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                                            A History of Early Modern Philosophy 


                  DESCARTES TO KANT





                                                      Paul Gerard Horrigan





                                             COPYRIGHT © 2004 By Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D, All Rights Reserved.

                                   This HTML edition is provided free for noncommercial and educational use.










1. Descartes


2. Malebranche


3. Spinoza


4. Leibniz


5. Pascal


6. Bacon


7. Hobbes


8. Locke


9. Berkeley


10. Hume


11. Rousseau


12. Kant










From renaissance humanism and Cartesian rationalism onwards to Immanuel Kant, modern philosophy’s main characteristics that distinguish it from medieval philosophy are essentially the following:


1. The shift from theocentrism (fundamental characteristic of the medieval epoch) to anthropocentrism. God-centeredness is gradually transformed into a radical man-centeredness, wherein man achieves salvation and supreme wisdom by means of human reason alone. “The cultural significance of rationalism,” notes the great French Thomist Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), “implies an anthropocentric naturalism of wisdom; and what optimism! It is a doctrine of necessary progress, of salvation by science and by reason; I mean, temporal and worldly salvation of humanity by reason alone, which, thanks to the principles of Descartes, will lead man to felicity, to ‘that highest degree of wisdom in which the sovereign good of human life consists’ (he wrote it himself in the preface to the French translation of the Principles) – in giving man full mastery over nature and over his nature; and, as the Hegelians were to add two centuries later, over his history. As if reason by itself alone was capable of making men act reasonably and of securing the good of peoples! There is no worse delusion. On the balance-sheet we should inscribe: rupture of the impulse which was directing all the labor of human science towards the eternal, toward conversation which the three divine Persons – upsetting the élan of knowledge. Knowledge does not aspire to do more than give man the means of domesticating matter. The sole retreat remaining for the spiritual will be science’s reflection upon itself. And doubtless, that is indeed something of spiritual but of an autophagus spiritual. To delude oneself with the thought that the idealistic ruminating of physics and mathematics is enough to force the gates to the kingdom of God, to introduce man to wisdom and to freedom, to transform him into a fire of love burning for all eternity, is psychological childishness and metaphysical humbug. Man becomes spiritualized only by joining with a spiritual and eternal living One. There is only one spiritual life which does not mislead – that which the Holy Spirit bestows. Rationalism is the death of spirituality.”[1]       


2. The separation of faith and reason, philosophy and theology. One observes, in the modern epoch, the absolute autonomy of philosophical research from sacred theology (which is denied its rightful status as a science and relegated to the realm of myth or superstition). The very harmony between faith and reason, between philosophy and theology, has been shattered. An authentically Christian way of doing philosophy has been destroyed.[2] With the willful rejection of this harmony, at first seen in the decadent scholasticism of the nominalist brand, but given its most powerful support with the immanentist revolution authored by Descartes, one observes a progressive darkening of human reason’s capacity for truth. No longer does sacred theology provide a negative rule for philosophy, preserving it from the manifold gnoseological and ontological aberrations that proud man, wounded by original sin, is so prone to fall into (e.g., pantheism, idealism, monism, agnosticism, atheism). “Unassisted reason,” Maritain explains, “can indeed avoid error on any particular point whatsoever within the sphere of philosophy, but in view of the weakness of human nature it is unable without the assistance of grace to avoid error on some point or other; that is to say, without a special grace or the negative control of revelation and theology it cannot achieve a perfect human wisdom.”[3] Speaking of Descartes’ separation of faith and reason, philosophy and theology, the French Thomist writes: “Philosophy by its very object is quite distinct from faith and from theology. It is strictly of the natural and rational order. But in the subject, in the human soul, it is fortified and illuminated by the superior virtues with which it is in vital continuity, integrated to the great movement of love, which carries the soul toward the vision of its Creator. With Descartes, everything changes. This distinction achieved in coherence and dynamic solidarity becomes separation, isolation – and soon even opposition. Philosophy is sufficient absolutely and unto itself alone in the soul; not only is its object of the natural order, but to all intents and purposes it demands that its subject as such be cut off from all supernatural life, cut off from itself as Christian. Hence is explained the absurd myth from which we are still sufffering, of a man presumably in the pure state of nature in order to philosophize, who crowns himself with grace in order to merit heaven. The crown will not be long in falling away like a useless accessory. The man of nature – of fallen nature – will remain. The Cartesian revolution has been a process of secularization of wisdom. As evidence for Descartes is a quality of our ideas – ideas which constitute science only if they are purely and absolutely luminous, and which we should sort out in order to discard everything that is obscure – a total antinomy exists henceforth between intellection and mystery. On the one hand, the pure geometrical light and the pure light of the cogito; on the other, an impenetrable darkness. From the world of matter, which is beneath thought, thought must drive out absolutely all obscurity. Above it, it must acknowledge the obscurity of things divine; but woe to it if it tries to venture there…a science of mystery is henceforth impossible…Descartes denied the possibility of theology as science; the only science, the only wisdom, was it not natural wisdom – philosophy? A century and a half later Kant, as though to punish that pride, will deny in his turn the possibility of metaphysics as science. Contempt for theology, that is, for the most exalted use that man can make of speculative reason, in familiarizing it with things pertaining to deity – contempt for theology was the first resignation, and the first betrayal, of Christian intelligence.”[4]    


3. A pluralism, not just of method as was the case in the Middle Ages, but primarily a pluralism with regard to the very content studied by philosophy. With the exception of a few radicals, medieval philosophers and theologians did not adhere to a radical pluralism of content because they were believing Christians and could not doubt the Faith. Thus, they defended, for example, the harmony between faith and reason, the possibility of arriving at certain truth, the immortality of the soul, and the existence and transcendence of an Infinite God. The modern philosophers (imbued with the spirit of immanentism), for the most part, did not share this overwhelming consensus. They taught, for example, an absolute autonomy of philosophy from theology (the latter not anymore providing a negative rule for the former). Free from the constraints of the Christian Faith the modern philosophers now felt free to sustain just about any philosophical position that seemed rational to them. Thus, in the modern epoch, we encounter systems that affirm and deny the existence of God, the creation of the world, the immortality of the soul, human freedom, and the moral law.


4. Immanentism (the engine of modern philosophy), opposed to an authentic gnoseological and ontological transcendence, resulting in: agnosticism and atheism, the denial of objective truth, and the denial of objective morality. A detailed treatment of this revolutionary principle conceived by the author of the Discourse on Method will be given shortly.


5. The progressive disinterestedness and even elimination of metaphysics as first philosophy, first with the mathematicism of Descartes and later with the Kantian dismissal of metaphysics as a “transcendental illusion.” The reign of an authentic realist metaphysics of being is ended in favor of the regimes of the secondary philosophical disciplines or any one of the particular sciences. Instead of metaphysics (the science of being qua being) as first philosophy, the immanentists make sciences like logic, mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, etc., take its place as regina of the purely human sciences (which is the death of ontology). What properly belongs to the field of the secondary sciences is exalted as philosophia prima. With the Cartesian revolt mathematics dethrones metaphysics, while in the case of Kant’s transcendental idealism, Newtonian physics usurps ontology.     


6. The dominance of technical-instrumental knowledge over philosophical-sapiential knowledge, the former progressively suffocating the latter. The technical-instrumental knowledge which man is capable of permits him to dominate the object at hand and to orient himself in his own environment. Such a knowledge guarantees his survival in an often hostile environment; it also enables him to satisfy his most basic needs. It is a practical knowledge which produces concepts, intuits the various relations between things and ideas, grasps the real order of the physical world in which man operates in, always with the objective of dominating and controlling the forces of nature. What role do concepts and words play as regards technical-instrumental knowledge? They become man’s powerful instruments to tame and master the visible cosmos. In contrast, the philosophical-sapiential knowledge that we are capable of developing is not concerned with the practical use of words and concepts for the domination of the forces of nature and for the acquisition of creature comforts; rather, it endeavours to grasp the first principles and ultimate causes of all things. It seeks to fathom the profound significance of human existence, the immortality of the human soul, the reality of death, and the eternal destiny of the human person. This cognitive dimension utilizes terms and notions, not in order to mold raw nature into products of consumption, but to know the Last End of man and the Ultimate End and First Cause of the entire universe.


What has transpired during the last few centuries, especially during the last hundred years or so? The development to a very high degree of the technical-instrumental knowledge, reinforced by the awesome and mind-boggling accomplishments of science and technology, has to a great extent underdeveloped, and one can even say suppressed, the other dimensions of the human intelligence, above all the most important type of knowledge which must guide and direct the other types of knowledge: man’s philosophical-sapiential knowledge. Thus, contemporary man is capable of constructing nuclear submarines, newer and faster supersonic jet-fighters, hundred-storey steel and glass skyscrapers, and can provide the average consumer with fifty different types of beers to choose from. On the other hand, our same contemporary man remains confused and baffled by the most basic questions of human existence, the real value of human life, the real meaning of freedom (which cannot ever be separated from the truth and the good), and the problems of death, suffering, immortality, and eternity. Unless the man of today begins to develop his philosophical-sapiential knowledge to a level sufficient to theocentrically guide and prudently govern his practical know-how, he will continue to witness ethical nightmares, wholesale violations of human rights, murders and social chaos, and a wallowing in the sickening mire of pragmatism, secular humanism, nihilism, and relativism that continues to destroy men and societies who have forsaken their God.


In the encyclical Fides et Ratio (On Faith and Reason), Pope John Paul II described the scourge of nihilism afflicting contemporary man: “As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilist interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definitive commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional (…) the nihilist interpretation…is at once the denial of all foundations and the negation of all objective truth. Quite apart from the fact that it conflicts with the demands and the content of the word of God, nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity. This in turn makes it possible to erase from the countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope. Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free. Truth and freedom either go hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”[5]           


7. The primacy of praxis over theory, action over contemplation, the horizontal over the vertical outlook in life. In his book Leisure the Basis of Culture, the German philosopher Josef Pieper (1904-1997) points out that “there is a direct path from Francis Bacon, who said, ‘Knowledge is power,’ that the value of all knowing lies in the provision of human life with new discoveries and helps, to Descartes, who in his Discourse on Method explicitly formulated the polemical program to replace the old ‘theoretical’ philosophy with a new ‘practical’ one, through which we make ourselves ‘the Lords and Masters of nature’[6] – from there the road leads directly into the well-known saying of Karl Marx, that up until his time philosophy saw its task as one of interpreting the world, but that now its task was to change the world. This is the path along which the self-destruction of philosophy has travelled: through the destruction of its theoretical character, a destruction which in turn rests upon habitually seeing the world as the raw material of human activity. When the world is no longer looked upon as creation, there can no longer be theoria in the full sense. And with the fall of theoria, the freedom of philosophy falls as well, and what comes in its place is the functionalizing, the making it into something ‘practical,’ oriented toward a legitimation by its social function; what comes to the fore is the working character of philosophy, or of philosophy so-called. Meanwhile, our thesis (which can now be more clearly formulated), maintains that it is of the nature of the philosophical act, to transcend the world of work (in fact, it expressly presumes it as something necessary), but it maintains that true philosophy rests upon the belief that the real wealth of man lies not in the satisfaction of his necessities, nor, again, in ‘becoming lords and masters of nature,’ but rather in being able to understand what is – the whole of what is. Ancient philosophy says that this is the utmost fulfillment to which we can attain: that the whole order of real things be registered in our soul[7] – a conception which in Christian tradition was taken up into the concept of the beatific vision: ‘What do they not see, who look upon Him, Who sees all?’[8][9]


8. An a priori rejection of one’s philosophical heritage, received traditions, an overall despising of scholastic realism (e.g., the Cartesian universal doubt, Humean skepticism, the Kantian ‘Copernican Revolution’). The once revered articles of the Christian Faith are despised as infantile tales and myths of an unenlightened age, and scholastic realism is contemptuously dismissed as archaic and useless by the new revolutionaries. Maritain observes: “The most deep-seated characteristic of the Cartesian reform is more than anything else, in my opinion, one of disjunction and rupture. St. Thomas brings together, Descartes cleaves and separates, and this in the most violently dogmatic way. The most apparent of these cleavages, the most obvious for the public at large, the least typical for the philosopher, is the break with intellectual tradition…Descartes’ continuity with Scholasticism, with a Scholasticism itself considerably abased, is, indeed, a material continuity. In the order of formal and decisive characteristics, he breaks with it, completely reversing its movement of thought. And the fact remains that the example he gave of making a clean sweep and finding out everything by himself all over again (supposedly by himself alone) is the part of his work best retained by his successors…Every modern philosopher is a Cartesian in the sense that he looks upon himself as starting off in the absolute, and as having the mission of bringing men a new conception of the world.”[10]   


9. Human freedom is progressively seen merely as a kind of pure self-determination in front of possible objects to choose from, a pure capacity for choice divorced from the true and the good, or, as is the case with Spinozian monism, freedom is denied outright (determinism). Gone is the affirmation of true freedom as the willing and doing of the true and the good consonant with the natural and eternal law. 


Other differences between modern and medieval philosophy of lesser import:


1. The medieval thinkers who composed philosophical treatises were primarily theologians and ecclesiastics, while the modern philosophers were not theologians and were laymen rather than ecclesiastics (with the notable exceptions of Malebranche and Berkeley, but their genius and influence is nowhere on the level of Descartes and Kant, for example, who were both lay philosophers).   


2. Almost all the works of medieval philosophy were written in Latin, whereas one finds finds, in the modern epoch, a progressive transition from the use of Latin (e.g., Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) to the widespread adoption of the vernacular in philosophical works (e.g., English for Locke and Hume, French for Rousseau, and German for Kant).


3. A great number of philosophical works in the Middle Ages were commentaries (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentaries on the philosophical works of Aristotle, Boethius, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite), whereas most of the philosophical productions of modern philosophy were intended by their authors to be original and independent treatises, usually purporting to reveal a novel way of viewing things, and often claiming to solve all the problems of mankind. One observes, for example, that Descartes’ original title for what was later to become the Discourse on Method was Le project d’une science universelle qui puisse éléver notre nature a son plus haut degré de perfection (Project for a Universal Science Capable of Raising our Nature to Its Highest Degree of Perfection).[11] 


4. Most of the authors of philosophical works in the medieval period were university professors, while most of those in the modern period (till the advent of Kant) were not. Descartes, for example, never occupied a university chair. Spinoza was a recluse, refusing a position at the university of Heidelberg as he thought it would interfere with his freedom and studies. The German rationalist Leibniz likewise refused a professorship and was very much a man of affairs. The English empiricist John Locke held minor posts in the state and the radical empiricist David Hume never acquired a university chair, even though he eagerly tried to do so for financial reasons. Most all of the Enlightenment philosophes were men of letters with philosophical interests rather than salaried lecturers at university halls. Thus, we find that the overwhelming majority of the philosophical works penned in the early modern period up to the time of Immanuel Kant were composed outside the university system.  


The Eclipse of the Sacred and the Rise of Secularization


Secularization refers to that activity which affirms the complete autonomy of man and the world from God, assigning to the human creature the authority which previously had been ascribed to the Creator. It is a type of thinking and way of acting wherein God is left out of man’s affairs; human existence and the unfolding of history is comprehended as something that has nothing to do with God’s providence and intervention. For the secularized man, the affairs of the world are to be pursued without having recourse to God, without once stopping to ask what, in fact, is the Will of the Almighty at the present moment. The world has undoubtedly undergone a vast secularization in the modern epoch, in stark contrast to the preceding Catholic Christian epoch of sacralized Theocentrism (the times of great Catholic minds like St. Bonaventure, St. Albert the Great, and St. Thomas Aquinas). Our contemporary age has seen the almost total obliteration of every trace of the sacred in practically every form of cultural expression.


Secularization is the expulsion of the sacred from the world. That which pertains to the divine and supernatural is transformed, in the process of secularization, into the worldly, mundane, and purely natural sphere. What is rightfully divine is secularized, that is, naturalized and humanized, and what is but human and natural becomes, in Pelagian and pantheistic terms, “divinized.”


Secularization can also be described as the passage from a vertical understanding of reality to a purely horizontal comprehension of man, cosmos, and history. It is a mind set that considers all things within the enclosed sphere of a rationalized, worldly, and purely natural gnosis, with the total exclusion of Revelation, sacred theology, revealed religion, and Holy Church. It is a declaration of the emancipation of man, world, and history from the bonds of the true Lord of History: God.


The modern epoch is a secular epoch. Its reference point is not nature or the cosmos as it had been in Ancient Greece and Rome, nor is it the Trinitarian God, as was the case during the Catholic Middle Ages. Rather, it has man occupying the center stage. It is unabashedly anthropocentric. Man arrogantly attempts to dethrone the Supreme Being as Lord of History, setting himself up as master of the universe. From now on, man himself will be the final arbiter of good and evil, life and death, of right and wrong. 


Man feels that he has come of age, that he is mature enough to do things on his own, to resolve all philosophical, ethical, and political problems without recourse to his Maker. Self-sufficient man reasons that the immature, infantile, fearful man of centuries past – that  pathetic, camel-like weakling –  humbled himself before his God in times of pestilence, war, social chaos, and the manifold uncertainties of his miserable existence. But a paradigm shift has occurred. He now feels certain that it is merely sufficient to have recourse to man himself, and he only, for each and every solution to the problems facing the world. Thus, he turns to the experts: the doctors, the politicians, the psychologists, the sociologists, the economists, the educators; in short, the “experts,” supremely confident that the present times are sotto controllo and that the future will be his to fashion like docile, clay putty in his hands. He conjures up elaborate strategies to be realized with the sole force of human reason and will power, without once pausing to find out if such designs conform to the Will of God or not.


With the passage of time, the modern epoch distanced itself from God and ended up in irreligiosity, agnosticism, and theoretical and practical atheism. Reference to God became censored from the public square, political discourse,  legislation, and from education by the regimes of anthropocentric relativism. The wondrous scientific and technological discoveries of the last few centuries have expanded man’s ego to planetary proportions. All problems would be automatically solved solely by means of science and technology, and all questions to be judged meaningful are to be answered by means of empirical verification and scientific experimentation. Enunciations that fail the test of empirical verifiability are judged to be non-sensical, meaningless verbiage. Thus, propositions like “God exists” and “The human soul is immortal” are, for the anthropocentric positivist, meaningless – not true or false – rather, they are nonsensical for they violate the principle of verifiability. The problem with this method is that the principle of verifiability itself (which states that all meaningful propositions must be verifiable in empirical experience) is unverifiable in sense experience, it being a metaphysical principle grasped by means of the intellect (something animals can’t accomplish, being brutes devoid of reason).       


Positive and Negative Aspects of the Modern Epoch


There were many positive characteristics of the modern epoch, such as the progress of the empirical sciences and the development of mathematical physics which have contributed immensely to the bettering of the material conditions of the human person. We have effectively doubled the average life span of a man and a woman since the close of the Middle Ages. The creature comforts that only royal courts were privileged to have in the medieval epoch are now the comforts of the average person in the developed countries of the First World. Indeed, a better empirical knowledge of the physical world and the adoption of various methods of empirical research for the production of better machines and medicines are good and noble endeavors. Also, the rediscovery of the poetry, art, architecture, literature and law of the Greek and Roman civilizations were magnificent accomplishments. However, there were also many negative characteristics of the modern epoch which should be brought to light, such as the following:


1. Formalism, or the preoccupation and exaltation of form over content, of rhetorical style over the substance and deeper meaning of the work, of esthetical taste over virtue and religion (e.g., the preference of Cicero’s orations and other works of the pagan Greeks and Romans over the Bible and the Fathers of the Church).


2. The modern epoch’s cult of individualism, with its glorification of selfishness and egoism over social concern and morality, of pragmatic shrewdness over the cardinal virtues and the virtue of humility.


3. A third dark side of the modern epoch is its cult of the pagan, or its unabashed neo-paganism. One finds working in these centuries a progressive pagan evaluation of man’s earthly existence. One observes an increasing loss of concern for God and the eschatological truths of death, judgment, heaven, and hell, the despising of the eternal truths of religion, the shunning of absolute norms of morality, the exaltation of purely worldly accomplishments and exploits, and a welcoming of the triumph of utility, success, pride, domination, cunning, pragmatism and sensuality over faith, hope, charity, contemplation, sincerity, purity, and humility. The worldly renaissance prince is exalted, while the saint is seen as an aberration, an oddity, a categorization of an unreachable ideal, and not the legitimate aspiration of the common man.


The all too common type of pagan individualist of the modern epoch is exemplified in Machiavelli’s prince, the cunning and ruthless political pragmatist for whom end justifies the means (il fine giustifica i mezzi). For the onetime Secretary of the Florentine Republic Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527),[12] men are by nature evil and corrupt scoundrels. He writes: “It may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid dangers, and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours. But when necessity approaches, they rebel. And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined…for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”[13] Therefore, Machiavelli teaches that politicians must learn to do evil in order to keep themselves in power, all the while endeavoring to appear externally mild and trustworthy, upright and pious to the ignorant and gullible masses: “It is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use his knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”[14] He must be a political “windsurfer”: “The prince must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, as as I said before, not deviate from what is good, if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained.”[15] The noted historian of philosophy Johannes Hirschberger observes that “in every conceivable form Machiavelli had suggested the use of immoral means and of dishonest aims in every political action. In no sense may we say that he was concerned only with hypothetical judgments, and that he intentionally refrained from touching upon moral questions. On the contrary, his main interest lay precisely in these issues. Without doubt, his thought was completely dominated by political utilitarianism. By keeping his eye constantly fixed on political expediency and by making it the sole norm of conduct, Machiavelli initiated the modern separation of politics and morality which has been the occasion of so many infamous actions and has resulted in so many outrages. His philosophy has often been characterized as keeping a double set of books. Although repeatedly condemned, it has been practiced assidously…On the basis of his philosophy we could develop an entire program of propaganda, of self-aggrandizement, of enjoyment, of luxurious living…we could even dissociate our personal life from all morality. But morality is either an absolute norm for human activity in all its varied forms, or it is utterly worthless. Machiavelli was truly value blind in his consideration of the universal validity of the moral law. This blind spot constituted a basic and…erroneous assumption of his thought. His contention that ‘we must treat the state and its subjects differently than we would private persons’ can be granted only if in politics man must be inhuman. This has never been, nor can it ever be, the case: man cannot disown himself, he cannot deny his rational nature.”[16]


James Collins notes that Machiavelli had a thoroughly pagan and pragmatic attitude towards religion: “He venerated the old Roman religion only because of its civic usefulness. It taught the Roman citizens devotion to the common good, respect for laws and oaths, and obedience to military commanders. But Machiavelli blamed Christianity for the present corrupted state of humanity. ‘The old religion,’ says Machiavelli, ‘did not beatify men until they were replete with worldly glory: army commanders, for instance, and rulers of republics. Our religion has glorified humble and contemplative men, rather than men of action. It has assigned as man’s highest good humility, abnegation, and contempt for mundane things, whereas the other identifies it with magnanimity, bodily strength, and everything else that tends to make men very bold…The generality of men, with paradise for their goal, consider how best to bear, rather than how best to avenge, their injuries.’[17] This exaltation of ‘boldness’ at the expense of Christian love found an echo, later on, in Nietzsche’s repudiation of the Christian virtues. Both thinkers used the same tactics of blaming present woes upon a Christian education, instead of recognizing in domestic and international corruption the unavoidable consequences of rejecting belief in God and the rule of morality. Machiavelli’s real quarrel with Christianity concerned its claim to have a supernatural origin, apart from the state, and its defense of a natural moral law by which political life itself must be governed. Machiavelli would not countenance the regulation of political decisions by reference to the unqualified good for man which Christianity placed in God and the supernatural life. Since he eliminated this positive aspect of Christian morality, the latter appeared to him to be merely repressive and antivital. In this respect, Machiavelli heralded the modern tendency to accept religion only on condition that it remain subservient to the state and national policy.”[18]   


Division of Christianity


One main reason for the secularization of the modern epoch that should be mentioned was the weakening of Christendom through various schisms and heresies. The separation of the Orthodox from the Catholic Church had been a cause of scandal and began the growing weakening of Christianity’s influence upon the world. The Western Schism had also done its job of eroding the influence of Christianity in Europe, but the great push towards the massive secularization of Europe did not take place until the Protestant Revolt, which did immeasurable damage to Christendom. Henry VIII proclaimed himself head of the Church in England, sacked hundreds of monasteries and martyred thousands for their allegiance to the Pope (among them St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More[19]). Likewise, sovereigns and nobles, greedy for Church loot, eagerly adopted the Protestant religion for their benefit. Lands where the Catholic Church flourished for more than a thousand years were protestantized, the new pastors in the main being paid officials of States ruled by power hungry sovereigns and recently fattened nobles made wealthy by the sack of the churches and monasteries. The Protestant Revolt had also initiated a radical separation between Christian faith and philosophical reason, upturning a once harmonious relationship for a new antinomy between the two forms of knowledge. Martin Luther, for example, had a deep distrust for scholastic philosophy, viewing it as satanic, a veritable enemy of the faith (now purged from its superstitious aberrations, pagan accretions, and papist manipulations). The faith-reason split that Luther had accomplished in the religious sphere an ambitious young Frenchman from Touraine was to initiate in the philosophical realm.


Separation Between Faith and Reason, Philosophy and Theology


Descartes initiated a novel immanentist philosophical system absolutely independent from the guiding light of faith and negative rule of sacred theology. For him, philosophy was to become the summit of all intellectual endeavors, toppling theology from its position as the supreme science. Philosophy as supreme wisdom was to be a hallmark of the new rationalist and empiricist philosophical systems. But this new animosity, this antinomy, of philosophy against theology could only prove damaging to man’s faith as well as to his reasoning capacities.


The split between faith and reason was to be the great catalyst for the weakening of man’s philosophical-sapiential dimension of human knowing. Without the guiding light of theology, philosophy, now purely rationalistic, suffered a great impoverishment as regards the capacity of the mind to respond to the ultimate questions regarding God, man, and cosmos.


The new epistemological orientation was to attempt to solve all human problems without recourse to Church, Revelation, and Theology; pure reason was more than sufficient for the task. A unified and common sacralized theological conception of the supreme ideals of human life and of man’s eternal destiny was simply dissolved in the anthropocentric, rationalistic modern epoch, despite the heroic efforts of many saints, churchmen, and Christian intellectuals to preserve it (one thinks of the heroic efforts of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Robert Bellarmine, St. Teresa of Avila, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint John Baptist de la Salle, and Saint Alphonsus de Liguori towards the defense of the Christian world view). Tired of the seemingly endless disputations among Catholics and Protestants, cynical and skeptical thinkers would seek  the solutions to all problems using the lumen of pure reason alone in order to preserve justice, order, peace, security, and freedom in society. Christianity would have no say whatsoever in these problems confronting humanity. As time went on, the ultimate and most profound questions regarding God and man’s true happiness and eternal destiny were to be relegated out of the public square, to be confined within the restricted spheres of private worship and personal opinion.


Rationalism and Empiricism


The two dominant philosophical currents of the early period of modern philosophy (the sixteenth century till the end of Kant’s first or pre-critical period) are rationalism (which was mostly continental) and empiricism (which was mostly British). The characteristic traits of continental rationalism are: 1. The attempt to overcome skepticism by a search for certainty and clear and distinct ideas ; 2. Mathematicism: mathematics (a particular or secondary science) replaces metaphysics (the science of being qua being) as first philosophy ; 3. Deduction becomes the method of choice for doing philosophy ; 4. The diffusion of problems that arise from the dualism of res cogitans and res extensa ; 5. The devaluing of the senses, of sense experience, ala Plato ; 6. A greater interest in the formulation of exact and precise definitions than in the description of phenomena grasped by the senses ; and 7. A dedication to the development of systems. It has the “spirit of systems.” 


In contrast to rationalism, the characteristic traits of British empiricism are the following: 1. A dominant theme, namely, questions of gnoseological import ; 2. The pre-eminence of sense-knowledge ; 3. The elimination of metaphysics in favor of psychology, anthropology, and a number of the secondary empirical sciences ; 4. The denial of innate ideas (the tabula rasa). 5. Nominalism ; 6. The pre-eminence of induction as the method of doing philosophy ; and 7. The cultivation of an analytic and experimental-observational spirit, with all its sensist gnoseological or epistemological presuppositions. Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza and Leibniz all belong to the rationalist school, while Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume are all classified as empiricists.  








The father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes[20] was born at La Haye in Touraine, France on March 31st, 1596 from parents who belonged to the lower nobility. He received his early schooling at the famous Jesuit college of La Flèche from 1604 to 1612 where he studied, among other things, philosophy and mathematics. After La Flèche Descartes studied law at the university of Potiers, obtaining his degree in 1616. In 1618 he decided to see the world, enlisting in the armies of various German princes to be able to do so. A year later, on the tenth of November 1619, he had three consecutive dreams which convinced him to devote his entire life to the reform of the sciences and to the search for truth by means of the cultivation of reason. He sojourned at Paris for a number of years and eventually made his home in Amsterdam in 1628, where he remained until 1649. During this time Descartes wrote his Traité du monde (Treatise on the World, which was published postumously in 1677), his famous 1637 work Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire la raison et réchercher la verité dans les sciences (Discourse on Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences) written in French and commonly known as the Discourse on Method, his Meditations on First Philosophy published in 1641 in Latin, his Principles of Philosophy in 1644, and his 1649 book Passions of the Soul written in French. In September of 1649 Descartes left Holland for Sweden at the request of the Swedish Queen Christina who sought to establish an Academy of Science in her land and also wished to be instructed in philosophy by the famous Frenchman. But the cruel Swedish winter took its toll on the frail body of Descartes, who, catching a bad attack of fever, died in Stockholm on the eleventh of February 1650.                         


Descartes the Father of Modern Philosophy


Descartes is called the father of modern philosophy for it was he who gave modern philosophy its fundamental driving principle: that of immanentism, which is antithetical to both gnoseological and ontological transcendence upheld by realism. What exactly is immanentism and what exactly is meant by realism and transcendence? In philosophical usage, the term immanentism is derived from the concept immanence which means to remain within oneself, which is opposed to transcendence which means to go beyond oneself. In immanentism what man knows in the first instance is that which is within the closed sphere of the self, such as ideas, sensations, and impressions, and not extra-mental reality, which is either mediately known (Descartes’ mediate “realism,” a pseudo-realism, unsuccessful in its attempts at reclaiming reality) or is simply unknowable (Humean and Kantian phenomenalism). Realism, on the other hand, retains that what is known in the first instance is the extra-subjective thing (also called the object) which really exists extra-mentally.[21] For the immanentist, who is incarcerated within the cell of his mind, unable to escape to a knowledge of noumenal reality, thought is prior to being. Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), the famous Cartesian dictum, is the name of the immanentist state penitentiary. Realism, in contrast, maintains that being is prior to thought. The actual dog that exists in reality is prior to the universal notion or concept “dog” that exists in the mind in an intentional manner. Dobermans and dachshunds are out there in reality and will continue to exist there whether we think of them or not. What is known in the first instance is the real dog and not the idea “dog.” Ideas are merely instruments by which we know things; they are that by which we know extra-mental objects existing in the world. For the immanentist, then, thought is the starting point of philosophical investigation, while for the realist it is being (ens), leading to the affirmation res sunt (things are). For immanentism, thought is prior to being, thought becomes the condition of being, and finally, as is the case with absolute idealism (Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel) thought becomes identified with being, thought creates being. In Hegelian panlogicism, for example, all that is rational is real and all that is real is rational[22] (a total identification between ontology and logic, between the logical order and the real order). Hegel’s pantheism and monism is the result of his denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction[23] in the name of the very notion of being. The law of contradiction which is found, for example, in the traditional square of logical opposition is, for him, the law of the real or ontological order.[24]


Against immanentism, realism holds that all philosophy of knowledge (gnoseology, epistemology) is founded upon the metaphysics of being; being is prior to thought, and thought is dependent upon being. The act of being (esse) is the radical act of a being (ens); it is, in every being (ens), the internal principle of its reality and of its knowability, and therefore, the foundation of the act of knowing. Knowledge is indeed a way of being, but the act of being is not an element or a dimension of knowledge. Being is the foundation of the truth of thought. In philosophical immanentism, transcendence (first gnoseological, then ontological) is first emarginalized, then debilitated, and in the end, eliminated. In realism, on the other hand, both gnoseological and ontological transcendence is respected. 


There is a difference between gnoseological transcendence and ontological transcendence. The former regards the possibility of knowing reality distinct from consciousness and its representations; transcendence here is intended as extra-subjective. Ontological transcendence, instead, regards the existence of realities that surpass the factual data of empirical experience, the most eminent of these realities being the existence of God, the absolutely transcendent Supreme Being. The history of modern philosophy, beginning with Cartesian rationalism, has shown that the refusal of a gnoseological transcendence (though not always in a direct and immediate way, as was precisely the case with the mediate “realism” of Descartes) impedes recognition of an authentic ontological transcendence.[25] 


The starting point of knowledge is not the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum),[26] but rather: “things are” (res sunt). That “I think, therefore I am” is surely evidence, but it is not the first evidence. It is not the point of departure of knowledge. “Things are” is the first in the order of all evidence. The first intellectual evidence that we experience through our senses is the fact that there are things in this world that we inhabit composed of an amazing variety of things which in some way form a totality. These “things” correspond to the classical metaphysical term “beings.” We perceive these beings around us which appear to our immediate experience as individual, concrete, definite, and limited, making part of a whole referred to as the world, the cosmos, the universe. “Realism accepts reality in toto and measures our knowledge by the rule of reality. Nothing that is validly known would be so if its object did not first exist…The first thing offered us is the concept of a being thought about by the intellect, and given us in a sensory intuition. If the being, in so far as it can be conceived, is the first object of the intellect, that is because it is directly perceived: res sunt, ergo cogito (things are, therefore, I think). We start by perceiving an existence which is given us in itself and not first of all in relation to ourselves. Later, on inquiring into the conditions which make such a fact possible, we realize that the birth of the concept presupposes the fertilization of the intellect by the reality which it apprehends. Before truth comes the thing that is true; before judgment and reality are brought into accord, there is a living accord of the intellect with reality…”[27]   
The great twentieth century philosopher-historian Etienne Gilson (1884-1978) defended the realist theory of knowledge against the principle of immanentism underlying much of modern philosophy in many of his works, such as Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge[28] and Methodical Realism.[29] In Methodical Realism he writes that it was in the thought of Descartes, and not Kant, where the Copernican revolution took place for the first time: “Critical idealism was born the day Descartes decided that the mathematical method must henceforth be the method for metaphysics. Reversing the method of Aristotle and the medieval tradition, Descartes decided that it is valid to infer being from knowing, to which he added that this was indeed the only valid type of inference, so that in his philosophy, whatever can be clearly and distinctly attributed to the idea of the thing is true of the thing itself: when we say of anything that it is contained in the nature or concept of a particular thing, it is the same as if we were to say it is true of that thing, or could be affirmed of it…Indeed, all idealism derives from Descartes, or from Kant, or from both together, and whatever other distinguishing features a system may have, it is idealist to the extent that, either in itself, or as far as we are concerned, it makes knowing the condition of being…With Descartes the Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) turns into Cogito ergo res sunt (I think, therefore, things are)”[30] Once trapped within the immanent sphere of one’s thoughts, doubting all reality perceived by the senses, affirming that all we can ever know are our own ideas or mental representations, we become unable to recuperate reality itself. All we will be able to do with the immanentist method is to conjure up a thought of reality, all the while remaining trapped within the prison of our minds. From mere mental representations we cannot reach the thing-in-itself which is initially doubted by the Cartesian universal doubt. If you have a hat stand painted on a wall, the only thing you will ever be able to hang on it is a hat likewise painted on a wall. Neither the principle of causality nor belief or assertion can get us out of the immanentist sphere of the mind once we have initially doubted the existence of reality, and then begin from the Cogito ergo sum as the first certainty.      

