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Rene Descartes And His Contributions To The Modern World Of Psychology

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Psychology studies always has been a debate among scholars so that they can prove their theory with an already existing theories in a certain field of study. Historical perspectives of Psychology has always help them in order to open ideas and thoughts among psychologists. Few pioneers such Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson and many more does really widen up the perception of a psychologist to explore some new ideas until now. Psychology is a combination of two parents known as Philosophy and Physiology. When talking about Philosophy, there are a lot famous philosophers that can be known and identified but this particular writing is only about Rene Descartes and his contributions to the society and to the modern world of Psychology.

Rene Descartes is a famous French philosopher, scientist and mathematician lives in seventeenth century. Descartes is a very notable person responsible to open people perception of seeing thing in a science point of view using logic during that time. He also considered as ‘father of modern philosophy’ and founder of Rationalism (theory) which is one of the main basement for psychology to form as a formal discipline of study (King, Woody & Viney, 2013). Even though just live for fifty- four years (1596-1650), his contributions is always greater than his life-span of time which is still study and acceptable by people around the world. Of course, we should first thank to Michel de Montaigne and his resurrected of skepiticism for Descartes’s growth. This is because Descartes ideas always contradict to Montaigne’s view and basically is to prove him wrong all along. So, we should not forget Montaigne role in Descartes’s life to bring him to the light of the world until his principles are recognized.

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People who loves and admired Descartes’s works cannot run away from logic and reasoning when explaining how everything functions in this world. Descartes always trusted in human power of logic when others backed their theories with appeal of God (Authority). Descartes begin to observing that our human senses are deeply unreliable. He couldn’t, for example said can trusted to know whether he was actually sitting in a room in a dressing gown next to a fire, or merely dreaming such a thing (dream argument). Descartes ultimate question to answer philosophers that sometimes get unreasonably in namely, ‘how can one know that anything including oneself, actually exist rather than being some sort of dream or phantasm?’. So, he addressed the Mind and Body problem and successfully comes out the term called Dualism. Mental and physical are taken as substance for it. He is also always questioned everything that happened around him, basically to find a truth that he cannot denied. This is because Descartes believed as long as there is something that can be denied in an argument is a false statement. This what he later called as Method of Doubt so his quest was certainly around this question of whether it might all be a dream that control by the demons (evil demon theory), At the end, he come to fact that he cannot denied is that he is actually thinking. Descartes;s existence could be proved by a tautological trick. He could not be thinking and wondering if he existed if he did not exist, therefore his thinking was a very basic proof of his being. Descartes’s subjective approach to philosophy reached its climax when he arrived at the famous phrase ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ in French which means ‘I think therefore I am’ in English. Of course, it is seem to look ordinary now but in that time, it is consider a greatest insight especially in an epistemological world (Fancher & Rutherford. 2011).

This Descartes’s thinking also influenced by Mathematics. This can be seen when Descartes demonstrated his work called Cartesian method or also known as method of inquiry. He proposes four rules in it. First rule is to never accept anything as true unless it is so clear and distinct as to be immune from doubt. Second rule is to divide all difficulties into as many parts as possible. Third rule is to start with the easiest and best known elements and proceed step by step to knowledge of the more complex ideas. Lastly, the forth and final rule is to make complete enumerations and comprehensive reviews to ensure that nothing is left out. This rules is emphasized in his Discourse on the Method which modeled on mathematicians who Descartes believed provided certain and evident reasoning. In his finding called La Geometrie (Geometry), he found analytic geometry called as Cartesian geometry. He could solved problems involve geometry by changing it into problem in algebra by introducing the term of x and y on a cartesian plane (Cartesian coordinate). This discovery act as a foundation for calculus and helped Sir Issac Newton to invent it and introduced modern notation for exponents like ‘a’ square and cube.

Descartes’s rationalism is opposed by empiricism by John Locke. Rationalism as mentioned earlier are emphasizes the activity of mind and capacity to reason where else empiricism stated knowledge depends on sensory information and observable facts (Samaha. 2009). Both can be acceptable as the criteria to claim the truth and acts as a foundation for Psychology. This idea or view of his embrace by many psychologist around the world until now as it is very relevance even today because it is still teaches in every universities which is very useful to find the accuracy of the news that we received in this globalization world which is by doubting the originality of the source and must carried our own experiment to verified it.


  1. Fancher, R. E., & Rutherford, A. (2011). Pioneers of psychology (4th ed). NY:W.W. Norton & Company.
  6. King, D. B., Woody, W. D., & Viney, W. (2013). A history of psychology: ideas and context (5th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson.
  7. Samaha, R. (2009). Descartes’s project of inquiry. Retrieved from

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Rene Descartes And His Contributions To The Modern World Of Psychology. (2021, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Rene Descartes And His Contributions To The Modern World Of Psychology.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2021,
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