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Abstract

Discourse on Method part 3 offers une morale par provision, usually translated as ‘a provisional moral code’. Occasionally it has been questioned that this code is temporary and restricted to those engaged in pure inquiry. We argue that Descartes intends the moral code to be his final ethical position universally applicable. Since the moral code is ‘derived from’ the rules of method, it should have their permanence, holding for the time pure inquiry commences and when it completes the sciences. Moreover, the four moral maxims replace the classical cardinal virtues. Thus they are meant to govern the lives of all persons.