Gilson describes for us the futility of those pseudo-realists who make their starting point of knowledge the Cogito ergo sum and then attempt a recuperation of reality: “he who begins as an idealist ends as an idealist; one cannot safely make a concession or two to idealism here and there. One might have suspected as much, since history is there to teach us on this point. Cogito ergo res sunt is pure Cartesianism; that is to say, the exact antithesis of what is thought of as scholastic realism and the cause of its ruin. Nobody has tried as hard as Descartes to build a bridge from thought to reality, by relying on the principle of causality. He was also the first to make the attempt, and he did so because he was forced to by having set the starting point for knowledge in the intuition of thought. It is, therefore, strictly true that every scholastic who thinks himself a realist, because he accepts this way of stating the problem, is in fact a Cartesian… If the being I grasp is only through and in my thought, how by this means shall I ever succeed in grasping a being which is anything other than that of thought? Descartes believed that it was possible, but even apart from a direct critique of the proof he attempted to give, history is there to show us that his attempt ends in failure. He who begins with Descartes, cannot avoid ending up with Berkeley or with Kant…It won’t do to stop at the man who took the first step on the road to idealism because we shall then be forced to go the whole of the rest of the road with his successors. The Cartesian experiment was an admirable metaphysical enterprise bearing the stamp of sheer genius. We owe it a great deal, even if it is only for having brilliantly proved that every undertaking of this kind is condemned in advance to fail. However, it is the extreme of naïveté to begin it all over again in the hope of obtaining the opposite results to those which it has always given, because it is of its nature to give them.”[31] “The absolute being that the Cogito immediately delivers to me can only be my own and no other. In consequence, whether the operation by which I apprehend the object as distinct from myself be a process of induction and therefore mediate, or an immediate grasp, the problem remains the same. If one’s starting point is a percipi, the only esse one will ever reach will be that of the percipi…‘Can we, or can we not arrive at things if we make our standpoint that of the Cogito?’ No, we can’t, and if the fate of realism depends on this question, its fate is settled; it is impossible to extract from any kind of Cogito whatsoever a justification for the realism of St. Thomas Aquinas.”[32] 


The only way for us to get back to realism in philosophy (and in doing so be once again in a position to validly demonstrate God’s existence, departing from the things that we see in the world) is to stop subordinating metaphysics to epistemology (philosophy of knowledge) or logic, or mathematics, or for that matter, any other human science,[33] and let the former recover its pride of place as the queen of the human sciences. Metaphysics is first philosophy and any science of thought must ultimately be founded upon the metaphysics of being. “What we must do first of all, therefore, is free ourselves from the obsession with epistemology as the necessary pre-condition for philosophy. The philosopher as such has only one duty: to put himself in accord with himself and other things. He has no reason whatever to assume a priori that his thought is the condition of being, and, consequently, he has no a priori obligation to make what he has to say about being depend on what he knows about his own thought…I think therefore I am is a truth, but it is not a starting point…The Cogito is manifestly disastrous as a foundation for philosophy when one considers its terminal point. With a sure instinct as to what was the right way, the Greeks firmly entered on the realist path and the scholastics stayed on it because it led somewhere. Descartes tried the other path, and when he set out on it there was no obvious reason not to do so. But we realize today that it leads nowhere, and that is why it is our duty to abandon it. So there was nothing naïve about scholastic realism; it was the realism of the traveler with a destination in view who, seeing that he is approaching it, feels confident he is on the right road. And the realism we are proposing will be even less naïve since it is based on the same evidence as the old realism, and is further justified by the study of three centuries of idealism and the balance sheet of their results. The only alternatives I can see today are either renouncing metaphysics altogether or returning to a pre-critical realism. This does not at all mean that we have to do without a theory of knowledge. What is necessary is that epistemology, instead of being the pre-condition for ontology, should grow in it and with it, being at the same time a means and an object of explanation, helping to uphold, and itself upheld by, ontology, as the parts of any true philosophy mutually will sustain each other.”[34] 


The Cartesian Separation of Faith and Reason


Cartesian rationalism rejected the harmonious relationship between faith and reason. With Descartes there emerged a rationalist and immanentist philosophy which was to be separate and totally independent from the truths of faith. Regarding Descartes’ pivotal role in this tragic separation and opposition between fides and ratio, theologia and philosophia, Maritain writes: “In the seventeenth century the Cartesian reform resulted in the severance of philosophy from theology,[35] the refusal to recognize the rightful control of theology and its function as a negative rule in respect of philosophy. This was tantamount to denying that theology is a science, or anything more than a mere practical discipline, and to claiming that philosophy, or human wisdom, is the absolutely sovereign science, which admits no other superior to itself. Thus, in spite of the religious beliefs of Descartes himself, Cartesianism introduced the principle of rationalist philosophy, which denies God the right to make known by revelation truths which exceed the natural scope of reason. For if God has indeed revealed truths of this kind, human reason enlightened by faith will inevitably employ them as premises from which to obtain further knowledge and thus form a science, theology. And if theology is a science, it must exercise in respect of philosophy the function of a negative rule, since the same proposition cannot be true in philosophy, false in theology.”[36]


The Cartesian Project: Universal Mathematicism Replaces Realist Metaphysics as First Philosophy


Descartes sought to unite the particular sciences under a single method, namely, the mathematical method. All the particular sciences would be absorbed into a novel monistic mathematicism. The principles of the particular sciences would, in fact, be directly subordinated to rationalist mathematicism, the latter having an absolute control over the former. “The strong wine of intellectual enthusiasm went to his head. Fully convinced that he had virtually completed geometry by combining it with algebra, Descartes proceeded on the spot to another and still bolder generalization. After all, his only merit had been to realize that two sciences hitherto considered as distinct were but one; why not go at once to the limit and say that all sciences are one? Such was Descartes’ final illumination. He suddenly realized that he had found out, together with a universal method of solving all problems whatsoever, what was to be the work of his lifetime. All sciences were one; all problems had to be solved by the same method, provided only they be mathematical, or could be dealt with in a mathematical way…mathematics began to degenerate into mathematicism and to spread a colourless flood over the manifold of reality.”[37]  


The Cartesian system, founded upon the mathematical method, now replaces the realist metaphysics of being as first philosophy. For Descartes, “the mind was to treat of all conceivable objects as mathematicians treat those of their own science…Descartes did not declare that the human mind is only able to know numbers and figures, as in arithmetic and in geometry; nor did he decide that henceforward all objects of knowledge could and should be given the forms of numbers and figures. Rather, he discovered that all objects should henceforward be handled as if they were mathematical objects, even if they were not so. This is the sense of the passage in the Discourse, II, where, right after laying down the four rules of the method, Descartes expressly adds that the ‘long chains of reasoning,’ by means of which the geometricians achieve the most difficult demonstrations, had caused him to think that, very likely, ‘all objects knowable to man’ are mutually related in the same way as the terms of those long, but simple and easy, geometrical demonstrations…All things; no exception is made; the order of all things is of the same nature as that of the terms of a mathematical demonstration. The only problem remaining is to find that order in each case and to avoid accepting any demonstration as true in which that order is not made evident.”[38]


Though Descartes was disappointed with the Scholasticism he was taught at La Flèche (he was, in fact, taught Suarezian essentialism and not a Thomism rooted in esse), we find him enamoured by the mathematics program taught to him by the Jesuits there. Descartes was influenced by the master mathematician of the Society of Jesus, Clavius, who was described by his contemporaries as a “Modern Euclid.” It is certain that Descartes, at some point before his dreams of 1619, had perused Clavius’ Mathematical Works. Not only did the former learn a great number of mathematical principles from the latter but he also absorbed his great zeal for the cause of mathematics, which is evidenced, for example, in Clavius’ Introduction to the 1611 edition of his opera omnia, where he writes: “The mathematical disciplines demonstrate and justify by the most solid reasons everything they may call for discussion, so that they truly beget science in, and completely drive out all doubts from, the mind of the student. This can hardly be said of other sciences, where most of the time the intellect remains hesitating and dubious about the truth value of the conclusions, so manifold are the opinions and so conflicting the judgments. Leaving aside other philosophers, the many sects of the Peripatetics are enough to prove it. All born of Aristotle, as the various branches of a common trunk, they disagree so completely with each other, and sometimes with Aristotle himself, who is their source, that it is quite impossible to know what Aristotle was really after, or whether his philosophy was primarily concerned with words or with things. Such is the reason why, among his interpreters, some will follow the Greeks, some others will favour the Latins, or the Arabs, or the Nominalists, or the so-called Realists, and yet all boast that they are Peripatetics. I suppose that every one sees how far all that is from mathematical demonstrations. The theorems of Euclid, as well as those of the other mathematicians, are just as purely true today, as safe in their results, as firm and solid in their demonstrations, as they already were in schools many centuries ago…Since, therefore, mathematical disciplines are so exclusively dedicated to the love and cultivation of truth, that nothing is received there of what is false, nor even of that which is merely probable…there is no doubt that the first place among sciences should be conceded to Mathematics.”[39]


Clavius had conditioned Descartes’ mind to view mathematics as “first among the sciences.” Only mathematics, he was told, reached demonstrated conclusions. Only it alone reached absolute certainty. Gilson writes that, for Descartes, “mathematical knowledge was the only knowledge worthy of the name. Hence his conclusion, ‘not indeed, that arithmetic and geometry are the sole sciences to be studied, but only that in our search for the direct road towards truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain a certitude equal to that of the demonstrations of arithmetic and geometry.’[40] The whole philosophy of Descartes was virtually contained in that initial decision, for the I think, hence I am is the first principle of Descartes’ philosophy, but it is his pledge to mathematical evidence that led Descartes to the I think. This, I am afraid, was one of those initial decisions, which beget systems of philosophy where everything is conclusively justified, except their very principle. If we need a philosophy whose certitude is equal to that of mathematics, our first principle will have to be the I think; but do we need such a philosophy? And supposing we do, can we have it? In other words, are we sure that everything that is is susceptible of a mathematically evident interpretation? The answer, of course, is arbitrary. You have a full right to bet on the affirmative, but it is gambling, and if by any chance you happen to be wrong, you will be playing a losing game from beginning to end. Everything will be mathematically proved in your philosophy, save only this, that everything can, and must be, mathematically proved. There, at any rate, lies the deepest root of the Cartesian philosophy. If anything can be truly said to express its innermost spirit, it is what I venture to call ‘Mathematicism,’ for Descartes’ philosophy was nothing else than a recklessly conducted experiment to see what becomes of human knowledge when moulded into conformity with the pattern of mathematical evidence.”[41] “Descartes was answering the challenge of Father Clavius. The Jesuit, simple and modest old scholastic that he was, had argued: necessary knowledge is better than mere probability; mathematical knowledge  alone is necessary; mathematical knowledge is better than all other knowledge. That was not original, but it was true. The young Descartes was following a much more risky way: true knowledge is necessary; mathematical knowledge alone is necessary; hence all knowledge has to be mathematical.”[42]


The Cartesian Method


In the second part of his Discourse on Method, he presents his four rules of the mathematical method which, if followed, enables philosophy to attain to certainty: 1. “Never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt”[43]; 2. “To divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution”[44]; 3. “To conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend little by little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence”[45]; and 4. “In every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be asssured that nothing was omitted.”[46] These steps are the hallmarks of the new universal method which closely follows the science of mathematics: intuition, analysis, deduction, and enumeration. For the construction of a universal science comparable in evidence to mathematics, it will be sufficient, says, Descartes, to follow these four rules.


Cartesian Universal Doubt


Descartes doubts our cognitive powers. The senses are not to be trusted. All reality is placed in a state of critical doubt. The first stage of the Cartesian method is the universal methodic doubt: “In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life, to doubt, as far as possible, of all things.”[47] This doctrine of universal doubt (which does so much violence to the certainties of common sense) means not only the doubting of the extra-mental world that we see around us, and the first principles governing it, such as the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of causality, but also the doubting of all the articles of Faith,[48] and even the first principles of mathematics: “We will also doubt of the other things we have before held as most certain, even of the demonstrations of mathematics, and of their principles which we have hitherto deemed self-evident.”[49]   


From this radical doubt emerges the certainty of the thinking subject. When all has been placed in doubt there remains one thing that cannot be doubted, he says, namely, that I am thinking and that it is by thinking that I exist. Hence the famous line of Descartes: “I think, therefore I am” (cogito, ergo sum). He writes in his Discourse on Method: “I noticed that whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential that the ‘I’ who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that this truth ‘I think, therefore I am’ was so certain and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that I could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy for which I was seeking.”[50] “While we thus reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves have neither hands nor feet, nor, finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not while we doubt of the truth of these things; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very moment when it thinks. Accordingly, the knowledge, ‘I think, therefore, I am,’ is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.”[51] This is, undoubtedly, immanentism’s making human thought prior to real being. The Cartesian first principle is not a syllogistic conclusion, a product of a demonstrative process; rather, it is an immediate intuition of fact. By intuition Descartes understands “not the fluctuating testimony of the senses, nor the misleading judgment that proceeds from the blundering construction of the imagination, but the conception which an unclouded and attentive mind gives us so readily and distinctly that we are wholly freed from doubt about that which we understand, or, what comes to the same thing, intuition is the undoubting conception of an unclouded and attentive mind, and springs from the light of reason alone.”[52]


Descartes’ universal methodic doubt endevours to make us doubt of all things: the whole of the corporeal world our own body, our sense-perceptions, our internal states of consciousness, the very trustworthiness of our knowing powers (both of sense knowing and intellectual knowing), the first principles of reality such as the principle of non-contradiction and causality, and the very laws of thought founded upon these objective first principles. It is a real, genuine, not simulated (or faked), doubt, as he himself relates: “As I desired to give my attention solely to the search after truth, I thought…that I ought to reject as absolutely false all in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable.”[53] Note the words “to reject as absolutely false” which refers not just to a suspension of judgment but to a conviction that he must reject them as absolutely false, rejecting everything until he reaches the one indubitable fact: “Cogito, ergo sum. Bittle observes that “This is more than mere doubt, because a doubt presupposes a suspended judgement due to the absence of all reasons for and against a proposition (negative doubt) or reasons of more or less equal value for and against it (positive doubt). Descartes ‘supposes for a time, that all these opinions are entirely false and imaginary,’[54] and he ‘will continue always in this track until he shall find something that is certain, or at least, if he can do nothing more, until he shall know with certainty that there is nothing certain.’[55] He assumes the attitude that all spontaneous convictions and laws of thought are errors.”[56] 


From the first certainty (cogito, ergo sum) one obtains further certainties. He deduces the existence of God from his idea of Him (an illicit transfer from the logical order to the ontological order or order of reality). He arrives at the fact that God, being infinite veracity, cannot deceive, and thus, He could only have given man trustworthy sense and intellectual knowing faculties. Having proven in this manner that man’s knowing powers are trustworthy, man can now engage in the acquisition of true and valid knowledge. 


Inconsistencies and Errors of the Cartesian Method


There are many glaring inconsistencies and errors in the Cartesian method. Is Descartes’ universal doubt in fact possible? No, for there are certain gnoseological points which are indubitable, from which we cannot escape even if we are determined to doubt everything:  “Anyone who affirms that absolutely everything must be doubted is already making a judgment – which represents his own thesis – and which, therefore, is an exception to what he is affirming: since if everything is to be doubted, nothing can be affirmed, not even the thesis which maintains that everything must be doubted. Nor can one have recourse to maintaining the thesis as merely probable, because even probability has to have some sort of foundation in certainty. And, it is meaningless to affirm that it is doubtful that everything is doubtful, since this affirmation, and all others which are added to it in indefinite regress in order to increase doubt, simply become so many more exceptions to the universality of doubt. He who says he is in doubt already knows something: he knows that he doubts; if he did not know it, how could he possibly affirm it? The awareness of doubt is itself certain knowledge.”[57]   


Descartes attempts to prove the trustworthiness of our sense and reasoning powers by this path: the universal doubt, the first certainty (cogito, ergo sum), the existence and infinite perfection of God departing from the innate idea of Him, God’s absolute veracity, man’s creation by God, God’s veracity as the guarantor of the trustworthiness of the faculties of human knowing, and finally, the truth and validity of all the spontaneous convictions of man’s mind which are ‘clear and distinct.’ What is the problem with this procedure? He presupposes the validity of his reasoning powers and the first principles, such as the principles of non-contradiction and causality, in his demonstrations of God’s existence, before he has proven their trustworthiness, as he has cast them all in doubt in the first place at the beginning with his universal doubt. The Cartesian method assumes beforehand what it intends to prove afterwards. Bittle writes: “When he (Descartes) proposed to approach the problem in an attitude of universal real doubt, discarding even the capability of the human mind to know truth and refusing to accept such essential principles as the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason, he made the solution of the problem impossible for himself. Here are a few considerations which compel us to reject his system: Descartes began his inquiry by doubting all  knowledge without exception; he was even willing to accept it as ‘entirely false.’ But what about the idea of God as an all-perfect Being, since he admits that he discovered this idea in his own mind? According to his own principle of universal doubt, he simply cannot know whether this idea of God is correct or incorrect; as a matter of fact, according to this principle, he should consider it as ‘entirely false,’ until proved otherwise. But if his idea of God as an all-perfect Being may be incorrect, he cannot logically deduce from this idea God’s existence and veracity. Since the very idea of God is doubtful, these other things must remain doubtful, and the trustworthiness of man’s faculties must also remain doubtful. Descartes cannot escape his own real doubt.      


“Irrespective of the intrinsic value of the proofs with which Descartes attempts to demonstrate God’s existence, we must not overlook the fact that he uses a process of reasoning to make this demonstration. Since his very reason and the process of reasoning is as yet of doubtful validity, how can he validly demonstrate God’s existence and veracity? The trustworthiness of Descartes’ reasoning powers is supposed to flow as a necessary consequence from the infinite perfection of God; and God’s infinite perfection is made certain to him by means of a proof developed by these very reasoning powers, before he has proved that these reasoning powers are valid and trustworthy: he thereby gratuitously assumes the very thing beforehand which he intends to prove afterwards. He unconsciously accepts the trustworthiness of his faculties in attempting to demonstrate the existence and infinite perfection of God, and that is an illegitimate procedure; because a doubtfully valid faculty can produce only a doubtfully valid argument, and a doubtfully valid argument can only lead to a doubtfully valid conclusion. The whole argument for God’s existence and veracity is thus nullified by his doubtful reason and reasoning process; and, since he proves the reliability of his reason and reasoning process by means of God’s veracity, which (according to his supposition) must be doubtful, the proof of the trustworthiness of his own powers is nullified and can never be established beyond doubt. His attempt, therefore, to vindicate the validity of human knowledge failed essentially, because, by rejecting the reliability of his own powers to discover and know truth, he made it impossible for himself to extricate himself from the net of his own universal doubt.”[58]


“Descartes,” Bittle observes, “claims to reject everything, even the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason. But he does not. He surreptitiously assumes the truth of these principles and uses them continually. As obvious a fact as the ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ is really based on the validity and truth of the principle of non-contradiction. This principle asserts that it is impossible for something to be and not to be at the same time. Descartes becomes certain of his own existence by the very fact of his ‘thinking’ or ‘doubting.’ True. But why? Because he perceives clearly that it is impossible to ‘think and not think,’ to ‘exist and not exist’ at the same time. If Descartes were consistent and really doubted the principle of non-contradiction, he would have to affirm that it could be possible for a being to ‘think and not think,’ to ‘exist and not exist’ at the same time. But then, according to his own supposition, he could not be sure after all that the ultimate fact of his existence is certain, and his famous ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ has no real objective value. Only by granting the validity and truth of the principle of non-contradiction beforehand, can his existence be established as an objective fact; and that is exactly, though inconsistently, what Descartes does.


“The same line of reasoning applies to his proofs for God’s existence and infinite perfection. Notwithstanding his proofs, his rejection of the principle of non-contradiction will forever invalidate his arguments, because, as long as this principle is not established and accepted, he could never be sure whether it would not be possible for God to ‘exist and not exist,’ to ‘be infinitely perfect and not infinitely perfect’ at the same time. Similarly, he would always be compelled to remain in doubt whether God could not be ‘veracious and not veracious,’ ‘deceiving and not deceiving,’ unless the principle of non-contradiction were taken as granted before he begins to prove God’s existence. Unwittingly Descartes does accept this principle of non-contradiction throughout his demonstrations, but that is an inexcusable inconsistency.


“So too, Descartes conducts his inquiry under the supposition that he has doubted the principle of sufficient reason and the principle of causality. But he does not hesitate to use these principles before he has established their validity. Consider this a posteriori argument for the existence and infinite perfection of God. He contends that the idea of God as an all-perfect Being could not have originated in our mind, because such an idea would exceed the causality of the human mind, the latter being less perfect than the contents of the idea itself; consequently, this idea had to be produced in us by God Himself (and this proves that God exists as an infinitely perfect Being), otherwise there would be no sufficient reason for the presence of such an idea in our mind. This line of reasoning shows plainly that Descartes uses the principles of sufficient reason and causality in demonstrating God’s existence, although he doubts their validity. Now, if he lets these principles stand as doubtful, his entire demonstration is vitiated and nullified by doubt; and if he accepts them as valid prior to establishing their validity, he acts contrary to his fundamental doubt and is inconsistent: in either case he makes the demonstration of God’s existence impossible. His actual procedure in all the arguments he makes is such, however, that he presupposes the validity of these laws of thought; and that is for him a glaring inconsistency, since his universal methodic doubt will not permit him to accept their validity before he has proved the existence and veracity of God. Descartes’ universal methodic doubt leads logically to universal skepticism. No certitude can ever be attained in a system where the very foundations of human reason are completely destroyed. When he rejects as doubtful and even as ‘absolutely false’ all in regard to which he could imagine the least ground for doubt he saws off the very limb upon which he is seated. If the nature of his mind and the laws of thought are called into real doubt (not to speak of considering them to be ‘absolutely false’), then all acts and facts of consciousness, all ideas, judgments and inferences, can no longer be trusted. But how can the mind attempt to validate its own trustworthiness except by means of these things? If Descartes mistrusts the simple judgments ‘2 + 3 = 5’ and ‘A square has four sides,’ how can he trust his faculties in making the far more complicated arguments with which he tries to prove God’s existence and infinite perfections?…Descartes, if he has been consistent, should have embraced universal skepticism, because his universal doubt left him no other choice: he had no way of retracing his course…it is in reality only a variation of universal skepticism.”[59]


The Tragedy of Cartesian Immanentism: Thought of Reality


What Descartes has done with his new philosophy, which was to change in a most radical way the history of philosophical thought, was to make thought, and not being, the point of departure of philosophy, whether it be subjective, as in thought as act, or whether it be objective, as in the clear idea. What is accepted as real is not extra-mental reality – extra-mental substances – substantial beings that exist apart from whether we think of them or not – but rather the clear idea devoid of any imaginative or sensible element. In philosophical realism, instead, it is being (ens) that we know – we are able to grasp its form apart from the thing’s material reality in an immaterial way; the idea is the representation by means of which we know. In methodical realism what we know is the extra mental thing itself, not its representation in our minds. The expressed intelligible species (the idea) is not that which we understand, but that by means of which we understand. What is known in the first instance is the object itself. The idea is simply an instrument of knowledge, not the object of knowledge.[60] As instruments of knowledge, ideas or concepts refer intentionally to what the intellect understands, that is, to the order of extra-mental things (beings) in reality. The philosophical error of subjective idealism is ultimately traced to the gnoseological error that confuses what we know with the medium whereby we know. John Locke commits this disastrous mistake, writing, for example, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, that an idea is defined as an “object of the understanding when a man thinks,”[61] “Idea is the object of thinking.”[62] Though Locke was an empiricist, such gnoseological idealism is pure Cartesianism.


Unlike the idealists, though, Descartes’ philosophical construct is a mediate “realism” as his goal was the eventual recuperation of extra-mental, extra-subjective reality, doubted at the outset, through a mathematical deduction. But the tragedy of his immanentism is that, for him, things are not really intelligible in themselves and in the ultimate analysis do not really count, for what he in the end arrives at is not true reality as it is in itself, but rather a thought of reality.             


The Cartesian Demonstrations of the Existence of God


Descartes does indeed have a demonstration of the existence of God from effect to cause (but not in the sense of starting from the extra-mental things of the world, which is known in the first instance, e.g. the five ways), but he also utilized the ontological argument throughout his works. His proof runs like this: “When one says that something is contained in the nature or concept of a thing, thereby affirms that this something belongs in truth to that thing, is true of it. But the necessary existence of God is contained in the idea of God. Therefore, it is true to say of God that necessary existence is in Him, that is, that He exists.” This is yet another invalid proof that does not in any way arrive at God’s real existence, for it is another illegitimate transfer from the logical order to the order of reality. All Descartes arrives at is a conceptual necessarily existing God, an idea of the logical order, not the actual order.


Gilson, criticizing the Cartesian ontological argument, explains that existence cannot be attributed to something simply on the strength of its definition; actual existence is not deducible from any definition: “The second proof of the existence of God proposed by Descartes in his fifth Metaphysical Meditation is a reinterpretation of the argument of Saint Anselm. Thomas Aquinas would have raised against it the same objections. It is all a question of philosophical method. The method advocated by Descartes derives its inspiration from mathematics. Accordingly, Descartes attributes to the objects of thought all the properties that necessarily belong to their ideas. In the present case, he considers that existence belongs to God as necessarily as it belongs to the triangle that the sum of its angles should be equal to two right angles. What is typical of the attitude of Thomas Aquinas is that, while agreeing to attribute to the notion of an object whatever necessarily follows from its definition, he absolutely refuses to include existence among the properties attributable to any object on the strength of its definition. This is essential to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas. Actual existence can be either experienced or inferred from another actually given existence, it cannot be deduced from any definition. Thomas would answer to Descartes as follows. If God exists, then His existence belongs to His essence much more necessarily than the properties of the triangle belong to it in virtue of its definition. For if there is a God, He cannot not be, whereas, if there were no God, there would be nothing else. But the problem precisely is to know if there is a God, and the only way to answer it is to proceed by way of demonstration.”[63] 


Descartes has an effect (the idea of an infinite, most perfect being) to cause (God the infinite, most perfect being, Cause of that idea that we have) argument for God’s existence, but unlike the five ways, it does not start from the extra-mental real beings in the world but from the idea of an infinite, most perfect being (he starts again from the logical order which will render the proof, like his other proofs, invalid because it makes the illegitimate jump from the logical order to the real order). Some scholars believe the Cartesian effect to cause argument can be called an “ontological argument” (in the Kantian and Wolffian sense of ontological, being cognition that is prior to and independent of experience) that departs from the clear and distinct idea that we have of a most perfect and infinite being.      


Let us consider the Cartesian argument in detail, and then see why such a method of demonstration is invalid. Our philosopher first establishes his first certainty, that of the thinking subject: “I will now close my eyes, I will stop my ears, I will turn away my senses from their objects, I will even efface from my consciousness all the images of corporeal things...And thus holding converse only with myself, and closely examining my nature, I will endeavor to obtain by degrees a more intimate and familiar knowledge of myself. I am a thinking (conscious) thing, that is, a being who doubts, affirms, denies, knows a few objects, and is ignorant of many – who imagines likewise, and perceives; for, as I before remarked, although the things which I perceive or imagine are perhaps nothing at all apart from me (and in themselves), I am nevertheless assured that those modes of consciousness which I call perceptions and imaginations, in as far only as they are modes of consciousness, exist in me. And in the little I have said I think I have summed up all that I really know, or at least all that up to this time I was aware I knew.”[64]


Descartes believes that this knowledge that he has of himself is true knowledge because it is clearly and distinctly perceived: “...It seems to me that I may now take as a general rule, that all that is very clearly and distinctly apprehended (conceived) is true.”[65] He then proceeds to demonstrate God’s existence. First of all, he discovers that he has an idea of God. Then, he perceives that he could not have been the origin of this idea. Thus, he concludes that the only adequate source of this idea of an infinitely perfect Being that he has, that is, his idea of God, must be an actually existing infinitely perfect God: “But, among these my ideas, besides that which represents myself, respecting which there can be no difficulty, there is one that represents God; others that represent corporeal and inanimate things; others angels; others animals; and, finally, there are some that represent men like myself. But with respect to the ideas that represent men, or animals, or angels, I can easily suppose that they were formed by the mingling and composition of the other ideas which I have of myself, of corporeal things, and of God, although there were, apart from myself, neither men, animals, nor angels. And with regard to the ideas of corporeal objects, I never discover in them anything so great or excellent which I myself did not appear capable of originating.”[66] 


Regarding his idea of God our philosopher explains that: “There only remains, therefore, the idea of God, in which I must consider whether there is anything that cannot be supposed to originate with myself. By the name God, I understand a substance infinite (eternal, immutable), independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself, and every other thing that exists, if any such there be, were created. But these properties are so great and excellent, that the more attentively I consider them the less I feel persuaded that the idea I have of them owes its origin to myself alone. And thus it is absolutely necessary to conclude, from all that I have before said, that God exists; for though the idea of substance be in my mind owing to this, that I myself am a substance, I should not, however, have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite.”[67]


Because of the fact that he is able to reflect upon his own limitations and imperfections, his doubts, etc., leads Descartes to discover in himself the concept of the perfect, that is, the notion of God, which he opines that, though this concept is in him, it cannot be due to him: “I clearly perceive that there is more reality in the infinite substance than in the finite, and therefore that in some way I possess the perception (notion) of the infinite before that of the finite, that is, the perception of God before that of myself, for how could I know that I doubt, desire, or that something is wanting to me, and that I am not wholly perfect, if I possessed no idea of a being more perfect than myself, by comparison of which I knew the deficiencies of my nature?”[68]


There then must be some cause of this idea of God apart from the thinking subject, which also cannot be said to come out of nothing. “And it cannot be said that this idea of God is perhaps materially false, and consequently that it may have arisen from nothing (in other words, that it may exist in me from my imperfection), ... for as this idea is very clear and distinct, and contains in itself more objective reality than any other, there can be no one of itself more true, or less open to the suspicion of falsity.”[69]


What exactly does Descartes mean by objective reality? The extra-mental thing apart from the thinking subject to which our minds must conform to? No. He here means the content of the idea, what it represents, that by which one idea differs from the other. Each idea, according to him, has a particular objective reality. What all ideas have in common is their being but different modes of consciousness. Different from this objective reality (content of the idea) is the actual reality of the thing itself. Now the actual reality of God, the extra-mental God who exists apart from the thinking subject, is He who imparts to the thinking subject from the very beginning at least the potential objective reality of the idea of God. The thinking subject can actuate this potential objective reality of God by means of a reflection upon one’s own imperfections, etc.: “There remains only the inquiry as to the way in which I received this idea from God; for I have not drawn it from the senses, nor is it even presented to me unexpectedly, as is usual with the ideas of sensible objects, when these are presented or appear to be presented to the external organs of the senses; it is not even a pure production or fiction of my mind, for it is not in my power to take from or add to it; and consequently there but remains the alternative that it is innate, in the same way as the idea of myself. And, in truth, it is not to be wondered at that God, at my creation, implanted this idea in me, that it might serve, as it were, for the mark of the workman impressed on his work; ...but considering only that God is my creator, it is highly probable that he in some way fashioned me after his own image and likeness, and that I perceive this likeness, in which is contained the idea of God, by the same faculty by which I apprehend myself, – in other words, when I make myself the object of reflection, I not only find that I am an incomplete (imperfect) and dependent being, and one who unceasingly aspires after something better and greater than he is; but, at the same time, I am assured likewise that he upon whom I am dependent possesses in himself all the goods after which I aspire (and the ideas of which I find in my mind), and that not merely indefinitely and potentially, but infinitely and actually, and that he is thus God. And the whole force of the argument of which I have here availed myself to establish the existence of God, consists in this, that I perceive that I could not possibly be of such a nature as I am, and yet have in my mind the idea of a God, if God did not in reality exist – that is, a being who possesses all those lofty perfections, of which the mind may have some slight conception, without, however, being fully able to comprehend them, – and who is wholly superior to all defect and has nothing that marks imperfection.”[70]


Now this Cartesian argument must be rejected for it is simply not true that all men have an innate idea of God as a supremely perfect and infinite Supreme Being. History shows us that there were many pagan philosophers and writers who believed in polytheism and a pantheon of imperfect gods filled with vices and limitations. Ancient Greece and Rome are testaments to this type of thinking, so what exactly is Descartes talking about? All his thinking reveals is that most of the people in the society in which he lived in were believing Christians who acknowledged the existence of an infinite and supremely perfect personal God. What our philosopher really had was not an innate idea of God as an infinite and supremely perfect Being planted there by God Himself but rather his childhood memory of God taught to him as a Christian. What we learn from childhood becomes, as it were, second nature, something taken for granted. Descartes’ idea of God in his mind was nothing but the Christian notion of God. In finding this notion of an infinite and supremely perfect Being in him he was simply recalling the notion of God taught to him at school. But as was said, not all men have the idea of God as an infinite and supremely perfect being. Such was the case thousands of years ago during Greek and Roman times, and is especially the case today at the beginning of the third millennium, aptly described as a neo-paganism with technology. Hence the crucial need for a rational demonstration of God’s existence starting with the extra-mental things of this world.     


We cannot make an illicit passage from the logical order of our concepts to the ontological order of reality, which is what our philosopher indeed does. Descartes’ point of departure, which is thought, has made it impossible from him to transcend the immanence of his own mind to attain to reality. According to the principles of his immanentist system, the only existence that he could possibly infer would be a thought of existence or an existence as thought.


