Discourse on Method Book Summary - Discourse on Method Book explained in key points

Discourse on Method summary

Brief summary

Discourse on Method is a philosophical work by René Descartes. In it, Descartes sets out his method for seeking truth through skepticism and reason, laying the foundation for modern rationalist philosophy.

Give Feedback
Table of Contents

    Discourse on Method
    Summary of key ideas

    The Quest for Certainty

    In Discourse on Method, René Descartes outlines his revolutionary method of breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts to find clear, definite solutions. His first step focuses on never accepting anything as true unless we recognize it as evidently so, thereby setting out to clear his mind of preconceived notions and beliefs.

    Edging further into his discourse, he embarks on an interim stage, wherein he temporarily assumes the sceptical position of doubting all things — not as a final destination, but as a means to discover an unshakeable, irrefutable truth.

    Establishing Foundations of Knowledge

    As Descartes delves deeper, he finds such a truth in the famous philosophical statement, cogito ergo sum or I think, therefore I am. He maintains that even if everything else is doubtful, the fact that he is thinking is undeniable. Hence, establishing the existence of the self beyond a doubt.

    In abiding by this rule, Descartes propagates taking on the added measure of never permitting himself to be swayed by imprudent or biased opinions. This, in essence, rids the mind of any pre-existing doubts or uncertainties.

    The Existence of God and the Material World

    By employing this method, Descartes further deduces the existence of God. He argues that just as the fact of his thinking confirms his existence, the idea he possesses of an infallible God can only arise from a being corresponding to that idea. God’s existence is subsequently used to provide assurance for the reliability of our senses, under the provision that they are employed correctly.

    Propelling his argument forward, Descartes posits a clear distinction between the mind and body. He sees the mind as a thinking, non-extended thing and the body as a non-thinking, extended thing, thus setting the basis for mind-body dualism.

    Influences on Scientific Method

    Influence of Descartes' method is primarily seen in the development of the scientific method. The technique of breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts has been universally adopted within the scientific community.

    In conclusion, Discourse on Method sets the stage for modern western philosophy, steering the focus towards doubt and subjective knowledge. The book transcends its time, influencing various disciplines from philosophy to psychology, cognitive science to religion, and is regarded as one of the foundational texts of philosophical method.

    Give Feedback
    How do we create content on this page?
    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Discourse on Method about?

    In this influential philosophical work, René Descartes presents his method of doubt and reasoning as a means to attain certainty in knowledge. Through a series of meditations, he challenges traditional beliefs and seeks to establish a foundation for truth based on reason and skepticism. The book is a groundbreaking exploration of epistemology and the pursuit of truth.

    Discourse on Method Review

    Discourse on Method (1637) by René Descartes is a philosophical masterpiece that challenges readers to question their beliefs and search for truth. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents revolutionary ideas about knowledge and skepticism, paving the way for modern philosophy and science.
    • Descartes' rigorous reasoning and logical arguments make the book intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking.
    • The author's personal journey towards truth, combined with his compelling arguments, makes the book captivating and engaging, dispelling any notion that philosophy is dull.

    Who should read Discourse on Method?

    • Curious minds seeking a logical and rational approach to understanding the world
    • Philosophy enthusiasts interested in the foundations of modern thought
    • Those looking to challenge and refine their own thinking processes

    About the Author

    René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. He is often referred to as the father of modern philosophy. Descartes made significant contributions to various fields, including mathematics, physics, and metaphysics. His most famous work, "Discourse on Method," is a groundbreaking philosophical treatise that laid the foundation for rationalism and skepticism. Descartes' method of doubt and his famous statement "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am) have had a profound impact on the development of Western philosophy. Other notable works by Descartes include "Meditations on First Philosophy" and "Principles of Philosophy."

    Categories with Discourse on Method

    Book summaries like Discourse on Method

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    32 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Discourse on Method FAQs 

    What is the main message of Discourse on Method?

    The main message of Discourse on Method is to doubt everything and seek knowledge through reason and skepticism.

    How long does it take to read Discourse on Method?

    The reading time for Discourse on Method varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Discourse on Method a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Discourse on Method is worth reading as it challenges conventional beliefs and promotes critical thinking.

    Who is the author of Discourse on Method?

    The author of Discourse on Method is René Descartes.

    What to read after Discourse on Method?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Discourse on Method, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
    • Incognito by David Eagleman
    • God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
    • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
    • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
    • Simply Complexity by Neil F. Johnson
    • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku
    • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks