What is Cartesianism?

What is Cartesianism?

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Cartesianism is the name given to the philosophy of the French thinker Descartes and the philosophers who followed him. Descartes is one of the major stagers of intellectual philosophy. Descartes used skepticism as a basic method centuries after the Ancient Greek skepticism and tried to reach brand new truths by trying to apply it with a mathematical precision called analytical geometry.


His basic method can be summarized as follows: First, as a principle, I must doubt all my acquired knowledge, and set them aside and begin with a first and sound new thought. All people’s thoughts are interconnected, diverging It is another thought before it that gives birth to a thought. Thoughts continue in a cause-effect chain (mechanism). So, if I follow the sequence meticulously, if I don’t mix an untrue thought with a false thought, avoiding thinking that it is true, I can reach the true one. In this case, the only thing that is certain for me is doubt, it is doubtless for me that it is necessary to doubt all knowledge. To doubt is to think; To think is to exist. So there is no doubt that I exist. I think, therefore I am. This is my first and solid knowledge that I cannot doubt. Now, by meticulously chasing the chain of cause and effect, I can deduce all other information from this basis.

As it is seen, Descartes has a unique starting point in his understanding of Cartesianism, which affects all idealist and materialist thought generations after him; I. Descartes is the founder of the tradition of starting philosophy from the subject.

This tradition is different from each other; In an idealistic direction up to Berkeley, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Husseri, Brunschvig, John Stuart Mill, William James, Comte, Kirkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus; Leroy, Cabanis, La Mettrie, up to Diderot developed in a materialist direction. In a way, the famous scholar of Ancient Greek philosophy, Protagoras, is starting from me by saying “Man is the measure of all things”. But Protagoras’ self is the hearing me, and Descartes’ self is the thinking self.


The second innovation of Descartes, which influenced and stimulated the next generations, is that he definitely distinguishes between matter and non-matter. It is this strict separation (dualism) of Descartes’ philosophy that allows for both directions, idealist and materialist. All dualisms, from Anaxagoras to Plato to Descartes, are fundamentally monistic; For example, the nus of Anaxagoras is actually a very finely structured, fine matter. According to Plato, the only thing that is real is the idea. For Descartes, however, there are two things that are real: the soul and the body. This heterogeneity, which Descartes identified with a peculiar precision, clearly separated the fields of metaphysics and physics (teleological philosophy and natural philosophy).

Descartes, in his physics, saw the spontaneous creative power of matter and considered mechanical motion as its vital action. He had strictly separated his understanding of physics from his understanding of metaphysics. In the understanding of physics, matter is the only substance, the sole cause of existence and knowledge. The French mechanic materialism is connected to his understanding of physics. His followers became anti-metaphysicists, in other words, physicists by profession.” Mechanization, which has become increasingly important in social life, expresses a kind of warning certainty and invariance for Descartes.

A machine that is not broken always gives certain results by moving for certain reasons. So the universe, which includes the idea of ​​God, must be a machine order. According to Descartes, every order is a machine order, and every movement is a mechanical movement. Movement, then, consists of taking up space and displacing. Floor covering is the essential quality of matter; There cannot be matter that does not occupy space. This means to be matter without place, so there can be no place without matter. From this it necessarily follows that there is no immaterial place in the universe—that is, emptiness and placeless matter—in other words, no atoms. So the universe is full of matter, and motion is the spontaneous creative power of matter. This necessary result is an understanding of pure materialism. As a matter of fact, French materialists developed on the basis of this Cartesian basis.

According to Descartes, covering has three qualities: divisibility, formability, movability. As can be seen, divisibility and formability are a matter of motion. Divisibility is a movement of separation, formability is a movement of separation and merger; So the whole and essential attribute of the covering (matter) is motion. To say that there is no atom (indivisible) in the universe is to say that matter is infinitely divisible, which Descartes is also pointing to contemporary physics. Furthermore, Descartes admits in anthropology that matter and soul are united with all their parts (Descartes, Traite des Passions).

His contemporary, Leroy, rightly accused him of concealing his true thoughts; Descartes reluctantly resisted this accusation. Despite all this, it is true that Descartes is based on a rationalist and idealist basis.