85 sentences of René Descartes to understand his thoughts

René Descartes is one of the greatest and most renowned European philosophers in history.

Considered by many to be the father of modern philosophy and radical rationalism and mechanism, he considered that all knowledge should be put to the test, Use methodical doubt as a method to acquire knowledge through different stages.

Understanding his theory is of great interest, so below we offer 85 quotes from René Descartes to better understand his thoughts.

    Table of Contents

    85 phrases and thoughts of René Descartes

    Methodical doubt, the importance of mathematics as the purest science, the ideas and the search for the simplest elements, substances, mores and attributes, the separation between soul and body, nothing cogitan and nothing of extensive, evil genius, God, provisional morality, Cartesian axes …

    All these concepts and ideas were worked on by Descartes throughout his life. and they have in one way or another influenced Western thinking.

    To better understand several of these ideas, we present 85 phrases from the French philosopher that make his thinking more understandable.

    1. “I therefore believe that I am”

    Perhaps the best known of his sentences, reflects one of the maxims of this philosopher: I think, therefore I exist. We exist because we are able to think, being the knowledge of our own existence demonstrated by this same capacity.

    2. “The whole complex can be divided into simple parts”

    One of the main elements that Descartes uses and proposes in his method of discovering the truth by reducing each problem to its most basic and verifiable elements in the light of reason, simple ideas. From them, the different ideas will be associated to configure the knowledge, requiring for this that each association has the same level of certainty as the simple idea.

    3. “To investigate the truth, one must doubt, when possible, all things”

    Descartes considered that the main method to reach the truth, as far as we are able to obtain it, is the doubt in relation to all the knowledge which existed until the moment.

    4. “It would be absurd for us finite things to try to determine infinite things.”

    The human being is a limited being with specific capacities. Aspects such as infinity or the existence or non-existence of God cannot be known to us, Must have appeared for some reason in our mind.

    5. “I would give all I know for half of what I don’t know”

    Our senses deceive us, so our understanding and knowledge is very limited. Human beings ignore a lot, working with a multitude of assumptions that are not true. We can always learn new things.

    6. “There is hardly anything that has been said by anyone, the contrary is not stated”

    Each person has their own way of seeing the world, finding it in conflict with the beliefs of others.

    7. “Reason and judgment are the only thing that makes us men and distinguishes us from animals”

    For Descartes, animals are only very elaborate machines without the capacity for reasoning. The human being if he has this ability, which makes us unique from the point of view of the author.

    8. “It is prudent not to rely entirely on those who have once deceived us”

    With this sentence, the author urges us to doubt what we perceive, Since it is not uncommon for our senses to deceive us.

    9. “Mathematics is the science of order and measure, beautiful chains of reasoning, very simple and easy”

    Descartes considered mathematics as the main science on which to base all knowledge, for its logic and objectivity.

    10. “Philosophy is what distinguishes us from savages and barbarians; nations are all the more civilized and cultivated the better their men philosophize.”

    The role of philosophy as a discipline which helps to think and reflect about the world and to doubt this knowledge which is not is what enables a society to be able to move forward.

    11. “Get rid of all impressions of the senses and the imagination and trust only reason”

    The important role that Descartes gives to reason as an element that allows us to discern the truth above what we perceive can be observed in this sentence.

    12. “I sleep or wake up, two plus three will always be five and the square will never have more than four sides”

    The conclusions drawn mathematically are not questionable for this author, being one of the few objective knowledge that exists. Again, we can see that the author considers mathematics to be the purest of science.

    13. “To live without philosophizing is strictly speaking to have your eyes closed without ever trying to open them”

    Philosophy tries to find answers to what is going on in the world. Not to philosophize therefore means refusing to think and reflect on what we are going through, only living at the same time and not being able to discern the different options and possibilities that we may have.

    14. “Better to seek truth without method, it is never to think about it, for disorderly studies and gloomy meditations disturb the natural lights of reason and blind the intelligence.”

    With this sentence, Descartes criticizes the use of superstitions, superstitions and poorly documented explanations of reality which can contaminate people’s thinking skills.

    15. “It often happens that there is not so much perfection in works composed of several pieces and made by the hands of several masters as in those in which only one has worked.”

    Very elaborate explanations can be complex to make rationally, and often something being explained by more than one person makes each of the authors’ views on the same topic different, so the end result may be blurry.

    16. “By method I mean those certain and easy rules, rigorous observation prevents what is false from being assumed to be true, and causes that, without being consumed by vain efforts and by gradually increasing its knowledge, l the spirit attains the true knowledge of all things accessible to human intelligence “

    Through this sentence we can see what the author was looking for when developing his method, the goal of his effort.

