127+ Best Rene Descartes Quotes: Exclusive Selection

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Descartes has been heralded as the first modern philosopher. He was extensively educated, first at a Jesuit college at age 8, then earning a law degree at 22, but an influential teacher set him on a course to apply mathematics and logic to understanding the natural world. Insightful Rene Descartes quotes will inspire you to explore new thoughts regarding life, self, philosophy, and more.

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Most Famous Rene Descartes Quotes

The only thing we have power over in the universe is our own thoughts. – Rene Descartes

It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well. – Rene Descartes

Conquer yourself rather than the world. – Rene Descartes

I have concluded the evident existence of God, and that my existence depends entirely on God in all the moments of my life, that I do not think that the human spirit may know anything with greater evidence and certitude. – Rene Descartes

We never understand a thing so well, and make it our own, as when we have discovered it for ourselves. – Rene Descartes

In God there is an infinitude of things which I cannot comprehend, nor possibly even reach in any way by thought; for it is the nature of the infinite that my nature, which is finite and limited, should not comprehend it. – Rene Descartes

Science is practical philosophy. – Rene Descartes

Situations in life often permit no delay; and when we cannot determine the course which is certainly best, we must follow the one which is probably the best. This frame of mind freed me also from the repentance and remorse commonly felt by those vacillating individuals who are always seeking as worthwhile things which they later judge to be bad. – Rene Descartes

In the matter of a difficult question it is more likely that the truth should have been discovered by the few than by the many. – Rene Descartes

In philosophy, when we make use of false principles, we depart the farther from the knowledge of truth and wisdom exactly in proportion to the care with which we cultivate them, and apply ourselves to the deduction of diverse consequences from them, thinking that we are philosophizing well, while we are only departing the farther from the truth; from which it must be inferred that they who have learned the least of all that has been hitherto distinguished by the name of philosophy are the most fitted for the apprehension of truth. – Rene Descartes

God alone is the author of all the motions in the world. – Rene Descartes

Before examining this more carefully and investigating its consequences, I want to dwell for a moment in the contemplation of God, to ponder His attributes in me, to see, admire, and adore the beauty of His boundless light, insofar as my clouded insight allows. Believing that the supreme happiness of the other life consists wholly of the contemplation of divine greatness, I now find that through less perfect contemplation of the same sort I can gain the greatest joy available in this life. – Rene Descartes

My third maxim was to try always to conquer myself rather than fortune, and to change my desires rather than the order of the world, and generally to accustom myself to believing that there is nothing entirely in our power except our thoughts, so that after we have done our best regarding things external to us, everything in which we do not succeed is for us absolutely impossible. – Rene Descartes

Variant: When it is not in our power to follow what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable. – Rene Descartes

To live without philosophizing is in truth the same as keeping the eyes closed without attempting to open them. – Rene Descartes

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises was often-times filled with your tears. – Rene Descartes

What then is the source of my errors? They are owing simply to the fact that, since the will extends further than the intellect, I do not contain the will within the same boundaries; rather, I also extend it to things I do not understand. Because the will is indifferent in regard to such matters, it easily turns away from the true and the good; and in this way I am deceived, and I sin. – Rene Descartes

At last I will devote myself sincerely and without reservation to the general demolition of my opinions. – Rene Descartes

Every man is indeed bound to do what he can to promote the good of others, and a man who is of no use to anyone is strictly worthless. – Rene Descartes

In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn, than to contemplate. – Rene Descartes

I desire to live in peace and to continue the life I have begun under the motto ‘to live well you must live unseen – Rene Descartes

For I found myself embarrassed with so many doubts and errors that it seemed to me that the effort to instruct myself had no effect other than th eincreasing discovery of my own ignorance – Rene Descartes

I suppose therefore that all things I see are illusions; I believe that nothing has ever existed of everything my lying memory tells me. I think I have no senses. I believe that body, shape, extension, motion, location are functions. What is there then that can be taken as true? Perhaps only this one thing, that nothing at all is certain. – Rene Descartes

