Rene Descartes

René Descartes was born was born on March 31, 1596, in La Haye, France. 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. This approach incorporated the contemplation of the nature of existence and of knowledge itself, hence his most famous observation, “I think; therefore I am.”


Descartes is considered by many to be the father of modern philosophy, because his ideas departed widely from current understanding in the early 17th century, which was more feeling-based. While elements of his philosophy weren’t completely new, his approach to them was. Descartes believed in basically clearing everything off the table, all preconceived and inherited notions, and starting fresh, putting back one by one the things that were certain, which for him began with the statement “I exist.” From this sprang his most famous quote: “I think; therefore I am.”

Here’s a link to an explanation on his book, Discourse on Method. Its part 1 out 3


Edits and additions:

“I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived

in my mind.” (Source:

Descartes’ idea was pertaining to the philosophical ideas of epistemology, or the study of knowledge. He was saying that the only thing we can know to exist is the existence of our own mind. The existence of our own mind is indubitable, or undoubtable, whereas we could logically doubt the existence of anything else in the universe. This anything else is dubitable.


“In his leisure time he studied mathematics, having been influenced by the Dutch mathematician and scientist Beeckman. Descartes dates his first new philosophical ideas and his analytical geometry from three dreams that he had while campaigning on the Danube.” (Source:


“He is respected for his attempts to create a form of philosophical argument akin to science or mathematics, his emphasis on perspective of consciousness in epistemology, and his work on methodology… The method of hyperbolic doubt is the refusal to accept either the authority of previous philosophers or information gleaned from one’s own senses. He decided that in developing a foundation for philosophy anything that might be doubted must be rejected. Only what is beyond doubt is acceptable and may lead to truth” (Source:

Hyperbolic doubt is methodological skepticism.


The Scramble for Africa


December 5, 2013 | | Comments Off

Before the 1870’s Europeans did not know much about Africa.  At this time only a small percentage of Africa, mainly along the coastal areas, was under the control of European countries.  One of the most ruthless rulers to tap the wealth of Africa was King Leopold II of Belgium who secured much of the Congo.  Leopold set up the International Association of the Congo which extracted the raw materials, rubber and ivory.  While claiming to improve the lives of the Congolese, the Belgian invaders were horribly inhumane towards the native people of Congo.  During this time, Germany, Portugal, Britain, and France followed Belgium’s lead by claiming land in central and southern Africa.  The European countries went into Africa to take the raw materials for their own enrichment but terribly mistreated the native people.  In 1884, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and French Premier Jules Ferry arranged for a conference on African affairs to be held in Berlin.  Fourteen nations sent delegates but not a single African leader was invited to come.  While the intent on the conference was to consolidate each nation’s control over African territory, the real effect was to start the “scramble for Africa.”  The Berlin conference started fighting over land in Africa.  Britain and France came close to going to war over the Nile River; France and Belgium over the Congo; and Britain and Germany in territory claims to southeast Africa.  The Dutch settlers, known as the Boers, and the British did start a war over South Africa.  Inevitably the rivalries between the various imperialist nations fighting over African territory would ultimately contribute to the start of World War I.


Written by: Malin Serfis

*Image: A cartoon depiction of King Leopold’s hold on the Congo



Frankforter, A. Daniel, and William M. Spellman. The West: A Narrative History. Third edition. Pearson Education, Inc., 624-626. Print.


Keen on establishing Belgium as an imperial power, he led the first European efforts to develop the Congo River basin, making possible the formation of the Congo Free State in 1885, annexed in 1908 as the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Although Leopold II played a significant role in the development of the modern Belgian state, he was also responsible for widespread atrocities committed under his rule against his colonial subjects. (Source:


By 1850, only a few colonies existed along African coastlines, such as Algeria (French), the Cape Colony (Great Britain,) and Angola (Portugal). Instead, free African states continued, and after the end of the slave trade in the early 1800s, a lively exchange took place between Europeans and African states…” (Source:


I think it is important to say that during the nineteenth century, the relationship between European countries and Africa was very friendly. They established trade between the two of them.


“ The Berlin Conference of 1884-5, in an effort to avoid war, allowed European diplomats to draw lines on maps and carve Africa into colonies. The result was a transformation of political and economic Africa, with virtually all parts of the continent colonized by 1900.” (Source:

I think this should be added with the other information to show that Europeans not only forced them in colonies, but it forced a new set of rules and regulations on the Africans. Africans had little, or no say on the matter.

I think this image works better than the previous to show how European countries strove to colonize Africa with a fellow swoop.


(Image Source:


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