    17. “Never to admit anything as truth without having known with evidence that it was so; that is to say to avoid haste and prevention with great care, and not to admit in my judgments anything more than what is so clear and distinctive in my mind, that I had no reason to doubt it. “

    We often take the truth of what we are told or said for granted even though we have no proof that it is true. Descartes proposes not to act on what we are told, but to reflect on the information they have given us and to doubt it.

    18. “A state is better governed if it has few laws and these laws are carefully observed”

    Descartes repeatedly argues for the need to simplify things, to reduce problems to their most basic elements in order to draw a conclusion as we unite them. Having few laws allows us to better understand them, to better understand the simple ideas of which they are composed and to integrate them.

    19. “The multitude of laws frequently excuses vices”

    Unlike the previous sentence, an excess of laws can make it difficult to access their core and accept them as valid, creating confusion and making it easier for some to break them.

    20. “The first maxim was never to accept anything real until you knew it so that you doubted it.”

    Doubt is good, because it allows us to seek the heart of things in order to be able to go to the truth. But as long as we can doubt something, we will not know it to the fullest with what we cannot consider to be. real.

    21. “In my humble opinion, all things in this world happen mathematically”

    Again, the author reflects the belief that mathematics is one of the few objective and real knowledge that we can have.

    22. “There is no soul, no matter how noble, which remains so attached to the objects of the senses that it does not sometimes deviate from them in order to desire a greater good.”

    While human beings are prone to fall into mistakes and accept information that comes to our senses as true, we have all wondered at some point why things are happening or if this is how we perceive them. Likewise, we tend to want the common good despite the desire for what we see.

    23. “There is not a foolish and rude mind enough to be incapable of acquiring the highest virtues if properly led.”

    We are all capable of achieving virtue.

    24. “It is not enough to have good ingenuity, the main thing is to apply it well”

    Being able to see something does not require us to act on it. We need to make sure that our actions (physical and mental) and our thoughts match.

    25. “Reading a book teaches more than talking to its author, because the author, in the book, has put only his best thoughts”

    An author’s effort to reflect the best of himself in his work pushes him to become heavily involved in everything he does, presenting less digressions and more clearly reflecting his beliefs.

    26. “The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues”

    The ability to reason does not make us inherently good, being able to direct our efforts towards different goals.

    27. “Apart from our own thoughts, there is absolutely nothing in our power”

    The only thing that really belongs to us, and actually what makes us who we are, is our ability to think.

    28. “To know what people really think, pay attention to what they do rather than what they say.”

    Our actions reflect what we think much better than what we say, which is more easily manipulated or even misinterpreted.

    29. “Not being useful to anyone is worth nothing”

    This phrase reflects that human beings are to have a valid function in life, which translates into utility to the world in some way.

    30. “Whenever I have been offended, I try to lift my soul so high that crime cannot reach me.”

    It does not offend who wants, but who can. If we are above this offense, it will not hurt us.

    31. “Two things help to move forward: going faster than the others or going in the right direction”

    Progress comes through effort. Going faster than others may seem to move us forward, but it can lead us down a path that leads us to deception. On the other hand, going forward with meticulous doubt about reality allows the conclusions that one end up drawing to be likely truer.

    32. “To feel is nothing other than to think”

    Feelings and emotions, if they can be vitiated by the information which reaches us through the senses, remain for the author a form of thought which can lead us through its analysis in search of the truth.

    33. “Bad books cause bad habits and bad habits cause good books”

    Being wrong is not bad, because it allows us to doubt and think about what is wrong. That is why if a bad book or a bad education can lead to the wrong way of thinking, in the long run it can lead us to seek the truth.

    34. “The good we have done gives us an inner satisfaction which is the sweetest of passions”

    Cartesian morality proposes that the rational man should seek the good or the supreme virtue, which produces in us spiritual happiness as the highest level of pleasure that we can achieve.

    35. “It is better to modify our desires than to order the world”

    Since the only thing we can control are our own thoughts, Descartes suggests that it is better to change our desires before trying to change the established order.

    36. “To lead my thoughts in order, starting with the simplest and easiest objects to know, to gradually rise, gradually, to the knowledge of the most complex, and even supposing an order between them which is not “they naturally resemble each other”

    This sentence reflects part of his method, which is based on deconstructing each problem into its simplest and most objective elements to gradually reconstruct the situation so that little by little a true and true picture is formed.

    37. “I made all the mistakes that could be made and yet I never stopped struggling.”

    To err is human and, as we mentioned above, positive. But only if the mistakes you make don’t stop you from continuing to seek the truth and pursue your goals.

    38. “My goal is not to teach the method that everyone should follow in order to use reason well, but only to show how I have tried to use mine well.”

    Descartes proposes that we do not accept anything that we can verify ourselves with reason. Therefore, even his method can be open to doubt, so it should only be taken as an example of how someone has tried to get to the truth.

