The Method of the "Regulae" and its Imperfectly Understood Relationship to Cartesian Science

Dissertation, City University of New York (1998)

Glenn Statile
St. John's University
In the Regulae Descartes establishes a distinction between the imperfectly understood problems of science and the perfectly understood problems of mathematics. His goal is to translate the former into the latter. I focus upon the still imperfectly understood relationship between the Regulae and Cartesian science. I show that the Regulae can be used as a tool for understanding Cartesian texts, and that the content of the Regulae continued to inform Cartesian thinking long after the hope of establishing a general method of discovery had been abandoned. ;I advance the argument that the influence of the Regulae upon later Cartesian thinking was both positive and negative in nature. By this I mean that future Cartesian intellectual activity was influenced not only by the methodological resources contained in the Regulae, but also by the problems generated during the course of the Regulae project. Negatively then, Descartes' failure to achieve a complete transformational parity between algebra and geometry was a counterintuitive shock that helped him to better appreciate the challenges posed by skepticism. Moreover, it is a misnomer to speak of a complete abandonment of the Regulae. The causes for the breakdown of the Regulae served as a link to Descartes' later epistemology. Such a link or genetic connection between the Regulae and the later philosophy revolves around what I call the quaestio crucis, or crucial problem. This problem involves the various faculties which participate in cognition. ;On the positive side I examine the methodological meaning and potential of Rules . I develop Descartes' Rule 7 notion of enumeration, relating it to such concepts and procedures as: induction, analogy, idealization, and abstraction. This leads to an analysis of a number of scientific problems dealt with by Descartes in light of my interpretation of the resources contained in the Regulae
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