Descartes’ Search for Certainty


Course Description

Descartes was a man of his time. Born in 1596, he lived in that turbulent time when the forces set in motion by the Renaissance were slowly giving birth to the Modern world. Throughout European culture there was a move to detach human affairs from the authority of the Church and recentre them in the secular world. Political theorists were actively working to base political authority in the notion of a “social contract” rather than “Divine Right”; even the Reformation was a movement to ground religion in the personal relation between God and the individual. Natural science and philosophy were no exception—both trying to establish their autonomy from the Church and ground their claims to knowledge on something other than Divine revelation and Church doctrine. Natural science chose direct observation as its ground, and many philosophers opted to follow its lead. Descartes, an eminent mathematician, wanted a foundation more certain and reliable than sense experience. In a series of six meditations Descartes applied his skeptical methodology to examine all candidates for an unshakeable foundation for knowledge and arrived at his famous cogito ergo sum.

In this course we will situate Descartes in his time, and then trace his journey through his Meditations on First Philosophy, as he attempts to reconstruct knowledge of the world on his unshakeable foundation. But is his foundation truly unshakeable? How reliable are the steps he takes in reconstructing knowledge on that foundation? After almost four centuries, does he still offer helpful and relevant insights into the issues of human knowledge and its acquisition?

Books to Purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop during the weeks prior to the course beginning):

  • René Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. Translated by Ian Johnston.

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 16 students and that TMI does not allow participants to audit courses for free.

Course Details

Location: Atwater

First Session: Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

Course Length: 12 weeks, Wednesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Discussion Team: Moira Carley, Jim Queen, and another     

Degree Credit: 3 credits

Course Fee: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)
$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)
$135.00 (promotion for new students)

For 12-week courses, fees are refundable in full before the second session. If the participant withdraws after the second course, they will be charged a $50 fee. There is no refund after the third course has passed. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

Fill the following form to register

Questions? Stuck? Give us a call at (514) 935-9585
or email us at