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The Good Life in the Scientific RevolutionDescartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the Cultivation of Virtue$
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Matthew L. Jones

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226409542

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226409566.001.0001

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Geometry as Spiritual Exercise

Geometry as Spiritual Exercise

Chapter:
(p.15) Chapter One Geometry as Spiritual Exercise
Source:
The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226409566.003.0002

This chapter studies one set of exercises Descartes deemed propaedeutic to a better life and better knowledge—his famous, if too little known, geometry—and examines his Geometry of 1637, on its own terms, using his repetitive statements of its purpose, its contents, and its foundation. In his writings from the 1620s until his death, he asserted regularly that mathematics is an exercise, perhaps the best that we have to practice thinking well. Taking this claim seriously helps to clarify problematic aspects of Descartes' geometry and philosophy of mathematics. Looking at both his mathematics and his understanding of its purpose, we will escape a long tradition of equating the subject Descartes aimed to create through his exercise with the so-called Cartesian and modern subjects.

Keywords:   Descartes, mathematics, philosophy, Geometry

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