are to some extent confused and  obscure,  and  in  this
proceed from nothing (participate of negation), that is, exist in us  thus
confused because we are not wholly perfect. And it is evident that  it  is
not less repugnant that falsity or  imperfection,  in  so  far  as  it  is
imperfection, should proceed from  God,  than  that  truth  or  perfection
should proceed from nothing. But if we did not  know  that  all  which  we
possess of real and true proceeds  from  a  Perfect  and  Infinite  Being,
however clear and distinct our ideas might be, we should have no ground on
that account for the assurance that they possessed the perfection of being
    But after the knowledge of God  and  of  the  soul  has  rendered  us
certain of this rule, we can easily  understand  that  the  truth  of  the
thoughts we experience when awake, ought not in the slightest degree to be
called in question on account of the illusions of our dreams.  For  if  it
happened that an individual, even when  asleep,  had  some  very  distinct
idea,  as,  for  example,  if  a  geometer  should   discover   some   new
demonstration, the circumstance of his being  asleep  would  not  militate
against its truth; and as for the most ordinary error of our dreams, which
consists in their representing to us various objects in the  same  way  as
our external senses, this is not  prejudicial,  since  it  leads  us  very
properly to suspect the truth of the  ideas  of  sense;  for  we  are  not
infrequently deceived in the same manner when awake; as  when  persons  in
the jaundice see all objects yellow, or when the  stars  or  bodies  at  a
great distance appear to us much smaller than  they  are.  For,  in  fine,
whether awake or asleep, we ought never to allow ourselves to be persuaded
of the truth of anything unless on the evidence of our reason. And it must
be noted that I say of our reason, and not of our imagination  or  of  our
senses: thus, for example, although we very clearly see the sun, we  ought
not therefore to determine that it is only of the size which our sense  of
sight presents; and we may very distinctly imagine  the  head  of  a  lion
joined to the body of a goat, without  being  therefore  shut  up  to  the
conclusion that a chimaera exists; for it is not a dictate of reason  that
what we thus see or imagine is in reality existent; but it  plainly  tells
us that all our ideas or notions contain in them some truth; for otherwise
it could not be that God, who is wholly perfect and veracious, should have
placed them in us. And because our reasonings are never  so  clear  or  so
complete during sleep as when we are awake, although sometimes the acts of
our imagination are then as lively and distinct, if not more  so  than  in
our waking moments, reason further dictates that, since all  our  thoughts
cannot be true because of our partial imperfection, those possessing truth
must infallibly be found in the experience of our  waking  moments  rather
than in that of our dreams.


