René Descartes: I think, therefore I am

Sunday 23 October, 16.00 - 17.15 , Conservatory Academy in One Day

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Often identified as the father of modern philosophy, Rene Descartes’ influence is hard to avoid, and his importance is the subject of intense debate. Famous as a mathematician and natural scientist, Descartes is chiefly famous today for his ambitious and controversial philosophical ‘doubt’. In his Meditations, Descartes argued that no matter what one doubts, one cannot doubt that one exists, because ‘I think, therefore I am’ (the famous ‘cogito ergo sum’).

Further, and most controversially, Descartes argued that the nature of thought was such that any thinking thing must be composed of a mind that is a distinct thing to its body. This ‘dualism’ was championed by Christians as an argument for the soul, and conversely has been reviled by atheists and contemporary scientists for suggesting that there is something ‘spooky’ or non-natural about human beings.

These are but two of the important contributions that Descartes made to the history of philosophy, and his influence on European philosophy (especially for Kant and Sartre) was profound - yet today Descartes philosophy is widely caricatured. Descartes still has important things to say about a range of philosophical issues, and remains a model for the engaged, constantly questioning philosophical thinker.