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Descartes and Bacon on the methods of knowledge


Cognition is the highest form of reflection of objective reality. Cognition does not exist separately from the cognitive activity of individuals, but the latter can only be known to the extent that they master the collectively developed, objectified system of knowledge that is passed on from one generation to another. There are various levels of cognition:

  • sensory knowledge
  • thinking
  • empirical knowledge
  • theoretical knowledge.

There are also various forms of knowledge:

  • knowledge, aimed at obtaining knowledge, inseparable from the individual subject (perception, presentation)
  • cognition, aimed at obtaining objectified knowledge that exists outside of an individual (for example, in the form of scientific texts or in the form of things created by man).

Objectivized knowledge is carried out by a collective subject according to the laws irreducible to the individual process of knowledge, and acts as part of spiritual production.

There are also such types of knowledge as:

  •  ordinary
  •  artistic
  •  scientific
  •  natural science
  •  social science


Descartes as a representative of rationalism

Rationalism – (ratio – reason) as an integral system of epistemological views began to take shape in the 17-18 centuries. as a result of the “triumph of reason” – the development of mathematics and science, although its origins can be found in other Greek philosophy, for example, Parmenides also distinguished between knowledge “in truth” (obtained through reason) and knowledge “in opinion” (obtained as a result of sensory perception ).

The cult of the mind is generally characteristic of the era of the 17-18 centuries. – true only that fits into a certain logical chain. Justifying the unconditional reliability of the scientific principles of mathematics and natural science, rationalism tried to solve the problem: how knowledge gained in the process of cognitive activity acquires an objective, universal and necessary character. Representatives of rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) argued that scientific knowledge, possessing these logical properties, is achievable through reason, which acts as its source, as well as the truth criterion itself. For example, to the main thesis of the sensationalists, “there is nothing in the mind that the rationalist Leibnitz previously had in his senses” adds: “Except for the mind itself.”

The downplaying of the role of feelings and sensations of perception in the form of which communication with the world is realized entails separation from the real object of knowledge. Appealing to reason as the only scientific source of knowledge led the rationalist Descartes to the conclusion that there are innate ideas. Although, from the point of view of materialism, this can be called a “genetic code” transmitted from generation to generation. Leibniz has something in common with him, suggesting the existence of predispositions (instances) of thinking.

Descartes (Renatus Cartesius Decartes) – French philosopher and mathematician, being one of the founders of the “new philosophy,” the founder of Cartesianism, was deeply convinced that the truth “… will come across an individual rather than a whole nation.” At the same time, he was repelled by the “principle of evidence” in which all knowledge was to be verified with the help of the natural “light of reason.” This implied the rejection of all judgments taken for granted (for example, customs, examples, as traditional forms of knowledge transfer).

The great philosopher, who proposed his coordinate system in mathematics (Cartesian-rectangular coordinate system), proposed a starting point for public consciousness. According to Descartes, scientific knowledge should have been built as a single system, whereas until now (before it) it was only a collection of random truths. The unshakable foundation (point of reference) of such a system should have been the most obvious and credible assertion (a kind of “ultimate truth”). Descartes considered the proposition “I think, therefore I exist” (“cogito ergo sum”) to be absolutely irrefutable. This argument implies the conviction of the superiority of the comprehensible over the sensual, not just the principle of thinking, but the subjectively experienced process of thinking from which it is impossible to separate the thinking itself. However, self-consciousness as a principle of philosophy has not yet gained complete autonomy – the truth of the original principle as a clear and distinct knowledge is guaranteed by Descartes by the presence of God – an all-powerful being who invested the natural light of reason in man. Descartes’ self-consciousness is not closed on himself and openly to God, who acts as a source of thinking: all vague ideas are a product of man (and therefore false), all clear ideas come from God, and therefore are true. And here Descartes has a metaphysical circle: the existence of any reality (including God) is certified through self-consciousness, which (the significance of the conclusions of this consciousness) is provided again by God.

The very first credible judgment (“the basis of the foundations”, “the ultimate truth”) according to Descartes – Cogito is a thinking substance. It is open to us directly (unlike the material substance – which is open to us indirectly through sensations). Descartes defines this original substance as a thing which, for its existence, does not need anything but itself. In a strict sense, such a substance can only be God, who “… is eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, the source of all good and truth, the creator of all things …” Thinking and bodily substances created by God and supported by them. Descartes regards reason as the ultimate substance “… an imperfect thing, incomplete, dependent on something else and … striving for something better and bigger than I myself …” Thus, among the things created, Descartes calls only those that for their existence need only the usual assistance of God, unlike those who need the assistance of other creatures and bear the names of qualities and attributes.

