Discourse on Method
  • Publication Date: August 10, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554813179 / 1554813174
  • 90 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Discourse on Method

  • Publication Date: August 10, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554813179 / 1554813174
  • 90 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Discourse on the Method for Reasoning Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences offers a concise presentation and defense of René Descartes’s method of intellectual inquiry — a method that greatly influenced both philosophical and scientific reasoning in the early modern world. 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 twenty-first century as they were in the seventeenth. Ian Johnston’s new translation of the original French text is 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.


“Ian Johnston’s new translation of Descartes’s famous Discourse on Method will stand with the best and most readable translations now available in English. For readers coming to Descartes’s work for the first time, Andrew Bailey’s introduction nicely situates the text both philosophically and historically.” — Kurt Smith, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

“Descartes’s Discourse on Method is incredibly rich: it motivates readers to think critically, it introduces Descartes’s ethics as well as his metaphysics, and it aims to show the power of reasoning well. Ian Johnston’s translation is clear and accessible to students while remaining true to the original text.” — Lisa Shapiro, Simon Fraser University


  • Who Was René Descartes?
  • What Was Descartes’s Overall Philosophical Project?
  • What Is the Structure of the Discourse?
  • Some Useful Background Information
  • Some Common Misconceptions
  • How Important and Influential Is This Text?
  • Timeline
  • Suggestions for Critical Reflection
  • Suggestions for Further Reading

Translator’s Note

Discourse on Method

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

Appendix: From Rules for the Direction of the Mind


Andrew Bailey is 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, including Descartes’s Meditations and several of Rousseau’s political texts.

  • • A new translation written in clear, modern English that is faithful to the original French.
  • • Includes a substantial introduction situating the Discourse in the broader context of Descartes’s life and work.
  • • Notes on the structure of the text, important background information, and common misconceptions are provided to assist the student reader.
  • • Footnotes are included to clarify unfamiliar terms and references.
  • • An appendix from the earlier Rules for the Direction of the Mind illustrates the development of Descartes’s methods.
  • • Numbers in the page margins provide reference to the standard Adam & Tannery edition.

For a sample of the introduction to Discourse on Method, click here.

For a sample of Ian Johnston’s translation of Discourse on Method, click here.

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