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Gratias agamus Machiavello...

qui nobis aperte et indissimulanter proferet quid homines facere soleant non
quid debeant.

With this sonorous praise, one of the first proponents of bourgeois science, Francis Bacon, anointed
Machiavelli as one of the founders of political science rather than ethics. For Aristotle - and certainly for
Plato - politics, far from being a “science”, was only a chapter, published separately, of the Nicomachean
Ethics. But now Bacon proposes a clean-cut distinction between the realms of fact and values, between
science and morals or ethics. The task of science, writes Bacon in The Advancement of Learning (De
Augmentis Scientiarum), is not to preach or to exhort or even less to inspire “values”. Even in matters
concerning human affairs, the task of science is neither autopsia - the retrospective analysis (dissection) of
foregone events, nor even anamnesis (their recollection). The task of science is mere empeiria - naked
empirical observation of facts. It is neither the Ought (Sollen) of ethics nor the Must (Mussen) of religious
commandments: it is rather the Is (Sein) of reality described without fear or favour, sine ira et studio -
“openly and without dissimulation” (aperte et indissimulanter). The sole end of science is Truth, the ordo et
connexio rerum et idearum: every Ought, every ethical value or moral goal, indeed, every meta-physics is
just that, “beyond physics”, and therefore beyond the scope of scientific research.

Yet, contrary to Bacon’s obvious implication, what people actually do is still tied to ideas and values that
point them to what they “ought” or “should” do. It is obvious therefore that the purely empirical role of
science that Bacon advocates is based on a fundamental fallacy. And that not just in the sense (emphasised
by Friedrich Hayek in The Counter-Revolution of Science) that all sociological observation aiming to be
“objective” must also - by definition! - take into account the “subjective” views of the “subjects” (or is that,
“objects”?) it purports to observe! - But also above all because all scientific research and observation must
account for the “values” that led the scientists themselves to research a specific area of human endeavour or
of “objective reality”, of “matter” - a point central to Max Weber’s entire methodology of science. Not only:
what Bacon also is unable to see, right at the dawn of the bourgeois era, is the unquestionable fact that
“science” is not a neutral-objective undertaking but rather it is a specific human activity – a praxis! - in all
and for all identical to technological fabrication and invention. For all the mythology of “science and
progress”, homo sapiens has always and everywhere been co-generate with homo faber! The fallacious
distinction between science and technology owes its unimpeded survival and propagation to the need of
sprawling capitalist industry to present its new techniques of production as innovations based solely and
entirely on “scientific truth” - and not on the class antagonism of the wage relation.

Bacon confused Machiavelli’s enucleation of the concept of raison d’Etat in his magnum opus, The Prince,
with the outline of a truly “mechanistic” political theory. (On this specific concept and its salience in the
political theory of the late Renaissance with the statolaters [Grotius, Pufendorf to Spinoza], see F.
Meinecke, Die Idee der Staatsrason.) Whilst there is certainly a mechanistic bias in Machiavelli’s exposition
of Realpolitik, the overriding aim of his studies was to outline a clear deontological guide to ensure the
triumph of virtus over fortuna. It is undeniable that Machiavelli considered that in statecraft “the ends justify
the means”. But the insistence on this realism was beyond the scope of a serious effort at a scientific
political theory. For the Florentine Secretary, human actions, far from being equiparable or capable of
being homologated with physical events, are of an entirely different nature. Indeed, it is arguable that
Machiavelli was a precursor of Vico’s “Scienza Nuova” in that truth can only be predicated of human
actions, not of physical events, because it is only human actions (“facts” from the Latin facere, to do) that
are truly knowable by humans – for the reason that both the historical agents and the scholars studying their
actions share a common insight in the reasons that led the agents to follow a given course of action! And this
“knowledge” or science of human activity extends to scientific research in the “natural sciences” and to
technological invention! It is this realization that led Vico to label his theory of human history and activity
“Scienza Nuova”. Not only is there not a distinction between physical observation and historical action, but
there is also no distinction between “appearance” and “reality”: - because the very fact that a human activity
has taken place – that it is a “factum” – means immediately that it is also “true” (verum) by virtue of its
having been “done”, of its having taken place as res gestae: - whence the famous Vichian dictum, “Verum
ipsum factum” (the truth is the doing itself).

What Bacon and his contemporary scientistic ideologues of the nascent and triumphant bourgeoisie failed
to detect, let alone acknowledge, was the very simple reality that “science” itself has a history - and that
therefore it changes over time in entirely contingent ways. And history tells us that all scientific “discoveries”
are human inventions absolutely indistinguishable from technological applications. There is no “scientific
way” of doing science: every form of scientific research is sui generis – absolutely unique – and therefore
cannot be distinguished from other forms of human action – all of which constitute the substance and
record of “history”. (On the utter fictitiousness of “scientific methodology”, the peremptory reference is
T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.) Once we look at “science”, not as the involucre of
“Truth”, but rather as the generalisation of technical practices, we can then see much more clearly, again,
how “science” is not the repository of any “Truth” or truths but is instead the chronicle of the
standardization, the homogenization of human activity, of “techniques” or “technologies” or “practices".
(We “technologies” or “techniques” so as to avoid the word “technology” because, like “science”, it tends to
reify as an absolute reality what is instead a human, all-too-human activity.)

It is clear from the foregoing that Bacon was blind to the fundamental insight introduced by Vico that
“verum ipsum factum” - that “the truth” and “science” are nothing more than the historical epitome of
human activity – one that, far from encapsulating the ultimate account of “reality” or “the Truth”, is only an
incoherent and often inconsistent set of temporary and contingent – historical! - conventional
rationalisations of human activity. – A set of conventions as fallible and aleatory as any other human activity.
The only “truth” is to be found in human activity with all its errors and dissimulations – precisely those
“dissimulations” that Bacon wished to eliminate from scientific research and that form instead the very core
and essence of Machiavelli’s political theory in Il Principe! What “normal science” (Kuhn) dismisses as
error or appearance (Bacon’s “dissimulation”) is in fact part of reality – of human reality with its contingent
and imperfect structure – which is why no amount of scientific effort and research will ever be able to
establish the definitive “Truth”. (On these themes, see Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lies (Uber Wahrheit und
Luge), and Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind.) In Karl Popper’s words, science must be falsifiable to
be scientific – and therefore it is a complex welter of “conjectures and refutations”. Indeed, far from being
elements of “Truth”, the mathematical relations or formulae decreed by normal science are mere empirical
approximations of data or facts or events that can be correlated practically or even statistically but whose
ultimate causal connection is conceptually impossible to establish – indeed, “meta-physical” in Bacon’s own
terms. (This conceptual impossibility was the great insight in David Hume’s scepticism, and then in
Nietzsche’s phenomenalism.)