But does he not use the principle of causality to infer the real existence of God? Isn’t it true that the only possible adequate cause for the conceptual content of an infinitely perfect Being should be an infinitely perfect existing Being? Does Descartes’ “objective reality” (content of the idea) necessarily allude to a cause which must be the actual existence of the thing known by the concept? By no means. In the Cartesian demonstration the potential presence of the innate idea of God is identified with the subject itself in its capacity as a thinking subject. What actuates this idea is a reflection upon the imperfections and deficiencies of the thinking subject. From the notion of imperfection the thinking subject grasps the notion of perfection, or more precisely, the degrees of perfection, and is thus able to imagine the absolutely perfect supreme degree of perfection. Descartes concludes thinking about God, calling this supreme degree of perfection that he is thinking of God. But how can this mean that, therefore, there must be such a supremely perfect God existing outside my mind?


If God did not cause this innate notion Descartes claims we have as thinking subjects, then who or what exactly did? It must surely be our own thinking processes. The manner of being of such an idea of God must necessarily be finite for it is simply a mode of self-consciousness. The content, or as Descartes would erroneously say the “objective reality,” of such an idea of God as infinitely perfect Being is in reality obtained through the notion of degrees of perfection; thus the possibility to think about the highest degree. But this does not give us the right to hold that, therefore, there must necessarily be an infinitely perfect Being which truly exists extra-mentally. Thus, Descartes’ demonstration fails. Thought can never be our point of departure for a valid demonstration of the existence of God. In fact, thought can never be the starting point for proving the real existence of anything. In order to demonstrate something real (or in our case Someone real) we have to start from something real. In order to demonstrate the existence of God we must start from extra-subjective phenomena, from real things in the world that we apprehend with our senses. According to its manner of knowing in the present life, the intellect depends on the senses for the origin of knowledge; and so those things that do not fall under the senses (e.g. God and the angels) cannot be known by the human intellect except insofar as the knowledge of them is gathered from sensible things (mediate, analogical knowledge). Our Cartesian demonstration of the existence of God, based on the clear and distinct perception of the nature of God, is a direct refusal of the above gnoseological process, which is a realism rooted in the certainties of common sense. The intelligible species or concept by which our intellect understands is itself derived from and is dependent upon a sense-based image. Without this image upon which the agent intellect is able to exercise its power of abstraction, there can be no intelligible species or concept in the mind. Aquinas writes: “An image is the starting point of our knowledge, for it is that from which the operation of the intellect begins; not that it passes away, but it remains as the foundation of intellectual activity... This is because images are related to the intellect as objects in which it sees whatever it sees, either through a perfect representation or through a negation. Consequently, when our knowledge of images is impeded, we must be completely incapable of knowing anything with our intellect even about divine things.”[71]


Cartesian epistemology considers clear and distinct ideas to be purely conceptual, involving no mental picture or internal sense imagery of the kind which is present in the act of imagination. These ideas are of the pure understanding, completely independent in their origin; independent not only of the activity of the senses but also of the imagination as well. The origin of these innate ideas is in the mind itself put there by God and conceived only as the mind undergoes reflection, withdrawing wholely from the senses and the imagination. Such is especially the case with Descartes’ idea of God which is, of all others, a maximally clear and distinct idea.


To refute such an erroneous doctrine we should again consider the fact that, when one’s knowledge of images is impeded, one is rendered completely incapable of knowing anything with his intellect, even about things concerning the existence and nature of God. The valid ways in which we are able to know something of God by means of human reason – that of affirmation or causality, negation or remotion, and eminence or transcendence – all are dependent upon some image which is itself derived from the sense experience of extra-mental things. 


Man According to Descartes


Though Descartes states that man is composed of two complete substances (res cogitans and res extensa), he speaks of the relation of soul (which he erroneously identifies with mind) to body in a manner strikingly reminiscent of the old Platonic dualism. Against the ontological definition of man characteristic of Aristotle and St. Thomas, the Frenchman gives us an essentially psychological definition of the human person[72]: the “I” would essentially consist in thought (or res cogitans, which, for him, is identified with soul or mind). The Cartesian description of the nature of man is found in the fourth part of the Discourse on Method: “I am a substance, whose nature or essence is none other than thinking.”[73] For Descartes, the “I” is the complete substance res cogitans, which is completely distinct from the body, another complete substance, which is res extensa. Thus, the “I” is essentially a res cogitans that utilizes a res extensa or body, which is looked upon as a kind of machine (Cartesian mechanism). Though Descartes attempts to deny this,[74] his doctrine on man is like Plato’s (man is essentially a soul that uses a body as a skipper in relation to his ship; the union is merely extrinsic), which is the antithesis of the Aristotelian-Thomistic doctrine of man as an hylemorphic composite of body and soul (the latter being the substantial form of the former). Copleston writes: “In Scholastic Aristotelianism the human being was depicted as a unity, soul standing to body as form to matter. The soul, moreover, was not reduced to mind: it was regarded as the principle of biological, sensitive and intellectual life. And in Thomism at least it was depicted as giving existence to the body, in the sense of making the body what it is, a human body. Clearly, this view of the soul facilitated insistence on the unity of the human being. Soul and body together form one complete substance. But on Descartes’ principles it would appear to be very difficult to maintain that there is any intrinsic relationship between the two factors. For if Descartes begins by saying that I am a substance the whole nature of which is to think, and if the body does not think and is not included in my clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking thing, it would seem to follow that the body does not belong to my essence or nature. And in this case I am a soul lodged in a body. True, if I can move my body and direct some of its activities, there is at least this relationship between the two that the soul stands to the body as mover to moved and the body to the soul as instrument to agent. And if this is so, the analogy of the relationship between a captain or a pilot and his ship is not inapt. It is, therefore, easy to understand Arnauld’s remark in the fourth set of Objections that the theory of my clearly and distinctly perceiving myself to be merely a thinking being leads to the conclusion that ‘nothing corporeal belongs to the essence of man, who is hence entirely spirit, while his body is merely the vehicle of spirit; whence follows the definition of man as a spirit which makes use of a body.’[75][76]  


If, according to Descartes, soul (res cogitans) is a complete substance and body (res extensa) is also a complete substance, how does he solve the problem of their interaction? How does the soul influence the body and body the soul in Cartesian anthropology? Descartes’ solution (which has been unanimously criticized) is that there is a contact between soul and body by means of animal spirits (spiritus animales) or vapors (which are neither res cogitans nor res extensa) in the pineal gland located in the center of the cranial box.[77]


In his Passions of the Soul, Descartes writes that “the soul is really joined to the whole body, and that we cannot, properly speaking, say that it exists in any one of its parts to the exclusion of the others, because it is one and in some manner indivisible…(But) it is likewise necessary to know that although the soul is joined to the whole body, there is yet a certain part in which it exercises its functions more particularly than in all the others; and it is usually believed that this part is the brain, or possibly the heart…But, in examining the matter with care, it seems as though I have clearly ascertained that the part of the body in which the soul exercises its functions immediately is in no way the heart, nor the whole of the brain, but merely the most inward of all its parts, to wit, a certain very small gland which is situated in the middle of its substance and which is so suspended above the duct whereby the animal spirits[78] in its anterior cavities have communication with those in the posterior that the slightest movements which take place in it alter very greatly the course of these spirits; and reciprocally that the smallest changes which occur in the course of the spirits may do much to change the movement of this gland.”[79]     


In an earlier letter to Mersenne, Descartes writes: “It is certain that the soul must be joined to some part of the body, and there s no other part which is not at least as subject to alteration as this gland. Although it is very small and very soft, it is situated in such a well protected place that it is almost immune from illness, like the vitreous or crystalline humour of the eye. I do not think that the soul is so imprisoned in the gland that it cannot act elsewhere. But utilizing a thing is not the same as being immediately joined or united to it; and since our soul is not double but single and indivisible, it seems to me that the part of the body to which it is almost immediately joined should also be single and not divided into a part of similar parts. I cannot find such a part in the whole brain except this gland.”[80]


In the Passions of the Soul, Descartes explains that the soul (res cogitans) is united to the body (res extensa) principally in the pineal gland, lying at the center of the brain, which he thought was the focal point of all the various nerves which are connected to the various external sense organs of the body: “Let us then conceive here that the soul has its principal seat in the little gland which exists in the middle of the brain, from whence it radiates forth through all the remainder of the body by means of the animal spirits, nerves and even the blood, which, participating in the impressions of the spirits, can carry them by the arteries into all the members. And recollecting what has been said above about the machine of our body, i.e., that the little filaments of our nerves are so distributed in all its parts, that on the occasions of the diverse movements which are there excited by sensible objects, they open in diverse ways the pores of the brain, which causes the animal spirits contained in these cavities to enter in diverse ways into the muscles by which means they can move the members in all the different ways in which they are capable of being moved; and also that all the other causes which are capable of moving the spirits in diverse ways suffice to conduct them into diverse muscles; let us here add that the small gland which is the main seat of the soul is so suspended between the cavities which contain the spirits that it can be moved by them in as many different ways as there are sensible diversities in the object but that it may also be moved in diverse ways by the soul, whose nature is such that it receives in itself diverse impressions, that is to say, that it possesses as many diverse perceptions as there are diverse movements in this gland. Reciprocally, likewise, the machine of the body is so formed that from the simple fact that this gland is diversely moved by the soul, or by such other cause, whatever it is, it thrusts the spirits which surround it towards the pores of the brain, which conduct them by the nerves into the muscles, by which means it causes them to move the limbs.”[81]


Why does Descartes select the pineal gland as the seat of the soul? Because all other parts of the brain, he says, are found in pairs except the pineal gland, which is single. A single organ would be necessary, he maintains, to convert the double impressions of the eyes into a single image, so that the soul (res cogitans) can have a single thought about the perceived object. He writes: “The reason which persuades me that the soul cannot have any other seat in all the body than this gland wherein to exercise its functions immediately, is that I reflect that the other parts of our brain are all of them double, just as we have two eyes, two hands, two ears, and finally all the organs of our outside senses are double; and inasmuch as we have but one solitary and simple thought of one particular thing at one and the same moment, it must necessarily be the case that there must somewhere be a place where the two images which come to us by the two eyes, where the two other impressions which proceed from a single object by means of the double organs of the other senses, can unite before arriving at the soul, in order that they may not represent to it two objects instead of one. And it is easy to apprehend how these images or other impressions might unite in this gland by the intermission of the spirits which fill the cavities of the brain, but there is no other place in the body where they can be thus united unless they are so in this gland.”[82]


An Alternative to Cartesian Dualism: Hylemorphism Rooted in the Act of Being (Esse)


St. Thomas, on the other hand, teaches that the soul is an incomplete substance, which, together with the human body (another incomplete substance), form the one complete substance that is man (the individual substance of a rational nature). The single act of being (esse) that the human person possesses is the root of the unity of the composite:[83] What is the crucial role played by the act of being (esse) in the substantial unity of the human person (something admirably set forth by Aquinas but which is rejected by Cartesian dualism)? Armand Maurer, working on the developed position of Gilson on this matter, explains that “the Thomistic answer to the question of a human being’s substantial unity does not lie in the union of two beings or incomplete substances, but rather in its one act of being.[84] The soul is not only the substantial form of the human being; it is a spiritual substance…in its own right, possessing its own act of being (esse) which it communicates to the body by informing it, so that the two together have one single act of being. In short, they constitute one being. The body does not contribute anything to the existence of the soul, for that is already complete. But the soul does not have a complete essence; it is only a part of human nature, needing the body for its completion. Consequently the human soul is in a sense a complete substance, since it has a complete act of being (esse). But in another sense it is incomplete, for it is only one part of the human essence or species. Thus in the metaphysics of Aquinas a person’s substantial unity is fundamentally that of esse – the perfection and actuality that is most inward and central in any being.


“The substantial unity of the human person, based on the unity of substantial esse, entails, in Aquinas’s view, that the person have only one substantial form, namely the rational soul. As the formal cause of being, a substantial form gives an individual substantial being, so that if that individual had several substantial forms it would have several substantial beings; in short, it would not be one substance. If another form were added to the person’s one substantial form, it could only be an accidental one, giving the person some accidental being; for example, being tall or wise (…) The human person, according to Aquinas, contains a dualism of body (matter) and soul (form): two incomplete components of the person’s essence, unified by the person’s one complete esse, which belongs per se to the soul but is communicated to the body, so that there is but one esse of the whole composite. Accordingly the soul is not united to the body as one being to another. If it were, the person would not have a substantial but an accidental unity. Nor is the whole human personality present in the soul. In the entire realm of nature there is nothing more noble than a person (persona), so that the person cannot be a part but must be a complete whole. A further consequence is that, even though the soul can exist without the body with its own act of being, in its separated state the soul is not a person. Thus Aquinas’s search for the basis of the person’s substantial unity leads him not to a nature, substance or composition, but to the person’s act of being, which is a finite particpation in the pure Esse of God.”[85]  


The Cartesian Conception of Freedom


Extensive treatment of the will and freedom is found in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, The Principles of Philosophy, and The Passions of the Soul.[86] Unlike Spinoza,  Descartes retains that the existence of freedom is a most certain truth. It is innate: it is enough for one to interrogate one’s consciousness. We find that we not only exist – I think therefore I am (Cogito, ergo sum) – but also that we are free. The will, for our Frenchman, is by far superior to the intellect (voluntarism).


A major error of Descartes, aside from thinking that freedom is an innate concept (it is not) lies in his assigning to the will of functions that are proper to the intellect like doubt, opinion, affirmation, negation and judgment.[87] For this voluntarist, acts like affirmation, negation and judgment are acts of the will rather than of the intellect, thus paving the way for the conception of instrumental reason (instrumental reason of the will to power) that will become a distinctive trait of modern times: the subordination of theory to praxis, science to technology, contemplation to action. Homo sapiens is transformed into homo faber.


Descartes also fails to distinguish in his writings between the concepts ‘will,’ ‘free-will,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘absence of constriction,’ and ‘indifference in front of two or more alternatives.’ He often writes indifferently of these terms, as if they were all one and the same thing. All of these concepts are distinguished from one another in scholastic philosophy of which Aquinas is the foremost representative. Descartes fails to do so, and such a confusion of language is most probably born of the transferring of the most important activities of the intellect –  affirmation, negation, and judgment – to the will. The free act, as a consequence, does not follow but now precedes the judgment itself. Thus, freedom ends up necessarily coinciding with the will itself.


The Cartesian will is not under any norm, criterion, or judgment that comes to be presented by the intellect; rather, the will itself decides the value of each and every judgment, of each and every criterion, and of each and every truth.                 


The World


Descartes mistakenly defined substance as “a thing which exists in such a way that it does not need any other thing to exist.”[88] This, of course, can apply only to God since it deals with an absolutely independent substance. He does say that this applies to God only, but then contradicts himself by also saying that substances (created things) are those things which require only God’s concourse to exist. He reduced corporeal substances into res extensa (extension), thus reducing a substance into an accident. For Descartes, the essence of material things consists in extension, that is, the essence of the material world is being res extensa. Res extensa is an innate idea. Having first doubted the existence of the external world that is perceived by the senses, and having affirmed the first certainty, the cogito, and then proceeding to the affirmation of the clear and distinct idea of God, Descartes affirms the clear and distinct idea that is res extensa, which is extension or quality, which he discovers when he eliminates all that which one can without destroying the corporeal body itself. Extension or quantity is the fundamental attribute of corporeal beings and is its very essence; the other attributes of body include divisibility, figure and movement.


Descartes conception of the world is essentially mechanistic. Corporeal substance is reduced to matter, which, in turn, is confused with the accident quantity or geometrical extension. He does not accept essential or specific differences among bodies, which can be but modifications of a single substance. He clearly prepares the way for Spinozian monism. Descartes also most erroneously denies that the cosmos possesses both quality and energy, since for him space and motion alone are real.       


Descartes denies that there are absolute accidents in a substance and sustains only relative accidents determining the substance. What the founder of immanentism rejects is the accidents that communicate a positive and new perfection to the subject which this substance would not already possess as a substance. Instead of absolute accidents, he believes in so-called relative accidents (like that of similarity and equality between things) determining the substance only in terms of the position and external connection of the parts of the substance, or in a difference concerning the bearing of one substance towards another. This denial of absolute accidents (accidents that confer a real perfection upon their subjects) in favour of only relative accidents (which have their being in a subject only because of the bearing one substance has towards another) is of course mistaken as it goes counter, for example, to our internal experience and real capacity for knowledge, as Bittle explains: “Certainly, many accidents are merely relative; for instance, those of ‘similarity’ and ‘equality’ between two individual substances. The mere fact that two persons or trees are five feet and ten inches tall, does not give to either of them any positive and new perfection or entity beyond what they already possess; their ‘equality’ in height consists entirely in this ‘point of comparison’ or relation. The same applies to the ‘similarity’ between a horse and a cat, because they resemble each other in this that both are ‘white’ in color. But not all accidents are of this kind. There are absolute accidents. In proving this statement, we will restrict ourselves to facts revealed by our own internal experience, because no philosopher can doubt this evidence without destroying the ultimate possibility of all valid knowledge. Our internal experience testifies to us that there are various modifications within us, like thinking, willing, seeing, hearing, feeling, walking, working, and various kinds of productive activity. To deny these activities is to make an illusion of our internal experience as a source of knowledge. These activities are a reality, distinct from our fundamental essence or substance. They are present for a time and then disappear; we exert ourselves to increase or decrease their intensity; we are actively engaged in bringing them forth or stopping them. These activities confer a new perfection and entity upon us which was not there before. Would anyone assert seriously that a blind and deaf person does not lack something which one who sees and hears possesses through the activity of sight and hearing? Or, that a healthy person does not possess a perfection and entity which a critically ill person has lost? If so, then there is no real distinction between blindness and sight, deafness and hearing, health and illness; but that is obviously false. However, while these activities come and go, we still retain our essential identity as an abiding and permanent reality throughout the origin and passing of these transient modifications. But this proves that we are a substance, while these acts are a positive perfection and entity consisting in something more than the mere relation of one thing to another; more, for instance, than the relation of ‘similarity’ between the light of an electric lamp and the light of a star. Knowledge, too, is more than an accidental relation. If it were nothing real supperadded as an entity to the mind, then the mind with knowledge would not be really different from the mind without knowledge. Ignorance and knowledge would really amount to the same thing for a mind. But the mind undergoes a change, when it passes from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge, as our consciousness clearly testifies. Change, however, implies that something is actually acquired (or lost) in the process. Reversely, when we forget or are victims of amnesia, we realize that we have lost something definite in the line of a perfection for our mind; not the mind itself, of course, because that we still possess, but something that the mind had and now is deprived of. If knowledge were not a real perfection, we would acquire nothing when we learn, and we would lose nothing when we forget; there would then be no real distinction between the erudition of a great thinker and the vacuity of an idiot. Hence, knowledge is something that can be acquired and lost, an accident that is a reality distinct from the mind. The effort we put forth in order to learn proves the same thing. It takes no effort on our part to be similar to another in the color of our complexion or equal to another in our size. But to acquire a knowledge similar or equal to that possessed by another, demands distinct effort and labor. And this proves that knowledge is more than a mere relation or relative accident; it is an absolute accident.”[89]       


Cartesian Provisional Morals


Descartes formulated a number of rules for a provisional morality,[90] which would be adopted at the outset, before the application of the rules of the mathematical method and universal doubt, so that one may be able to live in a state of tranquility and happiness and pursue philosophical studies. In the third part of the Discourse on Method, he gives three rules of provisional morality: 1. Social conformity, obeying the laws and religion of the country, and moderation (being political and diplomatic, not outspoken and fanatical): “The first was to obey the laws and customs of my country, holding constantly to the religion in which by God’s mercy I had been instructed from my childhood, and governing myself in all other matters according to the most moderate and least extreme opinions – the opinions commonly accepted in practice by the most sensible of those with whom I should have to live[91]”; 2. Having a firmness and resoluteness of will and in one’s actions, and to follow faithfully even dubiously maintained opinions (that is, opinions which have not yet been established beyond doubt) when one’s mind has been made up about them: “To be as firm and decisive in my actions as I could, and to follow even the most doubtful opinions, once I had adopted them, with no less constancy than if they had been quite certain”[92]; and 3. The conquering of one’s passions and moderation in desire, or “to try always to master myself rather than fortune, and change my desires rather than the order of the world.”[93] After having presented the three rules of the provisional morals, he then gives us a general criterion which would serve as a fundamental norm and foundational base for those three rules, namely: to spend one’s entire life in the cultivation of reason and in making as much progress as is possible in the pursuit of the knowledge of the truth.


 A definitive morals was never realized by Descartes, but from what we can gather from his last works such as the Passions of the Soul, as well as his letters, he believed ethics to be the highest level of wisdom. Descartes also highlights a number of truths that have a bearing on human actions; in order to act morally in the best of possible ways one must have present in the mind the following truths: 1. that God exists and that all things are dependent upon Him ; 2. the superiority of the soul over the body, its nobility, as well as its immortality ; 3. the vastness of the universe in comparison to our limited, finite selves ; 4. the superiority of the common good over individual preferences. And in the Passions of the Soul, Descartes add another truth: self-knowledge or a proper appraisal of oneself. In his article The Progressive Norm of Cartesian Morality, Connor Chambers writes that “in his letter of September 15, 1645, to Princess Elizabeth, Descartes listed four such truths which have a bearing upon all our actions. The first and primary truth is that there is a God, Infinite and Infallible, upon Whom all things depend. The consequence of this truth is that we must accept everything as directly sent by God – resignedly, yet confidently and even optimistically. The second truth concerns the nature of our soul, which can subsist without the body and is capable of enjoying countless pleasures in the next life. This truth is intended by Descartes to deliver us from the fear of death and to detach us from the things of this world. The third truth describes the vast expanse of the universe, and is directed at those minds swollen by an exaggerated anthropocentrism. In alluding to the possibility of immense worlds of activities and designs beyond our ken, together with the immense divine omnipotence mentioned in the first truth, Descartes stresses our greatly restricted ability to grasp the divine providential plan…The fourth truth concerns the idea of the common good which must guide our conduct. Each of us figures as a unit within a variety of concentric circles in which we must play our proper contributive roles. As parts of the universe, of the earth, of the state, of society, and of the family in which we live, we ought to prefer the interests of these various wholes to our own, though applying this and the other rules with discerning discretion in particular moral situations.


“More fundamental than even these various relational positions in which the Cartesian moral agent finds himself is the importance of proper self-appraisal; for ‘one of the principle parts of wisdom is to know in what way and for what cause each person ought to esteem or despise himself.’[94] And for Descartes it is the truly generous man who best knows himself: ‘true generosity which causes a man to esteem himself as highly as he legitimately can, consists alone partly in the fact that he knows that there is nothing that truly pertains to him but this free disposition of his will, and that there is no reason why he should be praised or blamed unless it is because he uses it well or ill; and partly in the fact that he is sensible in himself of a firm and constant resolution to use it well.’[95][96] Finally, Descartes considered the noble virtue of generosity to be the highest of all virtues.








The French Oratorian rationalist Nicholas Malebranche was born in Paris on August 5th, 1638. He studied philosophy at the La Marche College and later theology at the Sorbonne. In 1660 he entered the Oratorian Order where he immersed himself in Sacred Scripture and Augustinian Neo-Platonic philosophy and theology. In 1664 he was ordained a priest of the Oratory, and it was during this time that he became an ardent disciple of Cartesian rationalism (which he thought to be far superior to Scholastic realism). A perusal of Descartes’ posthumously published work, The Treatise on Man, ignited his passion for Cartesian mathematicism and, consequently, he devoted four years of his life to a detailed study of the opera omnia of the founder of modern philosophy. Malebranche’s own philosophical works include The Search for Truth (1674-1675), Clarifications on the Search for Truth (1678), Treatise on Nature and Grace (1680), Christian Meditations (1683), Treatise on Morals (1684), Conversations on Metaphysics and Religion (1688), the Laws of Communication and Movements (1692), and the Treatise on the Love of God (1697). In 1699 he was appointed a member of the French Academy of Sciences. He died in Paris on October 13th, 1715.




Although the term “ontologism” was first coined by the nineteenth century Italian thinker Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-1852, an ontologist himself), the father and most famous exponent of the philosophical doctrine that goes by that name is, without doubt, Malebranche.[97] Ontologism is the theory that believes that man has a direct intuition of the essence of God, that the Divine Being is not only the first Being in reality but also the first Being we know, the very first idea that the mind forms. Faithful rationalist that he was, Malebranche believed in the fundamental principle that the logical order necessarily paralleled the ontological order (or the order of reality), and since God is the first Being in the order of existence, he argued that He necessarily had to be first in the order of thought.


Malebranche agreed with the fundamental theses of Cartesian metaphysics (wherein reality is divided into thought and extension) and gnoseology (where the supreme criteria of truth is the clear and distinct idea), but he went beyond Descartes in two points: in the problem of knowledge and that of causality. For Malebranche, our ideas are the perfections of God that He shows us in His infinite Essence. The vision of the ideas in God is possible because He is immediately present in our spirits.


Malebranche maintained that as God contains in Himself, as identical with the Divine Essence, the exemplars or pattern ideas of everything creatable, the more we know God the more will we be able to know His creation. Our knowledge of the world is explained by the fact that it is acquired in and through our knowledge of God. Our ideas, he holds, are caused by God alone. Whenever we think or whenever we see something, we are simply looking into the Divine Mind. We see material beings and know all things in the mind of God in that we see in His mind the exemplars or archetypal ideas by reference to which He creates the world.[98] 


Refutation of Ontologism


Ontologism is an erroneous doctrine that goes counter to experience and philosophical reasoning. Reason and experience show us that God’s existence is not self-evident to us, as the ontologists mistakenly believe, and needs to be demonstrated, starting from the things that are more knowable to us, namely, the things of this world. The infinite cannot be the immediate natural and proportionate object of our finite minds. Also, the internal sense of the imagination would be a useless faculty for man if ontologism were true; but nature does nothing in vain, an axiomatic verity. Finally, if we had a constant, direct, intuitive vision of God, as the ontologists maintain, we would already be in the state of heavenly beatitude, which is absurd, seeing that unhappiness in this life is in abundant supply.  


We simply cannot arrive at a knowledge of God’s existence and attributes by means of a direct intuition of His essence; such a vision pertains only to the supernatural order. Our unaided natural powers cannot ascend to such a knowledge, as St. Thomas explains in Summa Theologiae, I, q. 12, a. 4.[99] We ascend to God not through a knowledge of Him as He is in Himself, in that which essentially constitutes Him what He is, not in the absolute simplicity of His Divinity, but rather only insofar as there is an analogical similarity between God and His creatures. The fourth proof by which we dismiss ontologism is the fact of the great number of analogical concepts derived from creatures that we have recourse to in order to form an idea of God.


Bittle criticizes ontologism in the following manner: “The doctrine of ontologism may seem strange. Two principal reasons account for it. According to these thinkers, the presence of the idea of the ‘infinite’ in man’s mind cannot have its origin in finite beings, because the finite does not contain the infinite; the eternity, universality, and necessity which characterize many judgments, especially the first principles, cannot be derived from finite reality (such a reality is temporal, particular and contingent) but must originate in the mind from the Eternal, Universal, and Necessary Being or God.


“In answer to the ontologists it must be stated that man has no experience of a direct intuition of God; if man had such an experience, he would have to be conscious of it at all times. Such an intuition of God would make all doubt or error concerning God’s existence and nature utterly impossible; yet doubt and error in this respect can and do exist. If man knew all things in the ideas of God, man’s knowledge would always be infallibly true, because God Himself is infallible truth. As for the reasons advanced by ontologists in defense of their position, they are based on a misconception. It is true that man has an idea of the ‘infinite,’ but the very word shows that it is derived from the finite (‘in-finite’) by removing the limitation of finiteness; hence, it must be obtained by a process of abstraction from finite beings. It is also true that our ideas and judgments frequently possess the characteristics of eternity, universality, and necessity. However, in God these attributes belong to His nature and being, while in our ideas and judgments these characteristics refer merely to their ‘application to things’ as the result of abstraction. Hence, these characteristics are essentially dissimilar to the attributes of God.”[100]


Gornall’s critique of ontologism is the following: “All ontologists appeal to something recognizable in mental experience, and invite us to agree that it must be God. Most of the nineteenth century ontologists appealed specially to what are called necessary truths like those of mathematics and metaphysics. A truth like 2 + 2 = 4 is, they urged, eternally and necessarily true; but what is eternal and necessary is God; therefore these truths are part of God. The conclusion does not follow. Such necessary truths are obtained by observing finite things and thinking away the particularity of what is observed, i.e. by abstraction: not this 2 and this 2 equal this four, but any possible pair of two’s equal four. The ‘necessity’ and ‘eternity’ which such truths possess are not the necessity and eternity of God, but something essentially lower which is found in finite things and is, in the last analysis, part of their meaning. But this finite necessity is not absolute in every way. 2 + 2 = 4 is true of any possible pair of 2’s; but it is not absolutely necessary that there be any 2’s for it to be true about, or any finite minds to know them. God’s necessity, by contrast, is absolute in every way. The fact of some kind of necessity does not immediately indicate God. Even what is called a ‘mere fact’ has some necessity about it, something absolute. A mere fact must be what it is, and not something else at the same time and in the same respect. This minimal necessity and absoluteness belongs to every thing as what it is and part of its meaning; it cannot be denied without re-affirming it in the denial. If this is true of concrete facts, it will be true in a new way of immaterial facts and principles of thought. Two stones may become three stones by division, but twoness cannot become threeness. Again, the ‘eternity’ of such principles is not the eternity of God; it merely abstracts from time, just as it abstracts from place, in virtue of being immaterial in our immaterial minds…


“The contention that we see the ‘necessary truths’ of mathematics and metaphysics in the mind of God is wholly gratuitous. The explanation that attributes these truths, as they exist in our minds, to the mind’s abstractive power is quite satisfactory. How they do in fact exist in the mind of God is a question whose answer is not to us sufficiently clear to be very relevant. For St. Thomas, their truth as it exists in God is inseparable from His infinite essence: ‘We do not see the truth of things (rationes rerum: strictly, creatable things as they exist in God’s thought) as it exists in God: to do so would necessarily involve seeing the essence of God.’[101]


“…existence in general’ cannot be specifically divine, because it is equally verified in creatures. Similarly, our idea of ‘being in general,’ however it is conceived, is not specifically divine because it includes creatures; and in any case our idea of God is no intuition of God, but is obtained by negation of finiteness. 


“Our experience of ourselves might give rise to error in the matter. The saturation of the self through mind and sense that can be produced by contemplation of nature, or through artistic contemplation, or through love, can culminate in a condition whose description is in many ways close to that given by the great mystics of their highest states of contemplation of God – a darkness and blankness that is more than light and thought. But there need be no confusion. The apparent condition and its description are not the only factors involved. The saturation is that of the human person at certain levels, in part observable and describable; the objects towards which the mind and will are directed in its production are a different matter altogether; they may be as different as finite and infinite. For the artist, the experience may be accepted for its own sake, or may point beyond itself to he knows not what; the mystic for his part, knows very well the difference between contemplating God and contemplating any other object.


“Finally, the sense of dependence on God which some may claim to have is no intuition of God, but a reminder-feeling accompanying knowledge otherwise acquired that we depend on God. The same may be said, for similar reasons, of the working of the moral conscience.


“That God cannot be known directly and clearly by finite minds in this life follows immediately from St. Thomas’s theory of knowledge. In direct knowledge, the knower acquires a perfection equal to that of the object known, so far as it is known. But a finite intellect has no natural capacity to receive the perfection of infinite being. God, therefore, cannot be known directly, but only indirectly, analogically. In the Beatific Vision, a finite intellect by a finite act knows God directly but not comprehensively. For St. Thomas this is a mystery in the strict sense and one of the supreme examples of divine power…”[102]


The Occasionalism of Malebranche


The “occasionalism” of Malebranche rejects the proper role of secondary causality in creatures; it denies finite, creatural causality and ascribes all real causality to God alone within a framework of finite, creatural ‘occasions.’ All causal power would belong to God alone. The scholastic doctrine of the secondary efficient causality of creatures and their various active powers, he thought, was a carry over from paganism and he believed that it was his mission to purge the Greek paganizing influence from the Christian religion, so that all religious devotion would be directed to God alone. Eliminating the role of secondary causality in creatures he maintained that “all the forces of nature are nothing but the will of the solely efficacious God.”[103] Does Malebranche deny any type of agency whatsoever to creatural beings? No, since the Supreme Being’s laws of motion are ineffective until determined by particular circumstances or finite modes of mind and body. These creatural entities provide the indispensable occasions, or ‘natural causality,’ for enabling God’s power to operate in the actual world along definite lines.         


Malebranche makes use of his occasionalism in order to resolve the philosophical problem of the soul-body relationship. Being two completely diverse realities, he says that the soul and the body cannot enter into direct communication nor exercise an influence upon each other. The dispositions of the body and the soul serve only as an occasion for the intervention of God, who manages to directly and exclusively develop all the actions of both body and soul. All operative activity comes solely from the Divinity. The human soul, for example, only seems to move the body; in reality, it is God Himself who contributes the actual movement. Corporeal beings often seem to communicate movement to other things; but this can only be an appearance since God produces the movement. Bodily and spiritual creatures are thus devoid of their own proper causal activity, being merely occasions suitable for the communication of activity by the Deity.[104]


Critique of Occasionalism


Occasionalism leads to the errors of both pantheism and determinism (Descartes = Malebranche = Spinoza). It gravitates towards pantheism in that it tends to identify the Creator with the creature. Spinozian monism declares that there is only one Substance, God; occasionalism, instead, says that there are many substances but only one agent, God. Now, if the Divine Substance alone is the source of the activity of things, it alone being active, it can easily be concluded that individual entities are merely appearances and manifestations of the One Substance, which is God or Nature (Deus sive natura). Human beings would merely be modes or modifications of God, identified with Nature (Spinoza). Thus, Turner writes that “although Malebranche protested against the pantheism of ‘le misérable Spinoza,’ posterity has rightly pronounced his occasionalism to be Spinozism in the stage of arrested development – pantheism held in check by faith in Christian revelation.’[105] Occasionalism, likewise, leads to the denial of free will in man (determinism), for if the human person is not the efficient cause of his actions, then he really is not free and also not responsible for his actions.    








