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Reply Sat 31 Jan, 2009 05:38 pm

I am trying to understand the relationship between Cartesianism and phenomenology. Could someone please explain this to me?

Thank you so much
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 06:42 am
Hey caityk,

Cartesianism is the philosophy of Rene Descartes, as described in Meditations on First Philosophy, Discourse on Method, and other texts. It is the most basic form of mechanism: that is, Descartes, in his Meditations, advances several arguments (cogito ergo sum; God exists because the idea of God--or more accurately, that of His perfection, exists; that the mind and the body are distinctly different {in the geometrical proof you can see that this argument is fundamentally flawed due to inherent circularity IMO}; etc.) and from the viewpoint establishes the basic idea of mechanism, e.g., that what we see in the world is nothing more than a bunch of little atoms or corpuscles or monads that interrelate with each other to create what we perceive as discernable effects via the same principles and forces at work in the macro world. (As you can tell from the description, although Renaissance mechanism, was, in its generals, largely correct, in the specifics it greatly errored.)

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of reality, or rather, what we perceive to be reality. Hegel made the term famous in his Phenomenology of Spirit (no duh), but it seems the term, perhaps the most famous example of his infamous tendency to invent words out of thin air--even in German, where it's rather easily done, he was notorious for this--actually predates him. Since we have just defined Cartesianism as the most archaic subset of mechanism (or mechanistic philosophy) and phenomenology as the philosophical study of the visible "real" world, then can infer from mechanism that it is a phenomenology (in which "atoms" or "corpuscules" are invoked to explain real-world phenomena), and thus that Cartesian mechanism is the first really new example of phenomenology in modern philosophy.

There are more meanings involved with phenomenology than the one I just described. Husserl and Heidigger both had distinct and variant phenomenological systems, but I don't know too much about either one.


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