Becoming a Philosopher : Descartes’ Method



… I valued the exercises that occupy people in the schools. I knew that the reading of all good books is like a conversation with the most eminent people of past centuries, who were their authors, and it is even a studied conversation in which they reveal to us only the best of their thoughts …

Becoming a Philosopher : Descartes’ Method

Few minds, and few works have influenced modern societies as much as René Descartes and his Discourse on Method (1637). Descartes, champion of the Rationalists, would constitute a major inspiration for the combinative efforts of the thinkers of the Enlightenment Century in Continental Europe, such as Kant, in their making of the structures and values that still shape our political and social reality today. But it is also because of this fame and importance that Descartes and his thought are often reduced to evident impossibilities, since cogito ergo sum and being a “cartesian” are often understood as following an absurd, principled dualism. Descartes’ work is radical, but it is also strikingly subtle. Discourse on Method is a remarkable contribution and step in the history of ideas, and thus deserves its patient exploration for any reader slightly engaged in the fields of philosophy, history, politics or literature. A mere look at this Discourse on Method, intended as a brief introduction and presentation of Descartes’ approach towards his scientific texts, proves to be highly rewarding and surprising on many accounts — even from a literary viewpoint. It is such an initial exploration in this major text that this programme will undertake.

How this course works

The participants can initiate their entry into the text on their own, prior to the Crash Course, but the programme will start with the basics, with a presentation of the historical and philosophical background of Descartes, before undertaking a close reading of the entire text in the classroom. This course, like all programmes at IST, is designed in view of dynamic exchanges between the instructor and the participants ; therefore interjections, questions, comments and alternative interpretations are invited and encouraged throughout the session, while an interactive time is kept specifically at the end of each study session.

Crash Course

Duration : 2 sessions of 180 minutes
Dates and Times : decided with the participants
Instructor : Samuel Buchoul
Modality : Skype Videoconference
Open to : All · No pre-requisites

At IST, a new edition of each course is organised upon 3 confirmed participants


Discourse on Method

1637 (French Original)


Session 1

Introduction — Descartes’ background in a nutshell : from Greek Philosophy to the Renaissance.

Descartes : life and works.

Textual analyses from the following sections :

Part 1 — On the Sciences
Part 2 — Rules of the Method (close reading)
Part 3 — Implications on Morality (close reading)

Session 2

Textual analyses from the following sections :

Part 4 — Proofs of the Existence of God and of the Human Soul (close reading)
Part 5 — Physics and Medicine
Part 6 — On Progress and this Discourse (close reading)



The financial contribution is open
beyond a minimum amount of

15.00 $

or the equivalent in your local currency
Check the conversion rates here

2 Interactive sessions of Textual Analysis
6 Hours of collective study
Reading Material in soft copy
Instructor’s Notes for each session
HD Audio Recordings of the sessions


A new edition of this course will be organised
upon 3 confirmed registrations


First Edition : 14 & 21 January 2017