Baruch Spinoza[106] (1632-1677) was born in Amsterdam on November 24th, 1632. Though educated in the Jewish tradition, his readings into Cabalism, the philosophy of Giordano Bruno, and Cartesian rationalism made him reject his Jewish faith for pantheism.[107] In 1656 he was solemnly excommunicated from the synagogue at the age of twenty-four. In order to support himself he took to grinding lenses for a variety of optical instruments, while leading a quiet and reclusive life of study and writing. In 1660 he went to Leiden and in 1663 he moved to the neighborhood of the Hague. In 1673 he was offered a teaching position in philosophy at Heidelberg, which he refused as he did not want to be distracted from his studies and writing, as well to avoid censure by the secular and religious authorities. He died of tuberculosis (aggravated by the inhalation of the glass dust of the lenses he had been grinding) on February 21st, 1677 at the relatively early age of 44. His works include A Brief Treatise on God, Man, and Happiness (written in 1658 but published only two hundred years later), the Principles of the Philosophy of René Descartes published in 1663, his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus which appeared anonymously in 1670, and his Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometrical Order, together with his Political Treatise and his Tractatus de emendatione intellectus, which appeared immediately after his death in 1677.       




Spinoza’s point of departure for his pantheist monism is the clear idea of substance. He accepts as a given the Cartesian concept of substance as “a thing which exists in such a way that it does not need any other thing to exist.”[108] As this definition can apply only to God, Spinoza forthwith states that there is only one Substance, which is God or Nature. Spinoza’s own definition of substance is clearly inspired by Descartes and is thoroughly immanentistic: “By substance I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing from which it must be formed.”[109] Thus, there can only be one Substance, which is necessarily infinite: God identified with Nature (Deus sive Natura). Spinoza deduces three propositions from the clear idea of substance, namely, 1. that substance exists necessarily; 2. that substance is infinite; and 3. that this substance is unique.[110]    


“Deus Sive Natura”


This “God” would be constituted of an infinity of attributes, of which only two are known to man: thought and extension. For Spinoza, the world is not separate from God; rather, the world (Nature) is identified with God: Deus sive Natura (God or Nature). They are one and the same thing. Men and things are but modes (accidental modifications) of the one Divine Substance.[111] God would be natura naturans, that is, infinite productive activity that produces the world, while the world, instead, would be natura naturata, that is, the infinite product. “Spinoza, using the traditional word ‘substance’ with a new meaning, forthwith identifies this one infinite divine Substance with Nature, that is, with this visible cosmos. Hence the famous phrase Deus sive Natura, which recurs unforgettably in his writings in his careful and precise Latin. The Latin language has two words for ‘or’: vel, to state that the two terms are distinct; and sive, to state that they are identical. When Spinoza says ‘God or Nature,’ therefore, he means that they are one and the same. When he uses the word ‘God,’ as he does constantly, he does so deceptively, for he means ‘Nature.’ And when he uses the word ‘Nature’ he means what pantheism calls ‘the Divine.’ This confusion between existing in itself and existing of itself erases the distinction between the Creator and His creatures, who are indeed independently existing substantial realities because they have received from Him a participated form of existence. They exist in themselves as distinct substantial realities. But in Spinoza the doctrine of creation disappears…The doctrine of the eternity of matter follows as a quick and necessary corollary. And matter is introduced as an element of God: thus the very concept of God suffers a reduction to nothingness. For ‘God’ has become only a word. Pantheism is a disguise for atheism…”[112]


Spinoza’s Denial of Free Will


A predictable consequence of his pantheism of the sole Divine Substance with innumerable modes (individual men and the things of the world) is his negation free will in men and the elimination of the problem of evil. “Since pantheism denies liberty, Spinoza’s morality merely states the facts which occur, denying the idea of evil, and replacing it by that of a man being of little repute.”[113] As regards his political thought, Spinoza was one of the first architects of the contractual theory of the State. “In his political philosophy, Spinoza uncovers the ultimate consequences of his system. His Tractatus politicus, written after his Ethics and unfinished, is decidedly Machiavellian and inspired by Hobbes. In it he shows the most profound contempt for the people, the rabble, the masses, the populace: they are despicable, they do not count, since they live by the imagination, and so fall easily into superstitious beliefs. For Spinoza, the ruler must be an ‘enlightened despot,’ a philosopher-ruler who, enlightened by reason, will impose it on the people dominated by ignorance. The enlightened despot must rule with an iron-fist, since he has the privilege of the intellectual vision of things. He must treat the people like dangerous and ignorant animals who submit to fear and not to love. This philosopher thus justifies all political tyrannies in a more radical manner than Machiavelli.”[114]       


For Spinoza, people are but modes, emanations of the One Substance which is God identical with Nature (Deus sive Natura). Free-will, for him, is illusory; men live and breathe in a world of strict determinism. Men are insignificant parts of a larger whole, which is Nature. He says that men think that they are free because they are ignorant of the causes that determine their actions. The feeling that we are the causes of our free acts is only an illusion. He gives the example that if a stone were thrown up in the air and while falling were to become conscious it would imagine that it was flying of its own free will, but this would all be an illusion for other causes that determine the stone’s descent are at work. Though free will is an illusion, one can be “free,” he says, in the detached acknowledgement that everything in the end is determined or necessary: “Spinoza’s answer is that we shall be free by understanding and acceptance – understanding that we are part of a bigger whole and seeing that, as such, nothing that happens to any one of us could have fallen otherwise, given the state of the whole from which it arises. Once we see this clearly we shall stop fretting and we shall come free from the cycle of ego-centric, reactive transactions in which we are puppets on a string.”[115] “Spinoza holds that it is not by fighting what constitutes such determinism that human beings can find freedom, move from a state of bondage to one of freedom, but, paradoxical as it may sound, by accepting it. Such acceptance is achieved through detachment and self-knowledge…Given that the situation that faces him cannot be changed, how can he come out of such a state of bondage, emerge into a state of freedom? Spinoza’s answer is: by accepting his situation, by stopping to fight it. This involves detachment, which is not the same as indifference. The detachment in question is from the ego…if in my feelings I am at one with Nature then everything that happens will be what I am in agreement with, not because of what it is, but regardless of what it is. Paradoxically in yielding myself, in the sense of giving up my ego and becoming part of nature, I stop yielding to something external to myself…the will of Nature, as it were, is imposed on one because one separates oneself from it by rooting oneself in one’s ego. If one embraces it, makes the will of Nature one’s command, one will be set free.”[116]   


The object of Spinozian ethics is the intellectual love of “God” (or Nature). In elevating oneself from one’s passions through the life of reason and in the intellectual contemplation of the One Substance (God or Nature) in its most profound aspect one obtains supreme happiness. It is a salvation by means of philosophical reasoning alone. “Taken together, the divine substance and its infinite number of attributes constitute natura naturans, or nature in its dynamic, productive aspect; the totality of modes constitutes natura naturata, or nature in its explicated and produced aspect. When Spinoza sets the goal of philosophy to be the discovery of the union of the mind with the whole of nature, he means the knowledge of the totality of nature as both naturans and naturata, for this constitutes the full reality of God. The mind which fails to see God or nature in this integral way is taking an imaginative and erroneous view of things. It thinks that individual things are contingent, temporal substances, that man is a free agent, and that he is subject to external forces and chance events. To take this imaginative view of nature is to be subject to the passions, to be the hapless victim of all the miseries of life. Liberation from the passions comes when we abandon this false outlook and embrace the true doctrine on substance-attributes-modes. The modal world is then seen in proper, eternal perspective, and a change takes place in the individual’s moral condition. He is no longer at the mercy of every external circumstance, for he has learned to regard natura naturata precisely as it stems from natura naturans and hence to see it in the true light of eternity. The total determination of the modal world and everything in it springs from its very definition as a reality caused by another. Far from leading to a depressing fatalism, however, this conception is the basis for whatever hope and enthusiasm may enliven the human breast. For this ‘other,’ this causal principle of the world of modes, is none other than the omnipotent and wholly immanent God. Hence the causal determination of things is really from within and is an expression of the divine rationality and power themselves. To pass from an imaginative to a true or eternal view of the universe is nothing more than to share in Spinoza’s own vision of God’s identity with the necessary unfolding of nature.”[117]


Refutation of Spinoza’s Pantheism 


Contrary to Spinozian monism, God is not identified with Nature; He is infinitely distinct from the world, whose finite and imperfect beings merely participate in the act of being given to them by the Infinite Being (in whom act of being and essence are identified). To say, as Spinoza does, that there is only one Substance (Deus sive Natura), does violence to the testimony of common sense. Everyday experience shows that there are many things in the world, distinct from one another because of their specific essences, and those of the same form (apple, horse, cat, etc.) are many because their form is received in different parcels of matter (matter is the principle of individuation[118]). If the world were identical with God, the world would necessarily be a single being, for God is Himself supremely one, undivided and indivisible.[119] But such a position blatantly contradicts both the testimony of the senses and of reason. At the foundations of Spinoza’s substantialistic pantheism lie the erroneous notions of substance and subsistence (which he inherited from Descartes), and his failure to understand the real distinction of essentia and esse in creatures[120] (finite beings, diverse in essence, only participate[121] in esse; they merely have esse by participation) and identification of essence and act of being in God (God doesn’t have being; He is Being, His Essence is To Be). Charles Hart explains: “But whether a substance (an ens per se) is also an Ens a Se, that is, a being in whom existence is intrinsic and proper to its nature or essence, will be quite a distinct problem from that of the constitution or nature of substance as such. It will involve the question as to whether the substance or essence is in potency to an act of to be received into this substance (and thus at the same time a principle of limitation and therefore multiplication), or whether it is a substance or essence identical with its act of to be (and therefore not a principle of limitation and multiplication). The substances of our immediate experience are all of the former character, namely, principles of limitation. This accounts for their multitude. They are therefore finite predicamental substances. They also point to the necessity of inferring the existence of a substance which is not a principle of limitation but is identical with its act of to be and without which the limited substances could not exist, since they must receive their respective acts of to be which are not intrinsic to their substances, if they are to exist at all. This substance which does not limit its act of to be and whose existence must be inferred is therefore not only a being existing in itself (ens per se), but it is also a Being that exists of itself (Ens a Se). This however is not necessarily a note of substance as such.  Its demand for existence in itself may be met either by caused or uncaused being. Its substantiality as such does not include the question of the source of existence in itself. Every substance requires that it exist in itself. Only Infinite Substance also exists of itself; that is, only the Infinite Substance is necessarily Self-Existing. What makes all this clear and permits a sound doctrine of substance which involves no such error as the pantheism of Spinoza is the understanding of the real distinction of essence and act of being in all beings of our experience, that is, their participated character. It is this principle which permits Thomism to anticipate and refute the error of the substantialistic pantheism of Spinoza, in whose philosophy no such insight into the true nature of being is possible.”[122]         








Born at Leipzig on July 1st, 1646, the German rationalist Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz[123] was a thinker of vast interests and was, with Newton, the inventor of infinitesimal calculus. He was also the precursor of mathematical logic. Between the years 1672 and 1676 Leibniz sojourned at Paris as ambassador to the German emperor, and it was during this time that he came into contact with the thinkers Arnauld, Huygens and Malebranche, and managed to develop an impressive knowledge of the Cartesian and Spinozian systems. The last forty years of his life were spent at Hanover where he acted as librarian and secretary to the Prince Elector. In 1682 he founded the Acta eruditorum at Leipzig, and in 1700 he became the first president of the Society of the Sciences at Berlin (which later became the Prussian Academy of Sciences). His main works include the Discourse on Metaphysics (1686), the New System of Nature and of the Interaction of Substances (1695), his Essays on Theodicy (1710), and his Principles of Nature and Grace and Monadology (1714). At one time one of the most famous of thinkers in Europe, Leibniz, however, died at Hanover on November 14th, 1716 a forgotten man (when the Elector of Hanover became George I of England in 1714, Leibniz was not chosen to accompany him). His burial was attended only by his secretary.  


Virtual Innatism


Rejecting the innate ideas of Descartes and the tabula rasa of Locke, Leibnizian gnoseology maintains a virtual innatism, that is, ideas, for Leibniz, are in the mind virtually, and the intellect, by means of a reflection upon itself, makes these potential ideas actual. Unlike Descartes who held that innate ideas were clear and distinct, he retains that they are “minute perceptions.” The cognitive powers of man are threefold, namely, sense, memory, and reason. The knowledge of reason is divided into two: truths of reason (the principle of identity or non-contradiction) and truths of fact (the principle of sufficient reason). While the principle of non-contradiction or identity concerns the laws determining all true propositions expressing neccesary truths by means of a finite, terminative analysis, the principle of sufficient reason is the very ground of all true propositions and of the very intelligibility of things. For Leibniz, “every aspect of thought and reality is governed by the principle of sufficient reason. Nihil est sine ratione: nothing is without a sufficient reason – Leibniz hails this as the grandest axiom of his entire system. In its most general logical form, this principle states that the predicate is contained analytically in the subject of every true proposition. ‘The content of the subject must always include that of the predicate in such a way that if one understands perfectly the concept of the subject, he will know that the predicate appertains to it also.’[124] At least in principle, every true proposition is analytic in its logical foundation, so that the predicate can be shown to be contained analytically in the concept of the subject. This is the foundation of our conviction in the radical intelligibility of the universe and of our solid hope that systematic explanation of things is possible, through a universal characteristic. Leibniz sometimes refers to it as the principle that a reason must be furnished (principium rationis reddendae), since a reason is supplied by manifesting the analytic connection between the concepts of predicate and subject.”[125]




Leibniz is famous for his “monadology.” Against Descartes, he held that the primordial element of the natural world is not extension (he rejects the Cartesian tenet that the essence of material bodies consists in extension) but force (dynamism). The metaphysical principle is the monad (from the Greek monás = “unity,” “that which is one”). He writes in his Monadology: “The monad of which we shall speak is merely a simple substance, which enters into composites; simple, that is to say, without parts. And there must be simple substances, since there are composites; for the composite is only a collection or aggregatum of simple substances.”[126] The monad is a simple substance, endowed with activity, and the principles of its action are perception and appetition. Reality is composed of an infinity of monads, which are points deprived of extension but are endowed with activity. The monads are unextended centers of force. There are, however, no two monads alike, since the life of the monad consists in representation and each monadic representation is different from other monadic representations. All monads are endowed with appetition and perception. The monad is a “mirror of the universe” and has, with the other monads, a relation of representation. Each monad, from its own point of view, represents the cosmos, partially understood, in minature. Things are constituted by an entelecheia (active principle) and by prime matter (passive principle). God is the supreme monad, and the principle of pre-established harmony among created monads, while all things other than God are finite, created monads. By virtue of the Supreme Monad’s pre-established harmony, the monads are arranged in groups or colonies, the imperfect with the more perfect, and these, in turn, with a superior, dominant monad.


Man an Aggregate of Monads


Each individual human being, for Leibniz, is an aggregate of monads: he has a soul (which is the central monad) and a human body (which is an aggregate of monads). Between body and soul there is an effective rapport that is derived from a pre-established harmony produced by God.


Critique of Dynamism


Leibniz upholds the doctrine of dynamism against the mechanism of Descartes. If the latter believed that extension was the essence of corporeal bodies, the former held that it was active force, thus “spiritualizing” matter (sensible reality was, for Leibniz, reduced to appearance, yet another consequence of immanentism). But Cartesian mechanism and Leibnizian dynamism are contrary to the certainties of common sense and the testimony of reason. Criticizing the dynamist theory, R. P. Phillips writes: “There can be no doubt that bodies appear to us to be extended, and any theory which is to claim to be satisfactory, must take into account this fact, and offer some explanation of it, either by allowing that they really are so, or if it denies this, by advancing some feasible reason to account for their appearing to be so. The first course is not open to the dynamists, and they cannot offer a satisfactory explanation of the appearance, which will be in accord with their notions as to the nature of bodies; for their appearance of extension must have some cause. Now this cause cannot be the senses themselves, since, on the dynamist hypothesis, these are also unextended, and so contain nothing which would cause their objects to appear as extended. Nor can the cause of this appearance be external agents, since these also labour under the same disadvantage: in a word, since, according to the dynamists, there is nothing in the universe which is extended, there is equally nothing in the universe which could be the cause of an extended appearance. Leibniz’ suggestion that we produce it in order to represent a number of distinct things together is clearly untrue, since the notion of distinction and external position are quite different, that of distinction being wider; and, moreover, we do not always represent distinct things as outside one another in space as, for example, a series of numbers, or our various thoughts and desires, or immaterial beings, such as angels, or even God and the material world. According to dynamism, matter is composed of simple forces. Now these forces must be either in contact or not in contact. If they are not in contact they will coalesce, forming one force at a geometrical point, as Boscovich rightly observed. For it is clear that a certain extension is required for contact: if a tangent of a circle touched it at one point only, it would not touch it at all. In this case the plurality of bodies would disappear. If, on the other hand, they are not in contact; in any one body, the many monads or forces which compose it will be entirely distinct one from another, as regards their entity, even though they be supposed to act on one another across a vacuum. Hence the unity of such a body will be wholly destroyed. This is also true if they are supposed to coalesce in a point, since this point, which will be the only body, and therefore the only unified body, will be composed of a multitude of forces which will preserve their own entity in it. In either case, therefore, it is impossible to maintain the unity of bodies, on the dynamist hypothesis. Now, not only is this result in direct contradiction with experience but, if no body is a unity, we can gain no motion of the nature of any body, since it will not have one; and a fortiori shall be unable to determine the nature of body in general, but shall say it is force, which will be a term without any one meaning, and so a mere word to cover our ignorance.”[127]    


Leibniz held that bodies were made up of unextended, non-quantifiable elements, and that such elements were points of force or power, attracting one another up to a certain point, then holding one another apart, thus acting upon one another in across a void or vacuum. Such points of power would be immutable, not undergoing a transformation of nature when combined to form bodies. Glenn, however, sharply criticizes this theory, pointing out its conflict with the certainties of common sense and human reason in its unabashed denial of the substantial character of bodies (even though Leibniz affirms the existence of substance in his monadology – which is but a form of dynamism – he ends up “accidentalizing” it), its manifest self-contradictions of “extension born of inextension” and “phenomena without any stage on which to appear,” its impossible teaching of “action at a distance” (“distance” here meaning an absolute vacuum),[128] and the theory’s failure to explain unity or continuity in bodily being and function.


Criticizing the “de-substantialization” of substance by dynamism and its “extension born of inextension” and “phenomena without any stage on which to appear” self-contradictions, Glenn states: “Dynamism contradicts the definition of substance and turns the world into a non-substantial reality. For it defines bodies in terms of their accidents, and thus makes the universe a great mass of accidents without anything substantial in which to inhere. A power or force is in itself a quality, and leads on to function or action; and philosophy lists both qualities and actions as accidents, that is, as realities which are not regularly suited for existence themselves (that is, alone), but for existence as the marks, limitations, characterizations, or modifications of something else. Again, dynamists either admit the real extension of the universe, and of bodies in the world, or they call the extension merely apparent. (a) If they admit real extension, they are wholly illogical, for extension cannot be the product of inextended elements: zero added to zero will still be zero. Nor can they affirm that the inextended points of power (which are the constituents of all bodies) are actually held at a distance from one another and thus effect a truly extended body; for inextended points with nothing whatever between and among them still results in an inextended totality (b) If the dynamists call the world a mere apparent world, they have still to explain the apparition, and this they cannot do in terms of their own philosophy. They say – some of them – that we get the impression of continuity in bodies from the fact that the point-forces are in perpetual motion, just as we get the impression of a continuous ring of fire from a torch that is whirled rapidly in a circle. The illustration is objectionable on two counts: First, the flame of the torch is actually extended; there is no illusion about that to start with; whereas, according to dynamism, the whirling point-forces are inextended and thus invisible in themselves, and they are certainly not rendered visible by being moved rapidly about. Secondly, an illusion is due to a misapplication of actual experience; before we can have an illusion of continuity or solidity, we must have had some experience of what actual continuity or solidity is; but dynamism renders this prerequisite experience impossible, and hence destroys the possibility of illusion.”[129]           


Bittle’s appraisal of Leibniz’s monadology is this: it is “a fanciful theory, based completely on gratuitous assumptions which are contrary to experience. All monads are supposed to be endowed with life and knowledge – an assumption based on no evidence. This theory contradicts one of the most patent facts of nature, namely, the distinction between living and nonliving bodies. Whatever may be said about atoms and compounds, living bodies are certainly ‘natural bodies’ with a unity of structure and operation. But monads are the only units recognized by Leibniz; hence, the unity of the organism remains unexplained, because there is no principle in monadism to unite the single monads into an organism. As for the knowledge of monads, in virtue of which each monad mirrors all that happens to other monads throughout the universe, this is fantastic and obviously false. Man’s mind, for Leibniz, is a monad. Consciousness, however, testifies only too clearly, that we do not know everything that happens to other monads; we are even ignorant of much that takes place in the vital functions of our own body. Since the monads are unextended, simple substances, the fact of extension in bodies becomes inexplicable. No sum of unextended substances (no matter how great), can ever produce extension, because, what none of them have, their totality cannot have. Extension, however, is one of the most important facts about bodies. Hence, monadism is inadequate.”[130]    


In his critique of dynamism proper, Bittle explains that “all dynamistic theories assume that bodies consist either of pure forces or of unextended active substances. Neither view is adequate as an explanation of the nature of bodies. Neither view can explain the extension of bodies. Dynamists find a contradiction in the very concept of continuous extension. But extension is a fact of physical nature; even dynamists admit that we have the ‘experience’ of extension. But how is it possible to have an experience of something which does not exist? And if it exists, how can it exist, when the ultimate components of bodies are all unextended? That our own bodies at least are truly extended, is witnessed by the incontrovertible testimony of our consciousness. Consequently, the ultimate constituents of our bodies are extended, not unextended. Then dynamism must be wrong. It is also a contention of dynamism that these unextended force-points or substances are not in contact, but are separated by space intervals; they are situated at some distance from one another. That implies ‘action at a distance.’ That, however, as was pointed out before, involves a contradiction in terms.


“Dynamism destroys the unity of organisms. Since these force-points or simple substances are at a distance from one another, they cannot be in contact; and if they came into contact, they would coalesce into a mathematical point, because they have no extension and must coalesce with their whole being at the same point. In that case, however, how can there be anything like the body of a plant, animal, or man, with a differentiated structure of cells, organs, and tissues? After all, organisms are not mathematical points, but spatially extended structural units. This organic unity amid structural diversity is one of the characteristic features of every organism, and dynamism leaves this an unexplained dogma. Hence dynamism must be rejected.”[131]


Leibniz’ Ontological Argument


Leibniz’ ontological argument goes like this: It is possible for God to exist, since that does not involve contradiction. But if God is possible, He must exist, since a God who is merely possible is not that which is understood by the concept ‘God.’ Therefore, God really exists. He writes: “God alone (or the Necessary Being) has this prerogative that if He be possible He must necessarily exist, and, as nothing is able to prevent the possibility of that which involves no bounds, no negation, no contradiction, this alone is sufficient to establish a priori His existence.”[132] For Leibniz, a Necessary Being or a Being without any imperfection whatsoever, is possible. But if a Necessary Being is possible, it exists, for in an All-Perfect Being, there is an identification between the reality of its possibility and the reality of its existence, since its essence includes that existence. Therefore, the Necessary Being necessarily exists.


Leibniz’ argument is another invalid demonstration, an illicit transfer from the logical order to the real order. It is true that if one conceptualizes God to be infinite and at the same time possible to exist, then, in order to maintain the divine infinity, one would have to affirm his real existence conceptually, since God who is merely possible is not as perfect as an actual, real God. Therefore, conceptually, one would have to affirm that the infinite being really exists. But the problem with this line of reasoning is that it does not yet prove the actual existence of the infinite God in the real order, in the order of being. Like Descartes, Leibniz is trapped within the immanent sphere of the mind, unable to transcend to know reality as it is. For these giants of rationalism, reality is not known in the first instance as thought is prior to being and becomes the condition of being. All they arrive at is a thought of reality, not actual reality.   


Leibniz on This World as the Best Possible of Worlds


Founding his theory upon the principle of sufficient reason, Leibniz held that this world was absolutely the best possible world that God could create, since it would derive necessarily from the most perfect being. But such a theory “jeopardizes divine freedom with regard to creation.”[133] Thonnard explains the reason why he would conclude to such a position: “The initial lack of precision on the meaning of sufficient reason led Leibniz to other lacks of precision. Thus, Leibniz practically denied divine and human liberty, for he could not recognize in a perfect efficient cause (as the free agent), an extrinsic sufficient reason fully explicative of action, yet openly distinct from the intrinsic, essential reason. The latter is brought back into his system under the guise of a necessary bond between every cause and its effect. The best possible world tends to become a formal effect, indispensable to the divine perfection, which is its formal cause; this is more similar to the series of modes constituting Spinoza’s world than Leibniz would like to admit.”[134]


In his critique of Leibnizian optimism, Bittle writes: “While we assert that God is infinitely good and perfect in all that He does, so far as He Himself is concerned, we deny that the present world is absolutely the best which God could create. Not only does experience reveal many physical and moral evils in this universe as it is presently constituted, but an absolutely perfect world, the best which God could create, is a contradiction in terms. God being infinitely perfect is indefinitely imitable by creatural beings. Every creatural being, however, is necessarily finite in its perfections. More perfect beings must be possible to God’s creative power; otherwise a limit is set either on God’s power or on His perfections. God cannot be necessitated to create, much less to create beings with greater perfection than that which the present world contains. God freely created the present world, and it is relatively perfect, namely, as perfect as He intended it to be; but it is not the best possible world, because such a world is self-contradictory.”[135]


Garrigou-Lagrange, commenting on the Summa Theologiae, responds to the position of Leibniz in the following manner: “‘The universe (the present creation being supposed) cannot be better, on account of the most beautiful order given to things by God…For if any one thing were bettered, the proposition of order would be destroyed; as if one string were stretched more than it ought to be, the melody of the harp would be destroyed.’[136] This orderly arrangement is true not only as regards the subordination of essences, but also as regards singulars and their characteristics; it even applies to good on account of which evils are permitted, as in the permission of persecution to try the patience of the martyrs. But, as St. Thomas says at the end of his reply to the third objection: ‘Yet God could make other things, or add something to the present creation, and thus there would be another and a better universe,’[137] which means it would be better, but not disposed better, taking the word ‘better’ as an adverb. The above reply is the answer that must be given to Leibniz, who wanted to prove that the present world is the best possible world. There is, indeed, a highest created nature, this being the highest angel, but there can be no limit to what is possible for God, because ‘He can always make something else better than each thing made by Him.’[138][139]








Author of the celebrated Pensées (Thoughts), the French thinker Blaise Pascal[140] was a scientist, mathematical genius, apologist for the Christian Faith, and a philosopher who challenged the rationalist status quo of his day. Born in Clermont-Ferrand, France on June 19th, 1623, the child prodigy Blaise was home-schooled by his father and had, by the age of sixteen, composed a Treatise on Conic Sections. The following year he invented a calculating machine (or mechanical computer) to aid his father in the assessment of taxes (the latter occupied a government post at Rouen at the time). There followed a series of important experiments to verify the conclusions of Torricelli’s vacuum, and these, in turn, provided the groundwork for his propositions of fundamental principles in hydrostatics. The year 1651 saw the death of his beloved father Étienne. Blaise had led a rather worldly life until his conversion to an austere, spiritual and mystical type of Christianity in November of 1654. Contrary to the judgments of certain skeptics, positivists and anti-Christian propagandists (such as Nietzsche) who maintain that Pascal’s conversion to Christianity destroyed his zest for scientific inquiry, it should be pointed out that the latter had, in fact, continued his scientific and mathematical investigations up until his untimely death, as Copleston shows: “Towards the end of his short life, when he was preoccupied with theological and religious problems, he laid the foundations of the infinitesimal calculus, the integral calculus and the calculus of probabilities. It is therefore not exactly true to say that Pascal’s asceticism diverted him from all ‘this-worldly’ activity and frustrated his mathematical genius as some critics have stated.”[141] Always of a weak constitution, Pascal died at the early age of thirty-nine on August 29th, 1662. His last words were: “Let God never forsake me!” His project of a grand work of Christian apologetics, with the expressed intention of converting the freethinkers, skeptics, and worldly Christians of his time, remained unfinished, in sketch form (this body of aphorisms and notes was compiled and given the title of Pensées).  


The Provincial Letters 


Pascal is known for his sharp criticisms of the moral theology of the Jesuits. In his Provincial Letters (1655-1657)[142] he accuses them of teaching moral laxism. But Copleston (a Jesuit himself) criticizes this position, showing, instead, that Pascal “selects for mention and condemnation extreme cases of moral accomodation from certain authors, and he tends to confuse casuistry itself with the abuse of it. Furthermore, he tends to attribute to moral theologians unworthy motives which were certainly absent from their minds. The Lettres provinciales, in fine, show a lack of balanced judgment and a failure to distinguish between the fundamental and valid principles of moral theology and the abuse of casuistry. However, the main underlying issue is clear enough. The Jesuits believed that in the contemporary world the humanistic side of Christianity should be stressed and that when the ideals of the Christian life are applied to individual cases, there is no call to assert an obligation when there is good reason for thinking that there is no such obligation. Their motive was not that of extending their own dominion over consciences but that of including as many as possible in the ranks of practising Christian believers. Pascal, on the other hand, tended to look on humanism as equivalent to paganism, any tempering of the wind to the shorn lamb he regarded as an intolerable tampering with the purity of the Christian ideal.”[143]


Pascal himself espoused an austere form of Christianity of the Jansenistic type, which over-emphasized the corruption of human nature after the Fall. What attracted him to the Jansenists of Port Royal (his sister Jacqueline had entered the Jansenist convent there) was their refusal to compromise with the spirit of the world. He also reprimanded the irreligious and freethinkers of his time for their lack of concern for eschatological verities, that is, for death, judgment, heaven and hell. He was a resolute apologist for Christianity underlining the reality of original sin and the need for redemption in Jesus Christ.


The ‘Reasons of the Heart’


Pascal conducted a sustained critique of Descartes’ rationalism, concentrating his attack on the Cartesian geometric method, a mathematicism that replaced metaphysics as first philosophy. According to him, such a rationalist method is opposed to the “reasons of the heart,” that is, to spiritual intuition. For Pascal, the heart “grasps intuitively the truths which escape rational demonstration. It sees the justice of the affirmations of good sense and it causes the value of a spirit of finesse in ordinary lives. It is also the faculty of first principles, for it grasps the definitions and the axioms of geometry. It is, hence, certaintly distinct from reason: ‘The heart itself has reasons of which reason knows nothing.’[144] Even though it does not attain science in the proper sense, the heart, in its own order, attains infallible truth.”[145]


‘Pascal’s Wager’


To the incredulous he proposed the “wager” regarding God’s existence, commonly known as “Pascal’s wager.” It is the best thing for man to wager that God really exists: if one wins, he wins everything (eternal life and beatitude); if he loses he loses nothing. Pascal did not intend the “wager” to be a rational, metaphysical demonstration of the existence of God nor a substitute for faith in Christianity, but rather a stimulus towards belief in the truths of the Faith: “It has been criticized as a proof of the existence of God. It was not intended to be one. Addressing atheists, some of whom were heavy gamblers, Pascal puts the problem to them under the form of a gambling proposition. If you bet there is a God, and there is none, you lose nothing, except perhaps some finite goods in your life; but if there is a God, you win an infinite good after death.”[146]








The English philosopher and politician Francis Bacon[147] (1561-1626) was born in London on January 22nd, 1561, the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Queen Elizabeth. After studies at Cambridge he sojourned for two years in France with the British ambassador and then took to the practice of law. In 1584 he entered Parliament and in 1618 became Lord Chancellor at the age of 57. He was made Baron of Verulam that same year and was a, few years after, created Viscount of St. Albans. However, in 1621, he fell into disgrace when found guilty of accepting bribes in his judicial capacity and was fined and imprisoned in the Tower. He died in London on April 9th, 1626. His principal works include Of the Advancement of Learning (1606), De sapientia veterum (1609), Novum Organum (1620), De augmentis scientiarum (1623), and the New Atlantis (1624).   


Bacon believed that the key to progress in the natural sciences lay in the right application of the inductive method: through experimentation, wherein one gathers sufficient information, and then through reasoning, one must then elaborate general hypotheses that enable one to arrive at a knowledge of the phenomena studied. Though he developed the method of scientific induction, which is the basis of experimental science, he did not invent induction in the general sense (which goes from particular cases to the formulation of general laws or is a way of reasoning which has as its goal the establishing of a universal truth through the interpretation of facts of experience). It was, in fact, Aristotle who invented both deduction and induction.


For Bacon, the end of science must be of a practical nature; its object is the cause of natural things. It was he who coined the famous phrase “knowledge is power,” which De Torre interprets him to mean “that knowledge has to be eminently practical and utilitarian, to enable or empower man to master nature; what matters is not contemplation, but production and action. Bacon thus introduces the primacy of praxis over theory.”[148] Thus, we see in Bacon a characteristic trait of the modern epoch, namely, the subordination of philosophical-sapiential knowledge to technical-instrumental knowledge.  


In the Novum Organum, Bacon attempts to replace Aristotelian logic, which is essentially deductive, with his new inductive logic. In the first part of his work, the pars destruens, he demolishes those obstacles (which he calls idols) which may impede true scientific research. The idols are four in number, namely: 1. The idols of the tribe, which, for him, are errors inherent in the human species, such as over reliance on the testimony of the senses and interpreting nature in an anthropomorphic way, which would read final causality in natural things; Bacon denied that there was such a thing as final causes in physics ; 2. The idols of the cave or den, which are defects proper to the individual man as a result of his upbringing and education, sees the world in a subjective way according to his whims ; 3. The idols of the market-place or defects resulting from a deficiency in common language that prevents true scientific research ; and lastly, 4. The idols of the theatre, by which Bacon means the various philosophies like Aristotelianism, Platonism and Scholasticism which are, to his understanding, no more than shows and comedies, representing conjured-up worlds invented by naïve and superstitious minds. Just as the logician must beware of sophistical reasonings, so too must the natural scientist be aware of the idols of the human mind that render the quest for true science impossible.    


