Rene Descartes

René Descartes (31 Mar. 1596 - 11 Feb. 1650) Founder of analytical geometry (and hence modern mathematics); philosopher.

I don't think, therefore I am not.

Cogito ergot sum - TimothyLeary (not)

Cogito cogito ero cogito sum.

I think, therefore I am Descartes.

Descartes goes into a bar. The bartender says, "Would you like a beer?" Descartes replies, "I think not". *POOF*, he disappears.

Impossible. He wouldn't turn a drink down. Everyone knows that ReneDescartes was a drunken phart. MontyPython said so, so it must be true. (But it's not, Bruce.)

The Wiki can be summarized as "I link therefore it is" :-) -- NatPryce

Cartesian coordinates were named after him. So too, in a roundabout way, CartesianJoins.

Everybody knows Descartes for his famous "Cogito ergo sum" (DesCartesPrinciple), but did you know that he contributed other ideas to philosophy? For example, his notion of "clear and distinct ideas" as the basis for knowledge kept the conversation going for hundreds of years, and his ontological proof of God hearkens back to Anselm's "that than which there is nothing greater" argument. -- Prof Taylor

On the UserStory page, KentBeck says:

...I find myself at odds with your description at what I think is a pretty deep philosophical level. The ghost of Descartes runs through every point you make above. I blessed and released that fine gentleman some time ago.

Descartes' theory that the world can be understood as if it were a big clock only seems to hold for the physical world, and not for humans, groups of humans, or software systems.

Whoever created this world seems to have created it with both PhysicalLaws? and with SynergisticLaws?. The physical laws are like f = ma. Two important synergistic laws seem to be:

  1. The survival of the fittest.
  2. The fitness of a group can be greater than the sum of the fitness of its members.

AdamSmith explained that division of labor causes the output of a group of humans to be greater than the sum of the output of the individuals. This can be generalized to fitness, which means at least some members gain fitness by belonging to a group.

Thus the output and fitness of a group is not an additive function of its inputs. We ain't clocks. Groups cannot be modeled by modeling individuals, and then using some additive function to combine the individual models.

Likewise, since division and logical combination is an important part of experimental science, experimental science often does not work well for groups of humans.

So to effectively study groups of humans and software systems, perhaps we must wean ourselves from the desire to use the more powerful, yet unworkable, CartesianScience?, and fall back on the weaker, yet workable, BaconianScience?.

Descartes was wrong? Wrong is too strong a word. A reductionist will readily admit that many topics of human interest have not yet been reduced or that their reduction may not immediately aid those pursuing the interests. Still, to say such reduction will never occur is to profess knowledge of the future inconsistent with wiki's desire for understatement. Kent's rhetorical flourish approaches this line without crossing it. -- WardCunningham

Two important synergistic laws seem to be: 1. The survival of the fittest.

I have a serious problem with calling this a law. It seems to be quite tautological to me. How do you define "the fittest" other than by that which "survives". These terms are way too loose to belong in a "law". The race is not always to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strong. -- BillZimmerly

The synergistic "laws" are best understood from a reductionist viewpoint:

  1. The survival of the fittest.
  2. The fitness of a group can be greater than the sum of the fitness of its members.

Simply put, genotypes that lead to stable replication strategies over multiple generations outnumber those that don't. Competition takes place within and between genotypes at the molecular level. Alleles compete within genotypes. Genotypes compete with other genotypes. Fittest organisms and fittest groups are ways those competitions are resolved, all according to PhysicalLaws? with no need to invoke "synergy". The competition is enormously complex, but that doesn't mean humans and groups of humans are separate from the physical world. It just means the physical world is enormously complex.

-- EricHodges

On ThereIsNoSpoon, the claim is made that
Descartes never wrote 'cogito ergo sum'. He wrote 'Je pense donc je suis'.

which is wrong. Descartes is undeniably French (b. 1596, La Haye), but the language of scholars in his day was Latin, and Descartes followed tradition. He published his first works (e.g., La Diopotrique in 1637) in French, but seeking a wider European audience, switched to Latin. Meditationes De Prima Philosophia (1641) and Principia Philosophiae (1644) were both published originally in Latin, with subsequent French translations authorized by Descartes but done by others. Both works include the Cogito.

Given Descartes French schooling and background, he probably wrote the Cogito in both languages at some point, but he certainly published it in Latin.

He kind of looks like Inigo Montoya....

See also FrancisBacon, ScientificMethod


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