René Descartes

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Rene Descartes, yesterday. Or is it?

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René Nigel Descartes (1596-1650) was a conveyancer on Provincial Dijon, and that rare thing among land law types: a prose stylist. Yes, he was one of us, my gorgeous little contrarian friends — fluent in three or four languages, and grew so enraged by loathesome syntax of mid-enlightenment Bourgogne that he set out to change it. His first approach was an attempt to conclusively define the expression “for the avoidance of doubt”. He never quite got there — the phrase remains a staple of legal eagles to this day — but he did manage to conclusively prove his own existence, at least to his own satisfaction — if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to... right, LinkedIn denizens? — and also the existence of a specifically Christian deity, the latter being a bit more controversial.

At any rate, remembered today not as a louche mortgageur, but as a ground-breaking metaphysical philosopher who did not say “animadverto ergo scio”, or “scribo non ergo non scribo” much less “nego, ergo advocatum sum” though he might have, and he worried about the reality of res extensa in a way a lawyer does not, always.

Descartes’ work was ineffectually questioned by Otto Büchstein in his now forgotten Discourse on Intercourse, who appended to cogito ergo sum his own aphorism convenimus ergo es, based on the a priori inevitability of conference calls.

See also