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PSY 2050 Assignment Rene Descartes

PSY 2050 Assignment Rene Descartes


Provided an in-depth analysis of the reading and answered each one of the following questions:

What were the main points of the writing?

What were the differences and similarities between what you read and what was written about the individual in the textbook?

Based on your own views of psychology, how does the author’s viewpoint fit into your current understanding of psychology?

Upon arriving in the Netherlands, Descartes undertook work on two sorts of topics. In Summer, 1629, an impressive set of parhelia, or false suns, were observed near Rome. When Descartes heard of them, he set out to find an explanation. (He ultimately hypothesized that a large, solid ice-ring in the sky acts as a lens to form multiple images of the sun [6:355].) This work interrupted his investigations on another topic, which had engaged him for his first nine months in the Netherlands (1:44)—the topic of metaphysics, that is, the theory of the first principles of everything that there is.

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The metaphysical objects of investigation included the existence and nature of God and the soul (1:144, 182). However, these metaphysical investigations were not entirely divorced from problems such as the parhelia, for he claimed that through his investigations into God and the human self, he had been able “to discover the foundation of physics” (1:144). Subsequently, Descartes mentioned a little metaphysical treatise in Latin—presumably an early version of the Meditations—that he wrote upon first coming to the Netherlands (1:184, 350). And we know that Descartes later confided to Mersenne that the Meditations contained “all the principles of my physics” (3:233).

While working on the parhelia, Descartes conceived the idea for a very ambitious treatise. He wrote to Mersenne that he had decided not to explain “just one phenomenon” (the parhelia), but rather to compose a treatise in which he explained “all the phenomena of nature, that is to say, the whole of physics” (1:70). This work eventually became The World, which was to have had three parts: on light (a general treatise on visible, or material, nature), on man (a treatise of physiology), and on the soul. Only the first two survive (and perhaps only they were ever written), as the Treatise on Light and Treatise on Man.

In these works, which Descartes decided to suppress upon learning of the condemnation of Galileo (1:270, 305), he offered a comprehensive vision of the universe as constituted from a bare form of matter having only length, breadth, and depth (three-dimensional volume) and carved up into particles with size and shape, which may be in motion or at rest, and which interact through laws of motion enforced by God (11:33–4). These works contained a description of the visible universe as a single physical system in which all its operations, from the formation of planets and the transmission of light from the sun, to the physiological processes of human and nonhuman animal bodies, can be explained through the mechanism of matter arranged into shapes and structures and moving according to three laws of motion. In fact, his explanations in the World and the subsequent Principles made little use of the three laws of motion in other than a qualitative manner. The laws sustained the notion that matter moves regularly (in a straight line) and that upon impact bits of matter alter their motions in regular ways—something that happens constantly in the full universe (the “plenum”) conceived by Descartes.

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