According to Descartes, matter is divisible to infinity (atoms and emptiness do not exist), and the motion was explained using the concept of vortices. These prerequisites allowed Descartes to identify nature with spatial extent, thus it became possible to study nature as a process of its construction (for example, geometric objects).

Descartes’ science constructs some hypothetical world and this version of the (scientific) world is equivalent to any other, if it is able to explain the phenomena given in the experiment, since this God is the “designer” of all things, and he could use this (scientific) version of the construction of the world to carry out his plans. Descartes’ understanding of the world as a system of finely designed machines removes the distinction between natural and artificial. (The plant is just as equal a mechanism as a clock designed by man with the only difference that the mastery of the clock springs is as inferior to the mastery of plant mechanisms as the art of the Supreme Creator differs from the art of the finite creator). Subsequently, a similar principle was laid into the theory of mind modeling – cybernetics: “No system can create a system more complicated than itself.” Thus, if the world is a mechanism, and the science of it is mechanics, the process of knowledge is the construction of a certain version of the world machine simplest principles that are in the human mind.

As a tool, Descartes proposed his method based on the following rules:

· Start with simple and obvious.

· By deduction to get more complex statements.

· To act in such a way so as not to miss a single link (continuity of the chain of inference), which requires intuition, which sees the first principles, and deduction, which gives consequences from them.

As a true mathematician, Descartes set mathematics as the basis and model of the method, and in the concept of nature he left only definitions that fit into mathematical definitions — stretch (value), figure, movement.

The most important elements of the method were measurement and order.

The concept of the goal Descartes was expelled from his teachings because the notion of the soul was eliminated (as an intermediary between the indivisible mind (spirit) and the body to be divided).

Descartes identified the mind and the soul, calling the imagination and feeling the modes of the mind. The elimination of the soul in its former sense allowed Descartes to oppose two substances to nature and spirit, and to transform nature into a dead object for cognition (design) and human use, but a serious problem of Descartes’s philosophy arose – the connection between soul and body, and since everything is the essence of mechanisms – tried to solve it mechanistically: in the “pineal gland” (where the soul repository according to Descartes is located) the mechanical influences transmitted by the senses reach consciousness.

Descartes remained a consistent rationalist even when examining categories of ethics — he viewed affects and passions as a consequence of bodily movements, which (as long as they are not illuminated by the light of reason) give rise to delusions of reason (hence, evil deeds). The source of delusion is not the mind but free will, which forces a person to act where the mind does not yet have clear (ie, godly) consciousness.


Bacon as a representative of materialism

Bacon Francis – the founder of English materialism and the methodology of experimental science.

The philosophy of Bacon combined empiricism with theology, the naturalistic outlook with the principles of the analytic method.

With the reasoning about God, Bacon contrasted the doctrine of “natural” philosophy, which is based on experienced consciousness (empiricism – empeiria – experience). As a materialistic empiricist, Bacon (along with Hobbes, Locke, Condillac) argued that sensual experience reflects only objectively existing things in knowledge (as opposed to subjective-idealistic empiricism, which recognized only reality to be subjective experience) in contrast to rationalism (Descartes) in empiricism rational – cognitive activity is reduced to all sorts of combinations of the material that is given in experience, and is interpreted as not adding anything to the content of knowledge.

Here the empiricists faced insurmountable difficulties in isolating outgoing components of experience and reconstruction on this basis of all types and forms of consciousness. To explain the actual cognitive process, empiricists are forced to go beyond sensory data and consider them, along with characteristics of consciousness (such as memory, mind activity) and logical operations (inductive generalization), to refer to categories of logic and mathematics to describe experimental data as means building theoretical knowledge. Attempts by the empiricists to substantiate induction on a purely empirical basis and to present logic and mathematics as a simple inductive generalization of sensory experience failed completely.



It is very difficult to conclude in the final correctness of any of the described concepts of knowledge – the complete negation of the value of experience by one school and the negation of organizing principle as a more complex system (of which our three-dimensional world is also part) by another school does not allow us to do this.

Most likely, as history has repeatedly proved, the truth will be somewhere away from the lists, but philosophers will continue to try to figure out “what is more important”, “what appeared earlier …” – which is primary – an idea or matter .. ., trying to start the wheel of history from any one absolute point – the beginning of the time-spatial coordinates.

The occupation is fascinating and worthy of respect, but completely unbearable for the human mind in its present level of development because it is impossible to find a beginning in an ideal circle. The idea gives rise to matter and vice versa. This process is endless, has always been and always will be. It is only legitimate to talk about the forms of Homo Sapiens perception of this world, for everything else is only his interpretation of the incomprehensible – absurdum per absurdum. Irrational, supernatural, we try to explain through rational, based on approximate sensations and the logic of science, built on approximate and irrational in its essence coefficients (eg number p, Planck constant h, etc.) cutting off all other channels of information exchange with external more complex and always irrational world.

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