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The Approach To Nature Of Descartes And White

1269 words - 5 pages

The Approach to Nature of Descartes and White The approach to nature which René Descartes takes is distinct from
that of Gilbert White. Descartes and White have similar key methods of
examining nature. It is mainly in Descartes’ deductive reasoning and
beliefs that lead him to the method of approaching nature internally
(mind and body). Conversely, White’s keen observances, inductive
reasoning, and appreciation for his surroundings lead him to the
method of investigating the external nature (Selborne). Although
their methods in exploring nature are contrasting, both illustrate
that strong foundations and experience apply not only to their
researches in nature but also to life.

Descartes seeks nature in the study of the mind and soul. With his
four rules,“[He] [shows] what the laws of nature are and, without
basing [his] reasons on any other principle apart from the infinite
perfections of God, [he] [tries] to demonstrate all the laws that may
[seem] to be doubtful” (Descartes, 32). This deductive reasoning [the
reasoning that subdivides each of the problems into as many parts as
possible to better comprehend and resolve them (Descartes, 16)],
enables Descartes to argue that the body, although created by nature,
is material, thus, does not hold a constant truth (Descartes, 28). It
is the human mind and soul in which Descartes discovers steady truth,
because of his belief that God, a source of truth, instills “a
rational soul” (Descartes, 34) to a human body. His faith in God also
leads him to believe in a natural hierarchy—one suggesting that
animals are subordinate to humans, and therefore, deserving modest

attention in his writing. In this hierarchy, God stands as “some more
perfect being on which [humans] [depend]” (Descartes, 26). Humans are
placed in the centre, because God grants us the ability to reason—the
ability to distinguish what is true from what is false (Descartes,
22). Below us rest animals, having no reason. Truth in nature
therefore, must not come from animals since they are lesser beings,
but rather, it must be found within humans.

White finds appreciation for the external nature which Descartes
considers to be “less certain” (Descartes, 28). While Descartes takes
a rational approach, White takes a scientific, yet literary means
toward nature. He observes nature ardently, noting animals’ modes of
life—housing, reproduction, communications, transportation, and
physical appearance. His ability to personify these animals creates “a
meeting place for wild life and human feeling” (White, xvii). In his
recordings for example, White observes the swallow’s mode of life. It...

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