Method and the Problem of the Historical Descartes

  • John SchusterEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 27)


This chapter pauses our narrative, for a necessary conceptual and historiographical interlude: It addresses the problem of how exactly to handle the young Descartes’ belief in his own method. Modern scholarship in history, philosophy and sociology of science—from Bachelard and Koyré, through to Kuhn and Feyerabend—debunks the idea that there is, or can be, a universal, efficacious and transferable ‘scientific method’. But, we still need a way of dealing with historical actors’ belief in their own method claims, and their tendency to define their intellectual agendas in these terms. We cannot believe in Descartes’ method, but neither can we merely debunk his own belief in it. We need to understand how methodological doctrines create for believers their appearances of unity, efficacy, applicability and progress, whilst remaining, for the very same reasons, structurally incapable of delivering what they promise. Building on the conceptual basis set down in  Chap. 2, this Chapter offers a model of methodological discourse for these purposes, allowing us to deal more appropriately in subsequent chapters with the Descartes’ apparently genuine belief in his own method.


Knowledge Claim Heuristic Rule Scientific Revolution Literary Effect Target Field 
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Works of Descartes and Their Abbreviations

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  6. HR  =  The Philosophical Works of Descartes, vol I translated by E.S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross (Cambridge, 1968 [1sted. 1911])Google Scholar


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Campion CollegeSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Unit for History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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