Now therefore, that my mind is free from all cares, and that I have obtained for myself assured leisure in peaceful solitude, I shall apply myself seriously and freely to the general destruction of all my former opinions. – Rene Descartes

Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has. – Rene Descartes

But in my opinion, all things in nature occur mathematically. – Rene Descartes

Intuitive knowledge is an illumination of the soul, whereby it beholds in the light of God those things which it pleases Him to reveal to us by a direct impression of divine clearness. – Rene Descartes

The only secure knowledge is that I exist. – Rene Descartes

Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power. – Rene Descartes

It is certain that I am really distinct from my body and can exist without it. – Rene Descartes

The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues. – Rene Descartes

I think; therefore I am. – Rene Descartes

Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems. – Rene Descartes

Truths are more likely to be discovered by one man than by a nation – Rene Descartes

Mathematics is a more powerful instrument of knowledge than any other that has been bequeathed to us by human agency. – Rene Descartes

And as it is the most generous souls who have most gratitude, it is those who have most pride, and who are most base and infirm, who most allow themselves to be carried away by anger and hatred. – Rene Descartes

All is to be doubted. – Rene Descartes

The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once. – Rene Descartes

Few look for truth; many prowl about for a reputation of profundity by arrogantly challenging whichever arguments are the best. – Rene Descartes

Instead I ought to be grateful to Him who never owed me anything for having been so generous to me, rather than think that He deprived me of those things or has taken away from me whatever He did not give me. – Rene Descartes

Divide each difficulty at hand into as many pieces as possible and as could be required to better solve them. – Rene Descartes

Illusory joy is often worth more than genuine sorrow. – Rene Descartes

The reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of their thoughts. – Rene Descartes

A state is better governed which has few laws, and those laws strictly observed. – Rene Descartes

It is best not to go on for great quest for truth, it will only make you miserable – Rene Descartes

Nothing comes out of nothing. – Rene Descartes

But possibly I am something more than I suppose myself to be. – Rene Descartes

Desire awakens only to things that are thought possible. – Rene Descartes

These long chains of perfectly simple and easy reasonings by means of which geometers are accustomed to carry out their most difficult demonstrations had led me to fancy that everything that can fall under human knowledge forms a similar sequence; and that so long as we avoid accepting as true what is not so, and always preserve the right order of deduction of one thing from another, there can be nothing too remote to be reached in the end, or to well-hidden to be discovered. – Rene Descartes

If I simply refrain from making a judgment in cases where I do not perceive the truth with sufficient clarity and distinctness, then it is clear that I am behaving correctly and avoiding error. – Rene Descartes

We do not describe the world we see; we see the world we can describe. – Rene Descartes

Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. – Rene Descartes

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes

By ‘God’, I understand, a substance which is infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else […] that exists. All these attributes are such that, the more carefully I concentrate on them, the less possible it seems that they could have originated from me alone. So, from what has been said it must be concluded that God necessarily exists. – Rene Descartes

Doubt is the origin of wisdom – Rene Descartes

An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out? – Rene Descartes

The only thing that I know, is that I know nothing – Rene Descartes

You just keep pushing. You just keep pushing. I made every mistake that could be made. But I just kept pushing. – Rene Descartes

I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that ‘I’ know. – Rene Descartes

The chief cause of human errors is to be found in the prejudices picked up in childhood. – Rene Descartes

Some years ago, I was struck by the large number of falsehoods that I had accepted as true in my childhood, and by the highly doubtful nature of the whole edifice that I had subsequently based on them. I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last. – Rene Descartes

Omnia apud me mathematica fiunt. – Rene Descartes

It is possible that I am dreaming right now and that all of my perceptions are false. – Rene Descartes

I can doubt everything, except one thing, and that is the very fact that I doubt. Simply put – I think, therefore I am – Rene Descartes