In the second part of the Novum Organum, the pars costruens, Bacon indicates to the reader the procedure for arriving at results: not deduction, which he rejects, but the method of true induction which is geared towards the discovery of the forms of things. He “learns first of all that induction, to be scientific, must proceed by way of rejection or exclusion, as well as by inclusion. He learns that induction progresses with very slow and careful steps. He learns that for every act of induction the mind must consider four lists or classes of things. To illustrate: suppose the scientist wishes to investigate the cause of heat. He will first make a careful inclusive list of things in which heat is found (List of presence). Next, he will make a careful exclusive list of things which have, indeed, an affinity with heat-possessing objects, but which lack it themselves (List of absence). A third inclusive list must be carefully made of things which possess heat in varying degrees (List of comparison). Finally the scientist will make a list of things which not only do not possess heat, but which have no affinity whatever with heat-possessing objects (List of rejection). Now the scientist will compare his lists; he will study them with the greatest care and the keenest attention. He will be struck by the fact that heat is, in every instance recorded in the lists, associated with combustion. He will observe that where there is no combustion there is no heat, and that heat increases as combustion increases. Then he will rightly and scientifically conclude that combustion is the cause of heat.”[149] 


Bacon’s merit lies in being the first thinker to present in a systematic manner the problem of the proper method, object, and end, of the experimental sciences. Though he did not contribute to the progress of a particular science (Bacon was not a scientist by profession but a politician and a philosopher), his contributions presented above were fundamental to the progress of the experimental sciences in general. Nevertheless, his rejection of deduction harmed the growth of the mathematical sciences and also the integrity of philosophy itself which makes much use of this procedure, which goes from universal laws to particular cases. Glenn writes that Bacon had “dismissed deduction as useless. Without deduction philosophy properly so-called is impossible; and in rejecting deductive reasoning Bacon rejects the basic principles of knowledge which are arrived at by an a priori analysis of concepts. In consequence, he may justly be said to limit the field of philosophy to the natural sciences alone.”[150] Copleston, in fact, describes Bacon’s conception of philosophy as “naturalistic and materialistic.”[151] Concluding his assessment of Bacon’s philosophical system, Glenn writes that “Bacon did not achieve his end, which was the restoration or reformation of philosophy. If he deserves praise for his insistence upon painstaking and accurate observation and experiment, he deserves great blame for the harm he did in rejecting metaphysics proper and syllogistic reasoning. His method opened the way to empiricism, positivism, and skepticism.”[152]








Born at Westport, near Malmesbury, England on April 15th, 1588, Thomas Hobbes[153] was the son of an Anglican country clergyman. He studied for many years at the University of Oxford, travelled extensively in France and Italy, striking up friendships with both Descartes and Mersenne. He was also a friend of the empiricist Francis Bacon. Hobbes spent a number of years in France (1629 to 1631) as tutor to the son of a rich landowner, Sir Gervase Clifton, returned to England where he was under the service of the wealthy and influential Cavendish family, and returned again to the Continent from 1634 to 1637. In 1640 he wrote his polemically pro-royalist The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic,[154] dedicated to the royalist earl of Newcastle. Thinking that his life was threatened because of his absolutist views, Hobbes sought refuge in France that same year, and two years later published De cive in Paris. It was at Paris where Hobbes wrote the controversial work for which he is most famous for: Leviathan or the Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, which came out in London in 1651. After the Restoration of 1660 Hobbes enjoyed the patronage of Charles II and received a pension. He died on December 4th, 1679 at the age of ninety-one.




Hobbes’ philosophical thought consists of a nominalist logic, a sensist gnoseology,[155] a materialist metaphysics,[156] a naturalist anthropology, and a fundamentally egoistic, hedonist ethics.[157] One can also add that he consigned sacred theology to the realm of the irrational, denying it the rightful status of a science.[158] In his work Leviathan, Hobbes upholds the absolutism of the State. His theory of the State is contractual, not natural. He had a pessimistic view of man, considering him egoistic and individualistic by nature, seeking his own selfish interest above all things, and regarding all other men as rivals or enemies unless, of course, they could be used to his advantage. It was he who coined the famous phrase, homo homini lupus, meaning “man is a wolf to man.” In this state of nature of man, Hobbes held that there was a “war of all against all,” no right or wrong, no justice and injustice, for there was no law. Brute force and deceit governed men’s actions. In such a state of nature (which he also calls a state of war) “the notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues,”[159] and that “there is no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man’s, that he can get: and for so long as he can keep it.”[160] There was no civilization but utter barbarism in the state of nature: “In such a condition there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and, which is worse of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[161]  


Observing that this state of rivalry between men, because of their essentially egoistic and individualistic nature, was not ultimately to man’s advantage, Hobbes reasoned that, in order to pursue peace and order in society, the people would have to renounce their rights and vest absolute power on the sovereign or an assembly of men. This would be done in an irrevocable manner to preserve the efficacy of the sovereign’s or assembly’s authority. Men in this social contract would have no rights except those granted to them by the sovereign or assembly of the all-powerful state. Hobbes describes how he believes a political society is formed in his Leviathan: “The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that, by their own industry, and by the fruits of the earth, they may nourish themselves and live contentedly; is, to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and everyone to own and acknowledge himself to be the author of whatsoever he, that so beareth their person, shall act or cause to be acted in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, everyone to his will, and their judgments to his judgment. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man, ‘I authorize and give up my right of governing myself  to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in right manner.’ This done, the multitude so united in one person, is called a commonwealth, in Latin civitas. This is the generation of that great Leviathan, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god, to whom we owe under the immortal God, our peace and defense.”[162]


Hobbes’ social contract is definitely a dangerous proposal, as Thonnard explains: “Hobbes proposed a most dangerous absolutism in which the power of the sovereign is practically unlimited. The constitutive pact is not, as it is for Rousseau, between the people and their ruler so that the latter is at the command of his mandatories. Hobbes held to a contract between the citizens alone, who agree among themselves to renounce their ‘right to everything’ in order to deliver this to the hands of a sovereign charged with procuring peace. The sovereign, accordingly, need not answer to any one for his administration. He is the source of laws and subject to none. There is no earthly sanction for him; all he must do is follow right reason. His subjects are not freed from the duty of obeying him unless he becomes powerless in assuring them what they demand of him: durable peace and prosperity.”[163] In Hobbes’ view it is the sovereign, endowed with absolute power and answerable to no one, who determines what is good and evil, just and unjust, lawful and unlawful. Hobbes’ naturalistic and materialistic philosophy has no room for moral absolutes apart from the legislating will of the sovereign. Unlike the traditional Christian teaching that upholds an objective moral law, with a foundation in the eternal law of God, which is independent of the State and to which all sovereigns and citizens are subject to, the Hobbesian proposal cynically denies that there is such a moral law, “explicitly asserting that it is the sovereign who determines what is good and what is evil.”[164] Collins explains that, for Hobbes, “civil society unites a multitude of subjects, by their compact, under the sovereign or holder of the common, absolute power. Through the covenant of their natural wills, the contracting individuals create an artificial will, to which they make absolute transfer of their natural liberty. What each could do in the state of nature now becomes the prerogative of the sovereign alone. He does everything with impunity, for he cannot injure those who have authorized his every deed and promised not to hinder him. The sovereign is not subject to the law, since he is its source. Hobbes’ voluntarism is exhibited in his definition of law as a command of will rather than an ordinance of reason. The sovereign is the soul of the commonwealth rather than its head, for what is proper to him is the power of will and not reason. He cannot violate the law, in the sense of infringing upon an independent standard. The so-called ‘natural law’ or the dictates of reason become truly legal and obligatory only upon the command and declaration of the sovereign. He may be brought to task only for those laws which he allows to stand and which he nevertheless could abrogate. Since the power of prescribing rules or civil laws determines propriety, it is to the sovereign’s will that we must trace all distinction of property rights, as well as what is lawful and unlawful, socially good and evil, just and unjust.”[165] 


Refutation of Hobbes’ Social Contract Theory


The social contract theory of the state which denies that the state is a natural society, this artificial construct that Hobbes has conjured up, is false in light of common sense, experience, and historical facts. Fagothey provides us with a seven-point refutation of the Hobbesian contractual theory, writing: “1. Man is naturally social, not antisocial or extrasocial. He is neither utterly depraved nor thoroughly upright in nature, but inclined both to good and evil. There is no evidence that man ever lived in this state of nature, and it is probably not intended to be historical, but it does not give a correct view of human nature ; 2. There never was a state of nonmorality without rights, duties, justice or law. There was always the natural law, and from it rights and duties immediately flow. The first child would set up a whole system of rights and duties. There never was an utter absence of private property, for anything occupied becomes such, and this immediately involves justice and injustice ; 3. The function of the family in preparing for the state cannot be overlooked. Human beings had to live at least temporarily in some society to be able to survive as a race. A mere animal life, whether predatory or carefree, is impossible for man, for no man can supply his needs unaided. Family life naturally develops into the clan or tribe ; 4. The social contract as the origin for political society as such is pure fiction. That some later states have originated in this way is readily granted, but it is absurd to think that this is the only way in which men could have passed from a condition of civil society. The family forms a natural link between the two ; 5. There are certain inalienable rights of the individual and of the family. It is immoral to transfer such rights to another, for they belong to the dignity of the human person and to the very nature of the family. The social contract theory requires the transference of all rights, and this is contrary to the natural law ; 6. The social contract could not bind posterity. The unborn were not parties to the contract and might refuse to enter into it. The theory supposes that the contract is not a requirement of human nature as such, but a mere convention. No one would become a citizen of the state by birth. Locke is at least logical in acknowledging this inference; 7. The social contract cannot have greater authority than the contracting parties give it. There are rights of the state which no individual can possess, such as the right to declare war and to inflict capital punishment. In the contract theory there is no way in which the state can legitimately obtain these rights.”[166]


Refutation of Hobbes’ Anti-Social View of Man


Contrary to Hobbes’ pessimistic view that man is essentially anti-social by nature (and that man passes from the state of nature to a society by means of a social contract; by a freely willed compact he forms society), one should state that quite the opposite is the truth: man is social by nature and he forms society by the impulses and demands of his rational nature working through his free will. A society in general is the stable union or association of a number of persons for the mutual realization of a common end. It consists of a “group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them. As an assembly that is at once visible and spiritual, a society endures through time: it gathers up the past and prepares for the future.”[167] Man is by nature social, and the formation of societies by him stems from his rational and free nature. Society is natural to man. A number of characteristics of human nature reveal that man is naturally social. For example, man by nature seeks companionship; he seeks others and enjoys their company. Another characteristic: he is not completely self-sufficient. In fact, a new born baby must be fed by his or her parents or he or she would simply die. Even grown men need others for their basic necessities and goods in order to lead a decent life. Also, man is endowed with language which fits him to communicate with other men; unless he were to live a social life, speech would be without purpose. Yet another characteristic: the intellectual and moral development of man requires constant contact with others for the communication of new ideas and technologies. How could a person develop intellectually and morally if he were stranded alone in a desert island with nothing but small quantities of food beside him?[168] All these characteristics show that, for man, society is something natural. He is naturally fitted and impelled to join with other persons in society.[169]       


Hobbes and Religion 


Hobbes’ sensualist gnoseology, ontological materialism, and egoistical hedonism naturally inclined him towards agnosticism. Like his intellectual predecessor Machiavelli, he had a thoroughly pagan attitude towards the Church and the Christian Faith. He taught that the Church was to be totally subordinated to the absolute power of the Sovereign.[170] Echoing the Tudor revolt of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I against almost a millennium of Catholic Christianity in England (beginning with the conversion of Ethelbert, the pagan King of Kent, to the Catholic Faith by the Benedictine monk Saint Augustine of Canterbury and his forty missionaries in 596 A.D., all sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great from Rome to convert the English), Hobbes maintained that it is the Sovereign himself, and not the Pope, who is the Head of the Church in England: only the Sovereign has the power to determine the articles of Faith, ascertain the veracity of Scripture, appoint bishops and priests, and establish the various Church disciplines. Maritain writes that “faith,” for Hobbes, “was a matter of obedience, not at all a matter of knowledge – but obedience to the State (conceived in a frankly despotic perspective).”[171] Hobbes believed that religion was good only if it was useful, that is, only if it furthered the goals and objectives of the Sovereign, vested with absolute power. Collins explains that, For Hobbes, a “dangerous belief, worthy of extirpation, is that which distinguishes between temporal and spiritual sovereignty. This would lead to a situation where there would be two souls in one commonwealth or two rival kingdoms, each claiming supremacy and absolute obedience to its laws. But a man can serve only one master. Hobbes frames the dilemma that either the temporal order is subordinate in all things to the spiritual or the spiritual is completely subordinate to the temporal power. Unless the sole authority be that of the temporal sovereign, there is constant danger of civil war. St. Thomas à Becket and other defenders of the liberty of the Church are accused of dividing the supreme power, which by right should remain undivided. Those dissenters who appeal to religious conscience are stigmatized as wild visionaries and dangerous fanatics, all on a level with the Anabaptists, who seized power in Münster.”[172] “In order to preserve the indivisible and absolute nature of sovereignty, Hobbes allows no basic difference between state and church in the Christian commonwealth. It is the right and duty of the Christian sovereign to determine what doctrines are to be professed about God’s nature. As for a revelation, every individual must transfer to the sovereign the right to interpret Scripture, just as he must transfer the right of making prudential political judgments. Whatever God may command, in sacred as well as in secular matters, He commands through the sovereign. To the latter we owe obedience in all things, spiritual as well temporal. There is a basic identity between the content of natural law and revelation: the articles of both are determined and given the status of binding law by the sovereign’s command. Thus Hobbes indicates the political advantage that can be drawn from a Deistic reduction of the supernatural to a natural revelation. It is also the sovereign’s office to set the manner of public worship, which must be uniform throughout the commonwealth…he has the right to impose uniform religious profession and worship upon his subjects. Religious dissenters are on a par with political dissenters: in outward actions, they must either obey unquestioningly the ordained rules of religion or accept martyrdom.”[173] Thus does Hobbes, the cold, Machiavellian, political pragmatist, trample upon the rights of the Church in the name of State absolutism, rights which Saints Thomas Becket, Thomas More and John Fisher and thousands of English martyrs were willing to defend, even at the cost of their lives.           








The English empiricist John Locke[174] was born at Wrington, England on August 28th, 1632. He began his studies at Oxford in 1652 and in 1659 was elected to a senior studentship at Christ Church, a position which he held until 1684. At Oxford he came into contact with the philosophies of decadent scholastic nominalism, Cartesianism, and the empiricism of Bacon and Hobbes. He also spent much time studying a variety of empirical sciences, in particular, physics, chemistry, and medicine. In 1664 he wrote his first work, Essays on the Natural Law, which was published only centuries after his death in 1954. In 1667 he entered the service of Lord Ashley (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury). When Lord Ashley became Lord Chancellor in 1672 he appointed Locke to the position of Secretary for the Presentation of Ecclesiastical Benefices, and in 1673, the latter was nominated to the post of Secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations. Between the years 1675 and 1680 Locke remained in France, recuperating from ill-health. In 1680 he was back in England and in the service of Shaftesbury once again, but the latter was caught up in a political intrigue against King James II, then Duke of York, and both Shaftesbury and Locke, fearing for their lives, sought refuge in Holland. However, when the Dutchman William of Orange was placed on the throne of England shortly after the revolution of 1688 Locke returned to his mother country. In 1691 he retired to Oates in Essex where he was a guest of the Mansham family. The work for which he is best known for, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, was first published in 1690. That same year saw the publication of his Two Treatises of Civil Government. In it he attacks the doctrine of the divine right of kings and presents to the public a rather developed political theory. In 1693 he published Some Thoughts concerning Education, and in 1695 his Reasonableness of Christianity. Locke died on October 28th, 1704 at the Mansham family estate at Oates in Essex.       


Locke’s Empiricism


Locke concentrated his philosophical efforts in the areas of gnoseology and political philosophy. He was an empiricist, believing that all knowledge has its origin in experience, of which there are two types: sensation and reflection. These latter are, for him, the sole founts of ideas. He rejects Cartesian innatism: there are no innate ideas; man begins his cognitive journey with a blank slate (tabula rasa), which is destined to receive the imprint of simple ideas which come from two sources: sensation and reflection.   


An Essay concerning Human Understanding


Locke’s theory of knowledge is contained in An Essay concerning Human Understanding, which is divided into four books: in the first book he criticizes the innate ideas of Descartes; in book two he inquires into the origin of ideas, establishes his system of gnoseological empiricism, and explains his division of concepts into simple ideas and complex ideas; the third book deals with the relationship between words and ideas, while the last book delves into certainty, extension, and the various degrees of knowledge.


Simple and Complex Ideas


“Ideas” are, for Locke, either simple or complex. Simple ideas are those which come through experience and are divided into four classes: 1. those which come to us through one sense (e.g., color) ; 2. those which come to us through more than one sense (e.g., extension, coming from sight and touch) ; 3. those which come to us by reflection only (e.g., perception, belief, doubt and volition) ; and 4. those which are derived from sensation and reflection together (e.g., pleasure, pain, power, existence, unity and succession). Complex ideas, on the other hand, are those which the human mind forms by combining simple ideas derived from experience and are classified into modes (ideas representing that which has no proper and independent existence, and is dependent in being on a substance which it modifies), substances (which, in the logical order, are the mind’s postulate of some subject or substrate underlying and supporting sense qualities; in the ontological order or the order of reality substance is that unknown and unknowable something which supports qualities; man knows that it exists, but does not know what it is), and relations (which are ideas arising from the mind’s perception of an order existing between objects, the chief relation being that of cause and effect).    


Locke’s Confusion of Ideas and Images


Central to Locke’s whole empiricist philosophy is his theory of the idea. For him the idea is the object of our understanding in the first instance (whereas for the realist what is known in the first instance is the extra-mental thing). Locke writes: “Since the mind, in all its thoughts and reasonings, hath no other immediate object but its own ideas, which it alone does or can contemplate, it is evident that our knowledge is only conversant about them. Knowledge, then, seems to me to be nothing but the perception of the connection of and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of any of our ideas. In this alone it consists.”[175] This position is, of course, manifestly immanentist: one does not really know extra-mental objects or noumena but rather ideas or conscious states of the mind. Locke is trapped within the subjectivist prison of his mind.   


Locke again, in the Introduction to his Essay, writes on the idea: “It being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking.”[176] Bittle comments: “In this superficial definition Locke unfortunately lumps together as ‘ideas’ things which might conceivably be radically different in nature, namely ‘phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which can be employed about in thinking.’ By thus arbitrarily blurring the nature of the ‘idea’ so as to include the images of sense-perception (‘phantasm, species’), he laid the foundation for sensism, in which all ‘thinking’ is nothing but a form of ‘sensation.’ Descartes placed all sense-perception in the spiritual mind, thus identifying sense-perception with spiritual activity; Locke here does the reverse, by reducing ideas, at least in part, to the level of sense-perception. This confusion of ideas and images is present in all his philosophy.”[177] Bittle further criticizes Lockean empiricist sensism, writing: “For one thing, Locke simply assumes without proof that ‘ideas’ and ‘images’ are identical. This identification of ideas and images wipes out the distinction between sensory and intellectual knowledge simply by definition. Again, according to his definition of the ‘idea’ the idea is the object of our understanding, instead of the reality of things being the object of our intellectual knowledge. All we can know, then, are ‘ideas,’ internal states of mind; in that case, however, we can acquire no knowledge of the material world as it is in itself. If carried out to its logical conclusion, such a theory must inevitably end in subjective idealism.”[178]




Though Locke does not deny the existence of material and immaterial substances, he maintains that we cannot know anything about ‘substance’ (whether material or immaterial), since all we know are accidents or phenomena that appear to us in sense knowing.[179] He writes: “Our idea of substance is equally obscure, or none at all, in both: it is but a supposed I-know-not-what, to support those ideas we call accidents…By the complex idea of extended, figured, colored, and all other sensible qualities, which is all that we know of it, we are as far from the idea of the substance of the body, as if we knew nothing at all.”[180] Such a position – this denial of the knowability of substance – is the unfortunate result of Lockean phenomenalism which reduces intellectual knowledge to the level of sense knowledge. The realist, instead, affirms that the knowledge of substance is arrived at intellectual knowledge, not sense knowledge. Llano writes: The substance of material things is not directly knowable by the senses, but the intellect knows it immediately through the sense data in which substance appears. Substance – that which is of itself – cannot be reduced to that which is offered directly by sense experience, but it is discovered within the latter. The knowledge of substance begins with its accidents, which make it known because they participate in the being (esse) of the substance. The accidents do not hide the substance, as if they were a sort of opaque crust covering it (this crude imaginative representation of the theory is at the root of not a few unjustified criticisms). The knowledge of the accidents, rather, entails a certain knowledge of the substance because any accident is known as an intrinsic reference to substance, which the intellect grasps confusedly but immediately in any accidental determination. For example, when I know the color white, what I grasp is not an isolated and subsisting ‘whiteness,’ but rather ‘this white thing,’ be it chalk, paper, light or whatever. Whence – as analytic philosophy has demonstrated – things cannot be counted numerically in adjectival terms, but only in terms of substances.[181] At first, substance is known above all as the substrate of the accidents, of the properties and the changes in things. But this approach – as Aristotle has lucidly demonstrated[182] – is insufficient. Subsequently, substance is known as the essence of the thing, as that which each being is in itself, as an act from which properties flow. Finally, the real constitutive factor of substance is attained: subsistence. Substance is what is determinate and separate,[183] what has being (esse) in itself, the subject of the act of being.”[184]  




Locke rejected the Cartesian res cogitans (or thinking) as constituting the essence of the “I” and inclined towards describing the human person as “thinking matter” (a unified, single material complexus endowed with the attribute of thinking), a view which can be interpreted in a materialist sense. That the mind is immaterial is, according to him, merely a probable view, certainly not demonstrable.    




In the area of political philosophy Locke, like his empiricist predecessor Hobbes, upheld the contractual nature of the state, but he fought against Hobbesian absolutism for a more moderate constitutional monarchy, a system of government which was in fact established in his own lifetime by means of the revolution of 1688. Thonnard explains that “for Locke, as for Hobbes and Rousseau, the origin of society lies in a contract consented to by the citizens. But this contract is not, for Locke, the source of all rights, for it presupposes them; nor does he believe they are totally given up into the hands of the governmental representatives, for the contract merely aims to insure their full exercise by allocating the forces of each man for common usage. The social contract, for Locke, merely implies the giving up of the right of correction and of punishment. Each citizen, considered by himself, can defend his right even with violence. But this can better be realized by means of a common organization; by its laws, it establishes the rules for social peace, it executes them by its authority, it resolves doubtful cases and it avoids quarrels and private wars. On these fundamental notions, Locke builds up a system of liberal politics and of tolerance. In order to attain its goal, society must enjoy the triple power, legislative, executive and judicial. But these three powers cannot legitimately be concentrated in the hands of one person, who could exercise them as if he had received them directly from God or as if he had absolute dominion over his subjects. These powers, on the contrary, come from the people, who always retain the ability to withdraw what they had conceded. They have the right to revolt if the State does not guarantee the exercise of their natural rights. Accordingly, the best form of government is a tempered monarchy, in which the three powers are in the hands of different persons, along with a fundamental law establishing their coordination.”[185] Combatting the principles of state absolutism Locke maintained that natural rights were in no wise abrogated by the transition from the state of nature to the conditions of political life. In his defense of the constitutional monarchy, he believed in the supremacy of the legislative power and that in the event of a conflict between the legislative and executive powers the will of the nation would rest supreme, for in such an event, sovereign authority reverts to its derivative source, namely, the people. 








George Berkeley[186] was born at Kilcrene, in County Kilkenny, Ireland on March 12th, 1685, the son of an English family that had migrated there. In March of 1700 he entered Trinity College, Dublin where he studied mathematics, logic, languages, and philosophy. He obtained his B.A. degree in 1704 and in 1707 he became a Fellow of the College. That same year he published his Arithmetica and Miscellanea mathematica. In 1710, the year Leibniz published his Theodicy, Berkeley was made a minister of the Anglican Church. A year before, his work entitled An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision was published. By that time Berkeley was convinced that matter did not exist in extra-mental reality but his doctrine of immaterialism was only explicitly put forward in his A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (part one being published in 1710) and in the Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonus (which was published three years later in 1713). In 1721 he published two works: a Latin treatise entitled De motu and An Essay Towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain. In 1724 he obtained the post of dean of Derry. Four years later he set sail for the island of Bermuda intent upon founding a College there for the general, and especially religious education, of the sons of Englishmen and prominent natives from the American mainland. However, he only got as far as Rhode Island, so he decided to build a College there instead, but funds from England were not forthcoming so Berkeley abandoned the project and set sail for England, reaching London at the end of October, 1731. A year later he published Alciphron or the Minute Philosopher, a work of Christian apologetics in seven dialogues aimed at atheists and freethinkers. In 1733 there appeared his The Theory of Vision or Visual Language showing the Immediate Presence and Providence of a Deity Vindicated and Explained. In 1734 Berkeley was appointed bishop of Cloyne, Ireland and that same year he published The Analyst or a Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician which attacked Newton’s theory of fluxions. In 1744 he published Siris, where, among other things, he propagates a rather curious belief in the medicinal qualities of tar-water. In 1745 Berkeley refused the offer of the bishopic of Clogher and in 1752 he decided to retire to Oxford with his wife and family. He died there on January 14th, 1753.        


Berkeley believed his mission to be the vigorous defense of theism and the affirmation of the primacy of the spirit over matter against the growing materialist trend among British intellectuals. He calls his system immaterialism since it is aimed at responding to the errors of materialism. He retains that matter does not exist in itself; when we say that something exists we mean that such a thing is perceived by us, that is, its entire being consists in its being perceived (esse est percipi). The being of things is resolved into thought-of-being. Primary sensible qualities are judged to be merely subjective as they are known through secondary sensible qualities. Thus, bodies are, for Berkeley, nothing but sensible qualities and so one should not suppose that there be some sort of ‘substance’ holding up these qualities. “Their esse consists in their percipi (to be perceived), and it is not possible for them to have any existence outside the minds which perceives them.”[187] We should not suppose a ‘substance’ underlying our ideas of the accidents of bodies since the true support of these ideas is, namely, our very own mind. For Berkeley, “things exist therefore only as objects of our senses, as phenomena (from the Greek, ‘what appears before me’). It may be that Berkeley did not want to deny the existence of the world of bodies but just to combat materialism by means of the immateriality of knowledge. Nevertheless, by virtue of the principle of immanence, which he follows, he turns the in-itself into a for-myself. There is no matter in itself: it exists only in my consciousness. And my consciousness consists in perceiving ideas (in the Lockean sense) and in perceiving itself intuitively. (…) Kant would dismiss Berkeley’s philosophy as dogmatic idealism.”[188]


Berkeleyan gnoseology dictates that the material world exists only as a cognitive act, produced and existing in a mental act; consequently this world is merely subjective, not objective. For Berkeley, there is no extra-mental world of matter, only spirits (finite spirits and the Infinite Spirit). The passivity of our finite spirit is a proof of the existence of the Infinite Spirit who causes the ideas imposed on one’s finite spirit of which one is not the origin (i.e., the various objects that we see when we look outside our window). “While denying the existence of a material world and reducing it to a phenomenon of knowledge” explains Carmin Mascia, Berkeley “believed that he had proved the existence of the subjective spirit from the very presence of ideas, for ideas can be produced only by a spirit. Having thus assured himself of the existence of his own spirit, Berkeley devoted himself to determining its nature: the spirit is both active, a producer of ideas, and passive, a receptacle for ideas. Its activity is revealed in the imagination and in the memory, with which we produce or recall ideas, but more still in the coordination of ideas. Passivity, as we have said, is revealed in the fact that the spirit receives ideas that it has not produced. For example, it is not within my power to see or not to see the objects that are in my room. The passivity of the spirit gave Berkeley the means of proving the existence of other finite spirits, independent of his own, and the existence of God. In fact, he asked, what is the origin of these ideas that are imposed on my spirit and of which I am not the origin – for instance, the objects I mentioned before as being present in my room? They are produced by the will of other spirits, since I perceive, besides my own spirit, other particular agents like myself, who participate with me in the production of many ideas. Besides, there are ideas that I perceive which are not only not produced by my spirit, but are not produced by any finite spirit – for instance, the regularity of natural phenomena. Fire always burns, independently of any will. Such ideas presuppose a cause superior to all finite spirits – God, who exists, whose infinite will produces the order and harmony and constancy of natural phenomena.


“Having thus demonstrated the existence of God, Berkeley believed that he had solved all the difficulties that could be raised against his idealistic phenomenalism. If, for example, one asks whether the objects in my room exist when I am outside and there is no one in my house, Berkeley answers in the affirmative; because if the objects are not perceived by a finite spirit they are perceived by God. If one should inquire about the difference between real fire and painted fire, why one burns and the other does not, Berkeley would have answered that God, the producer and supreme ruler of all ideas, unites to the first (real fire) the idea of burning, and denies it to the second (fire depicted in a painting). In a word, the phenomenal world of Berkeley is not unlike the phenomenal world that everyone knows, with this difference: While commonly it is believed that natural phenomena are the product of a physical, material world, for Berkeley this material world does not exist. That which we attribute to matter, he says, must be referred to God, the exciter and revealer of ideas corresponding to material things. We are on the ground of the occasionalism of Malebranche: God presents to our souls – produces in them – the ideas that impress us. The constant relationship with which God determines the ideas of our spirits are the so-called laws of nature. They are the language with which God reveals Himself and speaks to us. Thus Berkeley believed that he had carried out the work he had set for himself: to justify theism against the attacks of incredulity; and to point out the emptiness of materialism by proving that the world as conceived by the materialist does not exist.”[189]  








The Scottish empiricist David Hume[190] (1711-1776) was born in Edinburgh on April 26th, 1711. Originally groomed for a legal career he instead pursued a literary and, above all, philosophical path. He sojourned in France between the years 1734-1737, composing during this period his Treatise on Human Nature, a work that, to Hume’s great disappointment, failed miserably to attract attention in intellectual circles. In 1737 he returned to Scotland and a few years later published his Essays, Moral and Political (1741-1742), which proved to be a success. In 1748 he published Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, which was a revision of the first part of his earlier unsuccessful Treatise. A second edition of this work appeared in 1751, its final title being An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. That same year saw the publication of An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, a reworking of the third part of the earlier Treatise. A year later he published Political Discourses, which made him very famous. He became, also that year, librarian to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh. All throughout the 1750’s Hume laboured assiduously on his series of tomes on the history of England. In 1756 he published a history of Great Britain from the accession of James I to the death of Charles I, followed that same year by a history of Great Britain up to the revolution of 1688. In 1759 he published his History of England under the House of Tudor, and in 1761 his History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry VIII. In 1762 Hume saw himself in Paris as secretary to the British Embassy in France. In 1766 he brought the famous, but difficult, Jean-Jacques Rousseau back with him to England, but their friendship soon ended when the unstable Frenchman accused Hume of having conspired with his enemies to destroy him. From 1767 to 1769 Hume was an Under-Secretary of State. He died in Edinburgh on August 25th, 1776. His controversial work, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, written by him before 1752, was published posthumously in 1779.   


Hume’s Sensism


With Humean empiricist gnoseology we find human knowledge restricted to the level of the senses. For Hume, all man’s knowledge consists of perceptions, which can either be strong (impressions) or weak (“ideas”).[191] All these impressions and ideas have their origin in sense experience. Impressions, for him, are very vivid and immediate, the first products of the mind. Ideas, on the other hand, would be of a derivative and inferred character, mere reproductions or copies of those original impressions or elaborations of them, and can be manipulated and ordered among themselves by the imagination, according to the “law of association” (resemblance, contiguity in time and place, and causality). These laws of association of ideas are purely psychological laws.  


For Hume there are no universal concepts, only general ideas, “ideas” being simply blurred images expressing a resemblance common to a collection of particular sense perceptions. Therefore, all the contents of our experience must be particular and contingent, the consequences being that we would be unable to have a basis at all for any universal and necessary knowledge.


The core of Humean empiricist epistemology is that what we know are our perceptions, not external, extra-mental reality. What the human mind knows is not something existing outside consciousness, but merely facts of consciousness. What is known are not real things but only our perceptions which are subjective modifications produced in us by sensible experience. “Now since nothing is ever present to the mind but perceptions, and since all ideas are derived from something antecedently present to the mind, it follows that it is impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an idea of anything specifically different from ideas and impressions. Let us fix our attention out of ourselves as much as possible; let us chase our imagination to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe; we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can we conceive any kind of existence, but those perceptions which have appeared in that narrow compass. This is the universe of the imagination, nor have we any idea but what is there produced.”[192]


Hume’s Denial of the Objective Validity of the Principle of Causality


Then comes the attack on the objective validity of the principle of causality[193]: Hume denies the objective, universal and necessary validity of this principle. It is simply not objectively, universally, and necessarily true, he argues, that every effect has a cause, since in human perception cause and effect are in fact two phenomena with two separate existences, one following after the other. We cannot therefore conclude that the latter phenomena is due to the causality of the former just because it comes after it. The only conclusion that we can come up with is that, owing to the laws of the association of ideas,[194] it is believed (felt) that a certain phenomenon is caused by another, because, by habit, we have grown accustomed to believe it. For him, causality does not truly occur in extra-mental reality but is rather a subjective phenomenal complex idea, a creation of the human mind. With this doctrine Hume dismisses the traditional a posteriori demonstrations of the existence of God as being devoid of demonstrative capacity.[195]   


So, in Hume’s system, there is no way we can infer the existence of extramental reality. We cannot say, for example, that our perceptions have been produced or caused by extra-mental real things, therefore these things must exist, because the simple fact is that we do not have a perception of a cause. All that is perceived, experienced, are successive sensations. There is no intrinsic connection between these sensations nor any necessity for such a connection. So, what is this principle of causality that the scholastics boast about? Simply a subjective product of habit. We have gotten so used to seeing fire burn that, by habit, we say that fire causes the burning; but since Hume states that we cannot sense this causing, this causing can be but a subjective product of the imagination. Therefore, Humean philosophy cannot admit that there is anything real, anything objectively existing outside the states of human consciousness. The verdict of Hume’s radical empiricism is that the real existence of things can be but a hypothesis incapable of verification, a postulate that can neither be proved nor disproved.


