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Publisher's Summary

René Descartes (1596-1650) had a remarkably short working life, and his output was small, yet his contributions to philosophy and science have endured to the present day. He is perhaps best known for his statement "Cogito, ergo sum". By a mixture of "intuition" and "deduction" Descartes derived from the "cogito" principle first the existence of a material world.
But Descartes did not intend the metaphysics to stand apart from his scientific work, which included important investigations into physics, mathematics, psychology, and optics. In this book Tom Sorrell shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his program in the sciences.
In a hurry? Listen to more Very Short Introductions.
©1987 Tom Sorell (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Darwin8u on 10-05-16

The sometimes clear & mostly indubitable Descartes

"I realize that I am, as it were, something intermediate between God and nothingness..."
-- Descartes, Fourth Meditation

Tom Sorrell's Very Short Introduction (VSI #30) to Descartes is my third selection of Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. So far, I've tried reading these books almost at random. Almost. I've wanted to try out different forms from big topics (History: A Very Short Introduction) to more specific, sub-field topics (Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction) that I'm moderately well-versed in, to religious (The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction) and now biography. I'm about ready to start jumping into multiple areas and areas I'm not as familiar with. I've got the form down I think, now I get to start exploring.

The benefit of this book was that it took me from the basics of what I knew about Descartes (Cartesian thinking, Cogito ergo sum, etc) and added things I was familiar with, but never really focused on (his experiments, physics and maths). Sorell didn't write hagiography here. He placed Descartes in securely in time and space, and really limited his own personal impressions as much as he could. When Sorell did comment on Descartes it was typically to put into perspective both how his ideas held up in their time and the influence of those ideas today.

It wasn't a fantastic read, but it was still worth the time and money. It set the table and gave me several resources for future primary reads of Descartes.

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10 of 14 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Hans P. Warmbier on 04-03-18

Don’t fake it

There is no doubt Barbara Edelman is a great narrator. However, her style of stressing original passages from Descartes in a masculine, patriarchal, or whatever she had in mind to achieve with it, is so fake that it pulled me off the narration each time. There is certainly nothing wrong with female narrators reading male authors, but there is no need to fake anything. Just be yourself Barbara.

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