If “Progress” there has been in human history, this is due not to “scientific Truth” but rather to the
adaptation of specific social practices and conventions of which “science” is only an adventitious
epiphenomenon. In other words, advances in civilization – if advances they can be called – are due not to
“science” as an objective process of discovery that has led to “progress”, but rather to a set of exquisitely
political practices and values a component of which we categorise as “science” as a convenient label. To
understand “science” we must go beyond its self-understanding – which is the reification of human reality as
“objective Truth” – and look at it as a “praxis”, as a social project subsumed by those social relations of
production that have sustained the scientific myth from Galileo and Newton to Stephen Hawking. In the
words of Max Weber, “Science” is merely a “Belief”, a “Calling”, a “Praxis” – and not the encapsulation or
distillation of “Truth” (see the appositely titled Munich lecture by Weber, Wissenschaft als Beruf [Science
as Belief, or Calling]). (Though laced with excessive neo-Kantianism, Jurgen Habermas’s Erkenntnis und
Interesse goes some way toward the approach we are outlining here.)

Furthermore, the universal goal of science is to place all disparate data in a mathematical relation to one
another so as to establish not just their exact calculability but also their equivalence, that is to say, the
homologation and equiparation of all knowledge in exact, precise, mathematical translation and proportion.
In short, the task of science since Galileo – whose thought Bacon faithfully endorses – is to erect a mathesis
universalis in line with the divine design of nature – indeed, of the uni-verse - opposed to the multi-versality
of the life-world. For Bacon – and his contemporaries Galileo and Descartes as for Mach two centuries later
- philosophical reflection begins where scientific discovery has reached its present limits. That is why “we
owe thanks to Machiavelli for showing us openly and without deceit [aperte et indissimulanter] what human
beings are wont to do and not what they should do”.

The most advanced, extensive and elaborate effort to establish such a “science” is to be found in Descartes’s
Discours de la Methode, in terms of methodological exposition, and in his Meditationes, in terms of the
inspiration, of the afflatus, behind it. It is Descartes who articulated for the entire bourgeoisie what became
the scientistic credo of the capitalist era – the mathesis universalis, that is, the infinite (i) calculability, (ii)
reproducibility and (iii) equivalence of all reality, human and physical. For Descartes, no knowledge can
claim the status of science unless and until it is exactly calculable (in mathematical proportions), unless and
until it is indefinitely reproducible (as a scientific experiment), and therefore unless it can be connected or
trans-lated or trans-posed precisely into all other reality. Descartes’s own methodological conclusions are
quite inseparable from his philosophical modus operandi. In the Meditations, Descartes describes in careful
detail how he came to excogitate his “Cartesian doubt” as the fundamental method for scientific certainty.
Having established that the very awareness of thought is an inconfutable proof of existence (cogito ergo
sum), Descartes concludes that only those findings that have the certainty of logic and mathematics can be
treated as scientific. Yet it is precisely the formalism of this method, its immateriality – its morbid attempt to
abstract thought from matter (the res cogitans from the res extensa) – that ultimately condemns Cartesian
methodology to irrelevance.

In his fallacious confusion of “truth” with “certainty” and perverse attempt to transmute human and physical
reality into mathematical equations, Descartes ends up not with science (as even he understood it) but with
empty and sterile logic! Ultimately, the immateriality of his “method” – the transcendental requirement that
all science achieve the “certainty” of logico-mathematics – led to the unbridgeable chasm (Fichte’s hiatus
irrationalis) between the res cogitans (the “I” behind “I think”) and the res extensa (the physical, material ec-
sistence in space and in time of the “I” in “I am”). Descartes’s Ego is unfounded, both in its physical
existence and in its subjective identity or self-consciousness. (This unbridgeable chasm prompted E.
Husserl’s later contorted Cartesian Meditations. The confusion of truth with certainty is a fallacy most
devastatingly exposed by Heidegger in his The End of Philosophy – a work extracted from his voluminous
Nietzsche. It was Nietzsche, however, who first challenged Descartes’s cogito as part of his thoroughgoing
aversion to the French philosopher.)

Like Galileo before him, Descartes failed to realise that what makes physical-mathematics possible is not
the “connection” or adequation of thing (body) and idea (soul) – the Scholastic adaequatio rei et mentis, of
matter and mathematics – because no such connection exists or is possible -, but rather the reduction of all
reality to empirical data capable of being calculated mathematically under set experimental conditions. (To
illustrate, F=ma links mathematically concepts such as force and mass and acceleration that are entirely
metaphysical! The formula links our observations as a convenient rule of thumb, but it does not prove that
any such entities exist – least of all that there is a causal link between them, as the Newtonian formula
suggests.) The calculability of these relations is subject to strict conditions that in fact reverse the onus of
proof from the perfect formula to our imperfect observations. Furthermore, no physical experiment is
indefinitely reproducible – without disturbing the experimental conditions under which it is carried out!
Finally, far from being scientifically ascertainable, the equivalence of scientific units is entirely dependent on
empirical observation because otherwise, from pure conceptual analysis, it is impossible by definition! (To
exemplify, it is impossible to equiparate the energy needed to boil water with the destructive effect of the
energy released by an explosion: the two events, boiling and exploding are entirely different in their effects!)

Yet, at the dawn of the bourgeois era, it was still possible for Bacon to advocate and hypothesise the
eventual scientization, not just of physical events, but also of social reality. That is why, in the words of
Bacon, at least for what concerns human sciences, “we owe thanks to Machiavelli for showing us openly and
without deceit [aperte et indissimulanter] what human beings are wont to do and not what they should do”.
In reality, however, Machiavelli’s own stance regarding the epistemological and moral status of political
analysis was far removed from what Bacon implies in his fulsome praise of the Florentine Secretary. The
author of the Discorsi was too steeped in the Italian Humanist and Classical Hellenistic historical tradition
to reduce and confine his political studies to a mechanical understanding of human affairs. The
equiparation of politics and physics – and specifically, of mechanics – along Cartesian lines was a task
attempted with great genius and acumen by Thomas Hobbes – certainly not by Machiavelli. (See C.
Schmitt, “The State as Mechanism in Hobbes and Descartes” in his The Leviathan in the State Theory of
Thomas Hobbes.)

