Rene Descartes's 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy is a cornerstone of the history of western thought. One of the most important philosophical texts ever written, it is also a masterclass in the art of critical thinking - specifically when it comes to reasoning and interpretation.
Descartes sought to do nothing less than create a new foundation for the pursuit of knowledge - whether philosophical, scientific, or theological. To that end, he laid out a systematic programme that reinterpreted prior definitions of knowledge, and reasoned out a systematic means of obtaining, verifying, and building on existing human knowledge. To this end, Descartes created a definition of true knowledge as that which is based on things which cannot be called into doubt by radical scepticism. If, he suggests, we can find a belief that cannot be called into doubt, this will provide a solid foundation upon which we can build systematic reasoning. This `cartesian' method, as it has come to be known, is a blueprint for reasoning that continues to shape the study of philosophy today: a careful weighing of possibilities, searching out solid ground and building on it step by step.