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The Nature of Philosophy: Anxiety Essay

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2022


Rene Descartes is one of the most outstanding philosophers who contributed to the development of philosophy. The foundations of the philosophy and methodology of Descartes lay in the disclosure and presentation of the particular basics and consequences. Descartes created his first outstanding work, Discourse on the Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, in which he analyzed the concept of “universal science” (Mathesis Universalis), which has its roots in the Aristotelian hypothesis of the main organon of knowledge (Descartes 20). Developing the methodology of cognition, Decartes strived to understand the incomprehensible truth about the world’s functioning. The unknown has always been terrifying for people’s minds. That is why philosophers strive to find the questions which potentially cannot be answered. Therefore, as was mentioned by Harry Frankfurt, philosophy is created through anxiety born of an understanding of the limitation of knowledge.

Descartes’ Method

The anxiety in philosophical views can be seen in many directions of modern society. The key aim of any philosophy is to define the processes of cognition functioning that are impossible to explain scientifically. The philosophy of Rene Descartes is one of the foundations of European rationalism. It is based on the search for irrefutable foundations for any knowledge. The philosopher sought to achieve absolute truth, reliable and logically unshakable. Descartes’s main focus was to develop the method of cognition through which humans comprehend the substance. The philosopher stated that “for to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it” (Descartes 48). The problem of the method of Descartes’ philosophy was to bring the potency of the mind to the perception of the basis of any phenomenon in the world, in order to perceive the apparent truths. The philosopher called the ability of the mind to perceive the basis of something in its evident simplicity “intellectual intuition” (Descartes 65). According to the philosopher, everything can be questioned in search of absolute truth.

The only undeniable fact is human thinking and desire to understand the substance of things. The presence of thinking convinces people of their existence. Descartes expressed this belief in the famous aphorism “I think, therefore I am” (23). This truth was irrefutable and, therefore, is the first point on which the worldview of Descartes was built. In his opinion, humanity has no other criterion of clarity, and all philosophical positions should be built on it.

Descartes also discussed the existence of God in his philosophical positions. From the philosophers’ point of view, people recognize themselves as imperfect only in comparison with the all-perfect being (Descartes 75). Such an understanding could only be implanted in the minds of the people by God. This means that the idea of “God as a perfect existence is already proof of being” (Descartes 88). Considering God as a universal basis, the philosopher showed that there are concepts that people’s cognition cannot comprehend. In other words, there always should be the presence of some inevitable force which is the starting point of knowledge. Such an approach helps to overcome the fear of unknown and related to it anxiety and existential depression. Thus, the anxiety and inability to comprehend and interpret many notions of creation and existence empowered Descartes’s philosophical exploration.

Plato and Aristotle Philosophy

The anxiety and existential depression in philosophy is a moving engine of progress. For example, in Plato’s philosophy, the only way to avoid anxiety and understand cognition is through Beauty. Plato, in his writings, focused on Beauty and the importance of its search in the surrounding world and within oneself (Leigh 48). Contemplating and accepting physical beauty, the Soul is able to turn to the beauty of art and science. Having overcome this frontier, the Soul moves on to a positive assessment of good morals, helping to climb the “golden ladder” to the world of Higher ideas.

Another example is the philosophical approach of Aristotle analyzing the nature of cognition. According to the philosopher, the Soul distinguishes the existence of matter “spending a lot of time in mistakes to achieve something reliable in all respects about the soul is certainly the most difficult thing” (Leigh 89). Thus, the Soul suffers a lot before understanding the essence of being. In order to avoid these sufferings, related anxiety, and existential depression, the Soul should implement the forms of truly scientific knowledge. These are the concepts that define the nature of things through rational thinking. In other words, logic is the key element preserving people from continuous suffering.


The analysis of the major argument presented by Descartes, and other philosophers, supports Frankfurt’s idea that modern philosophy is born out of anxiety. Therefore, the beginning of philosophy is not a surprise but anxiety. Despair and fear provoke human thought to acquire new forces, leading to new sources of truth. Striving to avoid anxiety, people continue to think. The desire to find the answer to existential concepts leads people to philosophical discussions. As was mentioned earlier, many philosophers’ theories were created in attempts to explain the incomprehensible from the physical perspective notions. Being afraid of the unknown, people long to find the truths which can eliminate their anxiety. This is the reason why there are so many different philosophical theories. Even though philosophers’ profound experiences and developments exist, people probably will never be able to avoid the anxiety caused by the fear of unknown.

Works Cited

Leigh, Fiona. Themes in Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic Philosophy. Institute of Classical Studies Publishing, 2021.

Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. Translated by Donald Cress, Hackett Publishing Company, 1998.

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