Essay about Rene Descartes' Impact on the Scientific Method

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Rene Descartes' Impact on the Scientific Method

People have always thought about the world around them. Through the centuries they have wondered about what their surroundings were made of. Modern science has proven to be most effective in explaining our environment. What makes modern science superior to the ancient schools of thought is the employment of the scientific method. The man credited to a great extent with the development of the scientific method is René Descartes, a French philosopher who lived from 1596 to 1650. The Cartesian method maintains that in order to arrive at a groundwork for a structure of thought, commonly accepted knowledge must be abandoned, based as it is on the subjective nature of the senses.
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In the 18th century mathematicians, who also employ the scientific method, gave it a solid foundation by rigorously proving the correctness of calculus and making it coherent.

The deception of the mind by the senses is an important issue addressed in Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. He states that:

I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely good and the fountain of truth, but some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth, colours, figures, sound, and all other external things are nought but the illusions and dreams of which this genius has availed himself in order to lay traps for my credulity; I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to possess all these things; I shall remain obstinately attached to this idea, and if by this means it is not in my power to arrive at the knowledge of any truth, I may at least do what is in my power [i.e. suspend my judgment], and with firm purpose avoid giving credence to any false thing, or being imposed upon by this arch deceiver, however powerful and deceptive he may be (Porter 34).

Scientists must question observations the same way as Descartes sets out to, though to a lesser degree. The scientific method holds that a reliable explanation of phenomena can be achieved through experiment,
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