Descartes - Tom Griffin

Descartes (Essential Thinkers) - René Descartes

I don't think I'm really cut out for philosophy.


Here are some reasons why I did not like this book. Others will probably occur to me later:

1) Descartes' best argument for the existence of God - bearing in mind this is supposedly one of the best philosophers in history - boils down to "I can imagine him, therefore he exists." I mean, honestly. A five-year-old could come up with better reasoning. Tom Griffith in the introduction says Descartes does this to avoid prosecution from the Church. Fine. We can't all be Galileo. But if this were the case, and he were simply providing himself with a kind of get out of jail free card, I feel he would not labour the point so much.

2) Many of the sentences take up half a page.

3) The style is so dense that sometimes you have to read something three times to make it make sense, and even that doesn't always work. Here's an example: "By the word idea I understand that form of any thought, by the immediate perception of which I am conscious of that same thought; so that I can express nothing in words, when I understand what I say, without making it certain, by this alone, that I possess the idea of the thing that is signified by these words. And thus I give the appellation idea not to the images alone that are depicted in the phantasy; on the contrary, I do not here apply this name to them, in so far as they are in the corporeal phantasy, that is to say, in so far as they are depicted in certain parts of the brain, but only in so far as they inform the mind itself, when turned towards that part of the brain." What, exactly, does all that lot mean?

4) Woolly thinking. Need I say more?

5) The book repeats itself several times. This is understandable, since it contains excerpts from several different works, but it is not exactly conducive to attentive reading.

Not even the brilliant first sentence, "Good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess", is enough to make up for these failings. I don't think I shall read any more philosophy. Sorry.