Cartesian Questions

Do you struggle to make decisions? We make many decisions without consciously thinking about it. But what if you have a big, important decision to make? Perhaps about your career, lifestyle, family or something in your work life. Cartesian Questions can be used to evaluate a decision, action, strategy or proposal.

The French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), came up with just four questions that might help. Descartes is widely regarded as an important figure in the emergence of modern philosophy and science.

The core of his Cartesian logic is a set of four simple questions that are useful in evaluating any action or decision. They are:

  1. What would happen if you did X?
  2. What would happen if you didn’t do X?
  3. What won’t happen if you did X?
  4. What won’t happen if you didn’t do X?

Initially these questions may seem repetitive, but they are effective in helping us to understand the consequences of decisions and actions from a much better perspective. They also challenge you to think about things in new ways that you may not have done before, thereby providing fresh and valuable insights.

It’s also a way to loosen up our model of the issue as we begin to examine the limits of our assumptions. I think Albert Einstein (German-born theoretical physicist) put it very well when he said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.

These questions can be used to explore an issue by helping to:

  • Find new solutions and resources.
  • Get a deeper understanding of what motivates the client – what values are in play and what really matters.
  • Identify secondary gains (the benefits to the client of staying just as they are).
  • Identifying limiting beliefs and other areas where they can self-sabotage.

These questions can also be used in a business setting to evaluate an action, strategy, decision or business proposal. It can be used to explore the various consequences of a particular course of action realistically.

Comments are closed.