    I would here willingly have proceeded to exhibit the whole  chain  of
truths which I deduced from these primary but as with a view  to  this  it
would have been necessary now to treat of many questions in dispute  among
the earned, with whom I do not wish to be embroiled,  I  believe  that  it
will be better for me to refrain from this exposition, and only mention in
general what these truths are, that the more  judicious  may  be  able  to
determine whether a more special account of  them  would  conduce  to  the
public advantage. I have ever remained firm in my original  resolution  to
suppose no other principle than that of  which  I  have  recently  availed
myself in demonstrating the existence of God  and  of  the  soul,  and  to
accept as true nothing that did not appear to me more  clear  and  certain
than the demonstrations of the geometers had formerly appeared; and yet  I
venture to state that not only have I found means to satisfy myself  in  a
short time on all the principal difficulties which are usually treated  of
in philosophy, but I have also observed certain laws established in nature
by God in such a manner, and of which he has impressed on our  minds  such
notions, that after we have reflected sufficiently upon these,  we  cannot
doubt that they are accurately observed in all that exists or takes  place
in the world and farther, by considering the concatenation of these  laws,
it appears to me that I have discovered many truths more useful  and  more
important than all I had before learned, or even had expected to learn.
    But because I have essayed to expound the chief of these  discoveries
in a treatise which certain considerations prevent me from  publishing,  I
cannot make the results known more conveniently  than  by  here  giving  a
summary of the contents of this treatise. It was my design to comprise  in
it all that, before I set myself to write it, I  thought  I  knew  of  the
nature of material objects. But like the painters who, finding  themselves
unable to represent equally well on a  plain  surface  all  the  different
faces of a solid body, select one of the chief, on which alone  they  make
the light fall, and throwing the rest into the shade, allow them to appear
only in so far as they can be seen while looking at the principal one; so,
fearing lest I should not be able to compense in my discourse all that was
in my mind, I resolved to expound singly, though at  considerable  length,
my opinions regarding light;  then  to  take  the  opportunity  of  adding
something on the sun and  the  fixed  stars,  since  light  almost  wholly
proceeds from them; on the heavens since they transmit it; on the planets,
comets, and earth, since they reflect it;  and  particularly  on  all  the
bodies that are  upon  the  earth,  since  they  are  either  colored,  or
transparent, or luminous; and finally on man, since he is the spectator of
these objects. Further, to enable me to  cast  this  variety  of  subjects
somewhat into the shade, and to express my judgment  regarding  them  with
greater freedom,  without  being  necessitated  to  adopt  or  refute  the
opinions of the learned, I resolved to leave all the people here to  their
disputes, and to speak only of what would happen in a new  world,  if  God
were now to create somewhere in the imaginary spaces matter sufficient  to
compose one, and were to agitate variously and  confusedly  the  different
parts of this matter, so that there resulted a chaos as disordered as  the
poets ever feigned, and after that did nothing more than lend his ordinary
concurrence to nature, and allow her to act in accordance  with  the  laws
which he had established. On this supposition,  I,  in  the  first  place,
described this matter, and essayed to represent it in such a  manner  that
to my mind there can be nothing clearer and more intelligible, except what
has been recently said regarding God and the soul; for  I  even  expressly
supposed that it possessed none of those forms or qualities which  are  so
debated in the schools, nor in general anything the knowledge of which  is
not so natural to our minds that no one can so  much  as  imagine  himself
ignorant of it. Besides, I have pointed out what are the laws  of  nature;
and, with no other principle upon which to found my reasonings except  the
infinite perfection of God, I endeavored to demonstrate  all  those  about
which there could be any room for doubt, and to prove that they are  such,
that even if God had created more worlds, there could have  been  none  in
which these laws were not observed. Thereafter, I showed how the  greatest
part of the matter of this chaos must,  in  accordance  with  these  laws,
dispose and arrange itself in such a way as to present the  appearance  of
heavens; how in the meantime some of its parts must compose an  earth  and
some planets and comets, and others a sun and fixed stars. And,  making  a
digression at  this  stage  on  the  subject  of  light,  I  expounded  at
considerable length what the nature of that light must be which  is  found
in the sun and the stars,  and  how  thence  in  an  instant  of  time  it
traverses the immense spaces of the heavens, and how from the planets  and
comets it is reflected towards the earth. To this I  likewise  added  much
respecting  the  substance,  the  situation,  the  motions,  and  all  the
different qualities of these heavens and stars; so that I  thought  I  had
said enough respecting them to show that there is  nothing  observable  in
the heavens or stars of our system that must not,  or  at  least  may  not
appear precisely alike in those of the system which I  described.  I  came
next to speak of the earth in particular, and to show how, even  though  I
had expressly supposed that God had given no weight to the matter of which
it is composed, this should not prevent all its parts from tending exactly
to its center; how with water and air on its surface, the  disposition  of
the heavens and heavenly bodies, more especially of the moon, must cause a
flow and ebb, like in all its circumstances to that observed in our  seas,
as also a certain current both of water and air from east to west, such as
is likewise  observed  between  the  tropics;  how  the  mountains,  seas,
fountains, and rivers might naturally be formed  in  it,  and  the  metals
produced in the mines, and the plants grow in the fields and  in  general,
how all the bodies which are commonly denominated mixed or composite might
be generated and,  among  other  things  in  the  discoveries  alluded  to
inasmuch as besides the stars, I knew nothing except fire  which  produces
light, I spared no pains to set forth all that pertains to its  nature,  -
the manner of its production and support,  and  to  explain  how  heat  is
sometimes found without light, and light without heat; to show how it  can
induce various colors upon different bodies and other  diverse  qualities;
how it reduces some to a liquid state  and  hardens  others;  how  it  can
consume almost all bodies, or convert  them  into  ashes  and  smoke;  and
finally, how from these ashes, by the mere intensity  of  its  action,  it
forms glass: for as this transmutation of ashes into glass appeared to  me
as wonderful as any  other  in  nature,  I  took  a  special  pleasure  in
describing it. I was not, however, disposed, from these circumstances,  to
conclude that this world had been created in the manner I  described;  for
it is much more likely that God made it at the first such as it was to be.
But this is certain, and an opinion commonly received  among  theologians,
that the action by which he now sustains it is the same with that by which
he originally created it; so that even although he had from the  beginning
given it  no  other  form  than  that  of  chaos,  provided  only  he  had
established certain laws of nature, and had lent  it  his  concurrence  to
enable it to act as it  is  wont  to  do,  it  may  be  believed,  without
discredit to the miracle of creation, that,  in  this  way  alone,  things
purely material might, in course of time, have become such as  we  observe
them at present; and their nature is much more easily conceived when  they
are beheld coming in this manner gradually into existence, than when  they
are only considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state.
    From the description of inanimate bodies  and  plants,  I  passed  to
animals, and particularly to man. But since I had not  as  yet  sufficient
knowledge to enable me to treat of these in the  same  manner  as  of  the
rest, that is to say, by  deducing  effects  from  their  causes,  and  by
showing from what elements and in what manner nature must produce them,  I
remained satisfied with the supposition that God formed the  body  of  man
wholly like to one of ours, as well in the external shape of  the  members
as in the internal conformation of the organs, of  the  same  matter  with
that I had described, and at first placed in it no rational soul, nor  any
other principle, in room of  the  vegetative  or  sensitive  soul,  beyond
kindling in the heart one of those fires without  light,  such  as  I  had
already described, and which I thought was not different from the heat  in
hay that has been heaped together before it is dry, or that  which  causes
fermentation in new wines before they are run clear  of  the  fruit.  For,
when I examined the kind of functions which might, as consequences of this
supposition, exist in this body, I found precisely  all  those  which  may
exist in us independently of  all  power  of  thinking,  and  consequently
without being in any measure owing to the soul; in other  words,  to  that
part of us which is distinct from the body, and of which it has been  said
above that the nature distinctively consists  in  thinking,  functions  in
which the animals void of reason may be said wholly to  resemble  us;  but
among which I could not discover  any  of  those  that,  as  dependent  on
thought alone, belong to us as men,  while,  on  the  other  hand,  I  did
afterwards discover these as soon as I supposed  God  to  have  created  a
rational soul, and to have annexed it to this body in a particular  manner
which I described.
    But, in order to show how I there handled this matter, I mean here to
give the explication of the motion of the heart and  arteries,  which,  as
the first and most general motion observed in  animals,  will  afford  the
means of readily determining what should be thought of all the  rest.  And
that there may be less difficulty in understanding what I am about to  say
on this subject, I advise those who are not versed in anatomy, before they
commence the perusal of these observations, to take the trouble of getting
dissected in their presence the heart of some large  animal  possessed  of
lungs (for this is throughout sufficiently like the human),  and  to  have
shown to them its two ventricles or cavities: in the first place, that  in
the right side, with which correspond two  very  ample  tubes,  viz.,  the
hollow vein (vena cava), which is the principal receptacle of  the  blood,
and the trunk of the tree, as it were, of which all the other veins in the
body are branches; and the arterial vein (vena arteriosa), inappropriately
so denominated, since it is in truth only an  artery,  which,  taking  its
rise in the heart, is divided,  after  passing  out  from  it,  into  many
branches which presently disperse themselves all over the  lungs;  in  the
second place, the cavity in the left side, with which  correspond  in  the
same manner two canals in size equal to or larger than the preceding, viz.
, the  venous  artery  (arteria  venosa),  likewise  inappropriately  thus
designated, because it is simply a vein which comes from the lungs,  where
it is divided into many branches, interlaced with those  of  the  arterial
vein, and those of the tube called the windpipe, through which the air  we
breathe enters; and the great artery which, issuing from the heart,  sends
its branches all over the body. I should wish also that such persons  were
carefully shown the eleven pellicles which, like  so  many  small  valves,
open and shut the four orifices that are  in  these  two  cavities,  viz.,
three at the entrance of the hollow veins where they are disposed in  such
a manner as by no means to  prevent  the  blood  which  it  contains  from
flowing into the right ventricle of the heart, and yet exactly to  prevent
its flowing out; three at  the  entrance  to  the  arterial  vein,  which,
arranged in a manner exactly the opposite of the  former,  readily  permit
the blood contained in this cavity to pass into the lungs, but hinder that
contained in the lungs from returning to this cavity; and, in like manner,
two others at the mouth of the venous artery, which allow the  blood  from
the lungs to flow into the left cavity of  the  heart,  but  preclude  its
return; and three at the mouth of the great artery, which suffer the blood
to flow from the heart, but prevent its reflux. Nor do we need to seek any
other reason for the number  of  these  pellicles  beyond  this  that  the
orifice of the venous artery being of an oval shape from the nature of its
situation, can be adequately closed with two,  whereas  the  others  being
round are more conveniently  closed  with  three.  Besides,  I  wish  such
persons to observe that the grand artery and the arterial vein are of much
harder and firmer texture than the venous artery and the hollow vein;  and
that the two last expand before entering the heart, and there form, as  it
were, two pouches  denominated  the  auricles  of  the  heart,  which  are
composed of a substance similar to that of  the  heart  itself;  and  that
there is always more warmth in the heart than in any  other  part  of  the
body- and finally, that this heat is capable of causing any drop of  blood
that passes into the cavities rapidly to expand and dilate,  just  as  all
liquors do when allowed to fall drop by drop into a highly heated vessel.
    For, after these things, it is not necessary for me to  say  anything
more with a view to explain the motion of the heart, except that when  its
cavities are not full of blood, into these the blood of necessity flows, -
- from the hollow vein into the right, and from the venous artery into the
left; because these two vessels  are  always  full  of  blood,  and  their
orifices, which are turned towards the heart, cannot then be  closed.  But
as soon as two drops of blood have thus  passed,  one  into  each  of  the
cavities, these drops which cannot but be very large, because the orifices
through which they pass are wide, and the vessels  from  which  they  come
full of blood, are immediately rarefied, and dilated by the heat they meet
with. In this way they cause the whole heart to expand, and  at  the  same
time press home and shut the five small valves that are at  the  entrances
of the two vessels from which they flow, and thus prevent any  more  blood
from coming down into the heart, and becoming more and more rarefied, they
push open the six small valves that are in the orifices of the  other  two
vessels, through which they pass out, causing in this way all the branches
of  the  arterial  vein  and  of  the  grand  artery  to   expand   almost
simultaneously with the  heart  which  immediately  thereafter  begins  to
contract, as do also the arteries, because the blood that has entered them
has cooled, and the six small valves close, and the  five  of  the  hollow
vein and of the venous artery open anew and allow a passage to  other  two
drops of blood, which cause the heart and the arteries again to expand  as
before. And, because the blood which thus enters  into  the  heart  passes
through these two pouches called auricles, it thence  happens  that  their
motion is the contrary of that of the heart, and that when it expands they
contract. But lest those who are ignorant of  the  force  of  mathematical
demonstrations and who are not accustomed to distinguish true reasons from
mere verisimilitudes, should venture. without examination,  to  deny  what
has been said, I wish it to be considered that the motion which I have now
explained follows as necessarily from the very arrangement of  the  parts,
which may be observed in the heart by the eye alone,  and  from  the  heat
which may be felt with the fingers, and from the nature of  the  blood  as
