Regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, René Descartes is indubitably one of the sharpest minds to have lived. Aside from being a great Philosopher, this French man was also a Mathematician and Scientist. His greatest inventions in the latter fields include the Cartesian coordinate system and Analytic Geometry, which is a field of mathematics.
But what concerns us is his most valuable contributions in Philosophy and how we can use them to become more self-confident in life. If you happen to be someone who lacks self-confidence, then definitely read on! Embracing Descartes’ philosophy might just be your antidote.
I think, therefore I am. – René Descartes
That five-word sentence above was his most famous philosophical pronouncement. Such a great thinker he was that he came to a conclusion that our thinking is the greatest proof of our existence, and without thinking, we are nothing.
He was known as the Father of Modern Thought. He was a strong Rationalist who stood by his principles and beliefs of using logic and reason as a guide of action. And he lived in an age where most of his fellow Philosophers at the time thought rather oppositely, by regarding God as a guide of their actions. Despite this, René Descartes, who believed in introspection and self-confidence, remained by his ideals of free radical thinking and continued to question and doubt everything. It is precisely this way of thinking that helped him invent the things he invented.
Key Takeaway: Stand by your principles in life, and don’t get influenced by what others are incorrectly saying. Have confidence in yourself and develop the decisiveness to do the right thing.
Method of Doubt
Let’s now look at his first principle of knowledge, which is as follows:
“That in order to examine into the truth, it is necessary once in one’s life to doubt of all things, so far as this is possible.”
This is Descartes’ famous principle known by many names such as Universal Doubt, Cartesian Doubt, or Methodic Doubt. This leads to his first certitude that was mentioned above: cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).
What Descartes is essentially saying is we should not believe anything as others tell us. We should analyze things thoroughly with free independent thinking, assuming that we don’t know the presumptions of others’ opinions, and only then by doubting things and verifying it by ourselves can we truly seek the correct knowledge.
Key Takeaway: If everyone is doing something, a bandwagon, a cult, or whatever it is, it does not mean that that is the correct thing. You should have your own judgment and doubt everything before fully believing in things. This concept of methodic doubt is essential to developing self-confidence.
Descartes’ 6 Principles of Philosophy
Descartes formulated his own principles of philosophy that everyone could take some insight from. These principles still revolve around his concept of doubt
- Principle I: That in order to examine into the truth, it is necessary once in one’s life to doubt of all things, so far as this is possible.
- Principle II: That we ought to consider as false all these things of which we may doubt.
- Principle III: That we ought not to make use of this doubt for the conduct of our life meantime.
- Principle IV: Why we may doubt of sensible things. We shall in the first place doubt if all sensible things, or things that we imagine, do really exist because we know that our senses may have deceived us before and that we should not trust in what has deceived us before. In the second place, we dream in our sleep of inexistent things, which can again be deceptive. So we shall doubt of all sensible things before we search for truth.
- Principle V: Why we may likewise doubt the demonstration of mathematics. We shall also doubt things that have formerly seemed to us as quite certain, such as demonstrations of mathematics and its principles. One reason is that those who have made errors in reasoning on such matters, hold themselves perfectly certain and self-evident what we see to be false. More importantly, we have been told that God who created us can do all that he desires. For all we know, he may not even have desired to create us.
- Principle VI: That we cannot doubt our existence without existing while we doubt; and this is the first knowledge that we obtain when we philosophize in an orderly way.
Descartes was an influential man that inspired many French locals during his time. He was a living ideal of independent, self-confident, and rational thinking. By using his philosophical principles in our daily lives, we can also help ourselves become more self-confident.
It is when we achieve this belief in our selves that we can truly unlock our inner potential and ability to do great things – great things that we owe to the world – great things that we are definitely capable of.
If you’re interested in learning more about Descartes and his ingenious philosophies, you’ll find all you need to know in the video below by the School of Life:
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries – René Descartes
- An Introduction To Philosophy and the Philosophy of The Human Person, USC Press