Excerpt (2) from Descartes's "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences"

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Title

Excerpt (2) from Descartes's "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences"

Subject

Descartes presents a proto-Solipsist argument that the self is the measure by which others are to be evaluated.

Description

René Descartes's "Discourse on the Method" is best known for featuring the phrase now synonymous with the name Descartes: "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"). In this excerpt, Descartes argues that the soul, the "being" of the human, is not only a separate entity from the body, but is also the only true part of the human being's existence. This assertion bears similarity to one made by Adam Smith in "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." Smith asserts that our only conception of the experience of others is made through the relation of personal experience to the external experiences, which suggests that the only "true" aspect of experience is personal and that the mind can only truly comprehend itself. Therefore, both Descartes and Smith make the argument that the mind is inherently selfish, and that the only true sympathy for the condition of others is attained through the selfish means of self-examination. Furthermore, they implicitly assert that though sympathy for others is desirable, its pursuit is inherently selfish and self-motivated.

Creator

René Descartes

Publisher

Washington State University

Date

1637

Relation

Adam Smith's "The Theory of Moral Sentiments"

Language

English, translated

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Citation

René Descartes, “Excerpt (2) from Descartes's "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences",” Enlightenmens, accessed November 29, 2022, http://enlightenmens.lmc.gatech.edu/items/show/423.

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