The Minimal Method of Descartes

Metatheoria 3 (1):1-18 (2012)
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Abstract
What is, after all, the famous method of Descartes? The brief and vague passages devoted to this subject in Descartes’ corpus have always puzzled his readers. In this paper, I investigate not only the two essays in which it is directly addressed (the Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii, and the Discours de la Méthode), but also his scientific works and correspondence. I finally advocate an interpretation that makes the best sense of his overt comments as well as of his actual scientific practice. Contrary to widely accepted views, I argue that there are no substantial discontinuities in his understanding of his own method, or between his theory and practice. I claim, by contrast, that Descartes advocated a minimal method: a method that says little, but that, nonetheless, marks a revolutionary rupture with the existing forms of explanation.
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