learned from experience, as does the motion of a clock from the power, the
situation, and shape of its counterweights and wheels.
    But if it be asked how it  happens  that  the  blood  in  the  veins,
flowing in this way continually into the heart, is not exhausted, and  why
the arteries do not become too full, since  all  the  blood  which  passes
through the heart flows into them, I need only mention in reply  what  has
been written by a physician 1 of England, who  has  the  honor  of  having
broken the ice on this subject, and of having been the first to teach that
there are many small passages at the extremities of the arteries,  through
which the blood received by them from the  heart  passes  into  the  small
branches of the veins, whence it again returns to the heart; so  that  its
course amounts precisely to a  perpetual  circulation.  Of  this  we  have
abundant proof in the ordinary experience of surgeons, who, by binding the
arm with a tie of moderate straitness above the part where they  open  the
vein, cause the blood to flow more  copiously  than  it  would  have  done
without any ligature; whereas quite the contrary would happen were they to
bind it below; that is, between the hand and the opening, or were to  make
the ligature above the opening very tight. For it  is  manifest  that  the
tie, moderately straightened, while adequate to hinder the  blood  already
in the arm from returning towards the heart by the veins, cannot  on  that
account prevent new  blood  from  coming  forward  through  the  arteries,
because these are situated below the  veins,  and  their  coverings,  from
their greater consistency, are more difficult to compress; and  also  that
the blood which comes from the heart tends to pass  through  them  to  the
hand with greater force than it does to return from the hand to the  heart
through the veins. And since the latter current escapes from  the  arm  by
the opening made in one of the veins, there must of necessity  be  certain
passages below the ligature, that is, towards the extremities of  the  arm
through which it can  come  thither  from  the  arteries.  This  physician
likewise abundantly establishes what he has advanced respecting the motion
of the blood, from the existence of  certain  pellicles,  so  disposed  in
various places along the course of the  veins,  in  the  manner  of  small
valves, as not to permit the blood to pass from the  middle  of  the  body
towards the extremities, but only to return from the  extremities  to  the
heart; and farther, from experience which shows that all the  blood  which
is in the body may flow out of it in a very short time  through  a  single
artery that has been cut, even although this had been closely tied in  the
immediate neighborhood of the heart and cut  between  the  heart  and  the
ligature, so as to prevent the supposition that the blood flowing  out  of
it could come from any other quarter than the heart.
    But there are many other circumstances which evince that what I  have
alleged is the true cause of the motion of the blood: thus, in  the  first
place, the difference that is observed between the blood which flows  from
the veins, and that from the arteries, can  only  arise  from  this,  that
being rarefied, and, as it were, distilled by passing through  the  heart,
it is thinner, and more vivid, and warmer immediately  after  leaving  the
heart, in other words, when in the arteries, than  it  was  a  short  time
before passing into either, in other words, when it was in the veins;  and
if attention be given, it will be  found  that  this  difference  is  very
marked only in the neighborhood of the heart; and is  not  so  evident  in
parts more remote from it. In the next place, the consistency of the coats
of which the arterial vein and the great artery are composed, sufficiently
shows that the blood is impelled against them with more force than against
the veins. And why should the left cavity  of  the  heart  and  the  great
artery be wider and larger than the right cavity and  the  arterial  vein,
were it not that the blood of the venous artery, having only been  in  the
lungs after it has passed through the heart, is thinner, and rarefies more
readily, and in a higher degree, than the blood which proceeds immediately
from the hollow vein? And what can physicians conjecture from feeling  the
pulse unless they know that according as the blood changes its  nature  it
can be rarefied by the warmth of the heart, in a higher or  lower  degree,
and more or less quickly than before? And if it be inquired how this  heat
is communicated to the other members, must it not be admitted that this is
effected by means of the blood, which, passing through the heart, is there
heated anew, and thence diffused over all the  body?  Whence  it  happens,
that if the blood be  withdrawn  from  any  part,  the  heat  is  likewise
withdrawn by the same means; and although the heart were as-hot as glowing
iron, it would not be capable of warming the feet and hands as at present,
unless it continually sent thither new blood. We  likewise  perceive  from
this, that the true use of respiration is to bring  sufficient  fresh  air
into the lungs, to cause the blood which flows into them  from  the  right
ventricle of the heart, where it  has  been  rarefied  and,  as  it  were,
changed into vapors, to become thick, and to convert it anew  into  blood,
before it flows into the left cavity, without which process  it  would  be
unfit for the nourishment  of  the  fire  that  is  there.  This  receives
confirmation from  the  circumstance,  that  it  is  observed  of  animals
destitute of lungs that they have also but one cavity in  the  heart,  and
that in children who cannot use them while in the womb, there  is  a  hole
through which the blood flows from the hollow vein into the left cavity of
the heart, and a tube through which it passes from the arterial vein  into
the grand artery without passing through the lung. In the next place,  how
could digestion be carried on in the stomach unless the heart communicated
heat to it through the arteries, and along with this certain of  the  more
fluid parts of the blood, which assist in the dissolution of the food that
has been taken in? Is not also the operation which converts the  juice  of
food into blood easily comprehended, when it  is  considered  that  it  is
distilled by passing and repassing through the heart perhaps more than one
or two hundred times in a day? And what more need be  adduced  to  explain
nutrition, and the production of the different humors of the body,  beyond
saying, that the force with which the blood,  in  being  rarefied,  passes
from the heart towards the extremities of the arteries, causes certain  of
its parts to remain in the members at which they arrive, and there  occupy
the place of some others expelled by  them;  and  that  according  to  the
situation, shape, or smallness of the pores with  which  they  meet,  some
rather than others flow into certain parts, in  the  same  way  that  some
sieves are observed to act, which, by being variously perforated, serve to
separate different species of grain? And, in the last  place,  what  above
all is here worthy  of  observation,  is  the  generation  of  the  animal
spirits, which are like a very subtle wind, or  rather  a  very  pure  and
vivid flame which, continually ascending in great abundance from the heart
to the brain, thence penetrates through the nerves into the  muscles,  and
gives motion to all the members; so that to account for other parts of the
blood which, as most agitated and penetrating, are the fittest to  compose
these spirits, proceeding towards  the  brain,  it  is  not  necessary  to
suppose any other cause, than simply, that the arteries which  carry  them
thither proceed from the  heart  in  the  most  direct  lines,  and  that,
according to the rules of mechanics which  are  the  same  with  those  of
nature, when many objects tend at once to the same point  where  there  is
not sufficient room for all (as is the case with the parts  of  the  blood
which flow forth from the left cavity of the heart and  tend  towards  the
brain), the weaker and less agitated  parts  must  necessarily  be  driven
aside from that point by the stronger which alone in this way reach  it  I
had expounded all these matters with sufficient minuteness in the treatise
which I formerly thought of publishing. And after these, I had shown  what
must be the fabric of the nerves and muscles of the human body to give the
animal spirits contained in it the power to move the members, as  when  we
see heads shortly after they have been struck off still move and bite  the
earth, although no longer animated; what changes must take  place  in  the
brain to produce waking, sleep, and  dreams;  how  light,  sounds,  odors,
tastes, heat, and all the other qualities of external objects  impress  it
with different ideas by means of the senses; how hunger, thirst,  and  the
other internal affections can likewise impress upon it divers ideas;  what
must be understood by the common sense (sensus communis)  in  which  these
ideas are received, by the memory which retains them, by the fantasy which
can change them in various ways, and out of them compose  new  ideas,  and
which, by the same means, distributing  the  animal  spirits  through  the
muscles, can cause the members of such a body to move in as many different
ways, and in a manner as suited, whether to the objects that are presented
to its senses or to its internal affections, as can take place in our  own
case apart from the guidance of the will. Nor  will  this  appear  at  all
strange to  those  who  are  acquainted  with  the  variety  of  movements
performed by the different automata,  or  moving  machines  fabricated  by
human industry, and that with help of but few  pieces  compared  with  the
great multitude of bones, muscles,  nerves,  arteries,  veins,  and  other
parts that are found in the body of each animal. Such  persons  will  look
upon this  body  as  a  machine  made  by  the  hands  of  God,  which  is
incomparably better arranged, and adequate  to  movements  more  admirable
than is any machine of human invention. And here  I  specially  stayed  to
show that, were there such machines exactly resembling organs and  outward
form an ape or any other irrational animal, we  could  have  no  means  of
knowing that they were in any respect of a  different  nature  from  these
animals; but if there were machines bearing the image of our  bodies,  and
capable of imitating our actions as far as it is morally  possible,  there
would still remain two most certain tests whereby to know that  they  were
not therefore really men. Of these the first is that they could never  use
words or other signs arranged in such a manner as is competent  to  us  in
order to declare our thoughts to others: for  we  may  easily  conceive  a
machine to be so constructed that it emits  vocables,  and  even  that  it
emits some correspondent to the action upon it of external  objects  which
cause a change in its organs; for example,  if  touched  in  a  particular
place it may demand what we wish to say to it; if in another  it  may  cry
out that it is hurt, and such like; but not that it  should  arrange  them
variously so as appositely to reply to what is said in  its  presence,  as
men of the lowest grade of intellect can do.  The  second  test  is,  that
although such machines might execute many things  with  equal  or  perhaps
greater perfection than any of us, they  would,  without  doubt,  fail  in
certain others from which it could be discovered that  they  did  not  act
from knowledge, but solely from the disposition of their organs: for while
reason is an  universal  instrument  that  is  alike  available  on  every
occasion, these organs, on the contrary, need a particular arrangement for
each particular action; whence it must be morally  impossible  that  there
should exist in any machine a diversity of organs sufficient to enable  it
to act in all the occurrences of life, in the  way  in  which  our  reason
enables us to act. Again, by means of these two tests we may likewise know
the difference between men and brutes.  For  it  is  highly  deserving  of
remark, that there are no men so dull and stupid, not even idiots,  as  to
be incapable of joining together different words, and thereby constructing
a declaration by which to make their thoughts understood; and that on  the
other  hand,  there  is  no  other  animal,  however  perfect  or  happily
circumstanced, which can do the like. Nor does this inability  arise  from
want of organs: for we observe that magpies and parrots  can  utter  words
like ourselves, and are yet unable to speak as we do, that is,  so  as  to
show that they understand what they say; in place of which men  born  deaf
and dumb, and thus not less, but rather more than the brutes, destitute of
the organs which others use in speaking, are in the habit of spontaneously
inventing certain signs by which they discover  their  thoughts  to  those
who, being usually in their company, have leisure to learn their language.
And this proves not only that the brutes have less reason  than  man,  but
that they have none at all: for we see that very  little  is  required  to
enable a person to speak; and since a certain inequality  of  capacity  is
observable among animals of the same species, as well as  among  men,  and
since some are more  capable  of  being  instructed  than  others,  it  is
incredible that the most perfect ape or parrot of its species, should  not
in this be equal to the most stupid infant of its kind or at least to  one
that was crack-brained, unless the soul of brutes were of a nature  wholly
different from ours. And we ought not to confound speech with the  natural
movements which indicate the passions, and can be imitated by machines  as
well as manifested by animals; nor must it be thought with certain of  the
ancients, that the brutes speak,  although  we  do  not  understand  their
language. For if such were the case, since  they  are  endowed  with  many
organs analogous to ours, they could as easily communicate their  thoughts
to us as to their fellows. It is also very worthy of remark, that,  though
there are many animals which manifest more industry than we in certain  of
their actions, the same animals are yet observed to show none  at  all  in
many others: so that the circumstance that they do better than we does not
prove that they are endowed with mind, for it  would  thence  follow  that
they possessed greater reason than any of us, and could surpass us in  all
things; on the contrary, it rather  proves  that  they  are  destitute  of
reason, and that it  is  nature  which  acts  in  them  according  to  the
disposition of their organs: thus it is seen, that a clock  composed  only
of wheels and weights can number the hours and measure time  more  exactly
than we with all our skin.
    I had after this described the reasonable soul,  and  shown  that  it
could by no means be educed from the power of matter, as the other  things
of which I had spoken, but that it must be expressly created; and that  it
is not sufficient that it be lodged in the human body exactly like a pilot
in a ship, unless perhaps to move its members, but that  it  is  necessary
for it to be joined and united more closely to the body, in order to  have
sensations and appetites similar to ours, and thus constitute a real  man.
I  here  entered,  in  conclusion,  upon  the  subject  of  the  soul   at
considerable length, because it is of the greatest moment: for  after  the
error of those who deny the existence of God, an error  which  I  think  I
have already sufficiently refuted, there is none that is more powerful  in
leading feeble minds astray from the straight  path  of  virtue  than  the
supposition that the soul of the brutes is of the  same  nature  with  our
own; and consequently that after this life we have nothing to hope for  or
fear, more than flies and ants; in place of which, when we  know  how  far
they differ we much better comprehend the reasons which establish that the
soul is of a nature wholly independent of the body, and that  consequently
it is not liable to die with the latter and,  finally,  because  no  other
causes are observed capable of destroying it, we are naturally led  thence
to judge that it is immortal.


