Rene Descartes Biography

René Descartes (La Haye, Turena, France, 31 March 1596 – Stockholm, Switzerland, 11 February 1650). Scientist, Mathematician and Philosopher of French origin, considered the founder of the philosophical current of rationalism and the Father of modern philosophy.


He is also recognized for having been the first thinker to apply mathematical notions to physical phenomena, in order to be able to come to an understanding of the world, based on reason.

Early Life

René Descartes was born on 31 March 1596, in Haye, Turena France, the youngest of three children of Joaquín Descartes and Jeanne Brochard. He lost his mother when he was a year old. His father sent him to his maternal grandmother.


At the age of eight, his father enrolled him in a Jesuit boarding school, located in La Fléche, where he would remain for the next seven years. Some historians point out that at boarding school he was allowed to get up in the middle of the morning, unlike other students, perhaps out of some health involvement.

At the age of sixteen he entered the University of Poitiers, in order to study law, graduating in 1617. A few months later, he enlisted in the Army. In 1618, at the age of twenty-two, he fought in the troops of the Protestant Army, under the command of Prince Mauritius of Nassau. A year later, in 1619, he served under the command of the Duke of Bavaria, in the ranks of the Catholic army.

According to his own testimony, after a long period of isolation and skepticism on the Upper Danube, on the night of November 10, 1619, the knowledge that would lead him to develop his philosophical system was revealed to him through three dreams. By 1621 he had retired from military life forever.

Cartesian Work

In 1622, he sold all his real estate, obtaining a sum, which allowed him to live modestly for the rest of his life. In 1623, he traveled to Italy, where he remained for two years, before returning to France, and settling in Paris. Attracted by freedom of thought, in 1628, he moved to Holland, where he lived for twenty-one years, dedicated to the development of his philosophical and mathematical system.

From 1628 to 1633 he devoted himself to the writing of his work Treaty on Light, in which Descartes proposed his own conception of the world, man and body. However, after the conviction to Galileo, Descartes decided not to publish it, as the movement of the Earth was also planned in his system. This book would come to light after his death.

Four years later, in 1637, Descartes published his famous Discourse of the Method, in which he proposed to the world of thought to suspend all knowledge in order to submit it in the light of “methodical doubt”, so that he could find the true certainties that would lead to the know, by reason.

It also proposed the method of breaking down complex problems into simple problems, in order to identify simple ideas, and to re-engage them in a complex system, establishing new associations, that would allow their understanding.

From then on, he would dedicate himself to enacting analytical geometry, considered his greatest contribution to the world of mathematics, by raising the equation as a method for solving geometric problems.

In 1641, Descartes published his Metaphysical Meditations, in which he made a check of God’s existence and the immortality of the soul. Likewise, in 1644 his work The Principles of Philosophy came to light, and later, in 1949, The Passions of the Soul.

Cartesian philosophy

The Philosophy of Descartes stated that reality worked according to a rational order, to which one could reach through a Method, whose first link would be made up of “methodical doubt”, which, despite putting reality in check, would allow us to come to a first certainty, based on itself, on doubt, because by doubting we are faced with a thought.

And since one cannot think without existing, doubt is an act of thought that implies the certainty of existence: “I think, then I exist”. Therefore, in order to understand some element of reality, it must be able to be perceived through clarity and distinction, which gives certainty of its existence.

Likewise, Descartes proposes three types of ideas: the fictitious, the product of fantasies; Adventists, coming from the outside and experience, before which we must exercise caution, for they could be created by an “evil genius” with pretence of deceive us; and the innate ones that correspond to unparalleled concepts in the outside world, where the idea of God resides, thus demonstrating its existence, since a finite and imperfect mind is not able to imagine an infinite and perfect being, impossibility that for Descartes is proof of the existence of God.

As for the human being, Descartes fencing that it is composed of a thinking substance (res cogitans) and a body, composed of an extensive res substance, which are communicated, thanks to the esayian system – the soul resides in the pineal gland, from where he directs the body through animal spirits that convey his orders to the body traveling in the blood.

Final years

Tired of controversy and attacks on his theories, in 1649, he agreed to move to Sweden, to serve as Master of Queen Cristina.

However, the requirement to get up at five in the morning, decrippled his health, producing pneumonia that ended his life on February 11, 1650. His notions were established as central themes of modern philosophy, for which he is also considered one of the most influential philosophers in history.

Image source: incrediblelifetime.com

Rene Descartes Biography
Source: Education  
July 28, 2019


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