Navigate / search

Invisible Colleges and Owning Our Common Intellectual Heritage

The 17th century holds an important history in the development of thought.  It saw people like Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes formulate questioning ways of thinking in our world, encouraging and establishing cultures of exploring the world in which we live, and cultivating a personal relationship with the knowledge of the universe. They confronted the taboo of personal ownership of knowledge through the embracing of skepticism – the need to query the things we have been told and think we know are true – and the application of their efforts to question the ‘regimes of truth’ (a phrase which Professor Penny Jane Burke coins) which existed in their time, as now.

Rene Descartes is a critical figure in modern Western philosophy who lived from 1596 to 1650. His skeptic methodology deeply affected Western cultures and set the scene for more open intellectual enquiry. Through formulating his famous method of doubt he shifted the debate from “what is true” to “of what can I be certain?”.  To this he is best known for the philosophical statement is “Cogito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am”.  This provided a revolutionary basis for the questioning of traditions of thinking which had stretched across the medievel period. Read more