Immortality and the Meditationes
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Half-way through the eight month period from December 1640 to August 1641, during which the manuscript of the Meditationes was being prepared for publication in Paris, Descartes sent to the Minim friar, Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), the final section of his replies to the objections of Antoine Arnauld (1612–1694). He had delayed and deliberated over his response to Arnauld’s last point of criticism concerning the compatibility of the theory of res extensa with “the Church’s teaching concerning the most sacred mysteries of the Altar”. Arnauld had deliberately alerted Descartes to the aspect of his philosophy which was likely to give the greatest offence to the theologians.1 In the covering letter which accompanied the text of his response Descartes enthusiastically claimed that he had so successfully demonstrated the compatibility of his philosophy with Church teaching on this sensitive question that from now on the traditional recourse to Aristotelian scholasticism for philosophical explanation of the Eucharist would be effectively undermined. In this letter he drew a sharp distinction between the authentic exercise of church authority, represented by what had been “determined by the Councils”, and the abuse of that authority by those who “confound Aristotle with the Bible”. As an example of this abuse he cited the official condemnation of Galileo issued eight years previously in 1633.
KeywordsHuman Soul Real Distinction Christian Doctrine Immortal Life Official Condemnation
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