There is nothing more ancient than the truth. – Rene Descartes

Wonder is the first of all the passions. – Rene Descartes

Reason is nothing without imagination. – Rene Descartes

How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream? – Rene Descartes

He lives well who is well hidden. – Rene Descartes

It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived. – Rene Descartes

One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another. – Rene Descartes

Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare. – Rene Descartes

I hope that posterity will judge me kindly, not only as to the things which I have explained, but also to those which I have intentionally omitted so as to leave to others the pleasure of discovery. – Rene Descartes

When it is not in our power to follow what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable. – Rene Descartes

I am accustomed to sleep and in my dreams to imagine the same things that lunatics imagine when awake. – Rene Descartes

The first precept was never to accept a thing as true until I knew it as such without a single doubt. – Rene Descartes

I am indeed amazed when I consider how weak my mind is and how prone to error. – Rene Descartes

Travelling is almost like talking with those of other centuries. – Rene Descartes

The two operations of our understanding, intuition and deduction, on which alone we have said we must rely in the acquisition of knowledge. – Rene Descartes

Of all things, good sense is the most fairly distributed: everyone thinks he is so well supplied with it that even those who are the hardest to satisfy in every other respect never desire more of it than they already have. – Rene Descartes

There is nothing so strange or so unbelievable that it has not been said by one philosopher or another. – Rene Descartes

Common sense is the best distributed thing in the world, for everyone thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have – Rene Descartes

Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.(I doubt, therefore I think; I think therefore I am) – Rene Descartes

Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it, that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess. – Rene Descartes

The long concatenations of simple and easy reasoning which geometricians use in achieving their most difficult demonstrations gave me occasion to imagine that all matters which may enter the human mind were interrelated in the same fashion. – Rene Descartes

The rainbow is such a remarkable phenomenon of nature, and its cause has been so meticulously sought after by inquiring minds throughout the ages, that I could not choose a more appropriate subject for demonstrating how, with the method I am using, we can arrive at knowledge not possessed at all by those whose writings are available to us. – Rene Descartes

Because reason…is the only thing that makes us men, and distinguishes us from the beasts, I would prefer to believe that it exists, in its entirety, in each of us… – Rene Descartes

Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe … demanded only a point that was firm and immovable; so also, I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only one thing that is certain and indubitable. – Rene Descartes

We call infinite that thing whose limits we have not perceived, and so by that word we do not signify what we understand about a thing, but rather what we do not understand. – Rene Descartes

Everybody thinks himself so well supplied with common sense that even those most difficult to please. . . never desire more of it than they already have. – Rene Descartes

I should consider that I know nothing about physics if I were able to explain only how things might be, and were unable to demonstrate that they could not be otherwise. – Rene Descartes

So blind is the curiosity by which mortals are possessed, that they often conduct their minds along unexplored routes, having no reason to hope for success, but merely being willing to risk the experiment of finding whether the truth they seek lies there. – Rene Descartes

I concluded that I might take as a general rule the principle that all things which we very clearly and obviously conceive are true: only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive. – Rene Descartes

I did not imitate the skeptics who doubt only for doubting’s sake, and pretend to be always undecided; on the contrary, my whole intention was to arrive at a certainty, and to dig away the drift and the sand until I reached the rock or the clay beneath. – Rene Descartes

When writing about transcendental issues, be transcendentally clear. – Rene Descartes

Sensations are nothing but confused modes of thinking. – Rene Descartes

Neither divine grace nor natural knowledge ever diminishes freedom. – Rene Descartes

There is a difference between happiness, the supreme good, and the final end or goal toward which our actions ought to tend. For happiness is not the supreme good, but presupposes it, being the contentment or satisfaction of the mind which results from possessing it. – Rene Descartes

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. – Rene Descartes

For how do we know that the thoughts which occur in dreaming are false rather than those others which we experience when awake, since the former are often not less vivid and distinct than the latter? – Rene Descartes

Neither the true nor the false roots are always real; sometimes they are imaginary; that is, while we can always imagine as many roots for each equation as I have assigned, yet there is not always a definite quantity corresponding to each root we have imagined. – Rene Descartes

