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Aristotle's philosophy was approached through textbook presentations and commentaries on Aristotle's works.Aristotle himself frequently discussed the positions of his ancient predecessors.It is likely that he then moved to the house of his great uncle, Michel Ferrand, who, like many of René's male relatives, was a lawyer, and who was Counselor to the King in Châtellerault.
He went on to note the contradiction and disagreement that beset philosophy and so infected the higher sciences (including medicine) “insofar as they borrow their principles from philosophy” (6:8).
A year later, in 1638, he advised an inquiring father that “nowhere on earth is philosophy taught better than at La Flèche,” where he advised his correspondent to send his son even if he wanted him subsequently to transcend the learning of the schools—while also suggesting that the son might study at Utrecht with Henry le Roy, a disciple of Descartes (8–9).
The most extensive commentaries also elaborated in some detail on positions other than Aristotle's.
Within this framework, and taking into account the reading of Cicero, Descartes would have been exposed in school to the doctrines of the ancient atomists, Plato, and the Stoics, and he would have heard of the skeptics.
Descartes claimed early on to possess a special method, which was variously exhibited in mathematics, natural philosophy, and metaphysics, and which, in the latter part of his life, included, or was supplemented by, a method of doubt.
Descartes presented his results in major works published during his lifetime: the (in Latin, 1701), an early, unfinished work attempting to set out his method.
Descartes was known among the learned in his day as a top mathematician, as the developer of a new and comprehensive physics or theory of nature (including living things), and as the proposer of a new metaphysics.
In the years following his death, his natural philosophy was widely taught and discussed.
By rule, the Jesuit philosophy curriculum followed Aristotle; it was divided into the then-standard topics of logic, morals, physics, and metaphysics.
The Jesuits also included mathematics in the final three years of study.