Problems of Cartesianism

Problems of Cartesianism

Thomas M. Lennon
John M. Nicholas
John W. Davis
Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 260
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    Problems of Cartesianism
    Book Description:

    The typical Cartesian collection contains papers which treat the problems arising out of Descartes's philosophy as though they and it appeared for the first time in a recent journal. The approach of this collection is quite different. The eight contributors concentrate on problems faced by Cartesianism which are of historical significance. Without denigrating the importance of the technique of exploiting the texts in a manner that appeals to contemporary philosophical interests, the contributors show how Cartesianism was shaped over time by the criticism it received. This criticism took place in many areas - politics, theology, natural science, and metaphysics - and its scope is reflected in this collection of papers. The efforts of advocates of Cartesianism to produce a biography of Descartes, and the political difficulties they faced, are no less a part of the problems of Cartesianism than are the difficulties alleged against the Cartesian ontology of thought and extension in accounting for transubstatiation. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theories of the formation of the earth, for example, were historically part of the same set of problems as the difficulties in Bible criticism. These significant issues and many others are discussed in this volume.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6396-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editors’ Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Thomas M. Lennon, John M. Nicholas and John W. Davis

    Intellectual movements, as the expression felicitously represents, are not static, but are transformed in response to the criticism of their opponents, and the natural eagerness of their proponents to extend their scope. Cartesianism did not, of course, restrict its concern solely to the problems immediately suggested by thePrincipia Philosophiae. It is only to be expected that it would have been pushed and drawn into a variety of new domains. The wide range of topics addressed by the papers in this volume amply confirms this expectation.

    An example is the effect of Cartesianism on the warfare between science and religion....

  4. Adrien Baillet and the Genesis of His Vie de M. Des-Cartes
    (pp. 9-60)
    Gregor Sebba

    Anti-Cartesianism is not just a philosophical, scientific, and theological issue; it is also, and above all, a political phenomenon, as Professor Walter E. Rex pointed out in the 1974 Symposium on Anti-Cartesianism. It would be surprising if it were otherwise. No great philosopher before Hegel had Descartes’s conviction and awareness of being a decisive thinker at the threshold of a new era for humankind, a shaper of the future. His evasive maneuvers in the sea of politics are an embarrassment to the student of his philosophy who would prefer him to have stuck to his guns instead of throwing some...

  5. Cartesianism and Biblical Criticism
    (pp. 61-82)
    Richard H. Popkin

    Two of the major intellectual developments of the seventeenth century were (1) the launching of “the new philosophy” with Descartes’s presentation of his method for overcoming skepticism and his construction of the new metaphysical basis for science, and (2) the unfolding of the theological consequences of a historical and critical approach to the Bible. Modern philosophy issuing from Cartesianism and modern irreligion issuing from Bible criticism became two of the central ingredients in the making of the modern mind, the “enlightened” scientific and rational outlook. These two movements, though developing at the same time and often through the activities of...

  6. Bayle, Jurieu, and the Politics of Philosophy: A Reply to Professor Popkin
    (pp. 83-94)
    Walter E. Rex

    I am most impressed with the scope of erudition of Professor Popkin’s paper. I would not dream of attacking his boldly conceived, strongly buttressed, plausible-seeming thesis from the front. But perhaps I may be permitted a rather small-scale flanking operation from one side. Eventually my remarks will bear upon the French Protestants who were discussed in what seems to me a somewhat doubtful perspective by Professor Popkin. I will be particularly concerned with his treatment of Pierre Bayle. But, with the reader’s permission, my point of departure is not going to be Professor Popkin’s learned, if occasionally departure is not...

  7. The Cartesian Model and Its Role in Eighteenth-Century “Theory of the Earth”
    (pp. 95-112)
    Jacques Roger

    It is somewhat difficult to determine what the place of Descartes in seventeenth-century scientific life really was. In the domain of mathematics and physics, and especially of optics, things are quite clear, and the role of Descartes may be considered as important. In cosmology and biology, things are anything but clear. Descartes’s cosmology was generally defined by contemporary scientists as “a romance of nature,” and it was said that hisTraité de l’hommedealt with “man as created by Mr. Descartes” (“l’homme de Mr. Descartes‘) rather than with man as he really exists in nature. And Descartes himself would have...

  8. The Role of Hypotheses in Descartes’s and Buffon’s Theories of the Earth
    (pp. 113-126)
    François Duchesneau

    After Professor Jacques Roger’s brilliant paper, I think it would be interesting to set in a slightly different light the Cartesian theory on the formation and nature of the earth: that is, to throw into relief the epistemological problems this theory implies. The second part of my comments will consist in an account of the tenets on which Buffon builds his natural history of the earth.

    Descartes is perfectly aware that the new astronomy has a subversive character in the case of the object earth. Thus he rejects the opinion of those who believe “that the earth is the principal...

  9. Transubstantiation among the Cartesians
    (pp. 127-148)
    Richard A. Watson

    It is worthwhile to consider a very specific reason (as contrasted to the general epistemological reasons I examine inThe Downfall of Cartesianism)¹ for the decline and fall of Cartesianism.² Like the problems considered therein, it is a difficulty Cartesians get into because of their adherence to ontological dualism. It also stems from Descartes’s desire to be all things to all disciplines. Certainly in the history of modern philosophy few philosophers have been so egotistic and ambitious as René Descartes. During that stretch of time extending between Aristotle and Hegel, no other philosopher takes so personally as his own province...

  10. Transubstantiation: Test Case for Descartes’s Theory of Space
    (pp. 149-170)
    Ronald Laymon

    Fortunately for the enthusiast of Cartesian philosophy, Descartes’s attempts to specify the nature of the miracle of transubstantiation were no mere excursions into theological badlands. His attempts to provide a specification or account consistent with his more general views concerning space, matter, and explanation resulted in a Cartesian distillate that defined very well many of the basic difficulties with those more basic views. Transubstantiation, despite its miraculous status, therefore afforded an excellent test case for the coherence of Descartes’s own special version of the new science. My principal aim in this paper is to analyze the logical structure of Descartes’s...

  11. Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata: Henry More (1646–1671)
    (pp. 171-250)
    Alan Gabbey

    According toThe Oxford English Dictionary, it was the Cambridge Platonist Henry More who first introduced the term “Cartesianism” into the English language. The linguistic innovation is of more than antiquarian interest. It reminds us of one important aspect of the career of Cartesian philosophy in England. Though probably not the first to introduce Descartes to English readers,¹ More, through his teaching at Christ’s College, his published writings, and his correspondence, played a major part in intensifying English interest in Descartes’s thought during the 1650s and 1660s, and helped to create a fashion among his fellow-countrymen for the discussion of...

  12. Index
    (pp. 251-253)