Smith--FINAL PAPER - Daniel Zauderer Political Thought II...

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Daniel Zauderer Political Thought II Modern Science: Vice or Virtue? Descartes and Hobbes have it wrong. The application of Cartesian science to political science will not result in a beneficial model for government. The proposed governmental models resulting from such an application are pitiful; none has any degree of virtue. Such governmental models are the result of two flawed misunderstandings of modern science: that nature is not supportive of man and that this nature should be conquered with a science that predicts regularities within nature and reproduces them. An explanation of Descartes’ and Hobbes’ philosophy and a subsequent Rousseauian analysis will demonstrate that modern science is bad for morals in politics, and that a government with virtue as its highest end is highly more desirable. René Descartes, known as the father of natural science, desires to “start over.” To Descartes, past science and philosophy made very little use of reason. Rather than make use of concepts that could be deduced through reason, past philosophy relied on abstract terms such as “pride,” “honor,” and “justice.” He further realizes that although each past philosopher had been a genius in his own right, a cumulative knowledge and agreement could not be come upon. Descartes assumes that the foundation of a proper scientific methodology and its adoption by all scientists, philosophers, political philosophers, etc., will result in a cumulative knowledge that will further mankind’s attempt to conquer nature. If a methodology is to be adopted by the world, it is important that it be clear. Descartes firmly agrees. For Descartes, only a mathematical explanation should be accepted as proper—only that which is “clear and distinct”—as he believes that everything is limited by mathematical laws. Even God, in Descartes’ philosophy, is a predictable being limited by
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mathematical laws. If even God is a mathematician, all of nature is predictable and therefore conquerable. In his Discourse on Method , Descartes offers four fundamental principles that stand for the methodology he hopes will conquer nature. Only accept what is clear and distinct— what is mathematical—is the first and most important rule. Next, Descartes advises that one should divide each difficulty into as many parts as possible; such a rule makes the process of finding solutions significantly easier and more efficient. The third rule states that one should begin with the simplest and reach toward more complex knowledge. It ensures that anything complex has a foundation in what is simple—what is clear and distinct. The fourth rule, that one should generalize and enumerate everything, ensures that nothing is left out in an explanation. Yet it is seemingly impossible to apply the rules of Descartes’ methodology to
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This essay was uploaded on 04/21/2008 for the course PHIL 337 taught by Professor Ryan during the Spring '08 term at Trinity College, Hartford.

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Smith--FINAL PAPER - Daniel Zauderer Political Thought II...

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