We can now summarise the importance of Bacon’s novel emphasis on “observation” rather than
“exhortation” as the spring for “the advancement of learning” as being that the obliteration of ethical-
political values in scientific research (a) leads inevitably to the observation of “individuals” bereft of all social
bonds, in particular with regard to their behaviour as “consumers” of produced goods; and (b) this isolation
turns the individual worker into a “commodity” available for purchase by the capitalist on the labour market
“freed” from all other social bonds that may protect the worker from capitalist exploitation. The emphasis
on the “scientific” nature of technological innovation in production serves to disguise its effective
“cheapening” of labour power in favour of the expanded reproduction of the labour force for further
exploitation - and therefore the accumulation of capital as command over living labour through its
“exchange” for dead labour (products). (On the real subsumption of the labour process by capital see, of
course, Volume One of Marx’s Capital and, more recently, H. Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital.)
Hence, the introduction of new productive technologies for mass consumption can be disguised as a
“natural” outgrowth or by-product of “neutral-scientific” research. In reality, once all forms of social activity
are subsumed by capital, it stands to reason that all technological innovation is oriented solely toward the
accumulation of capital – toward profitability.

The need of capitalist production is to create a “proletarian” society - one that simply reproduces “proles”
available to be exploited as “labour power”. To do this, the bourgeoisie needs to introduce ever more
productive technologies that lower the amount of living labour needed to reproduce the proletariat - which
in turn facilitates the excessive procreation of proletarians the world over. To be sure, these technologies are
a by-product of the antagonism between workers and capitalist “employers” or “givers of labour” (Arbeit-
Geber): capital adopts only those technologies that (a) advance its power over workers, (b) lower the
reproductive costs of the labour force, and (c) as a result are most “profitable”. Profitability is the measure
of the power of capital to exchange dead labour (products) for living labour (the living activity of workers).

Of course, at the beginning of the bourgeois era, scientific research still could claim some autonomy from
capital. But the real subsumption of the labour process by capital - once it extended to the reproduction of
the entire society - meant that technologies and their “scientific” legitimation was completely placed in the
service of capitalist enterprise and industry (cf. Weber’s “Wissenschaft als Beruf” - one of the earliest and
most powerful articulations of this complex phenomenon). Yet the real conceptual and practical connection
between early “scientific research” and commercial or productive technologies is utterly inconfutable and

Et si j'écris en français, qui est la langue de mon pays, plutôt qu'en latin, qui est celle de mes précepteurs,
c'est à cause que j'espère que ceux qui ne se servent que de leur raison naturelle toute pure jugeront
mieux de mes opinions que ceux qui ne croient qu'aux livres anciens; et, pour ceux qui joignent le bon
sens avec l'étude, lesquels seuls je souhaite pour mes juges, ils ne seront point, je m'assure, si partiaux
pour le latin qu'ils refusent d'entendre mes raisons pour ce que je les explique en langue vulgaire.

At the very end of the Discourse on the Method, Descartes offers a stark choice to his readers, pitting
“those who use nothing more than their entirely pure natural reason”, on one side, and “those who
believe only in the ancient books [written in Latin]”. It is quite obvious that Descartes is addressing two
different and conflicting social strata – one French-speaking and urban-industrial, and the other clerical
and theocratic or royalist. This is as clear an intimation of the growing socio-political and economic
divide and conflict between the rising capitalist bourgeoisie and the declining feudal aristocracy. A stark
contrasting chiasmus, then, between those readers who prefer “the vulgar language” (French) and who
therefore are more likely to utilize their “purest natural reason” (earlier in the Discourse and further in
this paragraph, Descartes calls it merely “bon sens” [good sense]), and, on the other side, those readers
who prefer Latin and therefore are less likely to exercise their purest natural reason or good sense.

Here, in embryo, we can find encapsulated all the major themes of the Cartesian worldview – one that
reflects the emergence of the Northern European bourgeoisie and simultaneously outlines its project for
future world domination. Analysis on one side, and – at the same time – production. Knowledge – the
passive comprehension of the world as it stands – turns immediately into power – the active
reconstruction, production and domination of the world. On the other, opposing side, stands the
political orthodoxy to be overcome – that of the ancient books, written in Latin. These are the basic
elements of the Cartesian pro-ject: - not just “scientific”, but clearly and explicitly political, whether
Descartes was aware of this political component or not. (The essential reference here is to A. Negri, The
Political Descartes.)

Descartes here also draws attention, again without being aware of it, to the intimate link between the
use of language and the picture that we form of reality: - to the way in which what we call “reality” is
shaped entirely by the language we adopt to describe that “reality” – and therefore to the fact that
“reality” is not a “thing”, an “out there”, but rather a way of being, a praxis. It is emphatically not the
case that Descartes even remotely sees the dependence of all notions of “reality” on its social
construction – through language, symbols, values (as did Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, for instance - cf.
Wittgenstein’s likening of language to a pair of spectacles - not through which we “filter” an objective
reality, but rather by means of which we shape our reality! ). The French philosopher is simply
reasserting the fact that languages ether illuminate or distort the one and only “objective reality” to
varying degrees. (The dramatic importance of this epochal change in language for the development of
Renaissance science and humanism is valiantly stressed by E. Cassirer in Individual and Cosmos.)
For Descartes, then, (a) there exists only one true, objective Reality that is independent of human
action; and (b) there exists ultimately only one true objective “language” (logico-mathematics) that
offers a clavis universalis (a universal key) with which to access that Reality. (Cf. P. Rossi, Logic and the
Art of Memory [original title: Clavis Universalis].) Here Descartes is entirely oblivious of the fact that
what we call “reality” is indeed what we do: our view of what is real depends entirely on what we do – a
view that will soon after be encapsulated in Vico’s verum ipsum factum. Reality is made up of two
separate entities: - first, the material substratum that constitutes Reality itself, and second the “laws”
that relate, that tie together to one another the material components of this substratum (its elements
[Aristotle] or atoms [Democritus]) and that constitute this Reality. For Descartes, the ultimate scientific
language is one that is entirely congruent with these “laws”. It is the search for the exact
correspondence or adequation of these two entities – atoms and laws - that constitutes “science” for
Descartes. The aim of science therefore is to discover the ultimate language, the universal key, that is
immediately identifiable with its underlying reality such that there is an ordo et connexio rerum et
idearum – that is, at once a clear order and a necessary connection between things and ideas.

The aim of “science” is for Descartes to discover that universal key with which to unlock Reality: - to
discover a method and a language by means of which the human intellect can become adequate to and
congruent, corresponding, co-extensive with, the “Thing”, with objective Reality. Other than the pursuit
of “the Truth”, Descartes never asks himself what the purpose of this “science” – the union of intellect
and thing – may be. He never asks himself what may be the deontological goal of such a science – and
therefore he never questions the ultimate orientation and direction, scope and aim of “scientific”

What, then, is to be the method of such a science, of such “research”? Quite obviously, the method has
to be absolutely in conformity with the language adopted to encapsulate the Truth.

