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René Descartes - The Great Philosophers

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René Descartes31 March 1596 -- 11 February 1650Perhaps best known for the philosophical statement "Cogito ergo sum" ( I think, therefore I am ) found in part IV of Discourse on the Method 1637 -- written in French .Descartes is a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer, he has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continue to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system ; allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution and has been described as an example of genius.Descartes frequently sets his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, a treatise on the Early Modern version of what are now commonly called emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differs from the schools on two major points: First, he rejects the analysis of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejects any appeal to ends divine or natural in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.Bryan Magee Series of The Great Philosophers.In 1978, Magee presented for BBC television 15 dialogues with noted philosophers in a series called Men of Ideas. Following an "Introduction to Philosophy" presented by Magee in discussion with Isaiah Berlin, Magee discussed topics like Marxist philosophy, the Frankfurt School, and modern Existentialism in subsequent episodes. Transcripts of the dialogues within the Men of Ideas series are available in published form in the book, Talking Philosophy.Another BBC television series, The Great Philosophers, followed in 1987. In this series, Magee discussed the major historical figures of Western philosophy with fifteen contemporary philosophers. The series covered the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, among others, ending with a discussion with John Searle on the philosophy of Wittgenstein. Transcripts of The Great Philosophers are available in published form in a book of the same name. The Story of Thought (also published as The Story of Philosophy) also covers the history of Western philosophy.

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