What Makes Us Modern?
With three simple Latin words, ‘Cogito, ergo sum’, Rene Descartes gave birth nearly four hundred years ago to the school of philosophy that sustains the whole of modern science. ‘I think, therefore I am’, the logical consequences of which concatenate right through the extraordinary achievements of our technological civilisation, even today. It is the insistence of Cartesian thought on individual certainty, separation of mind and body, reduction into parts and rigorous analysis that has made possible so widely the conquest of the traditional scourges of humankind: deprivation, disease and death. Now we are in the process of conquering even bigger things – including the very basis of existence, space and time. Perhaps, more than any other thinker, it is Descartes whose philosophy defines all that we mean by the word ‘modern’.
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