Descartes was firmly convinced that knowledge, in the only proper sense (scientia) is certain, evident, indubitable and infallible in sharp
contrast with conjecture and opinion, however probable, or thinking which is susceptible of doubt in however small degree….

On this view no science (except, perhaps, arithmetic example, Rule xi 1 merely repeats Rule vi2 in a compressed form; the long
autobiographical passage at the end of the exposition of Rule iv3 seems to have been added as an afterthought and is ill-fitting in that place,
and Rule viii combines, without reconciliation, a rough draft with a more finished but incompatible version. and geometry) will stand the test,
and only mathematics will survive this definition of knowledge. All other sciences give conclusions which are doubtful, or even errors;
mathematics alone contains truth and nothing but truth, free from falsity and doubt. How can this be ? Descartes early asked himself what
gives absolute certainty to this science : why the power of knowing has only attained perfect realization here. And he concluded that it was due
to the extreme purity and sim-[26]-plicity of the objects with which the geometer and the arithmetician are concerned. They presuppose
nothing dependent on experience, nothing requiring confirmation by experiment or observation. The data are entirely simple, abstract and
precise; and these sciences consist in logical expansion of such data, rationally deducing consequences from them. (H.H. Joachim, Descartes’s
Rules for the Direction of the Mind.)

The method proposed by the French philosopher is one that pursues and establishes “the truth” with
the greatest degree of certainty (his last methodological writing is titled “The Search for the Truth”
[Recherche de la Verite’]). The ingredients of certainty are three: - (a) calculability; (b) reproducibility;
and (c) equivalence. And the faculties needed for mathematics are (a) intuition and (b) deduction –
which are both functions of the intellect. The requirement of truth is that it have the certainty and
simplicity of mathematics. Simplex sygillum veri. Simplicity is the seal of truth. In other words, truth
must have the precise characteristic that its apprehension is intuitive and that, therefore, it is both (a)
certain and (b) deductively linked to all other conclusions to be drawn from that original intuition
(Leibniz, intuitus). Exempli gratia, from the intuition of a triangle I can deduce that the sum of all angles
within a triangle must be the same for all triangles. Yet, the intuition of triangles is not quite the same as
this deduction. Now, the intuition tells us less than the deduction – the deduction tells us more than the
intuition - if and only if the deduction relates to a matter of substance – only if the intuition has
“content”. Because, if we consider the intuition of a triangle in its “purity”, abstracted from any material
human faculty, then every truth is connected to every other truth in such a way that there can only
ultimately be one Truth! But given that an intuition must have a substantive content, a materiality, all
other truths would have to be deducible from the substantive content of that original intuition or truth.
Yet that is impossible (!) for the simple reason that deduction can be formally valid (“truthful” as against
“useful”) only to the extent that it does not contain any “quality” or content whatsoever! But a “truth”
that is entirely formal simply cannot be a truth for the simple reason that it is entirely devoid of real,
substantive content – and truth without content (formal or mathematical truth) is simply no truth at all
– it is mere empty tautology! Differently put, deductions are not true if they have no content (are
formally valid), and cannot be “pure” deductions (are not formally valid) if they have a content! To
illustrate, if I imagine two pears added to one pear, I add up to three pears. But if I abstract from the
substance of pears – from their material content – then this addition (1+2=3) tells me absolutely
nothing: - it is an empty tautology. By contrast, if I think of two real pears and add another real pear,
then I end up with a total of three real pears that cannot in any manner be equated to the pears taken
separately or in combination – for the simple reason that the real status of each individual pear is
entirely different from the real status of pears in any combination! (This, at bottom, is Marx’s argument
against Hegelian idealism in The Holy Family. Nietzsche advances the same argument in On Truth and

It is for this reason that, whilst we agree with Joachim that Descartes saw intuition and deduction as two
distinct powers, we cannot agree that this was “so crude a view” – for the very reasons that he
unwittingly adduces! And that is, because “sometimes what we intuit is a material or corporeal thing,
or a relation between such things”. Let us quote Joachim in full:

Descartes's account of the Intellect

Intuitus. Descartes speaks at times as if intuitus and deductio were two quite distinct powers, faculties, or activities of the mind.
It is, however, unlikely that he ever held so crude a view, or, if he did, he soon abandoned it. Nevertheless, he begins by
characterizing intuitus as a distinct act or function of mind directed upon a distinct and special kind of object. It is intellectual
'seeing' and has a certainty peculiar to itself, which3 must not be confused with the vividness of sense-perception or

As an act of mind intuitus is a function of the intellect expressing its own nature. Sometimes what we intuit is a material or
corporeal thing, or a relation between such things. In this case, imagination will help, if we visualize the bodies; or sensation
may [28] help, if imagination is directed upon the shapes in the sensus communis. Still, intellectual seeing must be clearly
distinguished from sensation and imagination, and its certainty must be clearly distinguished from mere imaginative (or
sensational) assurance. So Descartes begins by explaining what he does not mean by intuitus.

The intellectual certainty with which I see the mutual implication of self-consciousness and existence is immediate, like
sense-perception; but, in the case of sense-perception, my assurance fluctuates. Sensation flickers and varies according to the
illumination, or the state of my eyesight, or similar changing conditions. But the certainty of intellectual insight is steady,
constant and absolute. To see a truth that x implies y is to see it absolutely and timelessly, once for all and unvaryingly.

What Joachim overlooks here is the fact that “what we intuit is [either] a material or corporeal thing, or
[else] a relation between such things”. In fact, every intuition must be based on ideas that may
represent conceptual, material or corporeal things. But the relations between such things, qua relations,
obviously are not themselves material or corporeal things – which is why Descartes was entirely right to
distinguish between the intuitus, which must be based on specific concepts or things, and deductions,
which are not. The difficulty for both Descartes and Joachim is that deductions that are mere relations
are purely tautological, and therefore cannot be “true”; whereas those that represent material content
are simply not “deductions” but practical assumptions or conclusions. – Which is why Joachim’s last
paragraph is utterly meaningless because there can be no “truths” – either intuitions or deductions –
that are true “absolutely and timelessly, once for all and unvaryingly”! Joachim’s insistence that
intuition and deduction are inseparable (see pp.40 et ff.) completely elides and eludes the antinomy at
the core of Descartes’s and all other idealisms – the abstrusion or avulsion or separation (the Platonic
chorismos) of idea and thing which is intrinsic to the very concepts of intuition and of deduction!

