Friday, 29 January 2010
Method and Science in the Essais
Mariafranca Spallanzani, University of Bologna
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: It must not be forgotten: in Descartes' opinion, the method consiste plus en pratique qu'en théorie. According to his point of view, its worth had to be judged starting from the Essais’ method and from the examples that open the Discours - metaphysics of the fourth section, physics and medicine of the fifth one - in order to prove that la méthode s'étend à tout.
The Discours, being a non-technical introductory text of the Essais, enunciates the conditions of science, in a concise form that reminds intellectual operations proper to true knowledge rather than detail its theory. In this way, the quatre préceptes of method, written in first person as a personal observation on the ways a research must be conducted, introduce, with their richness and their simplicity, some sort of practical logic of scientific discovery in order to control a spontaneous employ of natural light and to prevent the errors of precipitation and prejudice.
The Essais of 1637 are an application of these précepts, and their demonstration itself. Descartes affirms this in the sixth part of the Discours, when he enounces the common form of demonstration system of the Dioptrique and of the Météores as the organization of knowledge according to cause-and-effect order.
And so he writes: Car il me semble que les raisons s’y entresuivent en telle sorte que, comme les dernières sont démontrées par les premières, qui sont leurs causes, ces premières le sont réciproquement par les dernières, qui sont leurs effets.