February 2, 2015
Rene Descartes was a rationalist philosopher who, unlike Plato, stated that every human being is able to acquire knowledge as long as the right method is at their disposal. Currently, thanks to innovative Neuroscience techniques that allow us to study the brain, it has been demonstrated that our brain is plastic and, thus, able to change.
Thanks to Neuroimaging, nowadays, we have been able to demonstrate brain plasticity: the ability to create new neuronal circuits with mental stimulation. In doing so, it has been proven that genetics are not as determinant as the environment, which means that we are all as potentially capable to reach a certain level of intellect. On the other hand, Descartes’s most renown work, Discourse on the Method, asserted that every being possesses the faculty to achieve rationality and develop intelectual capacity, as long as they identify the right method to lead them on to it.
Despite the fact that their final objective differs — Descartes wanted to invent the method to attain the truth and Neuroscience aims to grasp how the human brain functions and learns — if comparing both, the conclusion is similar: the key to accomplish rationality is to use the proper method.
The philosopher’s fundamental principle bases on the fact that rationality is the ability to asses what is truthful, which is present — evenly — in everyone. For him, diversity of opinions and contradictions are the result of our inability to follow the method to guide us through the process of assertion.
Currently, Neuroscience has demonstrated that, even if someone’s genetics are less favorable than other’s, his/her capacity to develop intellect and rationality is mostly conditioned by the environment (the educative method) Since the brain is able to evolve, it can revamp by generating neuronal networks responsible for particular areas of knowledge.
Consequently, it can be stated that the philosopher’s assertion, from centuries ago, has served as the foundation of Neurosciences’ current conclusions on the brain’s functionality. Both have stated that the method is a fundamental factor to attain the truth and develop our intellect.