Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cartesian surprise

I seem to be having some difficulty putting together a post lately. Possibly related to this, I have been reading Descartes' Discourse on Method. I came across a passage that I never expected to see in Descartes, or really any philosophers from the early modern period forward. This is mainly because I thought of Descartes as a mathematician and physicist in addition to a philosopher. This was a mistake since the work is prefaced with a paragraph saying what the general content of each part is. The fifth part, whence the passage, includes an explanation of the movement of blood. Here is the passage:
"And so that there may be less difficulty in understanding what I shall say on this matter, I should like that those not versed in anatomy should take the trouble, before reading this, of having cut up before their eyes the heart of some large animal which lungs (for it is in all respects sufficiently similar to the heart of a man), and cause that there be demonstrated to them the two chambers or cavities which are within it."
Challenge: to write a philosophical book which asks the reader to dissect a large animal before continuing; bonus points if it is a logic book.

2 comments:

Stefan Ionescu said...

Descartes was actively opposing Harvey's new hypothesis about the function of the heart in blood circulation, and he did dissect lots of rabbits and other small animals, as he himself reported. Since his theory was completely wrong, no wonder it isn't regularly discussed in textbooks.

Descartes did quite a lot of experimental work in many scientific disciplines, not to mention his several breakthroughs in math & physics. It makes one wonder about the self-proclaimed naturalistic philosophers of today, many of whom can't tell an inverted iota from an \hbar...

Anibal said...

It sounds odd to the modern ears but in the old shcools of ancient greece, and most in those following a empiricist path: Lyceum, it was compulsory to made observations in anatomy to know the book of nature, so, in the curricula of a philosopher dissections and even vivisecctions was natural.