    Three years have now elapsed since I finished the treatise containing
all these matters; and I was beginning to revise it, with the view to  put
it into the hands of a printer, when I learned  that  persons  to  whom  I
greatly defer,  and  whose  authority  over  my  actions  is  hardly  less
influential than is my own  reason  over  my  thoughts,  had  condemned  a
certain doctrine in physics, published a short time previously by  another
individual to which I  will  not  say  that  I  adhered,  but  only  that,
previously to their censure I had observed in it  nothing  which  I  could
imagine to be prejudicial either to religion or to the state, and  nothing
therefore which would have prevented me from giving expression  to  it  in
writing, if reason had persuaded me of its truth; and this led me to  fear
lest among my own doctrines likewise some one might be found  in  which  I
had departed from the truth, notwithstanding the great care I have  always
taken not to accord belief to new opinions of which I  had  not  the  most
certain demonstrations, and not to give expression  to  aught  that  might
tend to the hurt of any one. This has been sufficient to make me alter  my
purpose of publishing them; for although the reasons by which I  had  been
induced to take this resolution were  very  strong,  yet  my  inclination,
which has always been hostile to writing books, enabled me immediately  to
discover other considerations sufficient to excuse me for not  undertaking
the task. And these reasons, on one side and the other, are such, that not
only is it in some measure my interest here to state them, but that of the
public, perhaps, to know them.
    I have never made much account of what  has  proceeded  from  my  own
mind; and so long as I gathered no  other  advantage  from  the  method  I
employ beyond satisfying myself on  some  difficulties  belonging  to  the
speculative sciences, or endeavoring to regulate my actions  according  to
the principles it taught me, I  never  thought  myself  bound  to  publish
anything respecting it. For in what regards manners, every one is so  full
of his own wisdom, that there might be found as many reformers  as  heads,
if any were allowed to take upon themselves  the  task  of  mending  them,
except those whom God has constituted the supreme rulers of his people  or
to whom he has given  sufficient  grace  and  zeal  to  be  prophets;  and
although my speculations greatly pleased myself, I  believed  that  others
had theirs, which perhaps pleased them still more. But as soon  as  I  had
acquired some general notions respecting physics, and  beginning  to  make
trial of them in various particular difficulties,  had  observed  how  far
they can carry us, and how much they differ from the principles that  have
been employed up to the present time, I believed that  I  could  not  keep
them concealed without sinning grievously against the law by which we  are
bound to promote, as far as in us lies, the general good of  mankind.  For
by them I perceived it to be possible to arrive at knowledge highly useful
in life; and in room of the speculative philosophy usually taught  in  the
schools, to discover a practical, by means of which, knowing the force and
action of fire, water, air the stars,  the  heavens,  and  all  the  other
bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the  various  crafts  of
our artisans, we might also apply them in the same way to all the uses  to
which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors
of nature. And this is a result to be desired, not only in  order  to  the
invention of an infinity of arts, by which we might be  enabled  to  enjoy
without any trouble the fruits of the earth, and  all  its  comforts,  but
also and especially for the  preservation  of  health,  which  is  without
doubt, of all the blessings of this life, the first and  fundamental  one;
for the mind is so intimately dependent upon the condition and relation of
the organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found to render  men
wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is  in  medicine
they must be sought for. It is true that the science of  medicine,  as  it
now exists, contains few things whose  utility  is  very  remarkable:  but
without any wish to depreciate it, I am confident that there  is  no  one,
even among those whose profession it is, who does not admit  that  all  at
present known in it is almost nothing in comparison of what remains to  be
discovered; and that we could free ourselves from an infinity of  maladies
of body as well as of mind, and perhaps also even  from  the  debility  of
age, if we had sufficiently ample knowledge of their causes,  and  of  all
the remedies provided for us by nature. But since I designed to employ  my
whole life in the search after so necessary a science,  and  since  I  had
fallen in with a path which seems to me such, that if any one follow it he
must inevitably reach the end desired, unless he be hindered either by the
shortness of life or the want of experiments, I judged that there could be
no more effectual provision against these two impediments than if  I  were
faithfully to communicate to the public all the little I might myself have
found, and incite men of superior genius to strive to proceed farther,  by
contributing, each according  to  his  inclination  and  ability,  to  the
experiments which it would be necessary to make, and also by informing the
public of all they might discover, so that, by the  last  beginning  where
those before them had left off, and thus connecting the lives and  labours
of many, we might collectively proceed much farther than each  by  himself
could do.
    I remarked, moreover, with respect to experiments, that  they  become
always more necessary the more one is advanced in knowledge; for,  at  the
commencement, it is better to make  use  only  of  what  is  spontaneously
presented to our senses, and of which we cannot remain ignorant,  provided
we bestow on it any reflection, however slight, than to concern  ourselves
about more uncommon and recondite phenomena: the reason of which is,  that
the more uncommon often only mislead us so long as the causes of the  more
ordinary are still unknown; and the circumstances upon which  they  depend
are almost always so special and minute  as  to  be  highly  difficult  to
detect. But in this I have adopted the  following  order:  first,  I  have
essayed to find in general the principles, or first causes of all that  is
or can be in the world, without taking into  consideration  for  this  end
anything but God himself who has created it, and without educing them from
any other source than from certain germs of truths naturally  existing  in
our minds In the second place, I examined what were  the  first  and  most
ordinary effects that could be deduced from these causes; and  it  appears
to me that, in this way, I have found heavens, stars, an earth,  and  even
on the earth water, air, fire, minerals, and some  other  things  of  this
kind, which of all others are the most common and simple,  and  hence  the
easiest to  know.  Afterwards  when  I  wished  to  descend  to  the  more
particular, so many diverse objects presented themselves  to  me,  that  I
believed it to be impossible for the human mind to distinguish  the  forms
or species of bodies that are upon the earth, from an infinity  of  others
which might have been, if it had pleased  God  to  place  them  there,  or
consequently to apply them to our use, unless we rise  to  causes  through
their  effects,  and  avail  ourselves  of  many  particular  experiments.
Thereupon, turning over in my mind  I  the  objects  that  had  ever  been
presented to my senses I  freely  venture  to  state  that  I  have  never
observed any which I could not satisfactorily explain  by  the  principles
had discovered. But it is necessary also to  confess  that  the  power  of
nature is so ample and vast, and these principles so simple  and  general,
that I have hardly observed a single particular effect which I  cannot  at
once recognize as capable of being deduced in man different modes from the
principles, and that my greatest difficulty  usually  is  to  discover  in
which of these modes the effect is dependent upon them; for  out  of  this
difficulty cannot otherwise extricate myself than by again seeking certain
experiments, which may be such that their result is not the same, if it is
in the one of these modes at we must explain it, as it would be if it were
to be explained in the other. As to what remains, I am now in  a  position
to discern, as I think, with sufficient  clearness  what  course  must  be
taken to make the majority those experiments which  may  conduce  to  this
end: but I perceive likewise that they are  such  and  so  numerous,  that
neither my hands nor my income, though it were  a  thousand  times  larger
than it is, would be  sufficient  for  them  all;  so  that  according  as
henceforward I shall have the means of making more or fewer experiments, I
shall in the  same  proportion  make  greater  or  less  progress  in  the
knowledge of nature. This was what I  had  hoped  to  make  known  by  the
treatise I had written, and so clearly to exhibit the advantage that would
thence accrue to the public, as to induce all who have the common good  of
man at heart, that is, all who are virtuous in truth, and  not  merely  in
appearance, or according to opinion, as well  to  communicate  to  me  the
experiments they had already made, as to assist me in those that remain to
be made.
    But since that time other reasons have occurred to  me,  by  which  I
have been led to change my opinion, and to think that I ought indeed to go
on committing to writing all the results which I deemed of any moment,  as
soon as I should have tested their truth, and to bestow the same care upon
them as I would have done had it been my  design  to  publish  them.  This
course commended itself to me, as well because I thus afforded myself more
ample inducement to examine them thoroughly, for doubtless that is  always
more narrowly scrutinized which we believe will be read by many, than that
which is written merely for our  private  use  (and  frequently  what  has
seemed to me true when I first conceived it, has  appeared  false  when  I
have set about committing it to  writing),  as  because  I  thus  lost  no
opportunity of advancing the interests of the public, as far as in me lay,
and since thus likewise, if my writings  possess  any  value,  those  into
whose hands they may fall after my death may be able to put them  to  what
use they deem proper. But I resolved by  no  means  to  consent  to  their
publication during  my  lifetime,  lest  either  the  oppositions  or  the
controversies to which they might give rise, or even the reputation,  such
as it might be, which they would acquire for me, should be any occasion of
my losing the time that I had set apart for my own improvement. For though
it be true that every one is bound to promote to the extent of his ability
the good of others, and that to be useful  to  no  one  is  really  to  be
worthless, yet it is likewise true that our cares ought to  extend  beyond
the present, and it is good to omit doing what might  perhaps  bring  some
profit to the living, when we have in view  the  accomplishment  of  other
ends that will be of much greater advantage to posterity. And in truth,  I
am quite willing it should be  known  that  the  little  I  have  hitherto
learned is almost nothing in comparison with that of which I am  ignorant,
and to the knowledge of which I do not despair of being  able  to  attain;
for it is much the same with those who gradually  discover  truth  in  the
sciences, as with those who when growing  rich  find  less  difficulty  in
making great acquisitions, than they formerly  experienced  when  poor  in
making acquisitions of much smaller amount. Or they may be compared to the
commanders of armies, whose forces usually increase in proportion to their
victories, and who need greater prudence to keep together the  residue  of
their troops after a defeat  than  after  a  victory  to  take  towns  and
provinces. For he truly engages in battle who endeavors  to  surmount  all
the difficulties and errors which prevent him from reaching the  knowledge
of truth, and he is overcome in fight who admits a false opinion  touching
a matter of any generality and importance, and he requires thereafter much
more skill to recover his former position than to make great advances when
once in possession of thoroughly ascertained principles. As for myself, if
I have succeeded in discovering any truths in the sciences  (and  I  trust
that what is contained in this volume 1 will show that I have found some),
I can declare that they are but the consequences and results  of  five  or
six principal difficulties which I have surmounted, and my encounters with
which I reckoned as battles in which victory declared for me. I  will  not
hesitate even to avow my belief that nothing further is wanting to  enable
me fully to  realize  my  designs  than  to  gain  two  or  three  similar
victories; and that I am not so far advanced in years but that,  according
to the ordinary course of nature, I may still have sufficient leisure  for
this end. But I conceive myself the more bound to husband  the  time  that
remains the greater my expectation of being able to employ it aright,  and
I should doubtless have much to rob me  of  it,  were  I  to  publish  the
principles of my physics: for although they are almost all so evident that
to assent to them no more is needed than simply to  understand  them,  and
although there is not one of them of which I do not expect to be  able  to
give demonstration,  yet,  as  it  is  impossible  that  they  can  be  in
accordance with all the diverse opinions  of  others,  I  foresee  that  I
should frequently be turned aside from my grand design, on occasion of the
opposition which they would be sure to awaken.
    It may be said, that these oppositions would be useful both in making
me aware of my errors, and, if my speculations contain anything of  value,
in bringing others to a fuller understanding of it; and still farther,  as
many can see better than one, in leading others who are now  beginning  to
avail themselves of my  principles,  to  assist  me  in  turn  with  their
discoveries. But though I recognize my extreme  liability  to  error,  and
scarce ever trust to  the  first  thoughts  which  occur  to  me,  yet-the
experience I have had of possible objections to my views prevents me  from
anticipating any profit from them. For I have already had  frequent  proof
of the judgments, as well of those I esteemed friends, as of  some  others
to whom I thought I was an object of indifference, and even of some  whose
malignancy and envy would, I knew, determine them to endeavor to  discover
what partiality concealed from the eyes of my friends. But it  has  rarely
happened that anything  has  been  objected  to  me  which  I  had  myself
altogether overlooked, unless it  were  something  far  removed  from  the
subject: so that I have never met with a single critic of my opinions  who
did not appear to me either less rigorous or less equitable  than  myself.
And further, I have never observed that any truth before unknown has  been
brought to light by the disputations that are practised  in  the  schools;
for while each strives for the victory, each  is  much  more  occupied  in
making the best of mere verisimilitude, than in weighing  the  reasons  on
both sides of the question; and those who have been  long  good  advocates
are not afterwards on that account the better judges.
    As for the advantage that others would derive from the  communication
of my thoughts, it could not be very great; because I have not yet so  far
prosecuted them as that much does not remain to be added before  they  can
be applied to practice. And I think I may  say  without  vanity,  that  if
there is any one who can carry them out that length,  it  must  be  myself
rather than another: not that there may not be in  the  world  many  minds
incomparably superior to mine, but because one  cannot  so  well  seize  a