…it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and can exist without it. – Rene Descartes

Even the mind depends so much on temperament and the disposition of one’s bodily organs that, if it is possible to find a way to make people generally more wise and more skilful than they have been in the past, I believe that we should look for it in medicine. It is true that medicine as it is currently practiced contains little of much use. – Rene Descartes

There is nothing so far removed from us to be beyond our reach, or so far hidden that we cannot discover it. – Rene Descartes

Hence reason also demands that, since our thoughts cannot all be true because we are not wholly perfect, what truth they do possess must inevitably be found in the thoughts we have when awake, rather than in our dreams. – Rene Descartes

The nature of matter, or body considered in general, consists not in its being something which is hard or heavy or coloured, or which affects the senses in any way, but simply in its being something which is extended in length, breadth and depth. – Rene Descartes

If I found any new truths in the sciences, I can say that they follow from, or depend on, five or six principal problems which I succeeded in solving and which I regard as so many battles where the fortunes of war were on my side. – Rene Descartes

The principal use of prudence, of self-control, is that it teaches us to be masters of our passions, and to so control and guide them that the evils which they cause are quite bearable, and that we even derive joy from them all. – Rene Descartes

There is a great difference between mind and body insomuch as body is by nature always divisible, and the mind is entirely indivisible. – Rene Descartes

I accept no principles of physics which are not also accepted in mathematics. – Rene Descartes

The entire method consists in the order and arrangement of the things to which the mind’s eye must turn so that we can discover some truth. – Rene Descartes

Although my knowledge grows more and more, nevertheless I do not for that reason believe that it can ever be actually infinite, since it can never reach a point so high that it will be unable to attain any greater increase. – Rene Descartes

I am thing that thinks: that is, a things that doubts, affirms, denies, understands a few things, is ignorant of many things, is willing, is unwilling, and also which imagines and has sensory perceptions. – Rene Descartes

When I consider this carefully, I find not a single property which with certainty separates the waking state from the dream. How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream? – Rene Descartes

The object of music is a Sound. The end; to delight and move various Affections in us. – Rene Descartes

Let whoever can do so deceive me, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I continue to think I am something. – Rene Descartes

But I cannot forget that, at other times I have been deceived in sleep by similar illusions; and, attentively considering those cases, I perceive so clearly that there exist no certain marks by which the state of waking can ever be distinguished from sleep, that I feel greatly astonished; and in amazement I almost persuade myself that I am now dreaming. – Rene Descartes

Whatever I have up till now accepted as most true and assured I have gotten either from the senses or through the senses. But from time to time I have found that the senses deceive, and it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once. – Rene Descartes

Thus each truth discovered was a rule available in the discovery of subsequent ones. – Rene Descartes

It’s the familiar love-hate syndrome of seduction: I don’t really care what it is I say, I care only that you like it. – Rene Descartes

If we possessed a thorough knowledge of all the parts of the seed of any animal (e.g. man), we could from that alone, be reasons entirely mathematical and certain, deduce the whole conformation and figure of each of its members, and, conversely if we knew several peculiarities of this conformation, we would from those deduce the nature of its seed. – Rene Descartes

If I go for the alternative which is false, then obviously I shall be in error; if I take the other side, then it is by… chance that I arrive at the truth, and I shall still be at fault…. In this incorrect use of free will may be found the privation which constitutes the essence of error. – Rene Descartes

For each of us there is a set limit to our intellectual powers which we cannot pass. – Rene Descartes

A person has two passions for love and abhorrence. A big disposition to excessiveness has just a love, because it is more ardent and stronger. – Rene Descartes

It is to the body alone that we should attribute everything that can be observed in us to oppose our reason. – Rene Descartes

And I shall always hold myself more obliged to those by whose favour I enjoy uninterrupted leisure than to any who might offer me the most honourable positions in the world. – Rene Descartes

Even if I were to suppose that I was dreaming and whatever I saw or imagined was false, yet I could not deny that ideas were truly in my mind. – Rene Descartes

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