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BOOK REVIEWS 131 in justifying the rationality of Cartesian science, this is a possibility which he would do well to try to foreclose. LYNN S. JoY University of Notre Dame Richard H. Popkin, Isaac La Peyr~re (,596-I676): His Life, Work, and Influence. Leiden: Brili, 1987. Pp. x + 241. $56.~5 . Readers of the Journal of the History of Philosophy have long known the broad scope and distinctive style of Richard Popkin, combining narrative 61an with a sleuth's tenacity and keen nose for significant detail. It was Popkin, for example, who brought to light the racialist theses of Hume and Kant (in The High Road to Pyrrhonism). In recent years he has turned from the history of philosophical scepticism to that of the millenarian movements which played a remarkable role in his beloved seventeenth century, delving , for instance, into the significance of Isaac Newton's long engagement with the study of history as evidence of God's providential governance of the world, ~and, in a forthcoming essay,~ showing how early readers of Spinoza's Ethica found kabbalistic themes in his response to Cartesian dualism. Here he traces the life and thought of Isaac La Peyr6re, and the fate of the idea he made famous: the thesis that Adam was not the ancestor of all humanity. Isaac was born in Bordeaux to a wealthy Calvinist couple, quite possibly of Marrano origin. Suspected of heretical notions while still a young attorney and practically a newlywed, he was cleared after the intervention of some sixty pastors called on by his family to attest to his good character and sound doctrine. By 164o the family influence and his own good report brought him to Paris as secretary to the Prince de Cond6, whose coterie included Mersenne, Gassendi, La Mothe le Vayer, Pascal, Grotius, and probably Thomas Hobbes. Stimulated by his conversations with the Prince and this illustrious circle, he wrote a book, dedicated to Richelieu, who "carefully" saw that it was banned. Mersenne showed the manuscript around, and Grotius refuted the unpublished claim that the inhabitants of America were not of the seed of Adam, by arguing that Northmen had found their way to America and populated the land. He referred to La Peyr~re's thesis obliquely as what "one in France lately dreamed" and called it "a great danger imminent to religion." Setting aside his "prae-Adamite" preoccupation for the time, La Peyr~re diligently extracted an equally controversial claim from his manuscript and published Du Rapel desJuifs anonymously in 1643, the year of Richelieu's death. The book argues kabbalis- ' See "Newton's Biblical Theology and His Theological Physics," in P. B. Scheurer and G. Debrock, eds., Newton's Scientific and PhilosophicalLegacv (Boston: Kluwer, x988), 81-97; Isaac Newton, The Chronologyof Ancient KingdomsAmended (London, 1728) and Obseroationsupon the PropheciesofDanieland theApocalypseofSt.John (London, 1733). "Spinoza, Neoplatonic Kabbalist?" in L. E. Goodman, ed., NeoplatonismandJewish Thought, (SUNY Press, forthcoming). 132 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29: I JANUARY 1991 tically that God's "recall" of the Jews will take place in France and will be followed by their return to Palestine, led by the King of France, who will rule the world from a rebuilt Jerusalem, ushering in the Messianic Age. No antichrist is mentioned, and no attempt is made to calculate the date of the epochal events. But a rabbi in Constantinople reportedly had said that a future king of France had been born in 1588. That was the year of birth of the Prince de Cond6's father. Small wonder that La Peyr~re showed no interest in the messianic claims of Sabhatai Sevi.3 La Peyr/~re's heretical theses were ingeniously strung together. The Hebrew Bible tells the story not of humanity at large, but only of the Jews. Thus Adam was the ancestor of the Jews, and the rest of humanity had their own descent. The once-chosen people had fallen from grace (thus their historic sufferings), but would be restored. The awaited conversion of the Jews would be accomplished not in apocalyptic wars but by the abandonment of their persecution and the theological reformation of Christianity , so that Jews could see the congruence of its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 131-135
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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