thing and make it one's own, when it has been  learned  from  another,  as
when one has himself discovered it. And so true is  this  of  the  present
subject that, though I have often explained some of my opinions to persons
of much acuteness, who, whilst I was speaking, appeared to understand them
very distinctly, yet, when they repeated them, I have observed  that  they
almost always changed them to such  an  extent  that  I  could  no  longer
acknowledge them as mine. I am glad, by the way, to take this  opportunity
of requesting posterity never to believe  on  hearsay  that  anything  has
proceeded from me which has not been published by myself; and I am not  at
all  astonished  at  the  extravagances  attributed   to   those   ancient
philosophers whose  own  writings  we  do  not  possess;  whose  thoughts,
however, I do not on that account suppose  to  have  been  really  absurd,
seeing they were among the ablest men of their times, but only that  these
have been falsely represented to us. It is observable,  accordingly,  that
scarcely in a single instance has any one  of  their  disciples  surpassed
them; and I am quite sure that the most devoted of the  present  followers
of Aristotle would think themselves happy if they had as much knowledge of
nature as he possessed, were it even under the condition that they  should
never afterwards attain to higher. In this respect they are like  the  ivy
which never strives to rise above the tree that  sustains  it,  and  which
frequently even returns downwards when it has  reached  the  top;  for  it
seems to me that they also sink, in other words,  render  themselves  less
wise than they would be if they gave up study,  who,  not  contented  with
knowing all that is intelligibly explained  in  their  author,  desire  in
addition to find in him the solution of many difficulties of which he says
not a word, and never  perhaps  so  much  as  thought.  Their  fashion  of
philosophizing, however, is well suited to persons  whose  abilities  fall
below mediocrity; for the obscurity of the distinctions and principles  of
which they make use enables them to speak  of  all  things  with  as  much
confidence as if they really knew them, and to defend all that they say on
any subject against the  most  subtle  and  skillful,  without  its  being
possible for any one to convict them of error. In this they seem to me  to
be like a blind man, who, in order to fight on equal terms with  a  person
that sees, should have made him descend to the bottom of an intensely dark
cave: and I may say that such persons have an interest  in  my  refraining
from publishing the principles of the philosophy of which I make use; for,
since these are of a kind the simplest and  most  evident,  I  should,  by
publishing them, do much the same as if I were to throw open the  windows,
and allow the light of day to enter the cave into which the combatants had
descended. But even superior men have no reason for any great  anxiety  to
know these principles, for if what they desire is to be able to  speak  of
all things, and to acquire a reputation for learning, they will gain their
end more easily by remaining satisfied with the appearance of truth, which
can be found without much difficulty in all  sorts  of  matters,  than  by
seeking the truth itself which unfolds itself but slowly and that only  in
some departments, while it obliges us, when we have to  speak  of  others,
freely to confess our ignorance. If, however, they prefer the knowledge of
some few truths to the vanity of  appearing  ignorant  of  none,  as  such
knowledge is undoubtedly much to be preferred,  and,  if  they  choose  to
follow a course similar to mine, they do  not  require  for  this  that  I
should say anything more than I have already said in this  discourse.  For
if they are capable of making greater advancement than I have  made,  they
will much more be able of themselves to discover all that I believe myself
to have found; since as I have never examined aught except in order, it is
certain that what yet remains to be discovered is in itself more difficult
and recondite, than that which I have already been enabled  to  find,  and
the gratification would be much less  in  learning  it  from  me  than  in
discovering it for themselves. Besides this, the  habit  which  they  will
acquire, by seeking first what is easy, and then passing onward slowly and
step by step to the more difficult, will benefit them  more  than  all  my
instructions. Thus, in my own case, I am persuaded  that  if  I  had  been
taught from my youth all the truths of  which  I  have  since  sought  out
demonstrations, and had thus learned them without labour, I should  never,
perhaps, have known any beyond  these;  at  least,  I  should  never  have
acquired the habit and the facility which I  think  I  possess  in  always
discovering new truths in proportion as I give myself to the search.  And,
in a single word, if there is any work in the world  which  cannot  be  so
well finished by another as by him who has commenced it,  it  is  that  at
which I labour.
    It is true, indeed, as regards the experiments which may  conduce  to
this end, that one man is not equal to the task of making  them  all;  but
yet he can advantageously avail himself, in this work, of no hands besides
his own, unless those of artisans, or parties of the same  kind,  whom  he
could pay, and whom the hope of gain (a means  of  great  efficacy)  might
stimulate to accuracy in the performance of what was prescribed  to  them.
For as to those who, through curiosity or a desire of learning,  of  their
own accord, perhaps, offer him their services,  besides  that  in  general
their promises exceed their performance, and that  they  sketch  out  fine
designs of which not one is  ever  realized,  they  will,  without  doubt,
expect to be compensated for their trouble  by  the  explication  of  some
difficulties, or, at least, by compliments and useless speeches, in  which
he cannot spend any portion of his time without loss to  himself.  And  as
for the experiments that others have already  made,  even  although  these
parties should be willing of themselves to communicate them to him  (which
is what those who esteem them secrets will never do), the experiments are,
for the most part, accompanied with so many circumstances and  superfluous
elements, as to make it exceedingly difficult  to  disentangle  the  truth
from its adjuncts- besides, he  will  find  almost  all  of  them  so  ill
described, or even so false (because those who made them  have  wished  to
see  in  them  only  such  facts  as  they  deemed  conformable  to  their
principles), that, if in the entire number  there  should  be  some  of  a
nature suited to his purpose, still their value could not  compensate  for
the time what would be necessary to make the selection. So that  if  there
existed any one whom we assuredly knew to be capable of making discoveries
of the highest kind, and of the greatest possible utility to  the  public;
and if all other men were therefore eager by all means to  assist  him  in
successfully prosecuting his designs, I do not  see  that  they  could  do
aught else for him beyond contributing  to  defray  the  expenses  of  the
experiments that might be necessary; and for the rest, prevent  his  being
deprived of his leisure by the unseasonable interruptions of any one.  But
besides that I neither have so high an opinion of myself as to be  willing
to make promise of anything extraordinary, nor  feed  on  imaginations  so
vain as to fancy that the public must be much interested in my designs;  I
do not, on the other hand, own  a  soul  so  mean  as  to  be  capable  of
accepting from any one a favor of which it could be supposed  that  I  was
    These considerations taken together were the reason why, for the last
three years, I have been unwilling to publish the treatise I had on  hand,
and why I even resolved to give publicity during my life to no other  that
was so general, or  by  which  the  principles  of  my  physics  might  be
understood. But since then, two other reasons  have  come  into  operation
that have determined me here to subjoin  some  particular  specimens,  and
give  the  public  some  account  of  my  doings  and  designs.  Of  these
considerations, the first is, that if I failed to do  so,  many  who  were
cognizant of my previous intention to publish some  writings,  might  have
imagined that the reasons which induced me to refrain from so doing,  were
less to my credit than they really are; for although I am not immoderately
desirous of glory, or even, if I may venture so  to  say,  although  I  am
averse from it in so far as I deem it hostile to repose which  I  hold  in
greater account than aught else, yet, at  the  same  time,  I  have  never
sought to conceal my actions as if they were crimes, nor made use of  many
precautions that I might remain unknown; and this partly because I  should
have thought such a course of conduct a wrong against myself,  and  partly
because it would have occasioned me some sort of  uneasiness  which  would
again have been contrary to the perfect mental tranquillity which I court.
And forasmuch as, while thus indifferent to the thought alike of  fame  or
of forgetfulness, I have yet been unable to prevent myself from  acquiring
some sort of reputation, I have thought it incumbent on me to do  my  best
to save myself at least from being ill-spoken of. The  other  reason  that
has determined me to commit to writing these specimens of  philosophy  is,
that I am becoming daily more and more alive to the delay which my  design
of self-instruction suffers, for want of the  infinity  of  experiments  I
require, and which it is impossible for me to make without the  assistance
of others: and, without flattering myself so much as to expect the  public
to take a large share in my interests, I am yet unwilling to be  found  so
far wanting in the duty I owe to myself, as to give occasion to those  who
shall survive me to make it matter of reproach against me some day, that I
might have left them many things in a much more perfect state than I  have
done, had I not too much neglected to make them aware of the ways in which
they could have promoted the accomplishment of my designs.
    And I thought that it was easy for me to select  some  matters  which
should neither be obnoxious to much controversy, nor should compel  me  to
expound more of my principles than I desired,  and  which  should  yet  be
sufficient clearly to exhibit what I  can  or  cannot  accomplish  in  the
sciences. Whether or not I have succeeded in this it is not for me to say;
and I do not wish to forestall the judgments of others by speaking  myself
of my writings; but it will gratify me if they be examined, and, to afford
the greater inducement to this I request all who may have  any  objections
to make to them, to take the trouble of forwarding these to my  publisher,
who will give me notice of them, that I may endeavor  to  subjoin  at  the
same time my reply; and in this way readers seeing both at once will  more
easily determine where the truth lies; for I do not engage in any case  to
make prolix replies, but only with perfect frankness to avow my errors  if
I am convinced of them, or if I cannot perceive them, simply to state what
I think is required for defense of the  matters  I  have  written,  adding
thereto no explication of any new matte that it may not  be  necessary  to
pass without end from one thing to another.
    If some of the matters of which I have spoken in the beginning of the
"Dioptrics" and "Meteorics" should offend at first sight, because  I  call
them hypotheses and seem indifferent about giving proof of them, I request
a patient and attentive reading of the whole,  from  which  I  hope  those
hesitating will derive  satisfaction;  for  it  appears  to  me  that  the
reasonings are so mutually connected in these treatises, that, as the last
are demonstrated by the first which are their causes,  the  first  are  in
their turn demonstrated by the last which are their effects. Nor  must  it
be imagined that I here commit the fallacy  which  the  logicians  call  a
circle; for since experience renders the majority of  these  effects  most
certain, the causes from which I deduce them  do  not  serve  so  much  to
establish their  reality  as  to  explain  their  existence;  but  on  the
contrary, the reality of the causes is established by the reality  of  the
effects. Nor have I called them hypotheses with  any  other  end  in  view
except that it may be known that I think I am able  to  deduce  them  from
those first truths which I have already expounded; and  yet  that  I  have
expressly determined not to do so, to prevent a  certain  class  of  minds
from thence taking occasion to build some extravagant philosophy upon what
they may take to be my principles, and my being blamed for it. I refer  to
those who imagine that they can master in a day all that another has taken
twenty years to think out, as soon as he has spoken two or three words  to
them on the subject; or who are the more liable  to  error  and  the  less
capable of perceiving truth in very proportion as they are more subtle and
lively. As to the opinions which are truly and wholly  mine,  I  offer  no
apology for them as new, - persuaded as I am that if their reasons be well
considered they will be found to be so simple and so conformed, to  common
sense as to appear less extraordinary and less paradoxical than any others
which can be held on the same subjects; nor do I even boast of  being  the
earliest discoverer of any of them,  but  only  of  having  adopted  them,
neither because they had nor because they had not been held by others, but
solely because reason has convinced me of their truth.
    Though artisans may not be able at  once  to  execute  the  invention
which is explained in the "Dioptrics," I do not think that any one on that
account is entitled to condemn it; for  since  address  and  practice  are
required in order so to make and adjust the machines described  by  me  as
not to overlook the smallest particular, I should not be  less  astonished
if they succeeded on the first attempt than if a person were in one day to
become an accomplished performer on the guitar, by merely having excellent
sheets of music set up before him. And if I write in French, which is  the
language of my country, in preference  to  Latin,  which  is  that  of  my
preceptors, it is because I expect  that  those  who  make  use  of  their
unprejudiced natural reason will be better  judges  of  my  opinions  than
those who give heed to the writings of the ancients only; and as for those
who unite good sense with habits of study, whom alone I desire for judges,
they will not, I feel assured, be so partial to  Latin  as  to  refuse  to
listen to my reasonings merely  because  I  expound  them  in  the  vulgar
    In conclusion, I am unwilling here to say anything very  specific  of
the progress which I expect to make for the future in the sciences, or  to
bind myself to the public by any promise which I am not certain  of  being
able to fulfill; but this only will I say, that I have resolved to  devote
what time I may still have to live to no other  occupation  than  that  of
endeavoring to acquire some knowledge of Nature, which shall be of such  a
kind as to enable us therefrom to deduce  rules  in  medicine  of  greater
certainty than those at present in use; and that my inclination is so much
opposed to all other pursuits, especially to such as cannot be  useful  to
some without being hurtful to others, that if, by any circumstances, I had
been constrained to engage in such, I do not believe that  I  should  have
been able to succeed. Of this I here make  a  public  declaration,  though
well aware that it cannot serve to procure for me any consideration in the
world, which, however, I do not in the least affect; and  I  shall  always
hold myself more obliged to those through whose favor I  am  permitted  to
enjoy my retirement without interruption than to any who  might  offer  me
the highest earthly preferments.
                 Rene Descartes and self examination.
                          By: Andy Montgomery
                     E-Mail: Exec-PC (414)-789-4210

