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  • Descartes and the First Cartesians Revisited
  • Roger Ariew

I am grateful that a set of fine scholars would be willing to reflect upon and write about Descartes and the First Cartesians. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and, on the whole, their observations are sound. It should be evident that I do not consider the work to be the final word on the subject of Descartes and Cartesians, that is, something exhaustive of it or complete for any of its topics. In fact, every time I reconsider an issue from my book, I find that there is more to be said even in respect to what I wrote about in great detail (see, for example, Ariew 2015 and Forthcoming a, b, c). I will reply to the commentators in the following order: 1. Domenico Collacciani; 2. Lucian Petrescu; 3. Martine Pécharman; 4. Sophie Roux; and 5. Tad Schmaltz.1


1. Domenico Collacciani should be acknowledged for his fine presentation of the volume; I could not have done it better myself. What I liked most about the exposition is his appreciation of the reasons that drove me to begin the volume with a chapter on the institutional context of seventeenth-century scholasticism and another on the contents of late scholastic textbooks. I hesitated to include the obscure and challenging scholastic doctrines in a book about Descartes and Cartesianism, thinking that such accounts would not be to many people's tastes, but I keep in mind Descartes' response to Thomas Hobbes when he complained about the doubts Descartes raised in Meditation I. Hobbes said, "I would have preferred the author, so very distinguished in the realm of new speculations, not to have published these old things." And Descartes replied he would not have omitted them "any more than a medical writer could omit a description of a disease whose method of treatment he is trying to teach" (Descartes 1969, vii, pp. 172–73). I think in a loosely comparable vein that one could not omit [End Page 599] a description of seventeenth-century scholasticism in an attempt to understand Cartesian scholasticism.

I also very much esteemed the conclusion of Collacciani's essay and, in particular, his setting Descartes and the First Cartesians into the context of the earlier Descartes and the Last Scholastics (Ariew 1999), as an implied criticism of Etienne Gilson's work on Descartes and scholasticism. While Gilson's work should be admired and respected, his conception of scholasticism was too limiting: his Index scolastico-cartésien was really too much of an Index thomistico-cartésien.2


2. Lucian Petrescu raises the question of the status of logic in the early modern period. He argues that Cartesian logic, that is, what is found in the Rules, belongs to a new genre he calls the "art of discourse (ars disserendi)." Petrescu argues that the Rules would be setting itself up as a competitor to Aristotelian logic within the new genre. He considers the possibility that the art of discourse arose from Petrus Ramus' logic, but rejects the thesis, thinking that it more likely emerged from discussions internal to Aristotelian logic, a development of an older view that logic deals with mental operations. In the process we are treated to Franco Burgersdijk's perspectives on the status of logic in 1626 and a discussion of the Coimbran Jesuits' preliminary questions on dialectics as a science. This leads Petrescu to some fine investigative work on the source for the Aristotelian art of discourse, identified as a commentary on the Prior Analytics collected in the Wadding edition of the works of John Duns Scotus and referred to as Scotist by Claude Frassen. The pseudo-Scotist position, that the object of logic is concerned with mental acts, not things and concepts, appropriates some of the discussion from Book III of the De anima to conceptualize the Organon. As a result of this position, there was an explosion of logic textbooks organized around the three operations of the understanding.

Although Petrescu shows that the view predates the publication of Eustachius a Sancto Paulo's Summa, I still hold the (defeasible) thesis that Eustachius was the first textbook author to structure a logic text...


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