In keeping with his immanentist phenomenalism, Hume denied the objective validity of the principle of efficient causality, reducing the objective causality affirmed by methodical realism into nothing but a mere succession of phenomena put together by the associative force of habit, a mere product of our imagination. When we observe, for example, a lighted torch and then feel heat we are accustomed to conclude a causal bond. But in fact, Hume points out, it is the imagination, working by habit, that conjures up this causal bond from what is in fact a mere succession of phenomena: “We have no other notion of cause and effect but that of certain objects, which have been always conjoined together…We cannot penetrate into the reason of the conjunction. We only observe the thing and always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire a union in the imagination.”[196] Attacking the objective validity of the principle of efficient causality in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he states: “When we look towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connection; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequent of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other. The impulse of one billiard-ball is attended with motion in the second. This is the whole that appears to the outward senses. The mind feels no sentiment or inward impression from this succession of objects: consequently, there is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connection.”[197]


Kreyche explains that “it is primarily by Hume that the major attack is launched upon efficient causality. According to Hume, man knows only his ideas and images directly, and not the world of reality. Mind is, for him, simply a state of successive phenomenal impressions, and judgment is replaced by association. In asking whether causality can be justified, Hume requests that one show how its most important characteristic, necessary nexus, is grounded in experience. Not finding it rooted there, he concludes that the necessary connection between cause and effect is psychological, having its ground in custom and the association of ideas. Cause thereupon becomes a relationship among ideas, and no longer an influence of one thing upon the other in the real world…The principal shortcoming of Hume’s view stems from his empiricism and nominalism. He attemped to have the senses detect, in a formal way, causality and necessity per se – something that those powers are incapable of doing. Aquinas had himself observed that not even substance is sensible per se, but only per accidens. Since he did not admit abstraction of an intellectual nature, Hume was consistent within his own system in rejecting causality and substance. And, unable to justify causality ontologically, he did the next best thing in justifying it psychologically.”[198]        


Proof of the Objective Existence of Efficient Causality Against Hume


Contrary to the deniers of efficient causality (i.e., Hume, Kant), we maintain the objective validity of efficient causality based upon the data furnished by experience and demanded by reason as the only true explanation of the facts. A mere invariable sequence of antecedents and consequents is not sufficient to account for the concepts of ‘cause and effect’ and that there really exists an actual production of one thing or event by another thing or event.  


Bittle explains: “In proving the existence of efficient causality among things, it will be necessary first to show that the assumptions which underlie the position of the opponents are unwarranted; then it will be necessary to adduce the positive evidence which supports the view that efficient causality actually is present in nature. 


“The opposition against the existence of efficient cause is based primarily on an adverse theory of knowledge, and not on the facts themselves. As such, the denial is made primarily on epistemological grounds. Kant, since he maintained that we can have no knowledge of things-in-themselves, naturally had to deny any knowledge of efficient causality as existing among these things-in-themselves. It is the purpose of epistemology to vindicate the sources of our knowledge, among them being sense-perception, consciousness, and reason. In this connection we will restrict ourselves to one consideration. If Kant’s fundamental assumption were correct, we could know nothing of the existence and activity of other minds beside our own, because these ‘other minds’ are evidently things-in-themselves. But we have a knowledge of other minds. This is proved conclusively by the fact of language, whether spoken or written or printed. We do not use language to converse with ourselves; conversation is essentially a dialogue between our mind and ‘other minds.’ Hence, we can and do acquire knowledge of things-in-themselves, as they exist in themselves, through the medium of language. Kant’s fundamental assumption is, therefore, incorrect. Consequently Kant is wrong, when he asserts that we could know nothing of efficient causality, if it existed among things. If we can show that efficient causality exists in ourselves, we prove that efficient causes exist in nature, because we ourselves are a part of nature.


“Hume, Mill, and others, denied efficient causality because of their phenomenalism. According to their assumption, all we can perceive are the phenomena, and phenomena are revealed to us in our senses merely as events in ‘invariable sequence.’ Whenever, then, we perceive phenomena as invariably succeeding each other in place and time, we are prompted by habit and the association of ideas to imagine a causal connection to exist between them, so that the earlier event is the ‘cause’ and the later even the ‘effect.’ This is, in their view, the origin within our mind of the concept of efficient causality.


“This is a deplorable error. The fact is, we clearly distinguish between mere ‘invariable sequence’ and ‘real causality.’ We notice, for example, an invariable sequence between day and night every twenty-four hours, and we are convinced that this sequence has been maintained throughout the ages; at any rate, we have never experienced a single exception in this sequence. We also notice, when the day is hot and humid, and a sudden, decisive drop in temperature occurs, that a rainstorm develops; this sequence, however, is by far not as invariable as the sequence between day and night. No one, however, dreams of considering day and night as being in any causal connection, as if the day ‘produced’ or ‘caused’ the night. On the other hand, we certainly are convinced of the existence of a causal connection between the states of the weather, although the occurrence has by no means the invariability of the sequence we observe between day and night. Hence, the fundamental assumption of the phenomenalists, that our observation of ‘invariable sequence’ is the basis of our concept of ‘efficient causality’ is opposed to fact. In accordance with their principle, the phenomenalists must maintain a parity in all cases of invariable sequence. We, however, do not judge the cases to be the same. There must, then, be some other reason why we judge a causal connection to exist between phenomena, between things and events.


“Besides this, we clearly distinguish between conditions and causes, even if there be an invariable succession between them. We know by experience that we are unable to see objects except in the presence of light. In the dark all objects are invisible; light must first be admitted before we can see. There is an invariable sequence between the presence of light and the seeing of objects. According to the phenomenalists’ principle, therefore, we should judge that light is the ‘cause’ of vision, because its presence invariably precedes vision. But we do not so judge. We consider light to be the condition, not the cause, of vision, although vision must always ‘follow after’ the admission of light in sound eyes. And so it is with all ‘conditions.’


“It is entirely untrue to assert that we obtain our concept of cause and effect from the observation of the frequency of an occurrence through habit and the association of ideas. We judge of the presence of causality even in single cases. When the first steam engine, or the first telephone, or the first automobile, went into operation, no one waited for the hundredth or thousandth appearance or operation in order to apply the principle of causality; this was done immediately. Similarly, when an accident or disaster occurs, we do not wait until it occurs frequently before we think of cause and effect; we look for the causal connection as soon as it occurs. On the other hand, though we see a million automobiles follow each other down the highway, we never think of the one being the cause of the other, due to association of ideas or habit.


“Hence, mere sequence, no matter how frequent and invariable, is not the principle which forces us to accept the concept of efficient cause and causal connection as valid in nature. The facts themselves compel our reason to judge that the relation of cause and effect exists between things.


Our experience proves causality. Critical analysis of our internal states and of external nature convinces us of its reality. Internal consciousness is an indubitable witness to the fact that our mental activities not only take place in us, but that they are also produced by us. Such are the activities of thinking, imagining, desiring, willing. They are clearly observed to be ‘produced’ by ourselves, and this production is observed to be due to our own action, so that their existence is intrinsically dependent on this productive action. Thus, we are conscious that we deliberately set about to solve a certain mental problem by combining ideas into judgments, judgments into inferences, and a whole chain of inferences into an extended argumentation. With the help of our imagination we work out poems, essays, melodies, pictorial scenes, machines, etc., before they ever appear outside the mind. We desire certain things and consciously will them; and we are fully aware that we are the responsible agents of these desires and acts of the will, because we produce them by direct action. No one can deny these facts; they are present for everyone to observe. But if the conscious knowledge of ourselves as the active agents in the procuction of these internal activities is unreliable and false, all our knowledge, of whatever character, must be adjudged an illusion, because knowledge rests ultimately on the testimony of consciousness. In that case, however, universal skepticism is the logical outcome, and that means the bankruptcy of all science and philosophy. Hence, our consciousness is a trustworthy witness to the fact of efficient causality within us.


External experience proves the same. We speak. Language is an external expression of our internal ideas. It is impossible for us to doubt that we actually produce the sounds of language which express our own thoughts. We intend to express these thoughts in conversation, and we actually do; and we are conscious of the fact that we are the agents in this process. If I am a painter, I set up my canvas, mix the paints, apply the colors, and with much effort project my mental images upon the canvas in form and color; I know that all this is not a mere ‘sequence of events,’ but a production of something in virtue of my own actions. So, too, if I take pen and ink and write something on paper, I not only perceive one word following the other, but I am also convinced beyond the possibility of any rational doubt that I am the ‘author’ of the words appearing on the paper. Neither Hume, nor Mill, nor any other phenomenalist, disclaimed the authorship of the books which appeared in their name, nor would they refuse to accept royalties from their publishers on the plea that they were not the efficient causes of these books.


“Again, we are convinced that many bodily actions are of a voluntary nature. I move my hand, my arm, my head, and I know that these members move because I make them move. If I am set for a sprint, and the gun goes off, I jump into action. But I am conscious that there is not a mere sequence between the shot and my running; and I am also conscious that the shot does not make my limbs move so rapidly: it is I myself who decides to run and who deliberately produces this action of running. This is all the more obvious to me, when I compare this sort of action with the action of the heart or of the liver, etc., over which I have no control. I clearly distinguish between ‘sequence’ and ‘causality.’ Hume, as we have seen, claims that we cannot know of this causal connection between our will and our bodily movements, because we cannot ‘feel’ the energy involved in this operation. This merely proves that we do not observe the whole process. Of the fact of causation itself we are most assuredly aware, and we are also aware of the exertion and fatigue involved in producing these effects; but if we ‘produced’ nothing, of if there were no energy expended in the production (for instance, in walking, working, running, making a speech, etc.), why should we feel exertion and fatigue? And thus our external experience also testifies to the fact that we ourselves are efficient causes which produce definite effects.


“In order to disprove the opponents’ contention, no more is required than to prove a single case of causality. We could, therefore, rest our case with the above argument taken from the internal and external experience of our own selves. However, we contend that the existence of other efficient causes in nature is also capable of proof.


Reason demands efficient causality in nature. If reason demands that we admit the existence of efficient causes acting in the universe, the philosopher cannot refuse to accept the verdict of reason, because science and philosophy are based on the operations of reason. Now, if I am convinced beyond doubt that I am the cause of the picture I paint, what am I to conclude, when I see someone else paint a picture? I must conclude that he is doing what I did, when I went through the same series of actions. Of course, all that my senses can observe is a ‘sequence’ of actions; my reason, however, demands that he, too, must be the ‘producer’ of his picture, just as I am of mine. This is common sense and sound logic. And the same principles applies to all actions performed by others, when I observe them doing the same things that I do or have done: if I am the efficient cause, they must be efficient causes for the same reason. There is a complete parity between my actions and their actions, and so I know, through a conclusion of reason, that real causality exists in nature in these and similar cases.


“It is only a short step from instances of such activities to productive activities in the world at large. A farmer places seed into the soil. After a period of time it sprouts, grows, and eventually matures into an abundant harvest. Here something new has originated. And so with animals and men. We were not here a hundred years ago; but we are here now. We perceive new living beings coming into existence daily. They are new realities. But if they did not exist always and do exist now, they must have received existence. Their existence is a ‘produced’ existence, a ‘caused’ reality, because they were brought from non-existence to existence. That, however, which exerts a positive influence through its action in the production of another, is an efficient cause. Efficient causes, therefore, exist in nature. We must, then, reject phenomenalism as false and accept efficient causality as the only adequate interpretation of the facts as observed.”[199]


Hume’s Philosophical Anthropology


In keeping with his immanentist and sensist phenomenalism which negates substance, Hume holds that the person is nothing but a “bundle of perceptions” put together by the memory and associative force of the imagination in order to form a stable whole. That the person seems to look like a stable and concrete subject, whose actions and activities belong to this subject, is a concoction due solely to the grouping of perceptions together by the imagination. What is the person, the I, for Hume? Mind reduced to its contents (the flowing phenomenal perceptions that is experienced). There is no Ego distinct from these perceptions. Hume “granted validity to phenomena alone, which he gathered together into collections or ‘bundles.’ For him, as a consequence, the soul is only a ‘bundle of perceptions,’ in constant flux and movement – it is from Hume consequently, that we trace the origin for all ‘psychologies without a soul.’ In addition, Hume regarded the causal bond uniting these ‘bundles of perceptions as nothing more than a subjective, psychological law required to make experience possible. In fact, it is this law which constitutes experience.”[200]     


Collins describes and critiques Hume’s conception of the personal self founded upon his sensist and phenomenalist gnoseology, writing: “Hume agrees with his British predecessors that a theory of self must be constructed in conformity with one’s theory of mind, but he takes a more radically phenomenalistic view of mind than they do. Mind may be defined as ‘nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect simplicity and identity…[It is] that connected mass of perceptions, which constitute a thinking being.’[201] The substantiality of the mind is conspicuous by its absence from this definition. If by substance is meant something which may exist by itself, then (at least, as far as the free play of imagination is concerned) every distinct perception, being capable of separation and separate existence, is a genuine substance. But if substance is said to be entirely different from a perception, then we can have no idea of its nature and cannot raise questions about the immateriality and substantiality of the soul. Contrary to Locke’s and Berkeley’s contention, Hume states that perceptions are grasped as distinct objects, and hence never convey to the mind any evidence about their need for such inherence. Hence causal inference is not justified in arguing from a requirement that is lacking in empirical meaning. In this clash of opinion among the empiricists, Hume is relying once more upon a strictly phenomenalistic approach to perceptions and upon his logical doctrine about distinct perceptions. Perceptions are distinct not only from each other but also from any subject and, indeed, from any reference to a subject of inherence. This reification of perceptions is the extreme consequence of the analytic method and the notion of a percept-object.


“From the same standpoint, we are barred from attributing simplicity and identity to the mind. The idea of identity would have to rest upon some impression that remains invariant throughout a lifetime; the idea of simplicity would suppose that some impression reveals an indivisible center of union for the moments of experience. Neither of these conditions can be satisfied in terms of the Humean theory of knowledge. When I enter intimately into what I call myself, Hume says, I always stumble upon some particular perception. I never catch myself without some perception, and neither do I come upon myself as anything but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, each succeeding the other with inconceivable rapidity. In face of this situation, only one set of conclusions is possible for the Humean logic, based on the loosening of ideas. Since each perception is a distinct existent, no substance is needed; since the perceptions are all different and successive, there is no identity or invariant sameness of being; since the perceptions comprising the self are many, the self is not a simple thing.


“As usual, Hume employs this failure on the part of abstract reason as a recommendation that we seek a binding principle on the side of the ‘natural’ forces, operating through imagination. Thought is under some kind of constraint to pass from one given perception to the next, and thus to generate the self through this continuous transition. The personal self arises when, in reflecting upon a past series of perceptions, we feel that one perception naturally introduces the next. Personal identity is a powerful fiction, aroused by the circumstance that imagination is able to pass smoothly from one perceptual object to the next, and hence comes to regard the series as invariable and uninterrupted. The similarity in the mind’s act of apprehending the different perceptions instigates imagination to affirm a continuous identity of the self, on the side of the objects perceived. The easy transition is made under the associative force of resemblance and the natural relation of cause-and-effect. Thus the self is ‘a system of different perceptions or different existences, which are linked together by the relation of cause and effect, and mutually produce, destroy, influence, and modify each other.’[202] Memory is the source of personal identity, insofar as it summons up images resembling past perceptions and grasps the causal succession of our perceptions, in the direction of the past. Passion and concern extend the same frame of causal reference forward as well as backward, strengthening the easy passage of thought and the reflective feeling that the perceptions belong to an identical, personal self.


“For once, however, this counterprocess of binding together what empirical analysis has loosened, fails to achieve the kind of unity to which our experience bears testimony. Hume observes that he cannot find a satisfactory explanation of the feeling of belongingness, on the basis of which imagination declares that all our perceptions belong to the same personal self: ‘In short there are two principles, which I cannot render consistent; nor is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz., that all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives any real connection among distinct existences. Did our perceptions either inhere in comething simple and individual, or did the mind perceive some real connection among them, there would be no difficulty in the case. For my part, I must plead the privilege of a skeptic, and confess, that this difficulty is too hard for my understanding.’[203] This is a disarmingly frank passage. Hume concedes that an adequate synthesis of empirical findings about the personal self requires a knowledge of substance and objective causal connections, in respect to man. But his own first principle about distinct perceptions, leading as it does to a divorce of abstract reason from experience, prevents him from admitting the reality of substance in man. His second principle about real connections leads to his skeptical theory of relations and rules out any objectively given causal principle, operative in mental life. Nevertheless, he cannot avoid using substantial and causal terms, when he describes the self as a bundle and as a self-perpetuating series of perceptions. Although he warns against the imagery, he finds it convenient to compare the mind both to a theater, upon whose (substantial) stage various appearances are presented, and to a republic that perpetuates itself (causally) through the successive generations of its members.


“The perceptions belonging to ‘our’ mind are not an indiscriminate heap but constitute an ordered system. On the side of the cognitive acts themselves, these perceptions are already ordered by reference to ‘ourselves’ and ‘our’ imagination, even before Hume can apply his theory of how imagination produces the personal unity of the self. In order to give a plausible account of the association of perceptual objects, he covertly presupposes some personal center of reference or intimate belongingness for the perceiving operations. His empirical explanation of the self implies the effective presence of certain substantial and causal factors, but his theory of knowledge prevents him from ever reconciling their reality with his own first principles.


“Hume’s passing remarks on immortality and freedom are consistent with his general view of knowledge and causality. No demonstration of immortality is possible, both because there is no clear idea of an immaterial, simple substance and because such demonstration would suppose that the causal principle can extend to a state that is, by definition, beyond present human experience. Hume admits that reason places man above the brutes but not that it guarantees his survival beyond this life. It is likely that man, like other animals, will lose consciousness and succumb to the universal frailty and dissolution of things. Neither immortality nor freedom has a bearing upon moral conduct, even if they could be established.”[204]


Hume’s Agnosticism


An evident conclusion that one can gather from Humean skeptical empiricism is that it is impossible to prove the existence of God for it is impossible to prove the existence of anything. There is nothing we can know beyond our sense perceptions, whether noumena in the world or God. All we can do is believe as our imagination fancies. We are unable to prove the existence of God by means of the metaphysical principle of causality for causality has no objective value. With the empiricist doctrine of the inability of the mind to ascend from the level of experience to the establishment of the existence of a cause that exists and operates on a level of reality above the level of the senses, Hume has wiped out (from his own skeptical mind) metaphysics and, with it, philosophy of God, the highest branch of metaphysics. For Hume, one cannot rationally demonstrate the existence of God for there is no power of insight and understanding in man different in kind from the bodily senses. Such is Humean skeptical empiricist agnosticism.


How then does he explain the fact that so many people have a notion of a Supreme Being, whom they do not hesitate to call God? His answer: that too is a product of the imagination, something concocted out of many varied sense impressions. He does not deny its psychological value and use, as does the psychological utility of many of our other products of the imagination. But the simple fact is that the real existence or non-existence of God is outside the mind’s power to know.


Hume did not want to be branded an atheist and, at times, admitted religion’s utility and practical value for society. Nevertheless, his writings reveal his philosophical views that describes supernatural Christian religion as nothing but a creation of man’s fertile imagination, and that even a deistic “illuminist” religion founded on the rational metaphysical principles of philosophy of God had no experiential or rational foundation. All religions are of equal value for they all lack any empirical basis. Religious beliefs and their habits of association are explained through instinct and in the habits of association which arise from it. A religion may be permitted if it has practical utility: as a source of consolation, altruism, fraternity, etc. Naturally, the permitted religions should be devoid of all unreasonable fictions of the imagination, such as belief in mysteries and miracles; the only useful religion, according to Hume, would be a purely natural religion devoid of mysteries and miracles whatsoever.[205] 


Critique of Hume’s Skepticism with Regard to Extra-Mental Reality


Hume’s skepticism regarding extra-mental reality must also be addressed. Contrary to his radical empiricism, the existence of things is not an hypothesis or a postulate, that is, something that we must assume since we cannot prove it. An hypothesis or assumption is something that we cannot, at the moment, prove or disprove; for example, that the cure for cancer will be discovered in 2089. One can assume that the cure for cancer will be discovered at that point in time, but we simply cannot prove it. We can neither prove that it will not occur at that point in time. But if the cure for cancer is discovered in 2095, then we are no longer dealing with an assumption but with an accomplished fact. Now the existence of things in the world that we see around us is not an hypothesis but a fact. They are not assumed but given. Naturally, the existence of the things of the world cannot be proved because they need no proof; they are self-evident. We start with the things of the world; we say that these things are, for these things are there to begin with. They are thus judged to exist for they simply do exist.  


General Critique of Hume’s Empiricist, Skeptical Phenomenalism


A detailed refutation of Hume’s skeptical empiricism properly belongs to the field of epistemology. His main problem lies with his reduction of human knowledge to the level of the senses, thus denying that man has the power of abstraction. For Hume, sense experience was the ultimate source of valid human knowledge. Thrown out together with metaphysics are substance and causality. Having done this he remained agnostic concerning God’s existence, a natural consequence of his sensism. Criticizing Hume’s radical empiricism, Celestine Bittle notes a number of things: “First, Hume’s explanation of ideas as faint images of sense-impressions is totally inadequate. Since both are of a sensory character, they are concrete and individualized. Our ideas, however, are abstract and universal. There is, as we have shown, a radical difference between ‘sensations’ and ‘images’ on the one hand and ‘intellectual ideas’ on the other. To ignore or deny these differences is a serious error. Second, Hume’s explanation of universal ideas is totally inadequate.[206] The process of forming universal ideas is not at all the way Hume pictures it. We acquire them by a process of abstraction, taking the objective features common to a number of individuals and then generalizing the resultant idea so that it applies to the whole class and to every member of the class. It is not a question of merely labeling objects with a common name. Intellectual insight into the nature of these objective features, not ‘custom’ or habit, enables us to group them together into a class. Third, Hume’s explanation of the origin and nature of the necessarily and universally true axioms and principles, such as the principle of causality and the principle of non-contradiction, is totally inadequate. He explains their necessity and universality through association. Now, the laws of association are purely subjective laws with a purely subjective result. Consequently, the ‘necessity’ which we experience relative to the logical connection between subject and predicate in these principles would not be due to anything coming from the reality represented in these judgments, but solely to the associative force existing in the mind. It is a subjective and psychological, not an objective and ontological, necessity. The mind does not judge these principles to be true because it sees they cannot be otherwise; it cannot see them to be otherwise because the mind in its present constitution must judge them to be true. So far as objective reality is concerned, 2 + 2 might equal 3 or 5 or any other number; and there might be a cause without an effect, or an effect without a cause. If Hume’s contention were correct, that our observation of ‘invariable sequence’ is the reason for assuming an antecedent event to be the ‘cause’ of the subsequent event, then we should perforce experience the same psychological necessity of judgment in all cases where we notice an invariable sequence in successive events. Experience, however, contradicts this view. For instance, day follows night in an invariable sequence; but nobody would dream of asserting that the night is the ‘cause’ of the day. In an automobile factory one car follows the other on the belt line in invariable sequence; but this association does not compel us to think that the preceding car is the ‘cause’ of the one following. Reversely, when an explosion occurs but once in our experience, we search for the ‘cause’ of this ‘effect’ and are convinced there must be a cause present; here, however, there can be no question of an ‘invariable sequence’ of events. Fourth, Hume’s theory, if accepted as true, must destroy all scientific knowledge. The very foundation of science lies in the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality. If these principles are valid only for our mind and do not apply with inviolable necessity to physical objects in nature, the scientist has no means of knowing whether his conclusions are objectively valid. His knowledge is nothing but a purely mental construction which may or may not agree with extra-mental reality. But science treats of physical systems and their operations, not of mental constructions. Since, according to Hume, we can know nothing but our internal states of consciousness, we could never discover whether the external world and other minds exist at all; driven to its logical conclusions, such a theory can end only in solipsism or in skepticism.”[207]








The difficult and passionate Jean Jacques Rousseau[208] (1712-1778) was, arguably, the most influential thinker of the French Enlightenment and can even be considered to be the architect of the French Revolution. Author of Emile (1762), the Social Contract (1762), and the Confessions (published posthumously), he is famous above all for his political philosophy and pedagogy. His philosophical thought includes writings on the passage from the state of nature to the social state and an acute analysis of the social contract where he underlines the “general will” and sovereignty of the people.


Rousseau was born at Geneva, Switzerland on June 28th, 1712, the son of a watchmaker. Of Calvinist parentage he had converted to Catholicism as an adolescent through his contact with the De Warens family, but had only a superficial knowledge of the essentials of the Faith. Living an unsettled, vagabond existence for most of the first forty years of his life, Rousseau was largely self-taught and attempted to make up for his serious deficiencies in education by a voracious reading according to a system of his own making. Between the years 1738 and 1740 he was a tutor to the children of the de Malby family, and it was during this period that he made contact with the thinker Condillac. In 1742 he sojourned at Paris and a year later saw himself in Venice as secretary to the Comte de Montaigu, the new French ambassador there. The two did not get along well and Rousseau was, in the end, dismissed for insolence and had to make his way back to Paris. In 1745 he made his first acquaintance with the famous (and notorious) philosophe Voltaire, and four years later, the equally famous Diderot invited him to contribute articles to the Encyclopaedia (the new vehicle for the propagation of Enlightenment ideas). Rousseau’s first taste of fame occurred in 1750 when he won the prize offered by the Academy of Dijon on the question as to whether the progress of the arts and sciences had contributed to the increase or decline of morality. His prize winning essay, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, strongly maintained that the development of the arts and sciences had a definitely baneful and corruptive effect on man, a thesis which earned him the ire of the reason-worshipping philosophes of his time such as Voltaire, Diderot and Baron d’Holbach. Rousseau’s second essay for the Academy, Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality among Men, failed to win the prize, but by then he had already acquired self-confidence and maturity in his writing and was a rising star in intellectual circles. In this second essay, Rousseau speaks of man in the state of nature as being naturally good, but corrupt, effeminate, and hypocritical civilization has brought with it inequality and a host of other evils. Again he earned the wrath of the philosophes, and by now he was completely estranged from the d’Holbach circle. In 1758 Rousseau published his Discourse on Political Economy. Four years before this he had been so disgusted with the corrosive and artificial atmosphere of Paris that he made his way to Geneva and converted back to Protestantism (though he admitted that the reason for doing this was to facilitate his regaining Genevan citizenship; he had become a thoroughgoing naturalist in religious matters and downright hostile to the fundamental articles of the Christian Faith). Between the years 1756 and 1762 Rousseau lived the life of a quiet recluse at Montmorency, but it was at the same time one of intense literary activity. In 1761 he published his novel La Nouvelle Héloise and a year later the works Social Contract (for which he is best known for) and his book on education entitled Émile. The last two books were received with great hostility by the authorities in France and Rousseau had to flee for Geneva. As the reception of the works was likewise bellicose there Rousseau, in disgust, renounced his Genevan citizenship and opted for an extended sojourn in England, crossing the English Channel with his friend David Hume (who had become his confidant and protector). However, Rousseau’s suspicious and passionate character, coupled with the paranoia engendered by the hostile reception of his last two works, proved to be the undoing of the bond of friendship between him and Hume. The former accused the latter of treason, of plotting with his enemies to destroy him. Incensed at such an accusation, as he was at that time in the very process of procuring a royal pension for Rousseau, Hume decided to publish an account of this sorry state of affairs in both the London and Paris papers. The friendship between them, needless to say, was brought to an abrupt end. In May of 1766 Rousseau was back in France as guest of the Prince de Conti. In May of 1778 he left Paris for Erménonville, where he resided at the estate of his friend the Marquis de Girardin. He died there on July 2nd, 1778. His three works, the Confessions, the Rêveries du Promeneur Solitaire, and Considerations on the Government of Poland were all published posthumously.                             


The Social Contract


The following passage gives us the essence of the social contract as envisioned by Rousseau, wherein the State is a mere conventional society as it arises from a social pact artificially entered into: “To find a form of association which may defend and protect with the whole force of the community the person and property of every associate, and by means of which, coalescing with all, each may nevertheless obey only himself, and remain as free as before. Such is the fundamental problem of which the social contract furnishes the solution…In short, each giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is not one associate over whom we do not acquire the same rights which we concede to him over ourselves, we gain the equivalent of all that we lose, and more power to preserve what we have. If, then, we set aside what is not of the essence of the social contract, we shall find that is reducible to the following terms: ‘Each of us puts in common his person and his whole power under the supreme direction of the general will; and in return we receive every member as an indivisible part of the whole.’ Forthwith, instead of the individual personalities of all the contracting parties, this act of association produces a moral and collective body, which is composed of as many members as the assembly has voices, and which receives from this same act its unity, its common self, its life, and its will. This public person, which is thus formed by the union of all the individual members, formerly took the name of City, and now takes that of Republic or Body Politic, which is called by its members State when it is passive, sovereign when it is active, power when it is compared to similar bodies.”[209]


Against Hobbes, Rousseau holds that man is not naturally anti-social but merely extra-social (or non-social). In the state of nature man would have led a carefree and self-sufficient life, bound by no obligations and beholden to no one. As man in the state of nature is naturally good (Rousseau denied original sin) there was no Hobbesian ‘war of all against all.’ But what happened? The establishment of private property brought with it fraud, deceit, disputes and conflicts. Peace had to be established by means of the State set up by the social contract, by which each person hands over all his power of self-rule to a ‘universal person’ (the ‘general will’) provided that all the rest do likewise. Thus, the individual will becomes part of the general will and the individual person but a part of this general personality; the right of the state would be an accumulation of all individual rights. Conseqently, in obeying the general will the individual citizen obeys himself as part of the general will, for in the social contract he has willed that the general will be his will and that the volonté générale shall always prevail over any particular decision or choice made by himself. La volonté générale is absolutely soreveign. What exactly is the general will? Bourke explains that “in a well-organized society, as Rousseau understands it, the judgment of the people on moral and social questions is the general or popular will. It is usually expressed by the vote of the majority but it is, for Rousseau, no ordinary counting of opinions. There is something mystical and almost divine about the general will. It is infallibly right and pure; it requires obedience from all citizens. It is the social expression of what is right and moral.[210][211]          


Bittle summarizes the Rousseauian social contract for us, explaining that Rousseau “viewed man in the ‘natural state,’ in opposition to Hobbes, as naturally and completely free, fully self-sufficient, and altogether virtuous. Each man was a peer among peers, endowed with equal rights, and no one was subordinate to anyone else. There was no work or toil of any kind, but all lived in an idyllic, arcadian life of ease and comfort and tranquillity. If Hobbes’s concept of man in the ‘natural state’ was pessimistic, Rousseau’s was optimistic in the extreme. Unfortunately, according to Rousseau, this paradisiac condition did not last. It was not ‘sin’ which disturbed the scene, bringing evil and misery in its train; at least not ‘sin’ in the Christian sense. Nature endowed man with the fatal gift of perfectibility. Slowly and gradually man began to learn the arts, acquire objects as his own, fashion tools of various sorts, and communicate and associate with others; and so he left the condition of the innocent savage for the more turbulent condition of social contacts and activities with his fellows. The result was fraud and deceit, dissension and conflict everywhere, and the loss of primitive peace and tranquillity of spirit. Conditions became so bad that men found it useful to establish the state in order to restore and preserve peace. The state came into being through the free consent and social contract of all concerned, whereby everyone grants all his individual rights and ruling power to the ‘general will’ embodied in the authority of the community. In this way, Rousseau thought, it was possible ‘to find a form of association which shall defend and protect with all the strength of the community the person and the goods of each associate, and whereby each one, uniting himself to all, may nevertheless obey none but himself and remain as free as before.’[212] To the question as to how men in the state can remain free as before, Rousseau answers: ‘Each of us puts into a common stock his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will; and we receive in our turn the offering of the rest, each member as an inseparable part of the whole.’[213][214]


Criticizing Rousseau’s social contract theory, Bittle makes the following evaluation: “There are many flaws in Rousseau’s theory. As in the case of Hobbes, Rousseau’s view of man’s nature in the ‘natural state’ is purely imaginary and arbitrary. Rousseau confuses physical and moral freedom. We admit that man possesses ‘physical’ freedom as an essential attribute of his rational nature, so that he has freedom of choice in the activities of his will. But this does not mean that he is free from all moral obligation. The natural law is in force at all times, and the natural law confers certain inalienable rights on persons, with corresponding moral obligations or duties on the others. Like Hobbes, Rousseau conceived the pre-state condition of man as essentially individualistic; but, whereas, Hobbes considered primitive man to be ‘anti-social,’ Rousseau considered him to be non-social by nature. Rousseau was guilty of a serious oversight. The family certainly existed at all times, and the family has not changed essentially. As was pointed out against the theory of Hobbes, family life is by its very nature social in character, not individualistic. Furthermore, the very nature of membership in the family precludes the possibility of perfect equality; the relation between husband and wife and between parent and child brings with it a natural individual inequality, with differences in rights and duties in domestic society which are ineradicable and unescapable. And family life naturally demands private property, so that private property did not have its origin in fraud and force, as Rousseau contended, but in the needs and requirements of the rational nature of man. These same needs and requirements prompted man to till the soil, to learn the arts, to associate with others, and finally to form the state, because the perfection of his nature demanded these things. Since the formation of civil society, of the organization of the political state, is an outgrowth of man’s natural needs, the origin of the state is a dictate of the natural law, not of an exclusively human agreement and social contract.”[215]


Emile: Rousseau’s Naturalistic Theory of Education 


Rousseau’s pedagogy or theory of education is contained in his novel Emile, which is a case history of a fictional pupil raised by an ideal tutor. It is a thoroughly naturalistic, sentiment-based educational proposal; having denied original sin, Rousseau sustained the innate goodness and original innocence of man who is later corrupted by society. He proposed a new education of youth which would stress the development of their sensitive faculties and the development of an autonomous personality; it would also instill in them the primacy of action over abstract contemplation. Up to the age of twelve young Emile’s education would consist above all in the formation of the body. Things of the spirit should not be taught.[216] There must be an absolute respect for, and a re-establishment of, the rights of nature, whose fundamental passions and sentiments are good. The teacher must not correct the children nor teach them a set of objective moral absolutes and good habits. Frugality, or being content with little, is the sole good habit that should be instilled in the child up to the age of twelve, so as to be able to stimulate his imagination and creativeness.[217] Then, between the years twelve to fifteen, the adolescent Emile is to be intellectually formed according to a naturalistic knowledge process which will avoid teaching by means of books and moral lessons (where there is merely a spoon-feeding of concepts and abstract theories without an understanding of their real meaning). Direct contact with things shall be stressed and the adolescent should discover by his own inventiveness and personal observations of nature what is neededful of the arts and sciences. Gilson and Langan illustrate Rousseau’s experience-rooted pedagogical method with the following example: “‘Never give your pupil any kind of verbal lesson; he must receive lessons from experience only.’ If the course of events does not provide the necessary lessons, just make them up. For instance, do not try to explain to him the abstract notion of property; rather, let him sow a few beans, water them, take pleasure in seeing them grow and, above all, in thinking that they are his; since he himself made them grow, there is in them something of his work, of his person, so that he can claim them as his own against anybody who might pretend to take them away from him. Then, one day, wreck the little garden in his absence. Naturally, the boy will be in despair; then the gardener arrives, duly coached, and he explains that he himself had first sown melons at the very same place where the boy was growing beans. ‘All right,’ the preceptor says, ‘we shall buy you more melon seeds, and we shall never more cultivate any ground without first making sure that nobody else has tilled it before us.’ Finally, the gardener concedes to the boy a corner of the garden for him to cultivate, adding this last piece of advice: ‘Do not forget that if you touch my melons I shall go and plow up your beans.’ Why this complicated method? Because it is not a ‘verbal’ lesson. The word ‘property’ has not been pronounced. Nor would there have been any point in punishing the child for doing something wrong: ‘Innocent of all morality in his actions, he cannot do anything morally evil and deserving of punishment or blame.’ Even to bid him to apologize is a waste of time; he does not know what it is to be wrong.”[218] From age fifteen onwards young Emile should now be initiated into the moral life, which essentially consists in being good to your neighbor, being simply ‘a man for others.’


