Cartesian mindset

Reef Archer

Senior Member
Is it a commonly known and used phrase?

It is quite possible that deep inside you, you're still thinking: "It's too good to be true!" Whatever your position and/or if you have a Cartesian mindset, the following story will convince you of the exactitude of our previous affirmations.

I'm guessing it has something to do with René Descartes' philosophy, the Cartesianism, hence meaning "a rational, analytic mind", but is it something everybody automatically knows? Do you usually throw it into any discussion or has the author tried to be creative?

Thank you,
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...Do you usually throw it into any discussion ...?
    Not me, though I know a lot of big words and have been known to use them when the occasion calls for it. I doubt I'd ever say "exactitude of our previous affirmations" in conversation, either. I suspect the author was writing a professional paper for an academic audience, trying to sound pompous, or perhaps just sounding pompous without trying.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I am quite certain that "Cartesian mindset" will bewilder the vast majority of English speakers - who have no idea who René Descartes was.

    So, no, it is not common.

    SDG (I pedanticize, therefore I am)


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    There are probably groups of people who would know what this means, students of philosophy or people with a certain literary bent, but it is hardly a common phrase. "I think therefore I am" is the only set reference to Descartes that I would expect many people to know, whether or not they know its purpose in its original context.

    Without seeing more of the context, I would say that the author is taking a chance of not being understood. Of course, in context, its reference might be clear.

    Added: Cross-posted with Egmont and with sdgraham, who illustrates the reference that would be understood.

    Reef Archer

    Senior Member
    No, there is no more context. He/she actually "threw" it there :)
    Descartes came into my mind first, but it's still just a guess, as I am always amazed of how many things a single English word can be.

    Thank you all for clearing this out for me.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In my world cartesian has a life of its own, separate from Descartes, and just means rational and logical, intellectually tidy, as Reef Archer suggests. My view may be influenced by the fact that this is what the word means in French, which I speak every day.

    The French are often said to be more cartesian than the English: the old British currency system was profoundly uncartesian. A current example is the way the British measure fuel consumption: miles/gallon (distance/fixed quantity of fuel used) mean that as the number rises fuel consumption falls; the more cartesian French, like other continentals, use litres/100 kilometres (quantity of fuel used/fixed distance), so that the rise in consumption is expressed by a rise in the figure.

    It's the same with gradients on roads: 1 in 5 was steeper than 1 in 10.

    Reef Archer

    Senior Member
    Yes, it definitely deals with the scientific minds, be it philosophically or mathematically - as opposed to... I don't know, those more inclined to gullibility, perhaps.

    Here's what I've found in the meantime:

    "Newton developed the mathematical methods and physical laws of motion that would become the foundation of a new paradigm, sometimes referred to as the Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm, which dominated European culture for over 300 years, and is still the dominant way of looking at the world by part, but not all, of the scientific community."
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