Treatise on the Human Mind (1664)

René Descartes
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Descartes’ Treatise on Man and its Reception

Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution. Sign in with your library card. Search within In This Article 1. The Activity of Mind 2. MADAM, I cannot Blame you, if you cannot Entertain those of your own Sex in Conversation, as to Please them with such Discourse as is according to their Humours and Capacities, for if your Discourse be according to your own Capacity and Wit, you must Discourse to your self, for such Discourse is beyond their Understanding; but if you will Entertain them with Conversation, you must Descend from your own Height, and Discourse with them on Even Ground, wich is, you must Speak as Foolishly as they do: the Question only will be, whether you can do so, or not?

Another Help there is, as I have heard from one of our Sex, who had a Good Wit, and Loved not Gossiping, when she had any Female Visitors, she, after a little time, would fall to Brag of her self, and tell what Fine things she would have, or had, whereat they became Inwardly Spiteful or Angry, and then would soon take their Leaves and be Gone; But whether you will use this Remedy or not, I cannot tell, for I believe it is against your Nature; yet you must either use this Remedy, or else you must learn to Gossip, and to Entertain Gossips, although I believe you will be but a Dull, Untoward Scholar to Learn; But the best Tutoress I know of, if you will Learn, is, Mrs.

Bragging Medicine, or Mrs.

Instructions, to which Instruction or Medicine I leave you, and rest,. Page, Mrs. Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, and others, too many to Relate? Who would not Swear he had been a Noble Lover, that could Woo so well? I should not have needed to Write this to you, for his Works would have Declared the same Truth: But I believe, those that Dispraised his Playes, Dispraised them more out of Envy, than Simplicity or Ignorance, for those that could Read his Playes, could not be so Foolish to Condemn them, only the Excellency of them caused an Envy to them.

By this we may perceive, Envy doth not Leave a man in the Grave, it Follows him after Death, unless a man be Buried in Oblivion, but if he Leave any thing to be Remembred, Envy and Malice will be still throwing Aspersion upon it, or striving to Pull it down by Detraction.

Truly, said I, I am of the Opinion, she would be Courted by some other than her Husband, since he leaves Courting of her, and Addresses himself to others; next, I am of the Opinion, she would have all her Neighbours Wives, or at least some, and my self particularly, as Jealous as her self, otherwise she would never have Written to you, but to me, especially in a Case concerning the Women in my House, and if I were of her Jealous Humour, I should Write to her Husband, how his Wife Writ a Letter to my Husband, Aggravating, for Jealousie is alwayes Adding and Aggravating that you two held a Correspondence by Letters, and for any thing I knew, had Private Meetings, but being not Jealous, I Approve of her choice of Writing to you, wherefore send for her she Accuses, and Examin her.

Now, if she should have been Judged by the Letter, without any Examination, she might have been Condemned for a Criminal, whereas her own Confession, and other Witnesses, set her Free; but Jealousie and Suspicion, for the most part, are False Accusers, and Cruel Judges.

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But my Husband sent for the Divine that formerly came from her, and told him of her Letter, and of my Maids Confession, and that she had no Cause to be Jealous of her, for she was very Virtuous, neither had she any Acquaintance with her Husband. And so leaving them to Agree, I rest,. And so leaving to write more for this time, I rest,. But, Madam, I shall Discourse so long of Fashions, as I shall Forget your Patience, and make you so Angry as to fling this Letter into the Fire, and so Burn all the Garmental Fashions in my Letter, where if all Fashions could be as Easily Consumed as my Letter, you would leave the world of Mankind Naked, unless they would Cloth themselves with Beasts Skins, or Fig-leaves, which would soon becom a Fashion too, if once worn: wherefore lest I should be stript of your Favour, I will leave the Repetition of Fashions, and rest,.

But, Madam, perchance you will think I am very Peremptory, to give my Opinion of the Poets Work before I see it; but I give my Opinion only upon the Ground of his Work, which is the Scripture, saying, it ought not to be Paraphrased, besides, I give it from my Conscience, not from my Conceited Brain, and perchance I may alter my Opinion, upon more Rational Arguments from those that are more Learned and Knowing than my self, and if your Opinion Differs from mine, pray send it me in your next Letter, for I would willingly be of your Opinion, believing you cannot Err, nor I in Expressing my self,.

