Revolutionary Ideas of Rene Descartes: Reforming Philosophy - Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1003 Words
Date:  2023-10-15


Philosophy undergoes a revolution through the work of Rene Descartes because it eliminates any prior theoretical assumptions. For ideas to be revolutionary, they must be new and later used by other scholars, and meet the vague standards of being revolutionary (Ben-Yami, 1). Unlike other philosophers of the 17th century, Descartes eliminates scepticism on several ideologies like the deception of god/spirit, mind/body, and the evidence of the existence of god (Ben-Yami, 1). Descartes’ strategy was to refute prior conceptions that manifested any doubt, which made his ideologies the basis of most modern philosophical, mathematical, and scientific advancements.

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The Central Aim of Descartes and Advices

Descartes defined what we could know with certainty because he believed that all knowledge is indubitable and should distinguish what is right from what is false. According to Descartes, to doubt something is equivalent to not thinking about it at all because it confuses what is right and what is not, and it is worse than being clueless if it forms a false opinion (Dellsen, 7). He affirms that it is better not to study at all than to study many difficult subjects and not be certain about the knowledge of any of them because it leads one to take the doubtful as certain, which reduces our knowledge rather than increasing it.

To enhance our knowledge, Descartes advices that we should not have preconceptions or judgements, and we should never accept anything as correct if there is no evident knowledge to prove so (Dellsen, 7). For instance, he claimed that he’s certain he exists because one has to exist to think, and to question his existence is evidence that he exists. Therefore, Descartes defines knowledge with certainty because all knowledge must be evident.

Importance of Thomas Hobbes as a founder of Political Philosophy

Thomas Hobbes was a 17th century English philosopher revered as the founder of political philosophy because of his development of the ‘’social contract theory’’ explicated in his masterwork Leviathan published in 1651 that justifies mankind’s need for a government. According to this theory, during the State of Nature people lived without law or authorities to govern them. However, due to societal hardships, people made two pacts; ‘Unionis,’ that demanded for the protection of their property and lives, and led to formation of a society of mutual respect and peace, and ‘Subjectionis,’ that united people to subject fully or partly to an authority (Laskar, 1). This assured people safety of their lives, property, and partly their liberty because they agreed to live under a common legislation and an enforcement system that ensured the agreed laws are followed. Hobbes is important as the founder of philosophy because he explicated the formation of a common authority that devolved to contemporary governments.

Concepts in Hobbes’ Philosophy

State of Nature

Hobbes refers to the State of Nature as the period of man’s life before the Social Contract when people lived freely without authority. He defines life at this period as fearful and selfish as people lived ‘solitary’, ‘poor’, ‘nasty’, ‘brutish’, and ‘short’ lives (Laskar, 1).

Right of Nature

This is the inborn right for every person to use the possible means in their might to preserve their life. Hobbes posits that human are rational and can tell what is good and bad for them and they pursue what preserves their lives. It is because of the right of nature that man sought to escape the chaos of the State of Nature.

Law of Nature

This is the general rule that asserts the preservation of self and discourages actions that destroy human life. It posits that we ought to treat people how we wish them to treat us (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 6). Because of this law, people noticed the need for peace and sought to attain it unharmfully by entering the social contract.

Social Contract

This is the pact made by the people to willingly capitulate their rights and freedoms to an authority mandated by the people to command obedience (Laskar, 1). Hobbes explains that people are naturally oriented to the protection and preservation of self to avoid societal afflictions, and this could be attained by rendering their moral obligations to a sovereign authority.


Hobbes contemplated power as being dependent on the ratification of supremacy. He argues that an authority without a system of law enforcement is ineffective and relates power with the concepts of force, instrumental capacity, and entitlement (Dunn, 1). According to Hobbes, without absolute subjection to an authority people will be in chaos. He supports the principle that ‘what is might is what is right’ and argues that the law made by the people is the real law since it is controlled by the sovereign, and therefore it does not hurt or divide people but rather fights against the common enemy of man, the State of Nature (Laskar, 2). It can be induced that Hobbes supported an absolute authority whereby people submit all their rights and freedoms to a common authority that is mandated by sovereign to enforce the law by all means.

Work Cited

Ben-Yami, Hanoch. Descartes' Philosophical Revolution: A Reassessment. Springer, 2015.

Dellsén, Finnur. "Certainty and Explanation in Descartes’s Philosophy of Science." HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 7.2 (2017): 302-327.

Dunn, John. "The significance of Hobbes’s conception of power." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 13.2-3 (2010): 417-433.

Laskar, M. E. "Summary of Social Contract Theory by Hobbes." Locke and Rousseau (2013).

Stanford Encyclopedia of Phylosophy. Rene Descartes. 2014.

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