What is the Cartesian Method?

The Cartesian method  was established by the modern philosopher René Descartes in search of irrefutable truths, which consists of four rules : evidence, analysis, order and enumeration.

These precepts are based on mathematical knowledge , that is, knowledge dominated by reason and not by the senses. In this way, the philosopher affirms that it is possible to reach a truth that cannot be doubted.

Objectives of the Cartesian Method

The philosophy of the Modern Age was marked by the role of man in relation to the knowledge of nature .

Before, philosophical problems focused, in general, on the explanation of the being of things, while modern ones focus on the subject and on your ability to know the things of nature for yourself.

Known as the ” father of modern philosophy “, Descartes sought to emphasize the human capacity to build the path of knowledge through his own reason.

Therefore, he is considered a rationalist . The philosopher developed his method based on the peculiarities of mathematics, the character of which is completely intelligible, based on the order and measure of things.

Therefore, the Cartesian precepts point to absolute truths, of which there should be no doubt about the value.

To this end, he uses arguments that dispense with the senses, but which are rationally and logically linked so that one can deduce one thing from the other until the unquestionable truth of the facts is reached.

The 4 Rules of the Cartesian Method

As already mentioned, the Cartesian method consists of four precepts, all of which are based on essentially rational knowledge. Are they:


The first rule requires that we do not accept what is not clear and distinct to us as true. In this rule, the philosopher warns us about hasty judgments and prevention, that is, prejudices.

An idea, therefore, must be clear, to the point that we can conceive it in our spirit, and distinct as we succeed in separating it from all other ideas that pass at the same time and in a confused way through our thinking .


The second rule is to divide each of the difficulties that will be examined into as many parts as possible and necessary to solve them in the best way. According to the philosopher, dividing the problem makes it easier to face it.


Now that the difficulties have been divided, the next step is to sort them out, leading our thinking to resolve the difficulties.

Therefore, one should start with the simplest questions and the easiest objects to know, to deal gradually and in an orderly way with compound objects and more complex problems.


In this step, complete enumerations and general reviews should be done so that nothing is missed. In other words, we must always make sure that we have not forgotten anything, that no space has been left, and that all links are connected.

Finally, these precepts are directly related to hyperbolic doubt, which consists of doubting everything that is presented to us through the senses.

This means doubting even our own body , since the sensations easily deceive us and only through the rational method is it possible to access the truth.

Examples of the Cartesian Method

Philosophers seek explanations and solutions to the problems they face. Therefore, many of his theories have application in our daily lives and the Cartesian method is no different.

Next, we show how the philosophy of Descartes is present in our lives .

Mathematical equations

A student uses the Cartesian method to solve mathematical equations, as in the first degree equation 40 + (3x – 2) = 2 (3x – 3) + 22, where the goal is to find the value of x.

To find the unknown value , the equation must be analyzed in its parts, that is, the student will identify the operations. Then, the order in which they will be solved must be established, that is, from the easiest to the most complex.

Finally, you will review all the justification to make sure that no mistakes have been made that lead to errors.

Reflection Games

A puzzle enthusiast when faced with hundreds of pieces that are confusing to his senses, must first analyze the pieces and separate them by their similarities in color.

Then, he orders them in a level of difficulty, beginning the assembly with the pieces that correspond to the edges of the image and to the best-known and most easily distinguishable figures.

As the pieces fit together, the whole becomes more apparent. Therefore, it falls back on the assembled parts to ensure that there are no gaps for the correct presentation of the image.

T.V. series

In the famous crime investigation series, investigators begin their work by unraveling and ordering the facts already related so that they can be analyzed, whether it is by apprehending evidence, examining the crime scene or testifying witnesses. The most complex and obscure data is investigated in its parts until gradually clarified. Thus, from the simplest to the most complex evidence, arranged according to their disposition within the case, the facts are revealed.

As you can see, the Cartesian method can be found in various aspects of our life: at school, in games, movies and series. We use the method as a strategy to solve certain problems that are presented to us, as Descartes intended when he published it.

Critique of the Cartesian Method

Criticisms of the Cartesian method, in general, refer to the impossibility of applying the method in the natural sciences.

One of the critics is the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico for whom mathematical logic has no application in the natural world. For him, it would not be logical, therefore, it is necessary to establish a common methodology between mathematical truths and phenomena in nature.

In this way, the Cartesian deductive method is limited, since it does not provide a complete knowledge about natural things, but a snapshot of reality.

Also critical of the Cartesian method, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) argues that this method has no place in the contemporary world, due to scientific progress and frequent discoveries in chemistry and physics.

For him, contemporary sciences have shown that the scientific object is changeable and not absolute.

Therefore, current science contradicts the Cartesian idea of a nature that can be clarified and analyzed in all its minimal aspects.

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