By James Daniel Collins
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Extra info for Descartes´ Philosophy of Nature
Knowledge of natural phenomena. Taken together, they specify and render palpable, as it were, the process of adjusting man's mathematical way of thinking to the practical task of studying nature and using it for his own welfare. Only a synoptic grasp of the following five methodological developments, taken both in their distinctness and in their operationaI unity, can do justice to what Descartes means by placing at human disposal his mathematico-mechanical philosophy of nature. For together, they constitute the disposing modifications in the meaning of nature which correspond to man's practical engagements with the world.
The need for conceptual and experimental innovations is specially acute when we are investigating the phenomena and structures in sensible nature. Along with his programmatic insistence upon the ideal sameness of all acts of intuition and deduction, then, Descartes also recognizes the human need for methodological diversifications in the search after philosophical wisdom about natural reality. His appeal to the mathematical spirit in the study of nature does not signify that the world of nature must be submitted to a univocal mathematization and depersonalization of the inquiry into it.
It is the realization of our reason-as-maturing which ultimately cannot be thwarted by a refusal to reconsider early beliefs concerning nature. The bona mens, or the living thrust of mind toward wisdom and happiness, urges men to reconstitute their concepts of nature within the sustained course of Cartesian reflection and its metaphysical principles. Engagement in the maturation process for human reason is the powerful ideal upon which Descartes relies for inducing men to exercise the philosophical rule of disciplining their assent concerning material nature by their own reflective perceptions and ascertainments 59 One dividend which we gain from this commentary concerns the status of the famous metaphor of the tree of wisdom.
Descartes´ Philosophy of Nature by James Daniel Collins