David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (2):265-308 (2003)
This paper aims to provide an explication of the meaning of 'analysis' and 'synthesis' in Descartes' writings. In the first part I claim that Descartes' method is entirely captured by the term 'analysis', and that it is a method of theory elaboration that fuses the modern methods of discovery and confirmation in one enterprise. I discuss Descartes' methodological writings, assess their continuity and coherence, and I address the major shortcoming of previous interpretations of Cartesian methodology. I also discuss the Cartesian method in the context of other conceptions of scientific method of that era and argue that Descartes' method significantly transforms these conceptions. In the second part I argue that mathematical and natural-philosophical writings exhibit this kind of analysis. To that effect I examine in Descartes' writings on the method as used in mathematics, and Descartes' account of the discovery of the nature of the rainbow in the Meteors. Finally, I briefly assess Descartes' claim regarding the universality of his method.
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