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BOOK REVIEWS 223 Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) and Mulla Sadra (d. 1640), to name a few, is indicative that Arabic philosophy did not stagnate following Ibn Ruschd. Third, the claim that Arabic philosophy is essentially Islamic (i.e. religious in content) is also misleading, for a closer examination of the texts of the Arab philosophers treated in Fakhry's book would indicate the incorrectness of such identification. One should add, in concluding, that the most balanced textbook on Arabic philosophy, prior to Fakhry's, was that of the Dutchman T. De Boer, which was originally published in German in 1901 and later in an English translation in 1903. To many scholars De Boer's textbook was hailed as one of the first important studies in the field of Arabic philosophy. But be that as it may, Fakhry's book should now be considered the best comprehensive book ever written on the history of Arabic philosophy. ROBERT ELIAS ABU SHANAB The Florida State University An Approach to Descartes" Meditations. By Frederick Broadie. (London: The Athlone Press, University of London, 1970. Pp. x+230. $8.50) This is a thorough commentary on the Meditations and is different from the usual expositions in that it emphasizes the importance of the knowledge of God for knowledge in general. I recommend this analysis to philosophers for serious study, since it seems to me that this point of view is needed for a correct understanding of Descartes and of his "hyperbolic doubting." But instead of reviewing the book I shall make it an occasion for raising a question about the historical environment of these Meditations. They seem to me to have been, at least in part, genuinely religious. They were used by him to impress the theologians at the Sorbonne, and my suggestion is that these theologians said to each other: "More Jansenist propaganda!" Every reader of the Meditations knows that Descartes urgently and repeatedly invites the reader to join him in clearing his mind of all "prejudices." I believe that any reader today, when he reads the following passage from the Third Meditation, will admit that these are undoubtedly prejudices which Descartes himself should have dismissed instead of making them central to his argument: From the sole fact that God created me it is most probable that in some way he has placed his image and similitude upon me, and that I perceive this similitude (in which the idea of God is contained) by means of the same faculty by which I perceive myself.... But I also know that He on whom I depend possesses in Himself all the great things toward which I aspire. It is evident, however, that neither he nor his contemporary critics could regard these "facts" as prejudices. It was psychologically and biologically impossible for them to regard these beliefs as prejudices. They were clearly insights of the divine "light of nature" by which truth is recognized. A look at the philosophical and religious environment in which Descartes lived and conducted himself as ares cogitans provides ample explanation for his inability to doubt these propositions. Like many other youths of his day, at the age of sixteen he ran away from his Jesuit school at La Flb,che and repudiated Thomist scholasticism as "darkness from vain philosophy" (to use Hobbes's phrase). The Jesuits were being put on the defensive by the rising "enthusiasm" of the enlightened. (Descartes refers to himself, as at this 224 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY time of his life, "full of enthusiasm.") The basic faith of this enlightenment was the Augustinian-Platonic doctrine that the inner light of divine grace and of nature makes it possible for passionate human beings, despite the depravity of their wills, to experience a transformation of their "affections" into the love and knowledge of Perfect Being. Such dispassionate, intellectual love of Perfect Being was being preached in popular form, not to learned humanists, as the "simple", most direct "method" of attaining salvation. This language and this faith crops out repeatedly and emphatically in the Meditations, and Descartes does not hesitate to use the technical, theological terms of this pietist faith. Northern France and the Low Countries were full of this kind of "illuminism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 223-224
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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