It was once said that Rene' Descartes was truly the mouse that roared.  A
quiet young man by nature, Descartes single-handedly changed the way all
philosophers, (and many non-philosophers) look at the reality around them.  
But this was not his goal.  Descartes set out with one plain purpose in
developing his personal philosophy:  find a better way to think and reason
about his life and his reality.  Descartes was set on his journey by a
startling personal revelation early on in his life.  In thinking about his
education at one of Europe's best universities, he came to a conclusion that
upset his impression of himself:

           From my childhood I lived in a world of books, and since
         I was taught that by their help I could gain a clear and
         assured knowledge of everything useful in life, I was eager
         to learn from them.  But as soon as I had finished the course
         of studies which usually admits one to the ranks of the
         learned, I changed my opinion completely.  For I found myself
         saddled with so many doubts and errors that I seemed to have
         gained nothing in trying to educate myself unless it was to
         discover more and more fully how ignorant I was.

       All the formal education Descartes underwent led him to the conclusion
that what he knew for certain was that he knew so little of the world, and to
make matters worse, what he thought he knew as fact he now doubted.
       So, Rene' Descartes decided to re-think his position... on everything;
all of reality and his relation to it.  Of the end result, we all know what
his conclusions were, but just how he got there is what this pracies deals
with and two aspects specifically: the rules for the proper conduct of reason,
and the provisional code of morals.
       Throughout Discourse on Method, Descartes uses the analogy of building
a house.  He saw each person as a house, and that in building a house,
certain measures should be taken to insure that the house is sturdy and
liveable.  In his analogy, a person is all his past experiences, education,
beliefs and truths, and like any good building, it must be set on a strong
foundation.  But Descartes saw a problem wit the foundation that was being
laid by the philosophies and thinkings of that day:

           ...it [philosophy] has been studied for many centuries
         by the most outstanding minds without having produced
         anything which is not in dispute and consequently doubtful.
           I judged that nothing solid could have been built on so
         insecure a foundation.

All that the philosophy to that day did was create nothing but an unsure,
shaky foundation for personal beliefs.  But Descartes wanted an absolute.  As
a mathematician, he believed that there must be universal truths that the
universe was based upon, and that these truths were attainable.  The church
told people to believe in what they had to say because they were divinely
guided; the universities because they were learned.  Descartes saw that if a
truth were truly universal, then all men could believe it because they could
see for themselves that it was true, not because they were told it was true,
and as he later decided, "I learned not to believe too firmly what I learned
only from example and custom."
       Now knowing that he needed to tear down his old "house" and build a
new one, and also knowing that any house needed a strong foundation, Descartes
concluded that, being the old ways of thinking brought one to the end of more
questions and doubts, he needed a whole new way of thinking.  So, he created
one.  Descartes developed four rules by which to think and examine his

    1)  Never accept anything as true unless you recognize it to be evidently
       such.  If something is true, you should be able to look at it
       rationally and come to no other conclusion but that it is true
       without question.

    2)  Divide each question into as many logical parts as is possible to
       make finding a solution easier.  It is always easier to solve a
       problem if you break it down into its most basic components, and deal
       with each separately even if it means that the solution will take
       longer to achieve.

    3)  Think in an orderly fashion.  Begin with the smallest and simplest
       elements of the problem and work your way up to the most difficult,
       even if it looks like thing are already in some sense of order.  You
       will never be able to deal with the biggest and most difficult aspect
       of a problem unless you have a thorough understanding of its simplest
       attributes.  This manner also proves easier in the long run.

    4)  Be thorough!  Always look at a problem in the grandest general sense
       to get the best overview to be sure that you overlooked nothing.  No
       truth can ever come from a problem that is only partially solved.  
       Even the smallest oversight will lead you to doubt the validity of the
       answer.  If you have any reason to doubt a conclusion, then it is not
       a truth.

