Here I am, a mile above sea level, and my assignment is Descartes, who's even loftier:
...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 species.It's Discourse on Method time. As I am at a camp with a bunch of fifth graders I will note that Reason or Sense is not yet to be found complete in each individual. But it's basically Descartes trying to discover how to think like a modern person and not just following the traditions of the past.
About this reading I will note three things:
The first is, in the words of Nanny in "Eloise in Paris," "The French the French." The problem Descartes has with knowledge is that it's not wicked organized enough:
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 have 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.In fact, when reality is too hard to organize, Descartes retreats into himself ("I think therefore I am" isn't in this selection, but you can see it from here.)
The second is the feeling I get that I'm watching Descartes, who wrote this in the 1600s, at the start of the modern era, and his dear hope that we might, by trying hard, escape the ignoramuses of the past. No more astrology! Sad, really.
Finally, I think there's a patter song to be written in this:
I should not, however, on this account have ventured at once on the examination of all the difficulties of the Sciences.... 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 endeavour to establish its principles. And because I observed, besides, that ... 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, 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 that's how I'm ruler of the Queen's Navee! In order to fix the sciences, he has to use Philosophy. SO he needs to fix philosophy first. But before he does that, he has to be a little older and use his time by amassing experience. Easy as pie!
The French the French.