31 March is a great day for lovers of philosophy because today is the birthday of the Father of modern philosophy. Yes in am talking about Rene Descartes, who was born on March 31, 1596 in La Haye, France near Tours.
I am sure most of us are acquainted with him at least in the form of his eternal and everlasting quote “I think therefore I am”. (Cogito, ergo sum)
Rene was a true genius who with his unconventional tilt broke away with the predominant traditional Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy of his era. And, he laid the foundation stone for mechanistic sciences.
His fundamental break with Scholastic philosophy was twofold. First, he realized that the traditional method that was prevalent in his time gives birth to uncertainty for their reliance on sensation or perception as an epistemological approach. Second, he developed the approach that was much more scientific as compared to the other models of his time.
The strategy Descartes put forward was to “doubt. Putting it differently, it means considering any belief false that falls prey to even the slightest doubt. This “hyperbolic doubt” clears the way and will let us travel on the road to carry on this unprejudiced search for the truth.
It means that we have to put our previously held beliefs in the court of D-O-U-B-T to testify them. In this way Descartes discovered something that lies beyond all doubt. It ultimately dawned upon him that “I exist” is impossible to doubt and is, therefore, absolutely certain. It is from this point that Descartes proceeds to demonstrate God’s existence and that God cannot be a deceiver.
So let’s celebrate his birthday by reading and reflecting over some of his quotes:
“Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have.”
“Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.”
“The first precept was never to accept a thing as true until I knew it as such without a single doubt.”
“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it”.
“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things”
To tribute this great soul let’s question and doubt our long held beliefs and dogmas. And I am sure if we doubt with all our sincerity we will end up rejecting almost all of them.
So, if you ever reach at this stage of life where you become capable of questioning yourself, your thoughts, principles, beliefs remember you have made a giant leap in search of truth. The light will sure shine your path and make you unprejudiced, unbiased, and generous. Happy birthday Rene Descartes !
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