Study like Descartes, 4 easy ways to understand it all.

So, who was this René Descartes guy?

Oh, just one of the boys who invented science.

Hmm… so his method gotta be hard, serious stuff, just look at that face. I think I’ll pass.

Fear not my young apprentice, they are only four simple rules anybody can use. One of the good things about René is that he believed good sense was available to all. Anybody can become a scientist, just by thinking the right way.

Rule 1: Do not accept anything as true, unless you have no doubts about it. In other words, make sure you have understood everything. Now, if you haven’t, then note down your doubts.

Rule 2: Split those doubts up in as many simple parts as possible. For example, let’s suppose you have trouble making sense of the following paragraph of the US Constitution:

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate
and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question
of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States;
and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him,
or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of
the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules
and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
You might doubt about things like “Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives”, “question of Adjournment” and “Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill”. Maybe you don’t, but let’s suppose you do. Note them down and list them all. If there is anything else you doubt about too, so list them too.

Rule 2 (Plan B): Once you have your doubts listed, you can ask friends, teachers, parents… search the internet… but that would be lazy and it does not always work. Besides, it is always better to learn to think by yourself. Resort to this method only if you lack time. (And yes this is Miguel’s idea, not Rene’s).

Rule 3. Start to work with the simplest, easiest of those doubts -try searching “adjournment” in a dictionary for example-. Then advance towards the most complex ones -once you know what adjournment is, “question of Adjournment” will be easier to understand.

Rule 4. List what you have done and revise, to make sure you have left no stone unturned. Let me shout at you: THIS IS CRITICAL. At Law I failed one of my tests by not following this rule. I thought I understood a little known Spanish word “enervar”, but I didn’t, so when they asked me about the “enervación de la acción en el deshaucio por falta de pagos según la Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos”, I completely fumbled my answer. I understood it all, but one small, critical word I paid no attention to. So follow my advice and leave no stone unturned.

And that’s that in a nutshell. These rules are still one of the corner stones of scientific work. And the good news is that you can apply them to any area of your life. So go print them and use them asap. You won’t regret it.

(And if you do, please share).

Do you know about any other way to apply the scientific method to common life?