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Tag Archives: University of South Florida

Descartes as a Scotist

I post here the second chapter of professor Roger Ariew’s Descartes and the Last Scholastics. Importantly it presents the historical and argumentative support for Descartes haveng significant debt to the Scottist strain of Scholasticism which was dominant in Paris at the time of his education and early life. This adds somewhat to the context of Deleuze’s conclusion that Spinoza was Scotist in thought, and gives added significance to Behan’s and Yolton’s suggestion that due to the scholastic conception of “sign” a representationalist reading of Descartes’ notion of “idea” is not complete.

Descartes and the Scotists

Gilson’s Index

To date, the most substantial works on the intellectual relations between Descartes and his predecessors have been Etienne Gilson’s masterful studies.1 In the Index scolasticocartésien, Gilson catalogued various concepts in Descartes and matching ones in his scholastic predecessors. Gilson’s choice of antecedents was carefully chosen. He compared Descartes’ works with those of Thomas Aquinas, the Jesuits of the University of Coimbra, Francisco Suarez, Franciscus Toletus, Antonius Rubius, and Eustachius a Sancto Paulo.2 As Gilson indicated in his introduction to the Index scolastico-cartésien, the teaching at Descartes’ Jesuit college, La Flèche, was based on Saint Thomas, and Descartes continued to consult Thomas throughout his life. Further, Descartes became acquainted at La Flèche with the works of the Coimbran Jesuits, Toletus, and Rubius. Gilson defended the choice of Suarez by indicating that Descartes was familiar with his work-that Suarez’s Disputationes metaphysicae was basically the handbook in metaphysics for Descartes’ teachers. Read more of this post