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But if no Perswasion will Alter you, but you are Resolved to See them, send me word in your nest Letter, and I will send them to you, although much against the will of. Wherefore the Surest way for Women is not to Accompany any Man Singly, and Alone, but when there are more than they themselves, unless it be such Men as they have a near Relation to, as Husbands, Brothers, Fathers, Sons, Uncles, and the like; but Women are so far from Shunning Mens Companies, as they go from place to place to Meet them, and will Invite them to Cards, Dancing, or other Meetings, and they seem Dull, Melancholy and Indisposed, whenas they are not in the Company of Men, and for the most part, the Wilder the Men are, the better Pleased the Women are, at least they seem so.

But, perchance Mrs. I rest,. But surely, every several part and particle in Nature hath an Influence on each other, from which are produced several Effects, and Effects have Influence upon Effects, some on some, and some on others, or perchance they have all a Working Effect to each other, as many Grains of Corn are ground for one Loaf of Bread, many several Materials go to one House, many several Families to one Commonwealth, many several Nations, to one World, and many several Worlds to one Universe.

And so leaving his Soul to God, I rest,. But Mrs. But now I think it is time to leave you, and rest,. Yet though I Argue for it, I Eat little of it, by reason the nature of Cream is Hot, and my Diet is for the most part Cooling; some may say, by reason Milk Nourishes Children, it may Nourish those that are Grown up to Years, but Experience tells us, that the Nature of Mankind, for the most part, Alters with Time, and that which is Natural to a Child, may be Unnatural to a Man; but perchance some have Childish Constitutions all their Life-time, and the truth is, that Diet is much according to the Constitution, for, that which will Agree with some, will Disagree with others, and for Milk, it better Agrees with Weak Constitutions than Strong, yet Womens Milk, and Asses Milk doth Agree better than any other Milk, by reason those Milks are Thinner, and not so full of Curds.

But if this Letter were not written to you, but to another Lady, it were Probable that Lady would become my Enemy upon this Subject, as speaking so much against our Sex; wherefore there is Male-Gossipping, and Male-Brabling as well as Female, and there are more Effeminate Men than Masculine Women, that is, there are few Women so Wise as Men should be, and many Men as Foolish as Women can be; But now you may think me like a Priest of a Parish, that Exclames against his Parishioners Faults, but never Mentions his own, or perhaps hath the the same Faults, but thinks to Obscure them by speaking against them in other Persons; And therefore being already sensible of my Fault, in writing so Long a Letter to you, I do Beg your Pardon, only Subscribing my self,.

But leaving these Empty and Filling Opinions, I rest,. Mistook, setting down the first for the last, or for both; but this is not the only Mistake in his History, for there are many, and not only Gross Mistakes, but very False Relations, which I can Prove; as for Example, concerning the Wars in the Northern Parts, I know every Particular from the Chief Actor, which was my Lord, and he is a most True Speaker, as being both a Noble Person, and a Just, and Honest man, which all that know him must, if Conscience speaks, witness for him.

But setting aside our Losses, Crosses, and Misfortunes, our National Agreement will make you and me Happy, although they Restore not our Husbands to their Riches, for then we shall Enjoy each others Company, where we shall more Freely Converse by Words than we now do by Letters. In the mean time I shall Please my self with the Hopes of that Happiness, and rest,. Wherefore Women should behave themselves so as to get a Good Belief, if they cannot get a Good Report, but if Women behave themselves so as to cause a Suspicion, they are Justly Served if they be Censured both in Words and Thoughts.

But my Concernment for her hath made me forget I was writing a Letter, which should be Brief, wherefore, I pray Pardon me, Dear Madam, and I will promise you the next shall be Shorter, yet my Friendship shall not, for I shall be to the end of my Life,.

O Great and Incomprehensible God! Thus, Madam, I write the Several Discourses which these three Ladies had, by which Relation, I, and my three Visitors, have as it were, Visited you; but lest our too long Stay should be Troublesome, I take my leave for this time, and rest,.

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But, Madam, hoping the next Letter to you will be more Comfortable, and that all will be as Quiet and Peaceable as it was, I rest,. And so leaving them to Conclude the Match, I rest,. Wherefore leaving at this time what is Past, and making the best use of the Present, I rest,. Now to give my Opinion of them, I cannot, for Women cannot be Judged of, their Natures being past finding out, for a Woman cannot Guess at her self, should she Study all her Life time; the truth is, our Sex is so Various and Inconstant, that the Length of Time cannot Prove us, no not Death it self, for a Woman may Die in a Humour, which had she Lived, she would have been in another.

