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He composed an initial attempt to articulate his method, the , sometime in the 1620s, but never completed it and left it unpublished at his death.In 1628 he left Paris for good for the Netherlands, where he lived an anonymous and somewhat nomadic life for several years.
Clarke, whose biography is the most careful and the fullest among this group, is fairly reserved about what he thinks Descartes’ ultimate religious views were, though he makes it clear that for him the scientific Descartes is the most interesting one.
Grayling and Aczel, on the other hand, both propose what might fairly be called conspiracy theories about the true Descartes.
Kennington, a highly original student of Hans Jonas and Leo Strauss, deserves far more attention than he has received, and while this is not the place to explore his interpretation of early modern philosophy, suffice it to say that Kennington is an extremely helpful guide to these matters.
In particular, his translation of the ené Descartes was born in France in 1596.
The technological project was from the start biotechnological — in intent if not in realized practice — and it is hard not to think of today’s “transhumanists” when we read Descartes’ quasi-promise that technology might spare us even the “enfeeblement of old age.” But the mastery and possession of nature is not the only, perhaps not even the deepest, theme of Descartes’ thought.
We find in Descartes, and especially in his epoch-making, a reflectiveness about what it means to be human and about the political conditions of his own activity that far outstrips the reflections we find in the contemporary heirs of his rhetoric, or indeed even what Descartes claims to learn from his own science.
In the early 1630s, he wrote a book of his physics, ), that was Copernican: heliocentric, materialistic, and mechanistic.
Intended for publication in 1633, Descartes suppressed the manuscript when Galileo was punished by the Catholic Church for publishing similar opinions.
The dominant impression of Descartes one gets from the recent biographical works is of a prickly, proud, deceptive man, and one whose desire for secrecy was large, even verging on the pathological.
Leaving aside the sad and somewhat pathetic story of the early death of his illegitimate daughter, much of the drama of Descartes’ life is found in his disputes with his contemporaries over various scientific matters.