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Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences by René Descartes
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tracks which have conducted me to considerations and maxims, of which I
have formed a method that gives me the means, as I think, of gradually
augmenting my knowledge, and of raising it by little and little to the
highest point which the mediocrity of my talents and the brief duration of
my life will permit me to reach. For I have already reaped from it such
fruits that, although I have been accustomed to think lowly enough of
myself, and although when I look with the eye of a philosopher at the
varied courses and pursuits of mankind at large, I find scarcely one which
does not appear in vain and useless, I nevertheless derive the highest
satisfaction from the progress I conceive myself to have already made in
the search after truth, and cannot help entertaining such expectations of
the future as to believe that if, among the occupations of men as men, there
is any one really excellent and important, it is that which I have chosen.

After all, it is possible I may be mistaken; and it is but a little
copper and glass, perhaps, that I take for gold and diamonds. I know how
very liable we are to delusion in what relates to ourselves, and also how
much the judgments of our friends are to be suspected when given in our
favor. But I shall endeavor in this discourse to describe the paths I
have followed, and to delineate my life as in a picture, in order that
each one may also be able to judge of them for himself, and that in the
general opinion entertained of them, as gathered from current report, I
myself may have a new help towards instruction to be added to those I have
been in the habit of employing.

My present design, then, is not to teach the method which each ought to
follow for the right conduct of his reason, but solely to describe the way
in which I have endeavored to conduct my own. They who set themselves to
give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of greater skill
than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular,