Descartes is considered the father of modern philosophy. His principle goal was to be completely in control of his life. This meant that he had to become independent in all aspects of life including, economically, intellectually and socially. His desire to gain self independence is the driving theme of his work, Discourse on Method. He starts off his first two parts dealing with his stride toward intellectual independence and how that pertains to his mind and education. .
Descartes was skeptical when it came to his education. He understood the value of being "book smart", yet also knew that there was more to intelligence than that. Experience was a key factor in Descartes self sufficiency. He feels that he "mastered" (page 3) all he set out to teach himself but still was unsure of his results due to his increased and newly discovered ignorance. This is the beginning of Descartes" desire for independence. He follows this discovery with the decision to decide what is important and worth retaining and what is not. Descartes emphasizes the importance of self-shaping, saying that when students take in all their teachers tell them, and then grow to become authority figures themselves, the students just reiterate the old, out of date lessons taught years before.
Part Two of the Discourse on Method discusses Descartes desire to rebuild his mind. In order to do this, Descartes removes himself from family and friends and imitates a non-confrontational and conformist member of society, as to not draw any attention to himself. The only part of life he continues to practice is his religion since it is something that he feels comfortable doing. Descartes uses the idea that the mind is a house and the minds of many people are the city. The make-up of one house, mind, is larger based on the make-up of the surrounding houses, or other people's minds. According to Descartes, " buildings undertaken and completed by a single architect are usually more attractive and better ordered than those which many architects using old walls built for other purposes (page 7).