    39. “Perfect numbers as well as perfect shoulders are very rare”

    Each of us has multiple faults and we make many mistakes, understanding many things and acting erratically and unpredictably in many situations. Perfection is a utopia in all facets of life, even in something as objective as math.

    40. “Common sense is the best distributed thing in the world, for everyone thinks it is so well provided that even those who are more difficult to please in anything else generally do not desire more. than they have “

    We all consider ourselves to have enough common sense, relying heavily on him to act.

    41. “Systematic doubt as a principle of knowledge”

    Doubt is the main element that allows us to work on perceptions of the world in order to acquire real knowledge. This is one of the key aspects of Cartesian thinking.

    42. “One who spends too much time traveling ends up being a foreigner in his own country”

    If we pose it as an analogy with thinking, this phrase refers to the fact that we cannot base our thinking on the beliefs and opinions that we perceive from others, but that we have to work for ourselves in search of the truth.

    43. “Reading is a conversation with the most illustrious men of past centuries”

    On the other hand, learning about what several highly relevant thinkers have discovered or reflected on about the world allows us to see new ways of capturing reality that we can use to shape our own knowledge.

    44. “The joy that arises from good is serious, while the joy that arises from evil is accompanied by laughter and mockery”

    The author differentiates between the merited joy felt by those who work for virtue and the cruel enjoyment in the unhappy background of those who are unable to try to have a morality.

    45. “Often a false joy is worth more than a sadness, the cause is true”

    Knowing the truth is a precious thing and the only way to know. However, we must strive to do good for others and for ourselves. Sometimes humans choose to ignore the truth and sometimes this helps them to be happy, which can be of more value to the person.

    46. ​​”The chief perfection of man is to have free will, which makes him worthy of praise or censure.”

    Our ability to choose is what makes us human with reason, free will being one of the things Descartes defends most in his treatment of morality.

    47. “As for logic, its syllogisms serve more to explain to others what one knows than to learn”.

    Logic may seem like a valid way to incorporate new knowledge, but we cannot rely on unreasonably rationed budgets when acquiring new information because the logic could be different. However, if it can be used to pass on to others, it has already been learned.

    48. “It is enough to judge well to do good, and to judge as best as possible to act also in the best way.”

    The moral of Descartes predicts that to do good, one must be able to correctly value the world and situations, allowing better behavior.

    49. “While it is not for us to discern the best opinions, we must follow the most probable.”

    Our knowledge is limited and we must act from reason to try to glimpse the truth. It may not be possible to distinguish which ones are more true, but at least we should try to take into account those which have more aspects of reality.

    50. “The most generous are generally the most humble”

    For Descartes, humility and generosity are two aspects that are often linked, bringing together two aspects of virtue.

    51. “I don’t even want to know if there was another man before me”

    While this is unlikely to be the first person to be, the truth is we cannot have a clear record of it. I am me and my own thoughts are the only thing in our control. For many people who were born before, there is only one self.

    52. “True intelligence consists in discovering the intelligence of others”

    Very often people tend to see themselves as extremely intelligent, unaware that others have this ability to a large extent as well. Recognizing that others have a capacity that may be even greater than one’s own is in itself an act of true intelligence.

    53. “Our idea of ​​God implies necessary and eternal existence. Therefore, the manifest conclusion is that God exists.”

    We are finite beings with finite capacities. The fact that we can conceptualize something infinite and omnipotent as God means that at some point this knowledge has been put into our minds, knowledge which in itself proves to Descartes the existence of God.

    54. “To improve our knowledge, we must learn less and contemplate more”

    Accepting the things they teach us without delay does not improve the quality of our knowledge. For them, we must endeavor to deconstruct the observed in order to make its most fundamental and objective parts as real a construction as possible.

    55. “Nature breaks through the void”

    Although attributed to Aristotle, this phrase was also used by Descartes. The author refers to the identification of matter with space, and the existence of a real vacuum is not possible.

    56. “The greatest good that can exist in a state is to have true philosophers”

    For Descartes, being able to think and look for meaning in reality is an element that moves society forward.

    57. “I present myself disguised”

    In this sentence, Descartes tells us about the appearance which, although it may appear real, hides the real core of the being / thing / idea below.

    58. “Let us shelter a multitude of prejudices if we do not decide to doubt, at any time, all the things in which we find the least suspicion of uncertainty”.

    Again, the author refers us in this sentence to the importance of doubting what we do not know for ourselves, which can cause us prejudices that prevent us from seeing the truth.

    59. “My only desire is to know the world and the comedies that are represented there”

    Curiosity, the observation of different ways of doing and seeing the world and the pursuit of knowledge go hand in hand in this sentence, which in turn is a critique of the uncritical assimilation of dogmas and assumptions transmitted without trying. . do not.