As defined by Descartes, the intellect is the human faculty that is most removed from the human
physical environment (the others are the senses, the imagination and memory). But because Descartes
never poses himself the problem of the direction of scientific research as a uniquely human activity, he
does not assess the potentially catastrophic impact of a “scientific search” that may well lead to
extremely harmful and even deleterious effects for humanity itself! However “certain” a state of affairs
may be, it may well not be true to the extent that it is against human interest (inter homines esse).
(Nuclear fission or fusion may be a certainty in highly specific experimental and technical conditions, but
mercifully it is not “true” in the sense that “we ought to pursue the truth”. Again, the distinction here
between truth and certainty is masterfully drawn by Heidegger in “The End of Philosophy”, published
separately as a book of Nietzsche. The distinction mirrors that between positive law by the sovereign
[Dezisionismus], which is “certain”, and substantive or ethically-based law, which must also be “true”,
drawn by F. Neumann in “The Change in the Function of Modern Law”, in his The Democratic and the
Authoritarian State, p.27.)

This specific interpretation of “reality”, of science and its method – specifically the employment of the
intellect - clearly distorts the Cartesian and – after Descartes – our entire interpretation and evaluation
of human scientific activity since the advent of capitalist industry. From this perspective, several
pernicious worldviews follow: the first is that human agency is avulsed from its natural physical
environment. Descartes’s lack of awareness of the intrinsic connection between “science” or knowledge
– which is a passive notion, - and “technology” – which is a very active productive human capability -that
(a) induces and reinforces the myth that science” is a purely intellectual pursuit, and not a practical one
with obvious origins in and repercussion on human social relations and the environment; and (b)
induces and propagates the myth that there are specific pursuits called “Science” and “Technology” that
have a specific methodology. Thus, science and technology are no longer seen as interdependent and
inter-related human historical activities that reflect and affect both human social relations and the
environment in which they occur, but instead are reified as universal absolutes, as inevitable outcomes
of “human nature” or “the human condition” or indeed “human progress”. As Howard puts it,

[o]wing to Descartes’s conception of method he tends to confuse it with science and is led to speak of his new science of order
and measure (Howard, Descartes’s Rules, p.62)

Except that Joachim does not notice in his admirable study of Descartes’s Rules that for the Frenchman
there can be no difference between method and science because for him (a) the method of science is
science itself within the unified project of a mathesis universalis; and (b) in any case his entire idealist
metaphysics with its chorismos (separation, incompatibility) of intellect and world made the method
antinomical to scientific research. For Descartes to have kept method and science separate, he would
have had to accept that method and scientific research are not the same thing and either to admit that
his categorization of the two was antinomical, or else to develop an epistemology and an ontology that
did not make them so.
The socio-political importance of the dramatic shift in the understanding of physical and social reality
and praxis occasioned by the development of “science” as an approach to the world and developed by
early thinkers of the bourgeoisie such as Bacon and Galileo and Descartes cannot be gainsaid and is hard
to overestimate. It epitomizes the earlier humanistic elevation of human beings to the centre of the
universe, to quasi-divine status, and not just in what was then called “natural philosophy”, but also in
the social studies, from art to philosophy and politics. The obvious political impact of this elevation is,
first, to challenge and demote the theocratic European absolutist states then in power in favour of – and
this is the second impact – the promotion of the interests of the rising northern European commercial
and industrial bourgeoisie.

As we have just seen, from the outset, the Cartesian theorization of science and technology is based on
exclusively transcendental idealist and individualist ontogenetic lines (in this sense, it clearly presages
the advent of Kant’s transcendental idealism). Not only does Descartes entirely fail to detect or even
suspect the radically social and practical or deontological character of scientific research – and therefore
to place it in a precise socio-historical context; but he also thoughtlessly extrudes what he thinks is the
foundational methodology of “science” from all social and environmental contexts to the point that it
verges on solipsism. As Joachim puts it,

We must attend to two matters in this exposition : (i) The severance of the power of knowing from all corporeal functions and (ii) its singleness
[simplicity]. (op.cit., p.20)

The Cartesian cogito marks the egoistic terminus of Descartes’s methodical withdrawal from the world
(in this it resembles the Askesis and Welt-flucht of Schopenhauer’s pessimism) even to the extent that
he conjures up the existence of a demon as the prompter of his “Cartesian doubt”, intent on falsifying
systematically his entire material existence, his every perception and thought – such is Descartes’s
uncompromising diffidence of and alienation from human material existence! (The extremes to which
the French philosopher went to isolate himself in pursuit of his “meditations” is legendary, of course.) As
such, the cogito is a precursor and harbinger of a bourgeois society intent on reifying human social
reality and on subjecting the environment (“nature”) to its unimpeded domination. By idealistically
separating the Ego from its life-world, Descartes turns Ego-ity (Ich-heit, the search for personal identity)
into Ego-ism. In this regard, it is possible that the French philosopher was aware of the ultimate futility
of his “method”, not just because he titled his reflections on science “Discourse” (rather than “Treatise”,
for instance), but also because the longer title refers to “a mode of employing Reason and for the search
of Truth”. This elongated explication of “the Method” mirrors the long title of the Regulae ad
Directionem Ingenii (“Rules on the Direction of the Mind or Intellect”) which again refers merely to the
“direction of the mind” without ever specifying the substance and character, the metaphysical status of
this “mind” or “intellect” (ingenium). (On the Rules, again see H.H. Joachim, Descartes’s Rules for the
Direction of the Mind.)

“I think, therefore I am” is a thoroughly flawed syllogism in a logical sense and also in its fallacious
identification of an “I”, a Subject or Ego that lurks behind the act of thinking! (This is the kernel of
Nietzsche’s devastating critique of Descartes and of rationalism tout court. Because “thinking” is an
action, Nietzsche correctly points out, the fallacious conclusion is instantly drawn that there must be
someone who does the thinking! See Beyond good and Evil, pg.49. After all, David Hume’s skepticism
had already exposed the empirical inadequacy of the self in A Treatise on Human Nature.)
The cogito is also deficient for its total failure to acknowledge the undeniably inter-subjective basis of all
thought, as well as for the failure to perceive, let alone acknowledge, the clear materiality of thought –
its immanence, and not just its transcendence – in the sense that all thinking - however abstract,
however much based on Descartes’s “intuition and deduction” - must be grounded in the very material
reality that we call “language”. Indeed, this is one sphere in which Descartes’s preference of vulgar
French to Latin aided him formulate his worldview. Because Latin dispenses with personal pronouns, it
mutes the deductive link that may otherwise be traced between thought and existence, whereas French
emphasizes the continuity of the agency in the two statements: “Je pense, [donc] j’existe”. Here the
separation of the pronoun “I” from the subsequent verbs helps conjoin them and establish, however
feebly, the syllogistic link – again, inexistent in logic - that Descartes is keen to establish. The essential
emphasis is on the “I”, on bourgeois individuality, that is, on the need of the bourgeoisie to establish an
existence separate from any human intersubjectivity or societal and cultural bonds. Moreover, the
systematic idealist severance of the individual from the world – and therefore from society as a
community founded on more than just self-interest – dictates Descartes’s formalism epitomized by the
mathesis. (Cf. F. Neumann’s discussion of legal liberalism as dependent both on economic or possessive
individualism and on its entrenchment in legal formalism - in TDaTS.)