In religious matters Rousseau is, as was mentioned, a naturalist; supernatural revelation is, for him, useless and a product of the corrupt and artifical society of his time. He believed that the Gospels were impressive but purely human works. He denied miracles and prophecy for, according to this naturalist, revelation would be a violation of the rights of man’s personality.         


In his assessment of Rousseau’s naturalist educational program,[219] Thonnard observes that it appears that the secret to understanding the Rousseauian pedagogical system lies in Rousseau’s attempts at justifying his bad life (he actually abandoned his five children at an orphanage! Certainly matter for the psychoanalyst): “This educational program is but a retracing of Rousseau’s own life. One can call it the ‘sanctity of nature.’ Its aim is not to reform onself in order to act more fully with supernaturalized reason, but to follow all the tendencies of one’s nature with an absolute sincerity, even if they are morally bad, for Rousseau declares all of them morally good. This view is founded on the absolute domination of sentiment, in which reason plays a dual role. Reason legitimizes all sentimental needs by furnishing defensive sophisms (and Rousseau was an expert at these). Reason also contemplates and approves virtue, living dreamily according to the good while devoting oneself to evil, and adding the approval of innocence to the pleasure of sin. This dream Rousseau himself realized towards the close of his life, and it was nothing more than the fulfillment of his own egoism pushed to extremes. His holiness consisted in loving himself as being self-sufficient and as making him independent of all others; in this way he realized a sort of pure act of humanity. However, he did this only by taking the self not as a reasonable being, but as individuality: with its qualities and its defects, naturally good, affectionate, sensible, and leading towards sensuality. Rousseau thus returned to filling himself completely with the self so that he had nothing to be virtuous toward, and hence was good; he thus had no complaint towards other men, he pardoned them and was self-sufficient; he had nothing to hope for from God, he was his own happiness.”[220]      








The German trascendental idealist philosopher Immanuel Kant[221] (1724-1804) was born in Königsberg, East Prussia (which is now the Russian city of Kaliningrad) on April 22nd, 1724, the son of parents belonging to the Pietist sect. As a youth Kant studied at the Collegium Fridericianum from 1732 to 1740 where he acquired a good knowledge of Latin. In 1740 he began his studies at the university of Königsberg where he studied Newtonian physics, mathematics, and philosophy, finishing in 1746. Because of financial reasons, he became tutor to various families from 1746 till 1755. In 1755 he obtained his doctorate and received permission to be a Privatdozent or lecturer. In March of 1770 he was appointed an ordinary professor of logic and metaphysics at the university of Königsberg. The years 1755 to 1770 are commonly known as Kant’s pre-critical period, where he was profoundly influenced by Leibnizian and Wolffian rationalism. The 1770 dissertation On the Form and on the Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World signals the beginning of his evolution to what is called his second or critical period, where he says that he was awakened from his “dogmatic slumber” by the reading of the radical empiricism of David Hume. In 1781 Kant published his first major work, the Critique of Pure Reason (a second revised edition came out in 1787). In 1783 he published the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, in 1785 his Fundamental  Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, in 1786 the Metaphysical First Principles of Natural Science, in 1788 his Critique of Practical Reason, in 1790 the Critique of Judgment, in 1793 his controversial work Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (which got him into trouble with the Prussian authorities), in 1795 the treatise On Perpetual Peace, and in 1797 the Metaphysics of Morals. Kant spent almost all of his life within the confines of Königsberg, leading a methodical, meticulously planned life. He died in that same city on February 12th, 1804.    


The Critique of Pure Reason


In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant sought out the value of the human sciences, especially that of metaphysics. In order to do so he believed that it was necessary to inquire into the origins of scientific knowledge, searching the reason why such knowledge is formed in us. The point of departure of his inquiry would be the scientific judgments of mathematics, physics, and first principles such as the principle of causality, foundation of scientific knowledge. He asks: How are such universal and necessary judgments possible? There were two historical solutions: the first was the rationalist claim that science has a totally a priori origin in us through a pure analysis of one or more primitive concepts. Such scientific judgments were called analytic judgments. The second solution was the empiricist claim that science has its absolute origin from sensible experience through a posteriori synthetic judgments. But Kant was unconvinced by these explanations since he observed that scientific judgments had the following essential characteristics: universality-necessity and increment of new knowledge. In the case of the rationalist claim, yes, universality and necessity were explained but not increment of new knowledge. As to the empiricist claim, yes, increment of new knowledge was explained but not universality and necessity since all that comes from sense experience can only be particular and contingent. What was needed was a union between the necessity and universality of the analytic judgments of the rationalists and the increase of new knowledge provided by the synthetic a posteriori judgments of the empiricists. So, Kant’s solution was that man obtains scientific knowledge through synthetic a priori judgments. Scientific judgments have their origin by way of synthesis between something caused in us by something external to us and subjective elements which the mind possesses by force of its very constitution. He believed that the ultimate root of the errors of the rationalists and the empiricists was the erroneous concept of human knowledge. The rationalists claimed that all knowledge comes from the subject, while the empiricists held that all knowledge is derived from the object. Because of these errors, Kant claimed that scientific knowledge would be impossible because the object would only supply an increment of new knowledge and the subject would give only universality-necessity. Knowledge, for him, is not the fruit of the subject solely or of the object solely, but rather, it is a synthesis of the combined action of subject and object: the subject procures the form and the object the matter. Knowledge would be the result of an a priori element (the subject) and an a posteriori element (the object). The resulting judgments would not just be only analytic or only synthetic but would be synthetic a priori. Synthetic a priori judgments would be a sufficient guarantee for the validity of the sciences which acquires increment of new knowledge from the object and universality-necessity from the subject.   


This new relationship between subject and object in the knowing process is Kant’s Copernican Revolution. Realism claims that man can really know extra-mental things, obtaining immaterial ideas (which are universal) by abstraction from sense experience. It believes that it is the mind that revolves around things in the extra-mental universe. Truth would mean the conformity (adequation) of our minds or judgments to real things. Kant rejects this realism as illusory and ingenious. His claim is that it is not the mind that revolves around the thing but rather the thing that revolves around the mind. “It has hitherto been assumed that our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to ascertain anything about these objects a priori, by means of conceptions, and thus to extend the range of our knowledge, have been rendered abortive by this assumption. Let us then make the experiment whether we may not be more successful in metaphysics, if we assume that the objects must conform to our cognition. This appears, at all events, to accord better with the possibility of our gaining the end we have in view, that is to say, of arriving at the cognition of objects a priori, of determining something with respect to these objects, before they are given to us.”[222] “According to Kant, it is the intellect which imposes its conditions upon sense phenomena and not vice versa. This is precisely the Copernican revolution which Kant carried out: instead of the subject attending to objects, it is the objects which depend on the thinking ego. In broader terms, we are facing a transfer of the foundation from being to thought: now it is thought which founds being…For Kant, nature is no more than a set of formalized phenomena whose laws are not given by the structure of things as they are in themselves, but rather are prescribed to nature by the intellect. It is we, says Kant, who introduce order and regularity into natural phenomena, and we would not be able to discover this order and regularity if it had not originally been placed there by the nature of our minds.”[223]   


To answer the basic question, “What can I know with scientific certitude?,” Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason. In this work he examines in a critical way the very structure of human reason, assigning to man a threefold knowing power: sensibility, intellect and reason. Out of the threefold knowing power of man arises, respectively, the three parts of the Critique: the transcendental esthetic, the transcendental analytic, and the transcendental dialectic.


The Transcendental Esthetic


Kant calls “transcendental” every knowledge that has something to do with the way the human mind knows objects. “Transcendent” is that which goes beyond all experience. The transcendental esthetic’s scope is to examine how mathematics and geometry are possible. He retains that these sciences are possible because the mind is endowed with two a priori forms that have the characteristics of universality and intuitivity: space and time. Space and time are not, for him, extra-mental realities but a priori forms of the human mind.[224] Kant writes: “In a phenomenon I call that which corresponds to the sensation its matter; but that which causes the manifold matter of the phenomenon to be perceived as arranged in a certain order, I call its form. Now it is clear that it cannot be sensation again through which sensations are arranged and placed in certain forms. The matter only for all phenomena is given us a posteriori; but their form must be ready for them in the mind (Gemüth) a priori, and must therefore be capable of being considered as separate from all sensations…In the course of this investigation it will appear that there are, as principles of a priori knowledge, two pure forms of sensuous intuition (Anschauung), namely, space and time.”[225] Bittle observes that “bearing in mind Kant’s axiom that nothing necessary and universal can be derived from experience, but must proceed exclusively and a priori from the mind itself, Kant finds that sense-perception contains a double element: the ‘manifold’ of sense impressions, which is derived from experience, and ‘space’ and ‘time,’ which are pure forms of the mind. External to the mind there exists a world of things-in-themselves (Dinge-an-sich) or noumena; they are real physical beings. These make impressions on the sense-faculty, and the faculty responds with an ‘intuition’ or perception. These impressions are unarranged, chaotic. This chaotic ‘manifold’ must be arranged in a certain order, and this is done by means of the two sense forms ‘space’ and ‘time.’ Space and time are in no way attributes of the things-in-themselves,[226] but merely ‘cause the manifold matter of the phenomenon to be perceived as arranged in a certain order,’ i.e., as arranged in the order of ‘space’ or in the order of ‘time.’ Since all intuitions or perceptions appear as arranged in a spatial and temporal order, ‘space’ and ‘time’ are universal and necessary conditions of sense-perception and as such must exist a priori in the mind. They are like mental molds into which the unarranged raw materials of sense are poured, so that, after the molding process of cognition is completed, all phenomena appear arranged and molded in ‘space’ and ‘time.’ The objects themselves are, so far as we know spaceless and timeless.”[227]


In the transcendental esthetic, Llano observes that Kant “develops a theory of sensation and of the phenomena of experience understood as the indeterminate object of an empirical intuition. The matter of the phenomenon is sensation, the subjective reaction of consciousness to having the senses affected. The matter of phenomena is given to us a posteriori since it comes from exterior reality, whose existence Kant must admit, in some way, as the origin of the empirical data passively received by our senses. The primal characteristic of empirical data is their multiplicity, because they come from multiple stimuli. In contrast, the forms of phenomena – space and time – are the unifying and ordering structures of empirical intuitions. Space and time are conditions for the possibility of empirical phenomena. These a priori or pure forms are imposed upon phenomena by the nature of our senses: space is the form of the intuitions of the external senses and time is the form of the intuitions of the internal senses. As forms of all phenomena, space and time are universal and necessary; thus scientific (synthetic a priori) judgments are possible in geometry (constructed upon the pure spatial form) and in arithmetic (built upon pure temporal structures).”[228]


The only form of intuition that man is endowed with is sensible intuition. Thus the mind can reach only phenomena (things which appear to us) and not noumena (things-in-themselves). We only know things as they appear to the human mind and not extra-mental reality as it is in itself. In The Critique of Pure Reason and in the Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics Kant affirms the existence of noumena (things-in-themselves) that are the cause of the phenomena, but as to what noumena are in themselves, we simply do not know.[229] Bittle explains Kantian noumenal agnosticism, writing: “Do we really perceive external objects, so that the objects of sense actually exist, as we perceive them, outside our person? We do not. The real objects of the physical world can never be perceived; we know absolutely nothing about the noumena or things-in-themselves:‘All our intuition is nothing but the representation of phenomena…Nothing which is seen in space is a thing-in-itself, nor space a form of things supposed to belong to them by themselves, but objects by themselves are not known by us at all, and that what we call external objects are nothing but representations of our senses (phenomena).’[230] All we can know, then, are phenomena or appearances, and these are always subjective in character, without any resemblance to the things-in-themselves. Even man’s perception of his own body is thus seen to be only ‘phenomenal’; whether any extra-mental reality corresponds to what he perceives to be his ‘body,’ man can never know. Kant admits the existence of things-in-themselves as the exciting cause of sense-perception on the grounds of inference; but they remain an unknown and unknowable X…Since all our knowledge in sense-perception is limited to intra-subjective phenomena, he is a transcendental idealist. He failed to overcome the Cartesian antithesis between mind and matter; the mind remains imprisoned in its conscious states and can know nothing of the external world and non-ego objects.”[231]         


The Transcendental Analytic


Just as phenomena stir the sensibility to act, so the finished products of sensation stir the next knowing power, the intellect, to act. The intellect takes in these finished products of sensation which are empirical intuitions and conforms them to its shape, its inborn a priori forms. These forms are four sets of triple judgments called the twelve categories. These categories are like molds into which the molten metal of empirical intuitions is poured, and the resulting piece of knowledge is, in each case, a judgment. The four master categories (each of which has three branches) are: quantity, quality, relation, and modality. Thus the judgment “A comes from B as effect from cause” is not the objective knowing by the human mind of a state of fact, as it is in realism, but rather, it is merely the result of the action of the intellect putting the empirical intuitions of A and B through the mold or category of relation, and through that branch of relation called cause-effect. Causality is not, for Kant, something that occurs in extra-mental reality between things but is rather subjective and immanent to human consciousness.    


The Transcendental Dialectic


In this final part of The Critique of Pure Reason Kant studies the function of “reason” (reason in the sense of the faculty that researches the unconditioned) in order to determine the possibility of metaphysics. The “ideas” of reason are: soul (the unconditioned which lies at the foundation of psychical phenomena), world or cosmos (the unconditioned that lies at the foundation of physical phenomena), and God (the unconditioned that lies at the foundation of all reality). Kant retains that metaphysics arises from a legitimate exigency but sustains that it is impossible for us to demonstrate the objective noumenal value of the ideas of reason. The idea of soul is the result of paralogisms, the idea of cosmos or world falls into antinomies, and the idea of God is founded upon three “proofs” (ultimately reducible to the ontological argument) that are all invalid. The ideas of reason, therefore, have only a regulative use (they indicate a point of problematic convergence) and not a constitutive use (they don’t represent objects to us). Regarding the existence of God Kant was an agnostic, a logical consequence of his transcendental idealist gnoseological immanentism where one is trapped in appearances within human consciousness and incapable of transcending to extra-mental reality and knowing things-in-themselves.  


A Critique of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism


Kant’s philosophical system is plagued with numerous contradictions and errors. For one thing, he affirmed the existence of the noumenon but added that it was impossible to know anything about it. But if we know that it exists then Kant’s claim that we know nothing of the thing-in-itself (noumenon) is not true. He also claimed that the noumenal world is a chaotic mass. It is the mind that eventually structures the object and not the mind conforming to the laws of extra-mental reality. But how can we know that the noumenal world is a chaotic mass since the Kantian claim is that we can know nothing of the thing-in-itself (the noumenon)? Again, he is inconsistent.


Kant goes to great efforts to analyze and describe the intellect and its operations. He appears to know the intellect and its functions extremely well. But isn’t that analyzing and describing a noumenal reality, a thing-in-itself? If the noumenon is totally unknowable then the intellect and its operations would be unknowable. The intellect and its operations are not phenomena for they are not the objects of sense experience. We cannot see and touch human reason. Again, his system breaks down.


Kant claimed that existing extra-mental things-in-themselves (noumena) are the causes of the phenomena that appear to us. Phenomena would be effects of their causes which are noumena.[232] In the Prolegomena we read that things-in-themselves are unknowable as they are in themselves but that “we know them through the representations which their influence on our sensibility procures for us.”[233] But this is making use of the objective metaphysical principle of causality and acknowledging causality in the extra-mental world. This is a plain violation of his philosophical system that claims that causality is not something of the extra-mental real world but rather something rooted in the very structure of the human mind as a category.[234] In order to rectify this blatant error Kant revised his doctrine on the noumenon in the second edition of The Critique of Pure Reason which came out in 1787.[235] His second new doctrine claimed that the noumenon should not be thought of as an extra-mental thing existing in reality but merely as a limiting concept.[236] In its negative sense, which should be adopted, the noumenon is that which is not the object of sense intuition.[237] What does he do here? He denies the objectivity of the thing-in-itself thus correcting his own violation of his own principle of causality immanent to the human mind.[238] But though he gives us a new doctrine on the noumenon, even now affirming that we do not know if it exists or not, there are still many parts of his work in his critical period that clearly affirm the existence of noumena and their being the causes of phenomena, as B 34 of the second edition of The Critique of Pure Reason and Prologue 13, remark 2 of the Prolegomena attest to. Kant could not, even with his new doctrine of the noumenon, free himself from contradictions in his philosophical system.           


It is not true, as Kant claims, that man is endowed only with sense intuition. We are endowed with intellectual intuition as for example when we know ourselves. And to think that the knowledge of mathematics and geometry is due solely to sense intuition is absurd.


Bittle lists a number of other problems with Kantian idealism: “Kant’s theory is contrary to the science of psychology. He maintains that ‘space’ and ‘time’ are subjective ‘forms’ of the mind, given prior to all experience. The findings of psychology are definitely opposed to this claim. Sensory experience contributes its share to our perception of ‘space’ and ‘time,’ as experimental psychology has definitively established. We acquire our knowledge of space and time from a perception of objects which are larger or smaller and which are at rest or in motion. Persons suffering from a congenital cataract have no antecedent knowledge of visual space; after a successful operation, they must acquire knowledge of space through experience and perception. If the subjective mental form of ‘space’ were, as Kant claims, a necessary condition for perception, making the perception of phenomena possible, then there seems to be no valid reason why the mind cannot impose the form of ‘visual space’ upon the incoming impressions, even though a person be congenitally blind. The evidence, however, points clearly to the fact that the knowledge of space on the part of the mind is conditioned by the perception of objects, and not that the perception of space is conditioned by some a priori form present in the mind antecedent to experience. But if ‘space’ is an attribute of bodies, then so is ‘time,’ because both are on a par in this respect.”[239] 


“Kant’s theory is contrary to the fundamental principles of the physical sciences. Kant evolved his theory for the expressed purpose of revindicating scientific knowledge and freeing it from the bane of Hume’s skepticism. He failed. Science treats of the physical objects of the extra-mental world and not of mental constructions; Kant’s world, however, is a world of phenomena, and these phenomena are mental constructions which give us no insight whatever into the nature and reality of things as they are in themselves. According to Kant’s conclusions, the physical, noumenal world is unknown and unknowable. Science is convinced that it contacts and knows real things outside the mind. Science is based on the objective validity of the principle of cause and effect operating between physical objects and physical agencies; according to Kant, this principle is an empty a priori form merely regulating our judgments and applying only to phenomena. The laws which science establishes are considered by scientists to be real laws operating in physical bodies independent of our thinking; according to Kant, these laws merely relate to phenomena within the mind and not to nature at all. Kant states: ‘It sounds no doubt very strange and absurd that nature should have to conform to our subjective ground of apperception, nay, be dependent on it, with respect to her laws. But if we consider that what we call nature is nothing but a whole (Inbegriff) of phenomena, not a thing by itself, we shall no longer be surprised.’[240] We are indeed surprised that Kant would accept this conclusion of this theory rather than see therein the utter fallaciousness of the theory itself which could consistently lead to such a ‘very strange and absurd’ conclusion. That such a conclusion destroys the validity of science in its very foundations, must be obvious.”[241]


“Kant’s theory destroys the foundation of all intellectual knowledge. Ideas and judgments are supposed to reflect and represent reality; they are supposed to tell us ‘what things are.’ Truth and error reside in the judgment. In forming judgments we first understand the contents of ideas and then have an intellectual insight into the relation existing between the subject-idea and the predicate-idea. According to Kant, we do not make judgments because we perceive the objective relation of the subject-idea and the predicate-idea, but because a blind, subjectively necessitating law of our mental constitution draws certain sense-intuitions under certain intellectually empty categories prior to our thinking, and we do not know why these particular categories, rather than others, were imposed by the mind on these sense-intuitions. Our ‘knowledge’ is as blind as the law that produces it. Intellectual knowledge is thus utterly valueless, because it gives us no insight into the nature of the reality our ideas and judgments are supposed to represent.”[242] 


Kant claimed that nothing universal can come from experience. This is false since the universal can come from experience by way of the realist doctrine of abstraction.[243]   


Kant’s Philosophical Anthropology


Kant struck a blow at the rationalist psychology of his time which affirmed the substantiality of the soul, a conclusion departing from the cogito. He maintained that the soul was one of the three ideas of pure reason (soul, world, God) whose corresponding noumenical realities could not be established, since the mind, striving for a higher synthesis than the categorical one arrived at in the transcendental analytic, nevertheless, is working without content, and all attempts at affirming the real existence of soul, world and God, are but erroneous paralogisms, antinomies, and contradictory reasonings. It is the task of the transcendental dialectic, the third part of the Critique of Pure Reason, to show this. The goal of the transcendental dialectic would be to expose the transcendental illusion that counterparts of the ideas of pure reason necessarily exist, as traditional rationalist psychology would maintain.


For Kant, reason seeks a further unification of the categories of the understanding into a supreme synthesis, which are, for him, the three ideas (soul, world, and God) of pure reason: “(a) The totality of our internal experience is unified into the idea of soul or permanent substantial subject, which is the object of psychology ; (b) The totality of our external experience is unified into the idea of world or totality of causally linked phenomena, which is the object of cosmology ; (c) The totality of all objects of thought, unifying both internal and external experience, is unified into the idea of God, a unification of all that is thinkable, which is the object of rational theology. This is how Kant transforms the Cartesian innate ideas into pure forms – empty moulds, without content – of pure reason.”[244]                


Gilson and Langan write: “The rational psychology Kant has in mind is one that would deduce conclusions a priori from the cogito. The psychology that attempts to draw knowledge out of the thinking subject runs into a series of ‘paralogisms.’[245] One of these, to take but a single example from the four Kant discusses, the ‘paralogism of substantiality,’ consists in positing the soul as a simple substance, which is, of course, what Descartes did in substantializing the cogito. What is wrong with this is simply that the notion of substance is not supposed to be itself the subject of an intuition, but only to serve as a unifying function. The cogito, declares Kant, cannot be for itself the subject of an intuition, whatever Descartes may have thought. We know only an empirical consciousness, entirely dominated by the form of time, attaining only to the knowledge of successive phenomena, and a pure consciousness, which is only a logical subject, the pure function of transcendental unification, not a thing, therefore not the object of an intuition of a thing-in-itself. Thus neither the materialist nor the spiritualist philosophies are right in asserting, respectively, that there is no soul or that there is a substantial soul, for neither has a legitimate basis for making such assertions. The soul remains an idea, of which it is impossible to know whether it exists or not; in any event, the reason is led to it necessarily, and there is nothing about it that suggests that it is impossible for it to exist.[246] As Hume reduces man, identified with the soul, identified with mind, to “a bundle of perceptions,” so too, Kant reduces man, to soul, to nothing but a pure idea of reason that has the regulative function of unifying all one’s internal experience.


Hirschberger explains the Kantian position on the soul, writing that “philosophical psychology before the time of Kant was not a mere description of the acts of consciousness. This psychology also offered a metaphysics of the soul and recognized in the soul a true substance. Descartes spoke of a res; Leibniz, of an active monad. In like manner Wolff and his school accepted the substantiality of the soul and demonstrated it by a series of regressive conclusions, starting with the accidents and progressing to a real being in which they inhere. Besides the substantiality of the soul, others attempted to prove its incorruptibility, its immateriality, and its immortality. In all these attributes we can discover the true core of the human person. And this person, at least so they thought, constitutes properly speaking the ego, the subject of human activities.


“Only the English empiricists had called these doctrines into question. To Locke, substance is an ‘I-do-not-know-what’; and to Hume the soul is only ‘a bundle of perceptions.’ To Kant the soul is no longer a substance. He considered the demonstration of its substantiality as a paralogism or false conclusion. This paralogism is based on a use of four terms within a syllogism, because the ‘ego’ in the argument had two meanings. The proof that was customarily employed for the substantiality of the soul ran as follows: Whatever is an absolute subject and cannot be used as the predicate of judgments is a substance. The absolute subject of all our judgments is the ego. The ego is therefore a substance. The ego, that is, the subject of all our judgments is, however, according to Kant, the transcendental ego of our transcendental apperception. As a result, it merely signifies a purely logical quantity. The conclusion, however, conceives this logical quantity directly as an ontological, as a metaphysical reality. Herein lies the fallacy of the argument (B 348 ff).”[247]    


Describing Kant’s demolision of rationalist psychology by means of the transcendental dialectic, Collins writes that “rational psychology tries to infer from the given fact of the thinking ‘I,’ something about the soul’s nature. If affirms that the soul is: a substance, simple, self-identical in a personal way, and related to a world that may be inferred to exist outside us, in space. From these four major traits of the soul are derived the remaining psychological theses about the soul’s immateriality, spirituality, incorruptibility, immortality, personality, and animation of a body. But none of these consequences can be any more firmly established than the four main pillars upon which they rest. Kant claims that the four basic principles are themselves vitiated by paralogisms or formal errors in reasoning, and that consequently the entire structure of rational psychology is built upon a crumbling foundation.


“The typical case is the argument used to prove the substantiality of the soul. Kant throws it into the following syllogistic form, in order to reveal the fundamental fallacy of the ambiguous middle that underlies all psychological proofs: ‘That which cannot be thought otherwise than as subject does not exist otherwise than as subject, and is therefore substance ; A thinking being, considered merely as such, cannot be thought otherwise than as subject ; Therefore it exists also only as subject, that is, as substance.’[248] The logical defect in the syllogism is that it contains four terms. In the major, ‘subject-that-is-thought’ is an objective designation for an intuitively given, permanent substratum, to which the category of substance applies. In the minor, however, ‘subject-that-is-thought’ means only the consciousness of the ‘I’ that thinks. This is a non-intuitive awareness and, taken by itself, has only subjective weight. Even if it were capable of an objective meaning, there would be no reason for applying to the thinking subject the category of substance, since there is no observable element of permanence in mere consciousness of my thinking process. To this extent, Kant accepts Hume’s account of the self. The other arguments in rational psychology make a similar shift from objective categories to merely formal, subjective notes.”[249] 


Kant on the Existence of God


Regarding the question of the capacity of man’s reason to demonstrate the existence of God Kant replies that, since all our experience is limited to what is in our sensibility and if the categories of the human understanding can operate only on the objects given to our understanding in and through the forms of sensibility, then all theoretical knowledge of God is rendered impossible. God, who is supra-sensible, is not given in the mass of sense impressions that we receive and is incapable of being an object of theoretical knowledge to the human mind. He “applies to God the conditions required of all objects of experience and hence of all knowable realities. The judgments constitutive of philosophical knowledge are only possible ‘when we relate the formal conditions of a priori intuition, the synthesis of imagination and the necessary unity of this synthesis in a transcendental apperception, to a possible empirical knowledge in general.’[250] Those things alone are knowable which are temporal, subject to some finite, concrete pattern of imagination, included within the order of appearances, and given through empirical, sensuous intuition. On all four counts, God (as conceived by Western theists) lies patently outside the scope of speculative knowledge. He is eternal and not temporal; His being is infinite and unimaginable; He is not an appearance but the supreme intelligible reality or thing-in-itself; He lies beyond all sensuous intuition, and man is endowed with no intellectual intuition for grasping His intelligible reality. Not only His existence but also His nature and causal relation with the world remain intrinsically impenetrable to our speculative gaze. Natural theology has no possibility of providing us with true knowledge about God and should be abandoned.”[251]


Kant could not formulate a valid demonstration of the existence of God because of his negation of abstraction, the metaphysical value of our primary concepts in favor of a reduction of knowledge to what appears to the senses, and the inevitable negation of the objective validity of the principle of causality, which is at the foundation of every valid a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence. All this because of his acceptance of sensism and his absolutization of Newtonian physics that would replace metaphysics as first philosophy. Kant criticizes the a posteriori demonstrations of God, namely the cosmological and teleological arguments, but these are not the arguments of the third and fifth ways of St. Thomas, which are by no means reducible to the ontological argument, a type of argumentation which Aquinas himself refutes. Rather, the Thomistic five ways are valid effect to cause quia demonstrations that have as their starting points objects given in sensible experience which are then interpreted metaphysically. Using the objective metaphysical principle of causality (and the impossibility of infinite regress in the first, second, and third ways) one successfully arrives at God. From a real starting point one concludes to a real Supreme Being. There is no question here of an illegitimate transfer from the logical order to the existential order of being (which the ontological argument does). Why then does Kant erroneously dismiss all possible a posteriori arguments for God’s existence? It is because he is operating within the framework of his immanentist theory of experience and theory of existence, which excludes a realist point of departure, as Collins explains: “The Kantian explanation of the three stages in any a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence rests upon his theory of experience and his conception of existence. The steps in the process impose themselves upon human intelligence not through any necessity inherent in the human intellect itself or in God’s own being but only on condition that the intellect is operating within the framework of the Kantian view of experience and existence. What has been described, then, is the way an a posteriori inference to God must adapt itself to the exigencies of this view, not the way in which such an inference must always develop. Thus the analysis has a sharply limited scope. Kant’s four empirical criteria (temporality, synthesis in imagination, limitation to appearances, and presence through sensuous intuition) are determinants of the objects studied in classical physics. It does not follow that they are the defining marks which characterize everything we can either know experientially or infer from experience. They constitute the empirical principle operative within Newtonian physics, but they are not identical with the experiential principle operative within our ordinary acquaintance with the existing world and our metaphysical analysis of this world. Human experience and its existentially based causal inferences are not restricted to the factors required for the construction of the physical object of Newtonian mechanics. Kant’s fourfold empirical principle is a univocal rule for testing the validity of scientific reasoning. By its nature, it can extend only to objects which already belong to the world of the physicist’s investigation. Hence it cannot be used to answer the question of whether experience contains causal implications, leading to the existence of a being distinct from the world of physics. It can settle nothing about whether our inferences, which start with the sensible world, must also terminate with this world and its immanent formal conditions. Hence, Kant’s use of the empirical principle to rule out the a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence is unwarranted. Granted that the starting point is found in sensible things, it cannot be concluded, by the deductive application of such a principle, that these objects are the only things we can know from causal analysis of experience…It is because Kant failed to grasp the precise starting point of the realistic argument from changing and composite sensible existents that his account of the general procedure of a posteriori demonstration is inapplicable to the realistically ordered inference.”[252]                   


But it is true that man forms his notion of God and can ask a great many questions regarding a Supreme Being, the First Cause of all reality. How is this so? The reason for this, according to Kant, lies in the very structure of the human mind, for its categories of understanding (of cause, substance, etc.) enable the mind to posit questions about a first cause, a necessary substance, etc. But there can never be a real answer to these questions for here the mind’s categories are working without anything, without content. Now, categories can only work on content, and that content must come in and through the forms of sensibility. Content without form is unintelligible and, likewise, is form without content. Thus, questions regarding the existence, nature, attributes, etc., of God are, for Kant, empty questions, for it is simply impossible to provide an answer to them in terms of theoretical or speculative knowledge. Man can speculate about, organize, make relations through cause and effect, only objects of experience, and such objects are strictly limited, for speculative theoretical knowledge, to the phenomena given to the understanding through the a priori forms of sensibility. So, Kant rejects the existence of God as an object of speculative reason. Yet, he believes that His existence is a postulate of practical reason.                        


For Kant, God is postulated as something practically necessary to the carrying out of our moral obligations, so that we may be happy in the doing of our duty; He is a postulate of man’s practical reason, posited by the will of man, and held by a blind faith. God is not inferred by the practical reason, He is postulated. He answers a need. Did Kant believe in the extra-mental real existence of God, as postulated by practical reason? How could he possibly do so since his faith was blind. He could say that there was a God, or think there was a God, but the simple fact is that he truly did not know if there was a God. Is knowledge through faith possible? Yes in as much as faith is an act of the intellect moved to assent by the authority of another. We know, for example, that Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus and his co-conspirators. This is not a postulate or an hypothesis but an historical fact. But we know this only on faith, our intellects being moved to assent by the authority of another (in this case written testimonies, historical documents, historians of eminent professional standing and competence). But this is not Kant’s faith in God for he postulates Him by an act of the will, and hence he can never be sure whether there really is a God or not. His position is that of agnostic, and a dogmatic agnostic at that. So, what exactly is this “God” that he writes about in his critical period? A simple postulate of practical reason that does not transcend the domain of his own mind. “The subject of the categorical imperative…is God. That such a being exists cannot be denied but it cannot be affirmed that it exists outside of the man thinking according to reason.”[253] “There is a God in the moral practical reason, i.e., in the idea of the relation of men to right and duty. But not as a being outside of men.”[254] “The categorical imperative does not presuppose a highest command-giving substance that is outside of me but lies in my own reason.”[255] “The categorical imperative does not presuppose a highest commanding substance which would be outside of me but is a command or prohibition of my own reason.”[256] “God,” for him, is not the extra-mental reality of the Supreme Being, but a subjective certainty made up by the mind that serves or is useful towards man’s practical or moral life.


In the final position of Kant, as found in his Opus Postumum, we find that “God” is but the immanent self-legislating practical reason itself: “The concept of God is the idea of a moral being which as such is directing and commanding overall. This is not a hypothetical thing but pure practical reason itself.”[257] “The concept of such an essence (God) is not that of a substance, i.e., of a thing that exists independent of my thinking but the idea (self-creation) thing of thought ens rationis of a reason constituting itself as a thing of thought which produces a priori according to the principles of the transcendental philosophy synthetic propositions an an ideal from it…”[258] “God is the concept of a personality of a being of thought and ideal being which reason creates for itself.”[259] “The concept of God is the idea of a moral being which as such is directing and commanding overall. This is not a hypothetical thing but pure practical reason itself.”[260] The Kantian position on God is the bridge that links agnostic phenomenalism with the crypto-atheist pantheistic systems of absolute idealism, which in turn would pave the way for the openly atheistic philosophies of Feuerbach, Nietzsche, and Marx, the architects of the horrors of the twentieth century.  


