The Concept of Heresy and the Debates on Descartes's Philosophy

Aza Goudriaan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article explores connotations of 'heresy' in theological traditions before and during Descartes's life. Lutheran and Reformed Protestants, themselves considered heretics by the Church of Rome, adopted the patristic heresiology while designating sixteenth-century antitrinitarian and Anabaptist teachings as heresies. Francisco Suárez and Gisbertus Voetius knew the late medieval conceptuality (e.g., Council of Konstanz, 1418). Voetius possibly thought of Descartes when describing certain philosophical views as "smacking of heresy. "This was not, however, an outright charge of heresy. In fact, Descartes's readiness to be corrected contradicted the traditional heretical quality of "stubbornness. "Plempius's expression "Cartesian heresy" seems to have been rare. For anti-Cartesians, the rich vocabulary of error made the complex term 'heresy' easily avoidable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-186
Number of pages15
JournalChurch History and Religious Culture
Issue number2-3
Early online date3 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • confessions of faith
  • Francisco Surez
  • Gisbertus Voetius
  • heresy
  • Jacques Bnigne Bossuet
  • Ren Descartes
  • Vopiscus Fortunatus Plempius


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