Descartes fails in both works – indeed, he does not even attempt! – to inquire as to the substantive
content and nature of this entity variously called “reason” or “mind” or “intellect”. But above all it
becomes evident from his disquisitions that neither “intuition” nor “deduction” will ever be able to
supply the necessary nexus between scientific “laws”, the methodology that led to scientific
“discoveries”, and the “objective reality” to which these laws and the methodology of science
supposedly apply!

If the Ego, the “I” that “thinks”, can be certain of its existence only in the awareness of its own being – if,
therefore, the Cartesian Ego is locked entirely within its interiority or consciousness of itself (I know that
I think, therefore I must exist), the question arises, quite apart from the impossibility of establishing that
this “thinking agency” is an Ego or a “self”, of how such an ideal, spiritual entity can ever be connected
to the non-ideal or material world – to the “Thing”, the ob-ject that literally “stands against” the Ego or
self (this is made evident in the German for “object”, Gegen-stand, standing against). Put another way,
how can a Subject that is pure thought, pure idea, pure self, be connected to a physical body, first of all,
and then be able to act upon the world? And how can the Subject even get to know the Object – in
other words, how is scientific research and discovery of the world, let alone knowledge of “the Truth”,
at all possible?

Not only: the other insuperable difficulty of Descartes’s idealism consists precisely in the fact that if the
Ego in its quest for knowledge is restricted to finding out, re-searching, the Object or “nature” or “the
physical world, then, given that this “nature” has physical laws that must be immutable by definition,
the problem arises of how it is possible for anything to be created in the world. This problem goes back
to St. Augustine’s intimation that human beings exist “ut initium esset” – so that there may be a
beginning. By contrast, it is evident that in Descartes’s epistemology, which turns into an existential
ontology (“What and how do I know?” becomes “I exist”), there is absolutely no room for free will once
the notion of mathesis universalis, of a universal science or universal key (“clavis universalis”) is
accepted. Conversely put, if we accept the notion of the world as a “grand livre” where every cause
contains its effect and vice versa, then no free will or free human action is possible because (a) the ideal
self cannot act upon the material world and (b) the material world already contains its entire unfolding
in nuce or in embryo – as Aristotelian physis. The scientific notion of the conservation of energy –
nothing is created, everything is conserved and transformed – essentially denies the possibility of
creative actions by humans or any living things; it posits an extreme determinism that excludes free will.
Even the notion of entropy is thereby rendered inexplicable. (This is essentially Schopenhauer’s
argument in On the Freedom of the Will. For Schopenhauer, the Kantian Ding an Sich – the physical
universe - is known or knowable to us and governed by scientific laws; whence it follows that the human
intellect is also not “free”. It is the Will itself that is unknowable and opaque, and hence the true “thing-
in-itself”. Thus, attributing “freedom” to the Will is a nonsense.)

Descartes and humanism, from which he obviously drew much of his learning, were too caught up in the
rejection of theological and theocratic ideas to be able to overcome radically the hiatus between
essence and existence, thought and matter. Without the aid and benefit of Darwin’s evolutionary
findings, he had no insight into the historical development of human faculties and of language in
particular. Had he been so aware, Descartes may well have found that the solution to his transcendental
impasse lay in the very reason why he had opted for French rather than Latin to publish his studies: - the
fact that language, as the unity of thought, action and world, provides the immanentist historical
solution to his philosophical puzzle. It may well be said (with Negri) that Descartes’s radicalization of the
cogito through the mediation of the ontological proof and of the omnipotence of the Divinity ends up
turning his philosophical idealism into a blatant ideology, due in large part to his own recognition of the
defeat of humanism after the condemnation of Galileo. The conclusion remains that Descartes cannot
account for the world – and so he cannot account for human activity either – scientific, technological or

His ex-aggeration of (literally, erecting a rampart around) the Divinity as the omnipotent enabler of
human invention was a crumbling fable from the very outset: not the world, then, is a “fable” (cf.
Nietzsche’s Twilight) but rather the Cartesian philosophical reduction of it to that sorry status by
requiring that the world be also perfect – something that Nietzsche justly derided, seeking thereby to
rescue precisely this life-world from its Cartesian extrusion (cf. The Anti-Christ, par.14).


Descartes’s rational idealism inaugurates a long season of Western thought in which the separation
(chorismos) of Subject and Object, of Reason and Nature, comes to occupy a quintessential role in the
development of bourgeois industrial capitalist society. In their essence, the cogito and the ontological
proof epitomize the philosophical and political “method” that sets the nascent bourgeoisie and its
manufacturing industry off to domination over and ultimate destruction of the ecosphere. By
hypostatizing its transcendental role in the lifeworld in antinomic opposition to Nature, Descartes
elevates Reason to the instrumental mastery of a prostrate Nature likened to a maze of physical-
mathematical “laws” destined to be manipulated and subjugated by the human mathesis universalis and
its Scientia inveniendi.

In his exposition of the ontological argument and of the cogito, Descartes confuses two kinds of
“existence”, one ideal and the other physical. Just like the idea of God, the notion of a triangle “exists” in
thought as a universal; but it does not exist physically in the way a particular triangle or a depiction of
God can (say, in a painting). What exists is the cerebral activity that enables the thought of a God and
that of a triangle – and the particular triangular shapes and depictions of God that we encounter in the
world which can never be equated with that cerebral activity. It is not that thought can be reduced to
cerebral activity: but neither can cerebral activity be sublimated to ideal or divine existence! The two
forms of existence simply cannot be homologated – they are heterogeneous – because no human
activity or thought can com-prehend the entire world! Physical objects and our idea of them “exist” in
two very different, yet equally “material” ways: Descartes wrongly deduces physical existence from the
mere “idea” of God as perfect Being just as he had earlier wrongly deduced the existence of an Ego or
self from the mere act of thinking because his metaphysics wrongly opposes thought and matter by
wrongly defining them.

