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The Apology of René Descartes: Philosophy and the City in the Discourse on Method

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A striking feature of René Descartes' Discourse on Method is the fact that it devotes very little textual space to explaining the titular method. Indeed, in addition to his novel philosophical method, Descartes discusses everything from the movements of the heart to proof for the existence of God. This paper argues that a major part of Descartes' purpose in the Discourse on Method is to contemplate the relationship between philosophy and the city, and, in particular, the implications of his new philosophical method for this relationship. I suggest that the autobiographical elements of the Discourse on Method resemble the speech given by Socrates in Plato's Apology of Socrates. Whereas Socrates characterizes the relationship between philosophy and the city as fraught with an inevitable (but productive) tension, Descartes suggests that this tension unnecessarily obfuscates the material benefits that his new philosophical method can provide. I conclude that Descartes recalls the Socratic account in order to supplant it with a radical reconfiguration of the classical understanding of the relationship between philosophy and the city which constitutes a call for the re-founding of both.

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descart (83), citi (41), philosophi (37), socrat (35), polit (30), ibid (30), discours (30), philosoph (21), method (19), order (17), suggest (15), good (15), one (15), publish (14), dinan (14), reason (14), howev (13), m (13), way (12), conflict (11), could (11),
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Name: Southern Political Science Association
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http://www.spsa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p276951_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Dinan, Matthew. "The Apology of René Descartes: Philosophy and the City in the Discourse on Method" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, LA, Jan 07, 2009 <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p276951_index.html>

APA Citation:

Dinan, M. D. , 2009-01-07 "The Apology of René Descartes: Philosophy and the City in the Discourse on Method" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, LA Online <PDF>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p276951_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: A striking feature of René Descartes' Discourse on Method is the fact that it devotes very little textual space to explaining the titular method. Indeed, in addition to his novel philosophical method, Descartes discusses everything from the movements of the heart to proof for the existence of God. This paper argues that a major part of Descartes' purpose in the Discourse on Method is to contemplate the relationship between philosophy and the city, and, in particular, the implications of his new philosophical method for this relationship. I suggest that the autobiographical elements of the Discourse on Method resemble the speech given by Socrates in Plato's Apology of Socrates. Whereas Socrates characterizes the relationship between philosophy and the city as fraught with an inevitable (but productive) tension, Descartes suggests that this tension unnecessarily obfuscates the material benefits that his new philosophical method can provide. I conclude that Descartes recalls the Socratic account in order to supplant it with a radical reconfiguration of the classical understanding of the relationship between philosophy and the city which constitutes a call for the re-founding of both.


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