Rene Descartes continued

We had two interesting discussions on Thursday based on information on Descartes in Tom Butler-Dowdon’s book, 50 Philosophy Classics. I also provided some handouts based on my research mostly on the internet. This morning’s group found Descartes famous ‘I think, therefore I am’ difficult to grasp. Also the idea that Descartes could discard all existing knowledge and experience and start again in judging what he believed to be true. Is it really possible to imagine that all your past ideas and experiences can be erased to the point that the only thing one can know is that they are a ‘thinking thing’.

Descartes goes on to to say:

“And the whole force of the arguments I have used here to prove the existence of God consists in this, that I recognise that it would not be possible for my nature to be as it is, that is to say, that I should have in me the idea of a God, if God did not really exist.”

We discussed that people throughout time and in different cultures throughout the world independently believe in some form of higher power. But does that really prove that God exists? It doesn’t disprove it either!

The afternoon group suggested that Descartes’ attention to God in his writing was more pragmatic due to the time (early 1600’s) in France. Many of his ideas in maths and science, astronomy could have been seen as heresy if he didn’t publicly pay homage to a belief in God. Galileo suffered being called a heretic for his advances in scientific knowledge so Descartes, as a witness to this, withdrew some of his writings (The Book of the World).

Primarily our group is about having a stimulating discussion and keeping our brains active. The participants know that I am not a philosophy academic and hopefully that enables them to think and to express valid views on the topics raised in the book. And we can get to know each other and start to build some social networks in our community.

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This week we look at Rene Descartes

He thinks, therefore he is!

This nine minute video gives a quick overview of the massive ground that Descartes covered in his lifetime as a philosopher, mathematician and scientist.

I will write again after we have our two discussion groups tomorrow.

A little family history …

I got a pleasant surprise today when a distant cousin sent me some old photos and scans. One family member who is well known to me from stories but I didn’t ever meet her – my Great Auntie Mary. She was born in 1892 and died in 1994.

Auntie Mary Moran
Auntie Mary wrote this poem on her 92nd birthday. She was quite a woman!

She had quite a strong interest in politics too!

Not a night person anymore!

I realised this morning that I completely messed up on my previous post. Thanks to those who ‘liked’ it anyway!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the past I was always at my best in the evenings – did my best work when I was studying etc. Time to review this I am afraid.

My previous post was about Machiavelli but I had the heading of Descartes. I don’t think they have much in common – especially the ‘ends justifies the means”!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Machiavelli Continued …

We had two lively discussions last Thursday on Machiavelli. He is mostly remembered for the words “the ends justify the means” but I don’t believe he actually ever used those words specifically. In his book, The Prince, he develops something of an instruction manual for a Prince who is about to lead his kingdom.

There are around ten people in each group competing to share their ideas. I try hard to let everyone have a chance to talk.

It was inevitable that we would end up discussing some well known politicians such as Donald Trump and Theresa May. We also tried to discern if Machiavelli really supported unscrupulous behaviour or whether he was just “telling it like it was/is”. We generally believed he wrote from his knowledge and experience within the government of the day.

Since Thursday I see so much Machiavelli wherever I look. People in power presenting an acceptable face to the world but barely hiding some of the measures they take to continue in their roles.

It could be argued that we all have a dark side or shadow but hopefully most people work towards bettering themselves and not at refining their dark arts!