This metaphysical prejudice, this chorismos is by no means confined to Descartes because it dates from
the dawn of philosophy in pre-Socratic Greece. Indeed, by categorically separating thought and matter
and hypostatizing the purity and perfection of thought, Descartes turns his rationalism into an
eschatology in that the entirety of human existence and the world is pre-destined. In such a world, of
course, no freedom is possible, no creative activity is imaginable – which raises the question of how
Descartes and all the theoreticians of the mathesis universalis, the readers of the “great book” of divine
creation (Leonardo, Galileo, Descartes himself), could ever envisage that their own scientific activity was
even possible! To be conscious of a reality, however binding, is already to pose the possibility of being
free from that reality, of being able to act upon it not just by trans-forming it but rather by trans-
crescing it – indeed, by trans-scending it not in a “spiritual” or “idealistic” sense, but rather by
considering that all “reality” is always and everywhere a human convention, a human construction.
Quite surprisingly, it will be Descartes’s great contemporary critic, Thomas Hobbes, who will inaugurate
this line of thought – running through Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Mach and Wittgenstein – which
combines the conventionality of science with the hypothesis of possessive individualism to arrive at a
uniquely pessimistic view of human existence. For Descartes and the earlier rationalists, instead, the
future of humanity, already pre-destined in the great book of eternal divine laws, could not but be
optimistic – indeed, as we have argued, eschatological even in an Augustinian if not Leibnizian sense.

For Descartes, however, the only options to escape the evident antinomy between the self and the
world, between individual and cosmos, and the deadening determinism of his geometric science, were
either to hypothesize a mechanical correspondence between the two opposing dimensions of mind and
matter, a’ la Leibniz (the windowless monads) – or else to exasperate the original idealism of the cogito
so as to amplify and deepen its scope as a generator of productive knowledge and activity. This latter
option is precisely what Descartes proceeded to expound in the Meditations and then most explicitly in
the Principia Philosophiae. (On all this, Negri, op.cit., chpts.3 and 4.)

When thought closely reviews the different ideas and notions it has within itself, and it finds that of an omniscient, omnipotent
and extremely perfect being, it easily judges, from what it perceives in this idea, that God, which is the extremely perfect being,
is or exists. For, even if thought possesses distinct ideas of many other things, it does not observe in them anything that
assures it as to the existence of their object; while in this one it perceives not only, as in others, a possible existence, but an
absolutely necessary and eternal existence.

As in the Meditations, Descartes starts from the ability of the intellect to conceive of simple abstract
notions from which logico-mathematical conclusions may be deduced. But here there is a subtle shift
from the earlier work: here the priority and emphasis is no longer on the cogito, that is, on the
deduction of the existence of the self from the act of thinking – I think, therefore I am. Here, instead, it
is the ability of the intellect to deduce God’s existence from the thought of divine perfection that marks
the separation of human reason from the world. But whereas earlier, as we demonstrated above, this
chorismos of the mind leaves it entirely “withdrawn” from the world – and therefore capable only of
obtaining formal and passive knowledge of it through the mathesis - to understand but not to change or
transform it -; this time Descartes introduces a new ability to human intuition and deduction by quite
drastically allowing the possibility of error - and therefore also the ability to comprehend the world
actively, scientifically, practically, productively! Thus, Descartes at once elevates Reason from the sphere
of self-consciousness to that of divine participation (methexis), but then, simultaneously, he seeks to
reduce the distance of the human intellect, its separation (chorismos) from the world, by highlighting its
ability to fall into error!

For the first time in Cartesian philosophy, we have the simultaneous ability of the mind to mount the
heights of perfection and to plumb the depths of nothingness, - an ability that seals the positioning of
human knowledge between perfection and imperfection, between knowledge and error. Not only: the
possibility of error allows Descartes also to allow for the intromission of Evil in the world – evil
understood not as diabolical action but rather as the existence of freedom, of free choice, and therefore
of ethics and morality. (On this Schellingian conception of Evil, see Zizek.)

Two forms of existence, then: the divine existence which is “absolutely necessary and eternal”, on one
side, and then that of “many other things”, which is only “possible”. The self-same intellect that can
intuit the idea of God with certainty and then deduce His existence from this intuition – that very same
intellect also “possesses distinct ideas of many other things” about which it can draw deductions that
may be in error. But how can the intellect at once know and not know, be able to learn scientifically, and
still be capable of error? Descartes attributes human fallibility to the faculty of the will – the conatus
that urges the intellect to overleap the boundaries of knowledge – and therefore to err. But a will, a
conatus, an appetitus, is a drive that exits the sphere of the intellect to enter that of the senses. Of
course, none of this serves effectively to bridge the hiatus irrationalis between intellect and world: all
that can be said is that at least Descartes has allowed for the possibility of the immersion of the intellect
in the world.

Further to this, the above quotation renders explicit Descartes’s second necessary ingredient for the
development of a productive epistemology through the distinction between intuition and deduction
(which Joachim had deemed “crude”). In the sequel to the pivotal paragraph quoted above lies the

And just as, by seeing necessarily in its idea of the triangle that its three angles are equal to two right angles, it [thought]
absolutely convinces itself [of this conclusion]…, so it is that simply by seeing that necessary and eternal existence is contained
in the idea that it has of the extremely perfect Being, it must conclude that this extremely perfect Being is or exists.

Yes. As Joachim argues, the deduction of the equality or congruence of the internal juxtaposition of the
three angles in all triangles is necessarily contained in the idea of a triangle. But the idea of a triangle is
quite distinct as intuition from all the deductions that may follow (necessarily, as tautologies) from the

I am taking the word ‘idea’ to refer to whatever is immediately (m.e.) perceived by the mind (Descartes, Third Meditation)

Thus, whereas intuition is “immediate”, deduction – as the word itself suggests, “to lead from” – is
mediate. Joachim fails to see this crucial distinction. Crucial, because it leads us to the next
extrinsication of Descartes’s “reasonable ideology”. It is only on the basis of this distinction between
intuition and deduction that Descartes’s ontology can be turned from a pure “scientific knowledge” of
the world as an inalterable, unchangeable, strictly determined reality into a productive epistemology,
into a practical science through which the world becomes susceptible to transformation by the human
will. The intuition of an idea can never be wrong or false – but a deduction from it can, if it is carried out
incorrectly! To be sure, Descartes’s understanding of deduction – as “logical”, and therefore necessarily
tautological – does not remove the antinomy of thought and world, of essence and existence. But here
Descartes has deviated from his own epistemological schema and, following Bacon and anticipating
Hume, is now allowing for empirical induction in scientific research as well as, anticipating Kant, for the
drawing of synthetic a priori statements in the establishment of “scientific laws”.

