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Des Cartes' birth-His exile in Holland-His death in Sweden-His Physical Philosophy-His Vortices-Futility of his Physical Speculations-Sylvius de la Boe-Guy Patin-Use and Abuse of Antimony-Dialogue on Blood-letting between Willis and Van Helmont-Sylvius' Theory of Digestion-Guy Patin's Definition of Cardinal Mazarin-Bonteke's Praise of Tobacco-Robert Boyle -His Studies-Inclination towards Medicine-Just Estimate of ChemistryObjections to Compound Prescriptions-Expectation from Specifics-Objections to Specifics answered.-The Dose of a Specific.-Boyle the Expounder of the Baconian System of Medicine.
DES CARTES was born in 1596, Sylvius in 1614, twelve years before Bacon's death; and Boyle in 1627, the year Bacon died. René Des Cartes, or Latinised, Renatus Cartesius,
was a gentleman of Brittany, a military man, possessing, in the highest degree," says his distinguished countryman, "our defects and our qualities; clear, firm, resolute, somewhat rash; thinking in his closet with the same intrepidity with which he fought under the walls of Prague." He
1 C. Van Dalen, junior, del. et sculpt.
2 Victor Cousin's History of Modern Philosophy.
passed the greater part of his life a voluntary exile in Holland, where he conceived he might enjoy greater liberty than he could in France. He died in Sweden, whither he had gone at the invitation of Queen Christina; and he is said to have been sacrificed to the rigour of the Swedish climate, as administered by his eccentric hostess, who insisted upon studying with him at five o'clock in the morning. "To Des Cartes," says Playfair, "belongs the honour of being the first who ventured on the solution of the most arduous problem which the material world offers to the consideration of philosophy. For this solution, he sought no other data than matter and motion, and with them alone proposed to explain the structure and constitution of the universe. The matter which he required, too, was of the simplest kind, possessing no properties but extension, impenetrability, and inertia. It was matter in the abstract, without any of its peculiar or distinguishing characters. To explain these characters was, indeed, a part of the task which he proposed to himself; and thus, by the simplicity of his assumptions, he added infinitely to the difficulty of the problem which he undertook to resolve." "He begins," says Whewell, "with his celebrated assertion, ‘I think, therefore I am,' which appears to him a certain and immovable principle, by means of which he may proceed to something more. Accordingly, to this he soon adds the idea, and hence the certain existence of God and his perfections. He then asserts it to be also manifest, that a vacuum in any part of the universe is impossible; the whole must be filled with matter, and the matter must be divided into equal angular parts, this being the most simple, and therefore the most natural supposition. This matter being in motion. the parts are necessarily ground into a spherical form, and the corners thus rubbed off (like filings or sawdust) form a
1 Biographical Dictionary.
2 Preliminary Dissertations to En
cyclopædia Britannica, p. 58.