Descartes, Cartesianism, and Theology

A. Goudriaan

    Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


    While insisting on the need to separate theology from philosophy, Descartes developed a philosophical theology that was intensely debated in the early modern period. This article asks the question how the receptions of Cartesian philosophy were related to different confessional profiles. Confessional controversies certainly played a role: some feared that Cartesian philosophy was inspired by Jesuits, while others accused it of supporting Calvinism. Descartes’s theory of transubstantiation could never obtain trans-confessional consent. Still, the reactions to Cartesian philosophy reveal significant trans-confessional agreements. Cartesianism, it seems, was only loosely related to confessional specifics. Jansenists and Cocceians apparently had only few specifically theological reasons for espousing Cartesianism. Supporters of Cartesian ideas were found across the confessional spectrum. In a parallel way, critics of Descartes from Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed backgrounds alike made theological objections against Cartesian notions such as doubt, the dualism of thinking and extension, and an indefinitely extended world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800
    EditorsUlrich Lehner, Richard A. Muller, Gregory Roeber
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherOxford University press
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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