Being a math major, I try to avoid waxing philosophical about important math people, so Rene Descartes should be off limits (I’m sure you are sighing with relief to know that I refrained from becoming poetic about Simon Laplace a few months ago). I could talk in reams about this mathematician, but few of you would enjoy a discourse about his work in solid analytic geometry or his solution of quartic equations. He is a person whose life appeals to the creative and the analytical alike. His legacy is claimed by both philosophers and mathematicians with fervor. Additionally, Descartes had the fortune of happy fame to utter one of the most quoted quotes, “Cogito, ergo sum.”
March 31, 1596, Rene Descartes was born near Tours, France. Because of ill health, he developed a habit of lying in bed until late in the morning when he was fairly young. This time spent meditating was considered by Descartes as his most productive time of the day. In 1612, he moved to Paris, where he studied mathematics, but his most prolific stay was the twenty-year sojourn in Holland, where he wrote many of his famous works. Here is a selection from the world’s mathematician and philosopher.
Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.
- “Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it, that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess.”
- Le Discours de la Methode, 1637
- Descartes’ Error : Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain Paperback by Antonio R. Damasio – Turned on by philosophy? Check out this book that debates Descartes’ belief that the mind and body are separate entities. Read the reviews of this book on Amazon.com.
- The Mathematical Experience Hardcover by Philip J. Davis, Reuben Hersh – Turned on by mathematics? This book reviews the history and beauty of a mathematical world, including contributions of Descartes. It was the winner of the 1983 American Book Award.
- Discourse on Method and the Meditations Paperback by Rene Descartes – The two most quoted works by Descartes are available in this one book for a mere $5.56. Curl up by the fire, question your own existence, and read them for yourself.
- Descartes : An Intellectual Biography Hardcover by Stephen Gaukroger – If you can’t get enough of the mathematician, here is a biography that goes into Descartes’ life in detail. Learn about the development of the man who rocked the philosophical and mathematical world.
- Furman University Mathematical Quotations – There are tons of quotes from Rene Descartes and other mathematicians here. Organized alphabetically by author’s last name.