    60. “The little I have learned has no value compared to what I do not know and do not despair of learning.”

    The knowledge that we acquire throughout our life is very limited, not being able to understand much of reality. This shows that all we know is in fact insignificant.

    61. “Think before you act and do not start anything without having carefully considered the circumstances”

    In this sentence, the author tells us to be careful and not to rush into our actions.

    62. “The first maxim of every citizen must be to obey the laws of his country, and in all other things to govern himself according to the most moderate opinions and the furthest from excess.

    In this sentence, Descartes indicates the need to follow current legality and morality, as well as the right to maintain a balanced and rational position in relation to the events of life.

    63. “I am used to sleeping and imagining in my dreams the same things that crazy people imagine when they are awake”

    We all have perceptions at some point that can be distorted.

    64. “To be incapable of enthusiasm is a sign of mediocrity”

    Knowing the reality can be a complex process, but at the same time exciting as you get closer to understanding some aspect of the universe. Someone who isn’t able to be curious and motivated about something under normal circumstances is unlikely to stand out.

    65. “That of having to sink into uncertainty and despair of the truth is a sad and miserable refuge from error.”

    Stopping the search for the truth is often a way to avoid admitting that we are wrong or that we can do it.

    66. “I doubt, therefore I believe”

    The maxim “cogito, ergo sum” can be preceded by this sentenceSince being able to doubt is a reflection of our ability to think and reason (I doubt, therefore I think).

    67. “We are only rational in light of our species”

    If reason is for Descartes what distinguishes us from animals, it is a property which is observed only by ourselves.

    68. “Travel serves to learn about the customs of different peoples and to shed prejudices that can only be experienced in one’s own country the way one is used to.”

    Seeing other points of view of reality can be used to rethink our own beliefs and at the same time teach us that we can be ourselves anywhere.

    69. “We must not forget that many beliefs are based on prejudice and tradition”

    Prejudice and tradition are at the root of many behaviors without a rational basis. We need to examine each other’s beliefs and make sense of them as we work to increase our rationality.

    70. “There is nothing so strange and so incredible that it has not been said from one philosopher to another.”

    Most of the things we do and think have already been said or thought of by others. We should not be afraid to expose them.

    71. “Traveling is almost like talking to people from other centuries”

    Just like reading, traveling allows us to see new perspectives and styles of thinking that can help us experience reality.

    72. “There is nothing older than the truth”

    Opinions and beliefs arise from the perception of certain patterns of stimuli and situations, patterns that do not have to be true. However, the reality is always present, it is enough to find it.

    73. “An optimist can see the light where there is none, but why should the pessimist always run to extinguish it?”

    Optimism and pessimism are different ways of seeing reality. But they should not be canceled, because both modes of thought can access knowledge.

    74. “Is reality knowable, rational? Isn’t the universe perhaps something totally incomprehensible to human reason, something essentially absurd, irrational, unknowable?”

    Descartes’ philosophy is above all rational and mechanistic, but it is sometimes necessary to reflect and doubt that the universe is really understandable for human beings.

    75. “Finally, I will devote myself sincerely and wholeheartedly to the general demolition of my opinions.”

    Like everyone else, Descartes had his own opinions on how the world works and the different aspects that are part of it. His aim with this sentence is to show how important it is to stop being based on the rational and to ignore any prejudices that the senses might have instilled in him.

    76. “It is better not to leave after a great search for the truth, because that only makes us feel miserable.”

    Descartes conducted his philosophical work from truths that he believed to be fundamental and which, because they were, hardly explained.

    77. “Law, medicine and other sciences bring wealth to those who pursue them”

    A sample of the esteem that this thinker felt for disciplines related to formal thinking.

    78. “There is a great difference between body and mind, for the body can be divided but the mind cannot be”

    Descartes is a paradigmatic example of dualism in philosophy.

    79. “When you write about the transcendent, I know transcendentally clear”

    One of Descartes’ sentences which emphasizes the use of a systematized language.

    80. “Our beliefs are based on our habits more than any other knowledge”

    As a philosopher, this author wanted to question much of what was once considered common sense.

    81. “Reason is nothing without imagination”

    The imagination offers a hypothesis that reason tests.

    82. “Mathematics is the most powerful tool of knowledge”

    Being a formal thought systemMathematics was considered by Descartes to be a true knowledge search engine.

    83. “Science is an applied philosophy”

    Everything is based on philosophy; the effort to examine concepts, ideas and beliefs.

    84. “It is contrary to reason to say that there is a place of emptiness in which nothing exists.”

    The concept of nothingness that he posed was problematic for Descartes.

    85. “To develop the mind, one must learn, rather than observe”

    Drawing conclusions from what is seen is something that needs to be done actively.

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