March 31 ~  Solve Other Problems Cambridge Companion to Descartes

"Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems." ~ René Descartes

René Descartes Every problem has a solution. Problems awaken the dragon in our hearts. The roaring dragon that burns with the solution.

Today celebrates the birth of French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) in Touraine, France, his mother died of tuberculosis a year after he was born. Descartes is best known for uttering the famous line, "I think, therefore I am" ("cogito ergo sum").

As a young man, he earned a law degree, then traveled widely before settling in Holland to write and study mathematics. Known for finding solutions to problems, he created analytic geometry and the modern scientific method.

"Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is convinced he is well supplied with it," he said.

Unlike Aristotle who saw the sciences as separate disciplines, Descartes compared philosophy to a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches are the sciences of medicine, mechanics, and morals. Knowledge, he taught, must be designed from the bottom up.

"Except our own thoughts," he said, "there is nothing absolutely in our power."

The first modern rationalist, he used mathematics to find clear knowledge about life. As perhaps the most important person in the 17th century's intellectual revolution, his theories shaped the development of philosophy.

"The reading of good books is like a conversation with the best men of past centuries," he once observed, "In fact, like a prepared conversation, in which they reveal their best thoughts."

René Descartes Every problem reaps a lesson.