Page:A Brief History of Modern Philosophy.djvu/54

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51
DESCARTES

he decidedly underestimates) in his inability to combine deduction and induction in the investigation of the facts of experience. He regards experience as nothing more than occasional, because he thinks that science can only give the possible, not the real, explanation of phenomena. He aims to restrict himself to hypotheses, and he does not even attempt to verify these hypotheses. His natural philosophy thus assumes an abstract and arbitrary character. His importance rests on the ideal of natural science which he proposed: namely, to deduce phenomena from their causes with mathematical necessity. He therefore took no account of anything but the geometrical attributes of things, and he treated the concepts of matter and extension as identical. He substituted this ideal of knowledge for the prevalent scholastic method of explanation, based on qualities and hidden causes.

Descartes attempted to explain the existing state of the Universe by mechanical processes of development. He assumes a primitive condition in which the particles of matter exist in whirling eddies (vortices) with fixed centers. The smaller particles, resulting from the mutual friction of the larger particles, were compelled to congregate around these centers, and thus formed the various world-bodies. Some of these bodies, like the earth, have lost their independence, because they are carried along by the more powerful cycles in which the great world-bodies are found. Weight consists of the pressure due to the rotary motion, which drives the smaller particles into close proximity to the larger bodies.—In suggesting this theory, imperfect as it is, Descartes anticipated Kant and Laplace.

Organisms, as well as the World-all, are to be regarded as machines. If physiology is to become a science, it must