Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Publication Date: August 31, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815548 / 1554815541
  • 165 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

  • Publication Date: August 31, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815548 / 1554815541
  • 165 pages; 5½" x 8½"

This volume provides new translations of René Descartes’s two most important philosophical works. The Discourse offers a concise presentation and defense of Descartes’ method of intellectual inquiry — a method that greatly influenced both philosophical and scientific reasoning in the early modern world. Considered a foundational text in modern philosophy, the Meditations presents numerous powerful arguments that to this day influence debates in epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of religion. Descartes’s timeless writing strikes an uncommon balance of novelty and familiarity, offering arguments concerning knowledge, science, and metaphysics (including the famous “I think, therefore I am”) that are as compelling in the 21st century as they were in the 17th. Ian Johnston’s translations are modern, clear, and thoroughly annotated, ideal for readers unfamiliar with Descartes’s intellectual context. An approachable introduction engages both the historical and the philosophical aspects of the text, helping the reader to understand the concepts and arguments contained therein.


COMMENTS on Meditations on First Philosophy

“Broadview Press has produced an excellent translation of Descartes’s famous Meditations on First Philosophy. It is accurate, philosophically sensitive, and it rivals any of the translations currently available. Andrew Bailey’s introduction of the text, and his biography of Descartes, is a real plus, and will serve students well.” — Kurt Smith, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

“A very helpful translation. The language is clear, and the supplementary material and notes lay out a cross-section of the interpretive debates, and provide tips for how a reader might approach them.” — David Cunning, University of Iowa

“Descartes was living and writing at a tumultuous time, and Bailey does a nice job of sketching the intellectual environment into which the Meditations was launched, while pre-emptively warding off a number of common misunderstandings of Descartes’s aims.” — Seth Bordner, University of Alabama


  • Who Was René Descartes?
  • What Was Descartes’s Overall Philosophical Project?
  • Some Useful Background Information
  • Some Common Misconceptions
  • How Important and Influential Was Descartes’s Work?
  • Timeline
  • Suggestions for Critical Reflection
  • Suggestions for Further Reading

Translator’s Note

What is the Structure of the Discourse?

Discourse on the Method

  • Preface
  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • Part Three
  • Part Four
  • Part Five
  • Part Six

What is the Structure of the Meditations?

Meditations on First Philosophy

  • Dedication to the Sorbonne
  • Preface to the Reader
  • Synopsis of the Six Following Meditations
  • First Meditation: Concerning Those Things Which Can Be Called into Doubt
  • Second Meditation: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind and the Fact that It Is Easier to Know than the Body
  • Third Meditation: Concerning God and the Fact that He Exists
  • Fourth Meditation: Concerning Truth and Falsity
  • Fifth Meditation: Concerning the Essence of Material Things, and, Once Again, Concerning the Fact that God Exists
  • Sixth Meditation: Concerning the Existence of Material Things and the Real Distinction between Mind and Body

Andrew Bailey is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of Arts at the University of Guelph. He is editor of The Broadview Introduction to Philosophy.

Ian Johnston is Professor Emeritus at Vancouver Island University; he has translated numerous works from Greek, French, German, and Latin.

  • • Modern translations of both works, written in clear English that is faithful to the original texts.
  • • Includes an accessible introduction situating the Discourse and the Meditations in the broader context of Descartes’s life and work.
  • • Notes on the structures of the texts, important background information, and common misconceptions are provided to assist the student reader.
  • • Footnotes are included to clarify unfamiliar terms and references.
  • • Numbers in the page margins provide reference to the standard Adam & Tannery edition.