Descartes And The Scientific Revolution

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Descartes, a philosopher, mathematician and scientist, was a fundamental player in the scientific revolution, which influenced his perspectives on the question of self. His principle tenant, the famously quoted, “Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am,” reflects his core belief of thinking and of self-awareness as key to personal identity. Descartes was strongly influenced by Plato and Augustine. Descartes philosophical underpinnings can be understood as an extension of Plato and Augustine’s dualistic view in which, “…body and soul remain irreconcibily divided, two radically different entities with diverging fates: the body to die, the soul to live eternally in a transcendent realm of Truth and Beauty” (Descartes 99). While Descartes acknowledges the body, he argued that it was secondary because it can be thought of independently. Descartes felt he was, “…able clearly and distinctly to conceive one thing apart from another, in order to be certain that the one is different from the other, seeing they may at least be able to exist separately …” (Descartes 106). Descartes argued that mind is completely different from body and it is possible for one to exist without the other.

For Descartes, the self is largely defined by the mind, which is immortal and independent from the body. Descartes stated, “I rightly conclude that my essence consists only in my being a thinking being…” (Descartes 106). He asserts that the mind (thinking self) is a, “nonmaterial, immortal, conscious
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