Taken to extremes, in its detailed specification of the various faculties of the Ego (intuition, deduction,
intellect, imagination and memory, then the senses), Descartes’s metaphysics which, from the outset,
anticipates Kant’s critical idealism (whence the keen interest of neo-Kantians like Cassirer in Descartes)
ends up being a pale replica of Berkeley’s subjective idealism in which all reality exists in the mind of God
– esse est percipi. But Descartes never goes to such extreme lengths: his metaphysics always seeks to
reconcile (antinomically) the ideal and the real. Regardless, this fresh schism between intellect and will
proposed in the Principia, this further splitting of the faculties of the Ego, cannot assist Descartes in
determining the extent to which the will is operative in its pursuit of worldly objects; nor does the will, a
mental faculty, resolve the fundamental antinomy between the Subject and the Object. Cartesian idealism
is unable to set out the boundaries of human knowledge (in epistemology) and the content of the entities
involved (in ontology), the intellectus and the voluntas or conatus. Yet clearly here we have a definite shift
from the metaphysical-deductive method of the earlier writings to a physical-inductive one, much closer
to the mechanicist materialism of Hobbes. (The all-important differentiation between Cartesian idealism
and Hobbesian materialism will be canvassed in our next study.)

Descartes’s novel, if belated, hypothesis admits of the freedom of the human will, however
inconsistently, by mimicking the omnipotent will of God. This “erring” of reason into the world (Latin,
errare, means also “to roam”), spurred on by the will, is certainly a passive process of re-searching the
world – what Descartes calls “knowledge” or scientia, or the vera mathesis. But it is also a process of
recovery of the world through dis-covery, through invention (the Cartesian Scientia inveniendi) – it is the
reconquest of Truth. Again, however contradictory this might be in view of Descartes’s antinomic
idealism, there can be no doubting his belief in the ability of science to reconstruct the world, to lead
humanity a defecto ad perfectionem (see Negri, op.cit., pp.296 ff.).

Even the ubiquitous mechanicism of Descartes’s earlier method regarding the ontological status of
Nature vis-à-vis Reason and the Soul takes a different metaphorical turn in the Principia. Here, in the
Preface Letter, Descartes outlines a view of the sciences that quite evidently seeks to bridge the earlier
categorical schism between metaphysics and the natural sciences:

The first part of philosophy is metaphysics, which contains the principles of knowledge, including the explanation of the principal
attributes of God, the non-material nature of our souls and all the clear and distinct notions which are in us. The second part is
physics, where, after discovering the true principles of material things, we examine the general composition of the entire
universe….Next we need to examine individually the nature of plants, of animals, and, above all, of man, so that we may be
capable later on of discovering the other sciences which are beneficial to man. Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree. The
roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches emerging from the trunk are all the other sciences, which may be
reduced to three principal ones, namely medicine, mechanics and morals.”

Unlike a mechanical metaphor – likening, for example, science to a house whose foundations are
metaphysics, pillars are physics, and so on -, the adoption of a metaphorical tree to describe the various
stages of human knowledge does a number of things that Descartes had not attempted or allowed earlier:
(i) science is no longer relegated to the logico-mathematical faculties of humans, to the intellect; (ii)
science has a physis, an organic structure that is biologically as well as historically connected; (iii) science
has practical aspects – technologies - that can transform human reality and the world; (iv) therefore,
science allows for freedom and free choice, free will. Yet again, Descartes’s confusion and ambivalence
on these matters is evinced by his listing of “morals” amongst the sciences, implying thereby that moral
action may itself be founded scientifically! Needless to say, the apories in this stylization of knowledge
and scientific research are everywhere to be seen. Above all, it is “the non-material nature of the soul”
and the dichotomy between “appearance” and “reality” that epitomizes those “antinomies of bourgeois
thought” [Lukacs] that have been the universal bane of Western theory and practice since Descartes.
Again, these will be canvassed in the next part of this study.

Of course, this “tree of knowledge” (arbor scientiarum) metaphor is still intimately tied with the universal
mathesis scientific movement that dates back to Lull and Bruno and then continues to Descartes and
Hobbes, as Rossi explains here: -

The term clavis universalis [universal key]was used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to designate a method or general
science which would enable man to see beyond the veil of phenomenal appearances, or the 'shadows of ideas', and grasp the
ideal and essential structure of reality. Deciphering the alphabet of the world; reading the signs imprinted by the divine mind in
the book of nature; discovering the correspondence between the original forms of the universe and the structures of human
thought; constructing a perfect language capable of eliminating all equivocations and putting us in direct contact with things and
essences rather than signs; the construction of total encyclopaedias and ordered classifications which would be the true 'mirrors'
of cosmic harmony — these were the objectives of the numerous defenders, apologists and expositors of Lullism and artificial
memory between the fourteenth and seventeenth cen- turies….
An instrument designed with practical rhetorical puposes in mind becomes (after the encounter with the
xviii Logic and the Art of Memory
Lullist tradition) a search for a 'code' which would allow one to penetrate into the innermost secrets of reality, and to infinitely
extend man's potential. Ramus, Bacon and Descartes also profoundly changed the meanings of traditional problems when they
included the doctrines of artificial memory within the framework of a doctrine of ‘method' or logic, or made use of the idea of
the 'chain' (catena) or 'tree of the sciences' (arbor scientiarum). The artificial memory of the ancients (driven by new imperatives
and profoundly transfigured) entered into modern logic, bringing with it the themes of ‘universal language' and 'general' or
'primary' science. (P. Rossi, Logica e Memoria)

Once more, the inescapable apory of the mathesis universalis is that, if the universe is strictly determined,
then any scientific effort to discover its “language” must be an intrinsic part of this deterministic mathesis
– which renders scientific research strictly paradoxical in the sense that “science” is unable to understand
itself as “science”, as “free” historical human activity! The difficulty is that science has a history: in other
words, far from revealing “universal laws”, scientific research and conventions are products of human
choices – contradicting the deterministic universalist claims of the mathesis! Furthermore, as a corollary,
the very distinction between “reality” and “appearance” only serves to make untenable the assumption
of an “ultimate reality” or a Kantian “thing-in-itself” that lies “behind” the appearances. Indeed, it was the
dogmatic Scholastic dismissal of scientific empirical induction as reliant on mere phenomena, on the
sphere of “appearances”, that first excited and incited the revolt against Scholasticism beginning with the