By this you may know that the one Widow hath done Foolishly, the two others Wickedly, the last Died Lovingly. But leaving those two to Amorous Imbraces, the third to Repentance, and the fourth to Death, I rest,. And so leaving this Imagination, I profess my self really,.

But the sorts or kinds of Sports are done for this Year, and all the Men, Women, and Children, were Marked the next day, which was Ash-wednesday, with a Black Mourning Cross on their Forheads, I know not whether it be to Cross out their Former Sins, or a Barricado to Keep out Following Sins, although I fear it is not in the power of a Cross to keep back Sin, I know not what it can do to keep back Punishment, but they all seem to be very Devout in Frequenting the Churches.

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British Library, MS Harley fo. Steno, Anatomy of the Brain , op. Her argument from the Observations could be reconstructed as follows:. These works contained a description of the visible universe as a single physical system in which all its operations, from the formation of planets and the transmission of light from the sun, to the physiological processes of human and nonhuman animal bodies, can be explained through the mechanism of moving matter arranged into shapes and structures and moving according to three laws of motion. But leaving these Empty and Filling Opinions, I rest,. This natural world included an immaterial mind that, in human beings, was directly related to the brain; in this way, Descartes formulated the modern version of the mind—body problem. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy.

But leaving these Vain Imaginations, I am really,. Must nought be worn That doth the Body Handsomly Adorn? But, Lord!

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But you may say, if my Love was so Troublesome to you, what is it to my Husband? I must tell you, I have some more Discretion now than I had then, and though Extraordinary Love will hardly Allow, or Admit Discretion, yet Reason doth Perswade Love, and brings many Arguments not to be Impertinently Troublesom; but though I do not ask my Husband so many Impertinent Questions as I did you, yet my Love to him is not less Watchful, Careful, and Fearful, but rather more, if more can be, and all the Powers and Endeavours of my Life are ready to Serve him and you, only he must be Served first, which I am confident you will take no Exception at, but Approve of, for you are a Wife, and know what the Love to a Husband is, and so leaving you to your Beloved Husband, I rest,.

But whether Married or not Married, my Wishes and Prayers are, that you may be as Happy as this World can make you, and in that I shall be a Sharer with you, as being. But I perceive that you three, as my Lord, You, and your Brother, do Traffick so much with Nature and Art, as I shall be but as a Pedlar; Howbeit, it is better to have some Dealings than none at all, and I will rather Trade with Toyes, than Starve for want of a Living, and in order to make my self Capable, I have bound my self Prentice to my Lord, and am willing to Serve out my Time, but my Lord is so Generous, as to give me my Freedom, and I must also desire you to give me at present so much Freedom, as to Subscribe my self,.

I am sorry to hear that you are Parted from your Parents through a Discontent, which is in the way to Disobedience, and let me tell you, that Unnatural Unkindness is many times the Death of Natural Affection; our Parents are our Makers, and will you Rebell against your Maker?

Thus Married, or Unmarried, you must Endeavour your Parents Good and Contentment, otherwise you will raise Clouds of Grief in your Parents Minds, from whence may Rain Showers of Curses on your Life, which may cause Floods of Misfortunes, wherein all your Future Happiness may be Drowned; for it is to be Observed, that in Curses especially, which Proceed from Parents, lies an Obscure, but Potent Power, from whence fly Shafts, whereof every one is Headed with a Curse, and where it Wounds, it leaves the Head Behind it; wherefore to Avoid them, Return to your Parents again, Ask Pardon for your Fault, Promise Obedience, and Desire their Blessing, and in so doing, you will be a Friend to your self, and a Comfort to them, and believe this Advice is given you by her who is.

But it may be questionable, whether Gold is made by an Increasable way, or whether it was made all at first, and that there is no more than what was made when the World was made, for I cannot find a Reason against it, but that Gold may be as the Sun, which is Undecayable, and not Increasable, for it is to be Observed, that what is not Decayable, is not Increasable, otherwise it would be Infinite in this World, or Universe, which World, or Universe, hath no Room, or Place for Infinite, and the Sun which is Undecayable, Produces no other Suns, neither doth it Multiply it self, nor Alter from it self; the like of Gold, we cannot make Gold to be no Gold, for Pure Gold cannot be turned into Dross, or into other Dust, whereas all other Creatures, as Minerals, and so Vegetables, and Animals, may, and do Transmigrate, except the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and I do verily believe, it is as Impossible to Fix the Elixar, as to Fix the Sun.

