Parsing today’s information overload using Descartes’ method

The great French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes published his work, “Discourse on the Method” in 1637. In it, he described a set of rules that could be used to logically ascertain true knowledge (the truth). While most of us strive to gain knowledge and the truth, almost all of us do not apply any sort of filter or method when confronted with an overload of information – all of which seems plausible and true. We have a tendency to fall for misinformation, disinformation and complete lies. So what method did Descartes stipulate which we are now too lazy to use?

Discourse on the Method

“… never to accept anything as true that I did not incontrovertibly know to be so; that is to say, carefully to avoid both prejudice and premature conclusions; and to include nothing in my judgements other than that which presented itself to my mind so clearly and distinctly, that I would have no occasion to doubt it.”

“… divide all the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as many as were required to solve them in the best way.”

“… conduct my thoughts in a given order, beginning with the simplest and most easily understood objects, and gradually ascending, as it were step by step, to the knowledge of the most complex; and positing an order even on those which do not have a natural order of precedence.”

“… undertake such complete enumerations and such general surveys that I would be sure to have left nothing out.”

So in a nutshell:

  • Don’t rush to judgements and beware of prejudices.
  • Determine what you know and don’t know when solving a problem in a logical way.
  • Make every deduction so complete and thorough that no considerations were omitted.