The Comparison of Rene Descartes to Paul Churchland

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Rene Descartes and Paul Churchland are both well respected philosophers with different out-looks on the mind and body relationship. Descartes achieved many great things in his time, but at the time that he wrote Meditations on First Philosophy he seemed to be borderline insane. His ideas are too drastic and gloomy, where as Churchland’s ideas in his writing Eliminitative Materialism seems to be agreeable and bright. Rene Descartes was a famous French Philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Because of his work in his application of algebra to geometry we now have Cartesian geometry. His views about the relationship between the mind and body have been very influential over the last 3 centuries. He was born in La Haye (which is now known as Descartes) Tourine, France in 1596. His Family was far from wealthy but surprisingly all their children became well educated men. At eight years old Descartes was enrolled at a school of Jesuits, La Fleche in Anjou. He continued to study there for eight years. After graduating he studied at the University of Poitiers, majoring in law. He graduated their in 1616. He never practiced law but rather enrolled in the service of Prince Maurice of Nassau, who was the leader of United Provinces of the Netherlands. Descartes was fascinated with living a military life but his fascination of philosophy and mathematics soon overwhelmed his life. Descartes made a pilgrimage over to France and Italy in 1623 for many years and during that pilgrimage he studied philosophy and the science of optics. In 1628 He moved to the Netherlands where he wrote his most influential works. The first major work he wrote was Essais philosophoqies (Philosophical Essays) in 1637. It had four main parts: an essay on geometry, another on optics, a third of meteors, and Discours de la methode (Discourse on method). Other important writing of his were: Principia Philosophiae (The Principles on Methods), and the Passions of the Soul. Descartes made a huge effort to apply the rational inductive methods of mathematics to philosophy. Before he did this Scholasticism ruled philosophy. He refused this method stating, “In our search for the direct road to truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain certitude equal to that of the demonstration of arithmetic and geometry.” He said he would accept only those beliefs that appeared to him clearly to be true, using reason. Although his laws of impact, his vortex theory of gravity, and his denial of a vacuum were rejected as physics developed, he created one of the first formulations of the law of inertia. Descartes also contributed to mathematics; he specialized in the systematization of analytic geometry. He was the first mathematician to attempt to classify curves according to the types of equations that produced them. He also made contributions to the theory of equations. He was the first to use the last letters of the alphabet to designate unknown quantities and the first letters to designate known ones. Descartes also invented the method of indices to express the powers of numbers. In addition, he formulated the rule, which is known as Descartes’ rule of signs, for finding the number of positive and negative roots for any algebraic equation Unfortunately Descartes dies on February 11th, 1650. Even after his death Descartes will always be a figure and contributor to the world of philosophy and mathematics. (Hodges, Miles H) Paul Churchland is a much more resent member of out time than Descartes, having been born in 1942. He grew up a normal childhood. Churchland worked hard to earn his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. From 1966 onward, Churchland taught at many diverse universities in the U.S. and Canada, and he became full professor at the University of Manitoba in 1979. In 1984, he moved to University of California, San Diego, where he has been a respected Professor of Philosophy since. He wrote many articles and books including:...
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