       Descartes' new way of thinking was a challenge, but he reasoned that
if he strictly adhered to these four rules, he could avoid the other complex,
(and questionable) methods of logic.
       It is important to note the simplicity of his method; only four rules.
His method is not unlike the Grand Unification Theory of physics.  To
Descartes, life was infinitely complex and exploding out in all directions,
just like our expanding universe.  But a true understanding of it could only
be achieved with the most basic set of rules that governed and interrelated
all aspects of its complexity.
       So now his method was set.  But now a new problem arose.  If you are
examining your core beliefs, then what do you believe in the mean-time?  This
problem was solved with Descartes' provisional code of morals.  Descartes saw
that he could not undergo the demolition and rebuilding of his "house", his
life, without having another place in which to "live".
       "In order to live as happily as possible during the interval I
prepared a provisional code of morality for myself," Descartes states in
*Discourse on Method*.  These are the things he suggests a person believe in
the interim:

    1)  Obey the laws and customs of your country, keep your old religion,
       and follow the most moderate and least excessive opinions of the best
       part of your society.

By doing so, and especially taking the most moderate of opinions and actions,
one would never stray to far even if a mistake is made in the search for
personal truth.  If one lives life on the fringes, it is more than likely a
"wrong turn" will lead farther away from society and hamper the search for

    2)  Be resolute in your actions and the path you are taking, even if
       you've no idea where you are going.  

Like a traveler lost in the woods, Descartes reasons, it is better to make a
decision on which way to go and stick with it (at least until one is
absolutely certain that that is the wrong direction), than to walk for a ways,
get scared, and go back to the beginning never knowing if that was the way
out, or worse, wander aimlessly.

    3)  Always seek to conquer yourself rather than reshape your destiny.  
What will happen will happen and you shouldn't waste time trying to stop it.  
Better to invest your time in changing and strengthening the foundation of
your beliefs so that you have the tools with which to deal with life's
challenges and problems.

       With these maxims, Descartes set up a place in which to "live" while
he re-examined all of his beliefs and everything he held to be truths.  Giving
himself an anchor to the moderate center of society, he was confident that no
matter how far he had to travel to reach the truth, he was never to far from
the life he had led and grown accustomed to.
       It is easy to see why Rene' Descartes' concepts revolutionized
philosophy and gave birth to modern Western thought.  He never stated that
previously created philosophy was without merit: he never would assume to have
the wisdom to make such a claim.  What I see him saying is that the old school
of thought has gotten us to this point, and here it stops.  In order to move
on--be it in science, theology, philosophy, or what-have-you--man needs a new
way of thinking about himself and the reality in which he perceives himself to
reside in.  This new method must be sublimely simple (in order to make it
employable for all people), yet completely thorough and all-encompassing (to
guarantee the achievement of universal truths).
    By re-evaluating the basics of the way we see truths, beliefs, and the
understanding of reality, Descartes forever changed the way in which we think
about everything that effects us as human beings.  As a result, he not only
built a strong foundation for his own personal beliefs, but also laid an
unshakable foundation for the building of a rational analysis of reality that
is now modern thought.
        Cogito Ergo Sum: Descartes' Proof of the human soul.
                        By: Andy Montgomery
                    E-mail Exec-PC: (414)-789-4210                                    

       I really have a new appreciation for just how much I don't know after
reading Descartes' "Part Four:  Proofs of the Existence of God and the Human
Soul" from *Discourse on Method*.  I mean, Descartes was about the age I am
now when he wrote this.  FER' GOD'S SAKE!  My greatest accomplishments to date
consist of having one of my poems published in Fish-Rap .  Oh well, some
people are just over-achievers.  I spent most of my twenty-fourth year going
to clubs to see or work with rock and blues bands.  Rene' Descartes spent his
proving the existence of himself, God, and the soul; did a spiffy job of it,
    After a skillful placation of the church in line one of the introductory
paragraph, Descartes sets a straight course into the "heart of an
impenetrable darkness", as it were: what is truth?  He reasoned that
throughout the course of history, philosophers have sat around and tried to
define truth, but nobody ever hit a home-run.  Descartes looked at it and
said, in effect: "That's too hard--plus, it hasn't worked so far.  It would
be easier to define what truth isn't.  Get rid of all that stuff, and what's
left over must be truth."
    To do this, Descartes started doubting everything... kinda.  He was
working within the following guideline:  if it's true, it will be obviously
so, and cannot be doubted.  So, try and doubt it.  If you can, then it ain't
       His first doubt was his senses:  "Thus, as our senses deceive us at
times [are doubtable], I was ready to suppose that nothing was at all the way
our senses represented them to be."  That ruled out everything that he could
    Next, he put the kibosh on prior human reason:  "As there are men who
make mistakes in reasoning even on the simplest topics... I judged that I was
as liable to error as any other, and rejected as false all the reasoning which
I had previously accepted as valid demonstration."  Descartes here says that
because he's no better than any other guy, he has the same chance to screw up
and therefore must doubt his ability to hold as certain anything that he has
been shown to be true.  This must be done due to his own chance to error as
well as other people's.
    Finally, Descartes wound up doubting all of reality: "As the same
precepts which we have when awake may come to us when asleep without their
being true, I decided to suppose that nothing that had ever entered my mind
was more real than the illusion of my dreams."  More simply put:  you can
doubt the ability of the human mind, because it too can fool you.  You can
always ask yourself, "Is this reality, or just a dream?"  If it has any doubt,
then it can't be a certainty.
    Well then, WHAT  IN THE HELL IS LEFT?  Descartes crap-canned the whole
shootin' match!  Everything that can be observed, thought, or reasoned is
doubtable and must be tossed out the window in the search for 100% certainty.  
But there is something left, of course...
    COLLEGE-TOE AIRHEAD SOUP!  Great with pumpernickel (jk).  Descartes hit
upon the biggie.  After all of this doubting, the one thing that could not be
doubted was that he was the thing that was doing the doubting.  This was the
bottom floor of the building.  The foundation.  He was undoubtedly thinking
[ergo] he was undoubtedly existing:

      But I soon noticed that while I thus wished to think everything
    false, it was necessarily true that I who thought so was something.  
    Since this truth, I think, therefore I am, was so firm and assured
    that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were
    unable to shake it, I judged that I could safely accept it as the
    first principal of the philosophy I was seeking.

    Now we're cookin'!  Descartes knew with 100% certainty that he was a
thinking thing that existed.  But what kind of thing was he?  This is the
other humongo point to Descartes' terrifyingly simple writings.  He states
that while he can easily imagine that he had no physical nature, and even
that no physical universe even existed,  he could never imagine that he had
no ability to think.  Just by the simple fact that he was trying to imagine
his body with no mind, he proved to himself over and over that he was
thinking.  Cool, eh?  Kind of like a mental Chinese finger-prison:  the harder
you think about not being able to think, the more you prove to yourself that
you're thinking.  This little concept has come to be known as Descartes'
Mind/Body Dichotomy:

      ...therefore I concluded that I was a substance whose whole
    essence or nature was only to think, and which, to exist, has
    no need of space nor of any material thing.  Thus it follows
    that this ego, this soul, by which I am what I am, is entirely
    distinct from the body and is easier to know than the latter,
    and that even if the body were not, the soul would not cease
    to be all that it now is.

    This distinction between the psyche and the body finally freed the
scientific world from the oppression of the church.  Now all of the scientists
could say "No, no... I'm only examining the physical stuff around me.  I'm not
trying to knock God or anything like that.  All I'm doing is having a look
around!"  These two differences--the mind and the body--are the melons that
Descartes dreamed of.
    Finally, since Descartes had so much fun finding this truth, Cogito Ergo
Sum, he wanted to be able to recognize other truths that he might come across
in order to build his new personal philosophy.  But how could he do it? you
ask yourself.  (Well, you might not ask that, but other people do...)  He
reasoned that if the statement "I think, therefore I am" is true because it's
the simplest of statements and can't be doubted, then any statement that is as
simple and doubtless as that statement must be true.  Cogito Ergo Sum could
now be employed as a measuring stick to find true statements.
    All in all, it still blows my melon to think that Descartes came up with
this stuff while he was barely out of his philosophical diapers.  It makes me
wonder about philosophy as a whole.  I mean, we had a lot of philosophy before
that, and then this young punk comes along and proves that he exists and that
he has a soul and that he can think and all of that cool stuff.  If he could
do that, does that mean that we could get another Descartes coming along some
day telling us that we don't exist?  

    The future is the youth...
   Rene Descartes' Ontological proof regarding the existance of God.
                           By: Andy Montgomery
                       E-Mail: Exec-PC (414)-789-4210

    I can remember looking up into the night sky and wondering at the
countless stars, pondering infinity and the existence of God.  I can remember
because it was just last week.  Since man climbed down from the trees, he's
done this.  I'm no different.  I do it all of the time.  I lost a lot of sleep
as a child thinking about God, etc.  As a CHILD.  Well, I'm a grown-up now,
but to say that I still don't lose sleep over it would be a lie.  Rene
Descartes woke up all of that existential phenomenological dread in me again.  
Gee... thank's Rene'!
    Descartes gives it the old college try on this one, I must admit.  He got
me all pumped up and thinking that finally someone was going to give me the
proof to ease my soul.  Many in the class were truly hopeful, and a few of us
often talked for hours after class of Descartes' ideas.  But you can normally
punch a hole or two in any argument.  I may have done that.  Bummer!  Just
when you think you've finally gotten to the truth. . .
    After thoughtfully proving that he exists, (Cogito Ergo Sum: "I think,
therefore I exist")  Descartes set off to prove the existence of God.  He did.  
But there's a problem.  But I'll get to that later.  Descartes starts off by
reasoning that he's not perfect.  This is true.  He's not omnipotent, eternal,
immutable, and all of that other good Godlike stuff.  "Well," Descartes
wonders, "if I know that I'm not perfect, then where did I get the idea of
perfection from?"  Good question.  He reasons that he must have gotten the
idea from something that's more perfect than himself.  But where do you find
this perfection?
    He looks for perfection in nature, but it's not there.  He realizes that
he's more perfect than anything else in nature, so he couldn't get the idea of
perfection from something less perfect than himself.
    He then checks to see if he may have just made it up in his own mind.  
Nope.  It wouldn't be perfect if it came from a dream, from nothing.  It
wouldn't be eternal, etc.  Then where?
    The last stop arrives after he gets down to the simplest answer, and
holds it up to be measured by his truth yardstick.  It measured up alright:

      Thus the only hypothesis left was that this idea was put in
    my mind by a nature that was really more perfect than I was,
    which had all the perfections that I could imagine and which
    was, in a word, God.  To this I added that since I knew some
    perfections which I did not posses, I was not the only being in
    existence, and that it followed out of necessity that there was
    someone else more perfect upon whom I depended and from whom I
    had acquired all that I  possessed.

