Cartesian odyssey

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

4 December 2012


“Je voyage, donc je suis”

“Il est bon de savoir quelque chose des moeurs de divers peuples, afin de juger des nôtres plus sainement, et que nous ne pensions pas que tout ce qui est contre nos modes soit ridicule et contre raison, ainsi qu’ont coutume de faire ceux qui n’ont rien vu….


…..sitôt que l’âge me permit de sortir de la sujétion de mes précepteurs, je quittoi entièrement l’étude des lettres; et me résolvant de ne chercher plus d’autre science que celle qui se pourrait trouver en moi-même, ou bien dans le grand livre du monde, j’employai le reste de ma jeunesse à voyager, à voir des cours et des armées, à fréquenter des gens de diverses humeurs et conditions, à recueillir diverses expériences, à m’éprouver moi-même dans les rencontres que la fortune me proposoit, et partout à faire telle réflexion sur les choses qui se présentoient que j’en pusse tirer quelque profit.”


“It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgement concerning our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational – a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country….

……as soon as my age permitted me to pass from under  the control of my instructors, I entirely abandoned the study of letters and resolved no longer to seek any other science than the knowledge of myself or of the great book of the world. I spent the remainder of my youth in travelling, in visiting courts and armies, in holding intercourse with men of different dispositions and ranks, in collecting varied experience, in proving myself in the different situations into which fortune threw me, and, above all, in making such reflection on the matter of my experience as to secure my improvement.”

Extracts from Part One of the “Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences” (Treatise on the best way to use one’s reasoning faculties and seek scientific truth) published in 1637 by French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650). Descartes was born at La Haye (now Descartes) in central France but died in Stockholm.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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