Some, as Chymists, Conceive, or Imagine for it is but Imaginable that there are Seeds, or Slips, or Branches of Gold, which may be Producible as Plants are, but I know not where they should find them, nor do I believe if they should Search for them, they would find them, first, as not knowing where they lie, for what Man can Search all the Earth, or Fathom the Earth, or Dig to the Centre of the Earth?

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But the Reason why I think Mrs. But, Madam, I know your Nature and Friendship is such, that what is Fit and Convenient for me to do, you will Approve, and upon that ground, I am Confident you will not be Angry with me, that I do not Joyn the Answers to those Letters, wherein you were pleased to Propound several Philosophical Questions to me to Resolve, to this Book, for truly, Madam, they are so many, and my Answers to them so Long, that if I should have Joyned them to these, it would have been as a Type, or Resemblance of Infinite Nature, and I am careful not to be too Tedious, or Wearisom to my Readers.

Were not. Sociable Letters I. Truly, Madam, I take so much delight in your wise, witty, and virtuous Conversation, as I could not pass my life more pleasing and delightfully; wherefore I am never better pleased, than when I am reading your Letters, and when I am writing Letters to you; for my mind and thoughts are all that while in your Company: the truth is, my mind and thoughts live alwayes with you, although my person is at distance from you; insomuch, as, if Souls die not as Bodies do, my Soul will attend you when my Body lies in the grave; and when we are both dead, we may hope to have a Conversation of Souls, where yours and mine will be doubly united, first in Life, and then in Death, in which I shall eternally be, Madam, Your faithful Friend and humble Servant.

By this answer you may perceive, that when our Sex cannot pretend to be Fair, they will pretend to be Wise; but it matters not what we pretend to, if we be really Virtuous, which I wish all our Sex may be, and rest, Madam, Your very faithful Friend and Servant. Thus, Madam, Memory hath made an Oblivion; but though it hath buried for the present the worldly Joys of my Life, yet it hath not buried my grateful Thanks for your Favours, for which I am, Madam, Your most humble S.

Thus you may see many of our Sex are made Saints, though they be Sinners, but they are Sainted for theit Beauty, not for their Piety, for their outward Form, not for their inward Grace: Indeed they are worldly Saints, and the Court is their Heaven, and Nature their Goddess, which indues them with attractive Graces; to which I leave them, and rest, Madam, Your faithful Fr. But leaving this Theme, give me leave to welcom you out of the Country, and to acquaint you, that I will shortly Personally wait upon you, as is the duty of, Madam, Your faithful Friend and Servant.

But if I write my Letter longer, I shall add one Errour more to those many that are past, although I am sure you will pardon those wherewith I have offended you, as believing they were not willingly, but ignorantly committed by, Madam, Your faithful Friend and Servant. Thus talking to them, at last I calmed their Passions, and made them Friends again, but making Peace between them, I spent more Breath and Spirits, than the Peace of two Foolish, at least, Cholerick Ladies was worth, for although there is an old Saying, Happy is the Peace-maker, yet I am happy I am quit at this present of their Company, and that I can subscribe my self, Madam, Your faithful Friend and Servant.

Besides, Pleasure and true Delight lives in every ones own Delectation; but let me tell you, my Delectation is, to prove my self, Madam, Your faithful Fr. But pray believe, I am not so Vain as to think I can Reason, Judg, or Advise Wisely, no, I onely Endeavour, or at least, Desire so to do; and since you have not mentioned under your hand-writing, that which you would have me give my Opinion, Judgment, or Advice of, I will not give it under my hand, but leave it till such time as we Meet, for Friends may Talk as freely as Think, fearing no Treathery, and so I rest, Madam, Your faithful Fr.

But if any will present their Works to Persons of their Own Nation, they must present them to such as are Known to Delight in such Subjects their Books treat of, and then perchance they may read a leaf or two, and by that Censure all the Book; But fearing you should Censure me for writing so Long a Letter, I rest, Madam, Your faithful Friend and Servant. But, Madam, perchance you will think I am very Peremptory, to give my Opinion of the Poets Work before I see it; but I give my Opinion only upon the Ground of his Work, which is the Scripture, saying, it ought not to be Paraphrased, besides, I give it from my Conscience, not from my Conceited Brain, and perchance I may alter my Opinion, upon more Rational Arguments from those that are more Learned and Knowing than my self, and if your Opinion Differs from mine, pray send it me in your next Letter, for I would willingly be of your Opinion, believing you cannot Err, nor I in Expressing my self, Madam, Your very Faithful Friend and Devoted Servant.