    TA-DA!  God exists!  Cool...  God exists because he's perfect.  If he
weren't perfect, he wouldn't be God.  Simple enough.  Also, Descartes points
out that God has to exist outside of the corporeal universe.  God cannot be
physical.  To be physical would be an imperfection, because all corporeal
things can change, they can all change and disintegrate over time.  God must
exist outside the bounds of time and space.
    Descartes argues that people never could get the answers that he did
about God because they couldn't think about something without picturing it.  
But because God is perfect, thereby lacking any corporeal nature, God cannot
be pictured.  Philosophy to that day had as its main maxim, "the first thing
in understanding something is to observe it with your senses."  You can't
observe God, just as you can't truly observe a geometric object.  God is
outside of the observable.  As he puts it:

        What makes people feel that it is difficult to know of the
      existence of God, or even the nature of their own souls, is
      that they never consider things higher than corporeal objects.  
      They are so accustomed never to think of anything without
      picturing it--a method of thinking suitable only for material
      objects--that everything which is not picturable seems to them

    Descartes sums up God by saying that because perfection--God--is so clear
and distinct, God can't be false.  All that we have--all that we are--is
derived from God, and even though we cannot see everything clearly and
distinctly all of the time, that does not mean that nothing can be true, it
only means that we are imperfect beings who cannot see the simplicity of all
things by virtue of our imperfection.  That's not God's fault, Descartes says,
that's our fault.
    Okay, God exists.  God has to because God is perfection.  Here's where
the Cartesian argument falls down for me.  God is perfect and exists outside
the bounds of time and space.  Why?  Because if God were corporeal, he would
be subject to manipulation, observation, and change over time.  Once again;
God can't be subject to change over time.  You see where this is headed?  
    To use Descartes' own methodology, I'm looking for the clearest answer.  
If something is in a state of perfection, it can never change.  There can be
no change in it at all.  Ever.  Why?  If it were perfect, it would have no
need to change--it's perfect as is.  God, being perfect, couldn't affect
anything because to do so would require action, and action by definition
requires a change in state to act upon something else.  God couldn't, for
example, create a cute bunny-rabbit because to do so would require a change of
state; to change would imply that the state it was in prior to the creation of
the cute bunny-rabbit was other than perfect.  That can't be because God is
perfect, and can never be in a state other than perfect or else God wouldn't
be God.  Therefore, God--eo ipso--his perfection, exists in a state of stasis.
    What are the ramifications of this little philosophical mental cramp of
mine?  God can never be of--nor ever affect--this material world.  God has no
active part in this creation.  Could he even have created this reality?  All
God is, it seems, is perfection: a state which man uses to measure and
indicate his imperfection.  God, by virtue of perfection, is a static,
never-changing entity.  We are dependant on God, as Descartes rightly states,
because we are not perfect and in order for there to be imperfection (man)
there must somewhere exist perfection (God).
    I guess that I didn't punch a hole in Descartes' existence of God.  At
best I may have tripped over the ramifications of God's perfection.  
Descartes' math still holds up; God still exists to me.  But if my math is up
to snuff, God is an ineffectual entity that never changes due to God's
perfect state.

    Or, I could be full of shit... I failed algebra six times in my life.
     Pandora's Mellons:  The problem with the Cartesian philosophy.
                           By: Andy Montgomery
                       E-Mail: Exec-PC (414)-789-4210

    The thing that worries me the most is that after some explanation, this
stuff all makes sense.  Most of it cleared up in the West Bend George Webb's
at 4:30 A.M. last Saturday after work.  A pot of coffee, one Super-George with
fries, a piece of that really disgusting cheesecake and a pack of Salem's
later, I was ready to put it into the old PC.  So, here' goes...
    Descartes separates the human mind from the human body.  Most at the time
think that this is a good thing.  Science can now do its thing without having
the Church climb all over it for undermining God.  The Church can keep saving
souls because the dichotomy conveniently proves that God exist.  Everybody's
    At this point, the separation works well for all of the reasons that have
been beaten to death in most philosophical texts.  All of the math seems to
add up; all of the twos have been carried and it looks like the answer we
come up with isn't a fraction.  Neeto.  The whole of the Western world is
seriously digging Descartes' melons.  So...  where is the problem?
    Ahh... but these are no ordinary melons.  These are Pandora's Melons!  (I
wonder if the analogy would work better if the dream-specter would have handed
Descartes two zucchini?  A pleasant vegetable, to be sure, but once you plant
them, they take over the whole garden.)  What happened next took a few hundred
years to realize, but when it did, everybody had that feeling you get when you
get up on Sunday afternoon after having too many Stoli Screwdrivers the night
prior and go to the medicine cabinet and discover that there's no Pepto.
[Note: See Sartreian nausea.]
    When you separate the mind from the body, the two can't communicate.  
They can never be connected.  Try as you might, you can never get the physical
to connect with the mental.  This is a bad thing.  It's an even badder thing
when you realize that Descartes' own reasoning proves it out to the bitter
end.  In short: because we view--we perceive--everything physical with our
senses (including our own physical bodies), we cannot be certain that they
exist, because, as Descartes so rightly pointed out, our senses can deceive
us.  POOF!  No more physical stuff.  All we have left is mental stuff.  
    Excuse me, I just annihilated you.  My apologies.  Better switch to
first-person, (it's the only one left.)  I'm the only one left--the only
mental substance that I can be sure of.  "You" (for lack of a better term) are
nothing more than a pleasant illusion: pretty pictures on a movie screen in a
theater shown just for me, by me.   Nihilism.
    Yuck!  Okay, so the only thing that I can be 100% certain of is myself...
...my self.  Self...

    What in the Hell is this "self" thing anyhow?  

    I mean, what makes me me?  I'm not the same me that I was when I was two.
I'm not the same me that I was last week Monday.  I'm not even the same me I
was five minutes ago.  There is no way that I can positively identify my self.
There is no longer a constant...  
    POOF!  No more me. (shit!)  All that's left now is an empty movie theater
showing a bunch of unrelated images.  (I'll pretend to exist so that this
paper gets finished.) No God, either; He's just an image.  No perfection; it's
just an image.  Bummer.
    Aack! Gag!  This stuff is impossible to swallow.  This whole line of
thought is rather nasty and just won't do.  I don't know about you, but I'd
like to exist.  Well, let's see... he carried all of the twos.  A-HA!
    Maybe he answered the wrong question?  We most certainly have walked far
enough from the tree to know that we're still lost in the woods.  What if
everything's all physical stuff?!
    POOF!  I exist again, (cool!)  POOF!  You exist again!  POOF! POOF! POOF!
It all exists again!  This is great!  The entire universe is nothing but
physical stuff.  We can still get the philosophical elephant in our heads
because it's not really an elephant, but a series of electro-chemical
impulses in that spongy grey computer that we call the human brain.  
    THIS IS SO COOL!  The universe is all physical stuff and science can
explain it all!  We can have all of the answers!  Physics, man!  That's where
it's at... physics!  Everything's physical.  Everything changes.  Yeah, that's
it!  All things go through changes over time because some force acts upon it.  
It's all cause-and-effect...  everything results from some prior action, and,
um... like dominos... yeah!  Dominos.  Everything is a result of an action
that occurred prior, and the result then becomes an action in itself that
causes another reaction... like a falling chain of dominos... that have no
choice but to fall the way that they are laid out... no choice...
    Shit!  Nihilism again.  Not even.  Worse.  There's no choice in anything
any more.  Even our thoughts are physical and tangible and are governed by the
laws of physics.
       No ethics.  No morality.  No right or wrong.  Oh, and remember God?  
He's no longer with us.  There's no perfection in a physical universe.  There
can't be.  So we gotta deep-six the deity thing.  Man, this makes me feel
Aack! Gag!

    There, that's better...  NOT!  There seems to be no way out of this
forrest.  We wandered in two distinctly different directions and we're still
lost!  We went mental, (boy did we!) and we got a universe that's nothing more
than a single-screen empty Marcus showing unrelated images and a God that
can't do anything because he's in a state of stasis due to his perfection.
    We go physical, and the universe and all that's in it is nothing but a
bunch of atoms that have no choice but to bump into one another, and God is
nothing but an idea--a series of bouncing atoms.  Mysticism and Metaphysics
can't solve this one.  Aack!  Gag!
    So?  Buttons on yer underwear.  It's evident that the only smart thing to
do is to crack open a Bud Dry.  Why Ask Why?  Yiikes!  Philosophy in beer
commercials.  Descartes went wrong in even asking the damn question in the
first place.  As the old saying goes: How do you get down off an elephant?
Answer: You don't, you get down off of a goose.  Just say no.  At this point,
Jean Paul Sartre's "Life of Denial" sounds real good to me...