He composed an initial attempt to articulate his method, the , sometime in the 1620s, but never completed it and left it unpublished at his death.
In 1628 he left Paris for good for the Netherlands, where he lived an anonymous and somewhat nomadic life for several years.
The themes of masks, of secrecy, of a solitary thinker living concealed from the world, run throughout Descartes’ writings.
In an early fragment from his papers, he writes, “I am now about to mount the stage, and I come forward masked.” Or, as he puts it elsewhere, . These recent biographies show that it isn’t easy to pin down what lies behind the mask.
In the early 1630s, he wrote a book of his physics, ), that was Copernican: heliocentric, materialistic, and mechanistic.
Intended for publication in 1633, Descartes suppressed the manuscript when Galileo was punished by the Catholic Church for publishing similar opinions.
Two biographies of Descartes, both helpful and interesting, have recently appeared: one, Desmond Clarke’s , which provides a very accessible account of a mysterious Cartesian manuscript whose significance has only been recognized fairly recently.
All of these books are helpful to have at one’s side when reading the .
Reading his biography is often like reading the letters column of a scientific journal containing a particularly cantankerous dispute over who discovered what first.
Descartes spent much of his life in seclusion, in touch with the outside world only through one trusted correspondent, and was so protective of his privacy that he would sometimes put false addresses on his letters.