Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768dbb666b-tcprc Total loading time: 1.278 Render date: 2023-02-07T02:17:41.111Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Book contents

Analysis versus Synthesis

from ENTRIES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2016

David Cunning
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
Lawrence Nolan
Affiliation:
California State University, Long Beach
Get access

Summary

In Second Replies, Descartes draws a distinction between two methods of demonstration: analysis and synthesis. He nowhere offers a formal definition or account of the two methods, but he does make claims throughout his corpus, but especially in the Second Replies, that provide important clues as to the details of their nature. For example, he identifies analysis as a method of instruction, and he says that indeed it “is the best and truest method of instruction” and is the method that he employs in the Meditations. He says that synthesis “is very suitable to deploy in geometry” (AT VII 156, CSM II 111) and that it characteristically involves the presentation of a series of definitions, postulates, axioms, and theorems that together form a deductive chain of reasoning that forces even the most stubborn of minds to affirm its conclusion (AT VII 156, CSM II 110–11) (see deduction). He makes additional claims as well: that analysis is a version of a method that was highly regarded in ancient geometry; that it helps us to have clear and distinct perceptions of the primary notions of metaphysics; and that it is a method of discovery (AT VII 155–57, CSM II 110–12). He says that synthesis and analysis are complementary methods but one difference is that a successful analytic demonstration does not compel our assent (AT VII 156, CSM II 110–11).

Descartes draws a further distinction between the method of demonstration and the order of demonstration. Both analysis and synthesis must employ the proper order: claims that are put forward initially cannot depend for their support on claims that come later, and claims that are derived thereafter must depend solely on claims that have already been established (Gueroult 1984, 1:8–11). Descartes emphasizes that in the Meditations he tried to adhere to this order: in the First Meditation he refrains from affirming claims that are dubitable, and when he does finally stand behind metaphysical principles, they are either primary notions that are known through themselves or the conclusions of arguments whose premises comprised such notions (AT VII 155, CSM II 110). Any method must adhere to the proper order, and so it is in other respects that analysis and synthesis diverge.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Cunning, David. 2010. Argument and Persuasion in Descartes’ Meditations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Curley, Edwin. 1986. “Analysis in the Meditations: The Quest for Clear and Distinct Ideas,” in Essays on Descartes’ Meditations, ed. Rorty, A. O.. Berkeley: University of California Press, 153–76.Google Scholar
Flage, Daniel, and Bonnen, Clarence. 1999. Descartes and Method: A Search for a Method in Meditations. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Garber, Daniel. 1986. “Semel in vita: The Scientific Background to Descartes’ Meditations,” in Essays on Descartes’ Meditations, ed. Rorty, A. O.. Berkeley: University of California Press, 81–116.Google Scholar
Garber, Daniel, and Cohen, Lesley. 2000. “A Point of Order: Analysis, Synthesis, and Descartes’ Principles,” in Descartes Embodied, ed. Garber, D.. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 52–63.
Gaukroger, Stephen. 1989. Cartesian Logic: An Essay on Descartes's Conception of Inference, Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Gueroult, Martial. 1984. Descartes’ Philosophy Interpreted According to the Order of Reasons, 2 vols., trans. Ariew, R.. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Hatfield, Gary. 1986. “The Senses and the Fleshless Eye: The Meditations as Cognitive Exercises,” in Essays on Descartes’ Meditations, ed. Rorty, A. O.. Berkeley: University of California Press, 45–80.Google Scholar
Hintikka, Jaakko. 1978. “A Discourse on Descartes's Method,” in Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays, ed. Hooker, M.. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 74–88.Google Scholar
Hintikka, Jaakko, and Remes, Unto. 1974. The Method of Analysis: Its Geometrical Origin and Its General Significance. Boston: D. Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nolan, Lawrence. 2005. “The Ontological Argument as an Exercise in Cartesian Therapy,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35: 521–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Kurt. 2010. Matter Matters: Metaphysics and Methodology in the Early Modern Period. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Timmermans, Benoit. 1999. “The Originality of Descartes's Method of Analysis as Discovery,” Journal of the History of Ideas 60: 443–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×