The division of labor in the pre-Kantian philosophy among these three nationalities entirely agrees with the account given of the peculiarities of their philosophical endowment. The beginning falls to the share of France; Locke receives that tangled skein, the problem of knowledge, from the hand of Descartes, and passes it on to Leibnitz; and while the Illumination in all three countries is converting the gold inherited from Locke and Leibnitz into small coin, the solution of the riddle rings out from Koenigsberg.
FROM DESCARTES TO KANT.
The long conflict with Scholasticism, which had been carried on with ever increasing energy and ever sharper weapons, was brought by Descartes to a victorious close. The new movement, long desired, long sought, and prepared for from many directions, at length appears, ready and well-established. Descartes accomplishes everything needful with the sure simplicity of genius. He furnishes philosophy with a settled point of departure in self-consciousness, offers her a method sure to succeed in deduction from clear and distinct conceptions, and assigns her the mechanical explanation of nature as her most imperative and fruitful mission.
Rene Descartes was born at La Haye in Touraine, in 1596, and died at Stockholm in 1650. Of the studies taught in the Jesuit school at La Fleche, mathematics alone was able to satisfy his craving for clear and certain knowledge. The years 1613-17 he spent in Paris; then he enlisted in the military service of the Netherlands, and, in 1619, in that of Bavaria. While in winter quarters at Neuburg, he vowed a pilgrimage to Loretto if the Virgin would show him a way of escape from his tormenting doubts; and made the saving discovery of the “foundations of a wonderful science.” At the end of four years this vow was fulfilled. On his return to Paris (1625), he was besought by his learned friends to give to the world his epoch-making ideas. Though, to escape the distractions of society, he kept his residence secret, as he had done during his first stay in Paris, and frequently changed it, he was still unable to secure the complete privacy and leisure for scientific work which he desired. Therefore he went to Holland in 1629, and spent twenty years of quiet productivity in Amsterdam, Franecker, Utrecht, Leeuwarden, Egmond, Harderwijk, Leyden, the palace of Endegeest, and five other places. His work here was interrupted only by a few journeys, but much disturbed in its later years by annoying controversies with the theologian Gisbert Voetius of Utrecht, with Regius, a pupil who had deserted him, and with professors from Leyden. His correspondence with his French friends was conducted through Pere Mersenne. In 1649 he yielded to pressing invitations from Queen Christina of Sweden and removed to Stockholm. There his weak constitution was not adequate to the severity of the climate, and death overtook him within a few months.