Last night at discussion group we chewed over a chapter of de Tocqueville's 1840 classic: Volume Two of Democracy In America. My favorite bit from the reading:
"America is therefore one of the countries where the precepts of Descartes are least studied and are best applied. Nor is this surprising."
Well, it's surprising news to most Americans, even this American, who has read some Descartes.
Our author explains that Americans like to think things through for themselves, discarding received wisdom in order to get a fresh view of a problem.
A philosophy professor, who participated in the discussion, suggested that our author was thinking more of the early Descartes, the author of Discourse on Method, and less of the later Descartes, the author of Meditations on First Philosophy.
Few Americans have ever given a clam
about "I think therefore I am."
But we do think a fresh perspective
can be effective.