The Critique of Practical Reason: Anthropocentric, Deontological Ethics


Kant expounds upon his moral philosophy in his Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and also in such writings as the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason Alone (1793).[261] The moral law, according to him, cannot come from the experience of objective reality; it is the a priori condition of the will. Kantian morality is not teleological and eudaimonistic but deontological (duty-centered). There are three formulas that explain the criteria of morality: one based on the universality of the law, another based on humanity as end, and the last based on the universal legislative will. The conditions that make moral life possible (or the postulates of practical reason) are three: free will, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God. Morality consists in the conformity of the will to the law for law’s sake.  


For Kant moral obligation is imposed by oneself by one’s autonomous will. Thus, his ethical system is subjectivist and anthropocentric, not objectivist and theocentric. It is also a moral philosophy that is essentially deontological or duty-centered. Man’s last end is, for Kant, the fulfilment of duty. The good, taken simply and purely, is found only in a good human will, and this good human will is one that acts from duty and not from a natural inclination. Moral worth can only be found in acts done from duty; actions done not from the motive of duty have no moral worth for they lack the form of morality, that is, that which gives these actions their moral quality, which is nothing but the respect for the law (which is what Kant means by duty). Consequently, a human act is not good because of the end to which it leads (does an action lead one towards or away from God, our absolutely ultimate, objective Last End? If if does it is good; if it doesn’t it is bad) but solely because of the motive of duty from which it is performed. In his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant explains that “the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect which is expected from it or in any principle of action which has to borrow its motive from the expected effect. For all these effects (agreeableness of condition, indeed even the promotion of the happiness of others) could be brought about through other causes and would not require the will of a rational being, while the highest and unconditional good can be found only in such a will. Therefore the pre-eminent good can consist only in the conception of the law in itself (which can be present only in a rational being) so far as this conception and not the hoped-for effect is the determining ground of the will. This pre-eminent good, which we call moral, is already present in the person who acts according to this conception and we do not have to expect it first in the result.”[262]


The ‘law’ which Kant speaks of, and which respect for which must be the motive of an act to make it moral, is none other that the pure notion of law as such. If any action that one is to do be a moral one must ask himself: “Can I make the principle or maxim on which this action rests into a universal law binding for all persons? He writes: “The shortest but most infallible way to find the answer to the question as to whether a deceitful promise is consistent with duty is to ask myself: Would I be content that my maxim (of extricating myself from difficulty by a false promise) should hold as a universal law for myself as well as for others? And could I say to myself that everyone may make a false promise when he is in a difficulty from which he otherwise cannot escape? I immediately see that I could will the lie but not a universal law to lie. For with such a law there would be no promises at all inasmuch as it would be futile to make a pretense of my intention in regard to future actions to those who would not believe this pretense or – if they overhastily did so – who would pay me back in my own coin. Thus my maxim would necessarily destroy itself as soon as it was made a universal law.”[263] 


Man, unlike the brute, has a concept of law and can consciously conform his conduct to principles by means of his autonomous will. Command, which is an imperative expressing the ought, is an objective principle of law which is binding on the will. Such an imperative may be merely hypothetical, that is, the use of means towards a particular end, or categorical, which must be done absolutely. Kant says: “If the action is good only as a means to something else, the imperative is hypothetical; but if it is thought of as good in itself, and hence as necessary in a will which of itself conforms to reason as the principle of this will, the imperative is categorical…There is one imperative which directly commands a certain conduct without making its condition some purpose to be reached by it. This imperative is categorical. It concerns not the material of the action and its intended result but the form and principle from which it results. What is essentially good in it consists in the intention, the result being what it may. This imperative may be called the imperative of morality…There is, therefore, only one categorical imperative. It is: Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”[264]  


What makes an act morally wrong in the world of Kantian deontologism? In making an exception for oneself, thus contradicting the law in one’s own favor: “When we observe ourselves in any transgression of duty, we find that we do not actually will that our maxim should become a universal law. That is impossible for us; rather, the contrary of this maxim should remain as a law generally, and we only take the liberty of making an exception to it for ourselves or for the sake of our inclination, and for this one occasion.”[265] Why is such conduct reprehensible, morally wrong? Because it subjects other men as means to oneself as end, thus perverting the entire realm of ends according to which each human person must be treated as an end in himself and never as a means. The dignity of the human person demands it. But such a principle concludes to the fact that if one must not subject other men as means to oneself as end, then I myself am not subjected as means to another as means. Who then, imposes the moral law, moral obligation, upon me? An extra-subjective God who really exists? No, says Kant the agnostic. Then who? Myself (autonomy of the will): “Reason, therefore, relates every maxim of the will as giving universal laws to every other will and also to every action toward itself; it does not do so for the sake of any other practical motive or future advantage but rather from the idea of the dignity of the rational being, which obeys no law except that which he himself also gives…He is thus fitted to be a member in a possible realm of ends to which his own nature already destined him. For, as an end in himself, he is destined to be legislative in the realm of ends, free from all laws of nature and obedient only to those which he himself gives. Accordingly, his maxims can belong to a universal legislation to which he is at the same time also subject…Autonomy is thus the basis of the dignity of both human nature and every rational nature.”[266]   


Critique of Kantian Deontologist Ethics


Though Kant’s austere duty-centered ethics served as a buttress against the prevalent materialism and self-serving hedonism of his time, it nevertheless is riddled with a number of serious defects, namely, as regards the motive of duty, the categorical imperative, the autonomy of the will, and the source of obligation. Fagothey gives us an excellent critique of the Kantian deontologist moral system by pointing out these defects: “1. To rest all morality on the motive of duty is unnatural and inhuman. Kant nowhere says that an act not done from duty is immoral, only that it is nonmoral; nor does he say that to be moral it must be done from pure duty alone. All he says is that unless the motive of duty is present it cannot be moral, and, if it is done from both duty and inclination, only the motive of duty can give it its morality. But even this is overplaying the role of duty. Is it only her sense of duty and not her love for her child that gives morality to a mother’s devotion? Is it only cold obligation and not large-hearted generosity that makes relief of the poor a moral act? Certainly a sense of duty will be present in such cases, but love and generosity are always esteemed as higher motives than mere duty and give the act a greater moral worth. We fall back on duty only when other motives fail. Duty is rather the last bulwark against wrong acting than the highest motive for right acting. How could Kant explain heroic acts, such as giving one’s life for one’s friend? These are always thought the noblest and best, precisely because they go beyond the call of duty. Kant is then faced with this dilemma: either he must deny that heroic acts are moral, and thus fly in the face of all human evaluations, so as to make his ethics useless in practice; or he must make heroic acts a strict duty, thus putting a burden on human nature that it cannot bear and robbing these acts of the very quality that makes them heroic.  


“2. That the moral law commands us with a categorical imperative is undoubtedly true, and Kant emphasizes it well, but his formulation of it is faulty. The moral imperative is properly: ‘Do good and avoid evil,’ plus the more definite principles derived from this, rather than Kant’s formula: ‘So act that the maxim from which you act can be made a universal law,’ which is only a negative rule. Evil ways of acting could never become universal laws, for they are self-destructive; but there are also good ways of acting that can never become universal laws, such as a life of celibacy. Hence the reason for the moral goodness of an act is not the fact that it can be made a universal law. Kant might answer that we can will celibacy to be a universal law for a definite type of person in definite circumstances; but this answer is no help, for if we start making exceptions of this sort the term universal law loses all meaning. It finally narrows down to just one single case. To use Kant’s own example, I might will that anyone in my particular predicament could get out of it by lying, and still have the law universal for that class of people. To determine the goodness of an act wholly from the maxim which governs it and not from the end to which it naturally leads is to adopt a purely subjective norm of morality. All three determinants, the nature of the act, its motive, and the circumstances, must be considered, and not the motive alone. It is difficult to square Kant’s view here with the acceptance of intrinsic morality.   


“3. Kant’s recognition of the dignity of the human person is one of the most admired parts of his philosophy. But he carries it so far as to make a created person impossible. We must never use each other merely as a means, but God may do with us what He pleases, short of contradicting His own attributes. To make the human will autonomous does violence to the rights of God the Creator. Kant is forced to this position by his rejection of the traditional proofs of God’s existence, thus paying the price for faulty metaphysics. In Kant’s system our reason for accepting God’s existence is ultimately that we will His existence, for we need Him to justify morality to ourselves. As Kant says, this is a practical faith rather than a reasoned conviction. But here is another dilemma. Really God either does or does not exist; if He does not exist, we cannot will Him into existence simply because we feel a need of Him; if He does exist, the human will cannot be wholly autonomous but is subject to the law God imposes on us.”[267]  


Fagothey goes on to explain that moral obligation does not come from oneself for “one cannot have authority over oneself and be subject to oneself in the same respect, be one’s own superior and inferior. A lawmaker can repeal his own laws. If man made the moral law for himself, he could never violate it, for he cannot will both its observance and its violation at once, and his act of violation would simply be an act of repeal. Such a law could impose no obligation.”[268] So, if moral obligation does not come from oneself, then from who? Who is the ultimate source of all moral obligation? God: “Who imposes moral obligation? The one who has established the end and the means and their necessary connection. This objective order of things, commanded by God’s intellect and carried out by His will, is what we have called the eternal law, whose created counterpart is the natural law, faintly and imperfectly reflected in human law. Thus God, the Eternal Lawgiver, is the ultimate source of all moral obligation…Only he who determines the necessary connection between the observance of the moral law and man’s last end, and makes the attainment of the last end absolutely mandatory, can be the ultimate source of moral obligation. But only God determines the necessary connection between the observance of the moral law and man’s last end and makes the attainment of the last end absolutely mandatory. Therefore only God can be the ultimate source of moral obligation…Moral obligation must come from God, who alone determines by the eternal law the necessary connection between the observance of the moral law and man’s last end, and makes the attainment of the last end absolutely mandatory. This determination of His intellect and will He manifests to us through the natural law, which is the proximate source of all moral obligation; from it alone positive laws derive their binding force.”[269]   


The Critique of Judgment


The objective of Kant’s third critique, The Critique of Judgment (1790), was the healing of the fracture between the phenomenal world (which is the world of necessity, the world subject to the rigid determinism of mechanical laws inspired by Newtonian physics) and the noumenal world (the world of freedom). The reconciliation of those two worlds is necessary, says Kant, for both spheres (phenomenical and noumenical) constitute man (who is body and soul, matter and spirit, and sensibility and rationality). The healing of the fracture is attained by a subordination of the less noble realities to the more noble ones: body to soul, matter to spirit, and sensibility to rationality, by means of judgments of reflection. Kant discovered that the intermediary between reason and intellect is a distinct third faculty called sentiment (or affectivity) which he defined as “the feeling of pleasure or displeasure.”[270] Sentiment produces judgments of reflection wherein the universal is not posited but rather discovered. Sentiment discovers the finality of nature. Judgments of reflection include both teleological judgments, which derive from man’s reflection upon the order of nature, and aesthetic judgments,[271] which derive from the contemplation of beauty, presenting a universality without concept together with a disinterested pleasure.[272]






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[1] J. MARITAIN, The Dream of Descartes, Philosophical Library, New York, 1944, pp. 178-179. 

[2] What exactly is Christian philosophy? Etienne Gilson explains: “I call Christian, every philosophy which, although keeping the two orders formally distinct, nevertheless considers the Christian revelation as an indispensable auxiliary to reason”(E. GILSON, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, Scribner’s, New York, 1936, p. 37). In his later Elements of Christian Philosophy, he writes that “Christian philosophy is that way of philosophizing in which the Christian faith and the human intellect join forces in a common investigation of philosophical truth”(E. GILSON, Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1960, p. 5). For Pope John Paul II, writing in his 1998 Encyclical Fides et Ratio, Christian philosophy refers to “a Christian way of philosophizing, a philosophical speculation conceived in dynamic union with faith. It does not therefore refer simply to a philosophy developed by Christian philosophers who have striven in their research not to contradict the faith. The term Christian philosophy includes those important developments of philosophical thinking which would not have happened without the direct or indirect contribution of Christian faith”(JOHN PAUL II, Fides et Ratio, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, p. 110). The Holy Father also writes: “Christian philosophy therefore has two aspects. The first is subjective, in the sense that faith purifies reason. As a theological virtue, faith liberates reason from presumption, the typical temptation of the philosopher. Saint Paul, the Fathers of the Church and, closer to our own time, philosophers such as Pascal and Kierkegaard reproached such presumption. The philosopher who learns humility will also find courage to tackle questions which are difficult to resolve if the data of Revelation are ignored – for example, the problem of evil and suffering, the personal nature of God and the question of the meaning of life or, more directly, the radical metaphysical question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing.’

       “The second aspect of Christian philosophy is objective, in the sense that it concerns content. Revelation clearly proposes certain truths which might never have been discovered by reason unaided, although they are not of themselves inaccessible to reason. Among these truths is the notion of a free and personal God who is the Creator of the world, a truth which has been so crucial for the development of philosophical thinking, especially the philosophy of being. There is also the reality of sin, as it appears in the light of faith, which helps to shape an adequate philosophical formulation of the problem of evil. The notion of the person as a spiritual being is another of faith’s specific contributions: the Christian proclamation of human dignity, equality and freedom has undoubtedly influenced modern philosophical thought. In more recent times, there has been the discovery that history as event – so central to Christian Revelation – is important for philosophy as well. It is no accident that this has become pivotal for a philosophy of history which stakes its claim as a new chapter in the human search for truth”(JOHN PAUL II, op. cit., pp. 111-112).     

[3] J. MARITAIN, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1956, p. 98. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 4; Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, a. 1. 

[4] J. MARITAIN, The Dream of Descartes, Philosophical Library, New York, 1944, pp. 173-175.

[5] JOHN PAUL II, Fides et Ratio, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1998, nos. 46, 90.

[6] R. DESCARTES, Discourse on Method, 6.

[7] ST. T. AQUINAS, Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, II, 2.

[8] Gregory the Great, as quoted by Thomas in the passage just cited.

[9] J. PIEPER, Leisure the Basis of Culture, St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, IN, 1998, pp. 78-79.

[10] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., pp. 166-167.

[11] Cf. C. CARDONA, René Descartes: Discurso del método, Colección Crítica Filosófica, EMESA, Madrid, 1975, pp. 21-22.

[12] Studies on Machiavelli: P. VILLARI, The Life and Times of Niccolò Machiavelli, 2 vols., London, 1892 ; D. E. MUIR, Machiavelli and His Times, E. P. Dutton, Inc., New York, 1936 ; A. H. GILBERT, Machiavelli’s Prince and Its Forerunners, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 1938 ; H. BUTTERFIELD, The Statecraft of Machiavelli, Bell, London, 1940 ; J. H. WHITFIELD, Machiavelli, Blackwell, Oxford, 1947 ; J. MARITAIN, The Range of Reason, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1952, pp. 134-164 ; G. SASSO, Studi su Machiavelli, Morano, Naples, 1967 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Il pensiero politico di Machiavelli e la sua fortuna nel mondo, Olschki, Florence, 1972 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Machiavelli nel V centenario della nascita, Boni, Bologna, 1973 ; J. J. MARCHAND, Niccolò Machiavelli: i primi scritti politici (1499-1512). Nascita di un pensiero e di uno stile, Antenore, Padua, 1975 ; F. GILBERT, Machiavelli e il suo tempo, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1977 ; R. RIDOLFI, Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli, Sansoni, Florence, 1978 ; U. DOTTI, Niccolò Machiavelli: la fenomenologia del potere, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1979 ; F. CHABOD, Scritti sul Machiavelli, Einaudi, Turin, 1982 ; G. SASSO, Niccolò Machiavelli: storia del suo pensiero politico, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1984 ; N. BORSELLINO, Machiavelli, Laterza, Bari, 1986 ; G. COPPINI, Analisi critica dei contenuti filosofici del “Principe” di Machiavelli, Firenze Libri, Florence, 1990. 

[13] N. MACHIAVELLI, The Prince, Random House, New York, 1950, p. 60.  

[14] N. MACHIAVELLI, op. cit., p. 56.

[15] N. MACHIAVELLI, op. cit., p. 65.

[16] J. HIRSCHBERGER, The History of Philosophy, vol. 2., Bruce, Milwaukee, 1959, pp. 56-57. 

[17] N. MACHIAVELLI, The Discourses, II, 2.

[18] J. COLLINS, A History of Modern European Philosophy, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1959, p. 33. 

[19] Studies on St. Thomas More (1478-1535): D. SARGENT, Thomas More, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1933 ; F. BATTAGLIA, Saggi sull’Utopia di Tommaso Moro, Zuffi, Bologna, 1949 ; J. FARROW, The Story of Thomas More, Image Books, Doubleday, 1968 ; R. PINEAS, Thomas More and Tudor Polemics, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind., 1968 ; E. E. REYNOLDS, The Field is Won: The Life and Death of Saint Thomas More, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1968 ; G. PETRILLI, San Tommaso Moro, Martello, Milan, 1972 ; R. W. CHAMBERS, Thomas More, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1973 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, 1478-1978: Idea di Thomas More, Pozza, Venice, 1978 ; W. NIGG, Tommaso Moro, il santo della coscienza, Paoline, Milan, 1980 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Tommaso Moro e l’Utopia, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, 1980 ; J. A. GUY, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1980 ; E. E. REYNOLDS, Il processo di Tommaso Moro, Ed. Salerno, Rome, 1985 ; R. MARIUS, Thomas More: A Biography, Vintage Books, New York, 1985 ; A. PAREDI, Vita di Tommaso Moro, Ed. O. R., Milan, 1987 ; L. MARTZ, Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990 ; C. QUARTA, Tommaso Moro: una reinterpretazione dell’“Utopia,” Dedalo, Bari, 1991 ; J. MONTI, The King’s Good Servant but God’s First: The Life and Writings of St. Thomas More, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1997.  

[20] Studies on Descartes: O. HAMELIN, Le Système de Descartes, Alcan, Paris, 1911 ; G. MILHAUD, Descartes savant, Alcan, Paris, 1921 ; H. GOUHIER, La pensée religieuse de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1924 ; J. MARITAIN, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, London, 1928 ; P. GARIN, Thèses cartésiennes et thèses thomistes, Desclée, Paris, 1933 ; F. OLGIATI, Cartesio, Milan, 1934 ; S. V. KEELING, Descartes, Ernest Benn, London, 1934 ; W. A. MERYLEES, Descartes: An Examination of Some Features of His Metaphysics and Method, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1934 ; E. GILSON, René Descartes: Discours de la Méthode (Texte et commentaire), Vrin, Paris, 1935 ; F. OLGIATI, La filosofia di Descartes, Milan, 1937 ; J. MARITAIN, The Dream of Descartes, New York, 1944 ; J. F. SCOTT, The Scientific Work of Réne Descartes, Taylor and Francis, London, 1952 ; L. BECK, The Method of Descartes: A Study of the Regulae, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1952 ; A. BALZ, Descartes and the Modern Mind, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1952 ; H. GOUHIER, Les premières pensées de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1958 ; H. GOUHIER, La pensée métaphysique de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1962 ; L. BECK, The Metaphysics of Descartes: A Study of the Meditations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1965 ; N. K. SMITH, New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes, Macmillan, London, 1966 ; E. GILSON, Études sur le rôle de la pensée médiévale dans la formation du système cartésien, Vrin, Paris, 1967 ; W. DONEY (ed.), Descartes: A Collection of Critical Essays, Doubleday, New York, 1967 ; F. BROADIE, An Approach to Descartes’ ‘Meditations,’ Athlone Press, London, 1970 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, L’oeuvre de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1971 ; J. COLLINS, Descartes’ Philosophy of Nature, Blackwell, Oxford, 1971 ; R. J. BUTLER (ed.), Cartesian Studies, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1972 ; H. GOUHIER, Descartes: Essais sur le Discours de la Méthode, la Métaphysique et la Morale, Vrin, Paris, 1973 ; H. CATON, The Origins of Subjectivity: An Essay on Descartes, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1973 ; L. VEGA, L’etica di Cartesio, Celuc, Milan, 1974 ; C. CARDONA, René Descartes: Discurso del método, EMESA, Madrid, 1975 ; J. RÉE, Descartes, Pica Press, New York, 1975 ; J. GARCIA LOPEZ, El conocimiento de Dios en Descartes, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1976 ; E. CURLEY, Descartes Against the Skeptics, Blackwell, Oxford, 1978 ; G. A. LINDEBOOM, Descartes and Medicine, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 1978 ; M. HOOKER (ed.) Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1978 ; B. WILLIAMS, Descartes: The Project of Pure Inquiry, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978 ; A. PAVAN, All’origine del progetto borghese: il giovane Descartes, Morcelliana, Brescia, 1979 ; J. M. BEYSSADE, La Philosophie première de Descartes, Flamarion, Paris, 1979 ; E. GILSON, Index scolastico-cartésien, Vrin, Paris, 1979 ; G. CANSIANI, Filosofia e scienza nella morale di Descartes, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1980 ; S. GAUKROGER (ed.), Descartes: Philosophy, Mathematics and Physics, Harvester, Sussex, 1980 ; J. L. MARION, Sur l’ontologie grise de Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1981 ; T. M. LENNON, J. M. NICHOLAS, J. W. DAVIS (eds.), Problems of Cartesianism, McGill Queens University Press, Montreal, 1982 ; E. GILSON, La liberté chez Descartes et la Théologie, Vrin, Paris, 1982 ; W. RÖD, Descartes: die Genese des cartesianischen Rationalismus, C. H. Beck, Munich, 1982 ; M. GUEROULT, Descartes’ Philosophy Interpreted According to the Order of Reasons, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1984 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, Descartes, Libraire Générale Française, Paris, 1984 ; M. GRENE, Descartes, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1985 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, Idées et vérités éternelles chez Descartes et ses successeurs, Vrin, Paris, 1985 ; J. COTTINGHAM, Descartes, Blackwell, Oxford, 1986 ; P. MARKIE, Descartes’ Gambit, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1986 ; J. L. MARION, Sur le prisme métaphysique de Descartes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1986 ; N. GRIMALDI, J. L. MARION (eds.), Le Discours et sa méthode, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1987 ; J. LAPORTE, Le Rationalisme de Descartes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1988 ; S. GAUKROGER (ed.), Cartesian Logic, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989 ; A. DEL NOCE, Riforma cattolica e filosofia moderna: Cartesio, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1990 ; J. L. MARION, Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1991 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, L’antropologie cartésienne, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1991 ; J. L. MARION, Questions Cartésiennes, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1991 ; A. DEL NOCE, Da Cartesio a Rosmini, Giuffré, Milan, 1992 ; D. GARBER, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1992 ; A. MALO, Certezza e volontà nell’etica cartesiana, Armando, Rome, 1994 ; J. COTTINGHAM (ed.), Reason, Will and Sensations: Studies in Descartes’ Metaphysics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994 ; J. COTTINGHAM (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995 ; R. DAMASIO, L’errore di Cartesio, Adelphi, Milan, 1995 ; J. DE FINANCE, Essere e pensiero: il “cogito” cartesiano e la “reflexio” tomista, Soc. Ed. Dante Alighieri, Rome, 1996 ; G. BAKER and K. J. MORRIS, Descartes’ Dualism, Routledge, London, 1996 ; J. COTTINGHAM, Descartes’ Philosophy of Mind, Phoenix, London, 1997 ; J. COTTINGHAM (ed.), Descartes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998 ; J. MARSHALL, Descartes’s Moral Theory, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1998 ; E. GILSON, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1999 ; M. D. WILSON, Descartes, Routledge, London, 1999 ; D. M. CLARKE, Descartes’ Theory of Mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003 ; D. M. CLARKE, Descartes: A Biography, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006.     

[21] Realism does maintain that our ideas can be known as objects in a second instance through reflection, but rejects the immanentist position that the object known by the mind in the first instance can only be that which remains within the subjective orbit of the mind.

[22] Cf. G. W. F. HEGEL, Philosophy of Right, Preface. 

[23] The Principle of Non-Contradiction. A principle is that from which something else proceeds. Self evident principles or understandings are called first principles. It is important to recognize that these first principles are first of all in reality before they are in the mind. We are capable of knowing them with an intuitive knowledge for we view them as they are in reality through intellectual insight and understanding. Among the ancient philosophers Aristotle had the profoundest grasp of what these principles were, but these principles are not the mere opinions of an Aristotle or a St. Thomas; rather, they form part of the common property of our human heritage. They are not the products of fantastic musings or idle speculation but are the result of a profound intellectual insight and understanding into reality. Now, the first of these first principles is the principle of non-contradiction.

As being is the first notion that our intelligence grasps, and which is implied in any consequent notion, there is also an intellectual judgment which comes naturally first and which is presupposed by all other consequent judgments: “It is impossible to be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.” This first judgment is called the principle of non-contradiction for it expresses the most basic condition of things: that they cannot be self-contradictory. Such a principle is founded upon being and expresses the consistency of being and its opposition to non-being. 

There are different ways of expressing this first principle. It is above all a judgment that concerns reality itself. Hence, the more profound formulations of the principle of non-contradiction are metaphysical in nature. For example, the Stagirite states in the fourth book of his Metaphysics that “it is impossible for one and the same thing to be and not to be,” and further on, that “it is impossible for a thing to be and at the same time not to be.”

The principle of non-contradiction is the supreme law of reality and not just a simple postulate or axiom of the mind. But, since the mind of man is geared to know reality as such, it is, in a derivative way, the first and supreme law of logic. Violate this supreme law and one collapses into a state of mental anarchy. Since the first principle of reality is also the first principle of thought we are able to say that “we cannot both affirm and deny something of the same subject at the same time and in the same sense” or that “contradictory propositions about the same subject cannot be simultaneously true.” The human mind is subject to the principle of non-contradiction: it cannot know being as self-contradictory precisely because being cannot be self-contradictory. If our mind attempts to deny this principle our reasoning falls into absurdities.

The principle of non-contradiction is not just an internal, subjective, law of logic but is based on reality itself. Kant taught that the first axiom principle of non-contradiction was at the foundation of all analytic judgments, and that this principle was itself an a priori analytic judgment that has nothing to do with synthetic judgments that are formed on the basis of experience. Consequently, he mistakenly held, against the realist position, that the principle of non-contradiction was valid only in the logical sphere, not in reality; it would only be a negative logical condition for correct thinking.

In the Metaphysics, Aristotle replies to those who would be so foolish as to negate the principle of non-contradiction writing that “in order to deny this principle, one has to reject all meaning in language. If ‘man’ were the same as ‘non-man’, it would not, in fact, mean anything at all. Any word would signify all things and would not, therefore, denote anything; everything would be the same. Consequently, all communication or understanding between persons would be impossible. Thus, whenever anyone says a word, he is already acknowledging the principle of non-contradiction, since he undoubtedly wants the word to mean something definite and distinct from its opposite. Otherwise, he would not even speak…Anyone who rejects this first principle should behave like a plant, since even animals move in order to attain an objective which they prefer over others, as when they seek food”( Metaphysics, IV, 4). “Besides, denying this principle in fact implies accepting it, since in rejecting it, a person acknowledges that affirming and denying are not the same. If a person maintains that the principle of non-contradiction is false, he already admits that being true and being false are not the same, thereby accepting the very principle he wishes to eliminate”( Metaphysics, XI, 5).

The principle of non-contradiction is naturally and spontaneously known by all men through experience and is self-evident to all. Since it is the first judgment, this first principle cannot be demonstrated by means of other truths prior to it. When a truth is self-evident, it is neither necessary nor possible to prove it; only something which is not immediately evident requires proof. That the principle of non-contradiction is not demonstrable because of its self-evidence is not a sign of its imperfection; rather it is a sign of its perfection.

Garrigou-Lagrange summarizes for us Aristotle’s eight principal reasons for defending the necessity and objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction: “(1) to deny this necessity and this validity would be to deprive words of their fixed meaning and to render speech useless; (2) all idea of the reality of an essence, or thing or substance as such, would have to be abandoned; there would be only a becoming without anything which is on the way of becoming; it would be like saying that there can be a flux without a fluid, a flight without a bird, a dream without a dreamer; (3) there would no longer be any distinction between things, between a galley, a wall, and a man; (4) it would mean the destruction of all truth, for truth follows being; (5) it would destroy all thought, even all opinion; for its very affirmation would be a negation. It would not be an opinion which Heraclitus had when he affirmed that contradictories were true at the same time; (6) it would mean the destruction of all desire and all hatred; there would be only absolute indifference, for there would be no distinction between good and evil; there would be no reason why we should act; (7) it would no longer be possible to distinguish degrees of error, everything would be equally false and true at the same time; (8) it would put an end to the very notion of becoming; for there would be no distinction between the beginning and the end of a movement; the first would already be the second, and any transition from one state to another would be impossible. Moreover, ‘becoming’ could not be explained by any of the four causes. There would be no subject of becoming; the process would be without any efficient or final cause, and without specification, and it would be both attraction and repulsion, concretion as well as fusion”(R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, God: His Existence and Nature, B. Herder, London, 1946, p. 168).

[24] For a critique of Hegel’s denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction, see: A. DEVIZZI, Il significato del principio di contraddizione nella logica hegeliana, “Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica,” 21 (1939), pp. 463-473 ; E. BERTI, La critica di Hegel al principio di contraddizione, “Filosofia,” (1980), pp. 629-640.   

[25] The immanentist Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914), who was the founder of the nineteenth century pragmatist school of philosophy, gives us a formulation of the principle of immanence as follows: “If I am asked if there exist extra-mental realities which are entirely independent of thought, I, in my turn, will ask what such a question might mean and what could it ever mean. What idea could be applied to something about which we have no idea? Because if there is an idea of such a reality, we are talking about the object of this idea, which is not independent of thought. It is evident that it is completely beyond the power of the mind to have an idea of something which is entirely independent of thought; to achieve this, the idea would have to get itself out of itself. And, since there is no such idea, the aforementioned question has no meaning”(C. S. PIERCE, The Logic of 1873, in Collected Papers of C. S. Pierce, vol. 2, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1965-66, p. 211).  

[26] Acceptance of the immanentist point of departure in the Cogito has had a long history. Even the atheist existentialist Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980), who came hundreds of years after the Cartesian revolution, retains it as a given. In his book Existentialism is a Humanism, he writes: “Our starting point is, effectively, the subjectivity of the individual, and this for strictly philosophical reasons…There cannot be, at the starting point, any other truth that this: I think, therefore I am; here is the absolute truth of self-apprehending consciousness. Any theory which takes man outside of this moment in which he apprehends himself is, in the first place, a theory which suppresses the truth, because – outside of a Cartesian cogito – all objects are only probable; and a doctrine of probabilities which does not depend on a truth sinks into nothingness. Therefore, for there to be any truth at all, some absolute truth is necessary; and this truth is simple, easy to apprehend, it is within the reach of everyone: it consists of grasping oneself with no intermediaries”(J. P. SARTRE, L’existencialisme est un humanisme, Nagle, Paris, 1964, pp. 63-64).

[27] E. GILSON, Methodical Realism, Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA, 1990, pp. 120-121.

[28] E. GILSON, Réalisme thomiste et critique de la connaissance, Vrin, Paris, 1939.  

[29] E. GILSON, Le réalisme méthodique, Téqui, Paris, 1935.

[30] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 18-19. Maritain writes: “For Descartes…the senses have no knowledge value; they have only a pragmatic value. And ideas are not only means, they are already things; it is as things that they are attained by thought (now conceived only as self-consciousness) – as if they were pictures which it discovers in itself. Locke’s formula: ideas are the immediate objects of thought, is a pure Cartesian formula. Idea-pictures, idea-screens. In short, we know only our ideas; thought has direct contact only with itself…Thought directly attains only itself; it is not ruled by things, but by its own internal exigencies; it does not depend on things but on itself alone. A world shut up, absolute – by itself alone it develops science within itself, without measuring its strength against any extraneous resistance. There it is, a human knowledge like divine knowledge, a knowledge which depends only upon itself. When the great modern idealists, Kant and his successors, make their appearance, they will make the Cartesian root produce its natural fruit. What is the cultural significance of idealism? It carries along with it a sort of anthropocentric optimism of thought. Optimism, because thought is a god who unfolds himself, and because things either conform to it, or do not even exist apart from it. What drama could possibly occur? Either there is no being to set off against thought, or there is only being completely docile to thought. An optimism which is anthropocentric, because the thought in question is the thought of man; it is around human thought that objects revolve. All is well for that thought; and all will be better and better. But this optimism is, if I may say so, committed to suicide; for it presupposes a rupture with being, and finally, in spite of Descartes’ personal intentions and in spite of the efforts of his immediate successors, it supposes an eviction of the ontological. There we have the great, the primordial Cartesian break. Man shut up within himself is condemned to sterility, because his thought lives and is nourished only upon the things that God has made. Man the centre of an intelligible universe which he has created in his own image, himself loses his centre of gravity and his own consistence, for his consistence is to be the image of God. He is in the middle of a desert”(J. MARITAIN, op. cit., pp. 169-172). 

[31] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 21-23.

[32] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 27-28.

[33] Sacred theology is not a human science but is rather the divine science. It is the highest of all sciences.

[34] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 34-35.

[35] Maritain notes: “It may, it is true, be replied that Descartes’ intention was simply to emancipate philosophy from the authority of a particular theological system – Scholasticism – which he regarded as worthless, because it took its philosophical metaphysical principles from Aristotle. In reality, however, it was with theology itself that he broke, when he broke with Scholasticism, which is the traditional theology of the Church. And moreover his conception of science implied his denial of the scientific value of theology. In any case the result of this reform was the assertion of the absolute independence of philosophy in relation to theology.” (JACQUES MARITAIN, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward, London, 1956, p. 96.) (Cf. MAURICE BLONDEL, Le Christianisme de Descartes, “Revue de Metaph. et de Morale,” 1896.).

[36] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., p. 96. What is the relationship between reason and faith, between philosophy and theology? There is neither a hostility nor an estraneousness between these spheres of knowledge but rather a profound harmony. Therefore, there can be no conflict between the two forms of knowledge in as much as faith consolidates, integrates, and enriches the panorama of truth already accessible to human reason. Faith and reason are two forms of knowledge that come from the same source: God. “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (VATICAN I, Dei Filius, 4 [DS 3017]). “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are” (VATICAN II, Gaudium et Spes, 36, section 1). Both work for the same objective: the possession of the truth. But faith and reason are distinct, having two different gnoseological procedures: reason grasps a truth by reason of its mediate or immediate intrinsic evidence, while faith accepts a truth based upon the authority of the Word of God.

     There are two levels of truth regarding God, or two possible ways of manifesting the truths regarding God: 1. there are certain truths that surpass the capacities of human reason, as, for example, the Holy Trinity of God ; and 2. there are other truths concerning God that can be attained by the sole force of human reason, as is the case with the truth of the existence of God, and truths like the fact that God is One, Absolutely Simple, and Supremely Perfect. Now, the first order of truths fall within the domain of sacred theology, while the second order of truths regarding God are philosophically explained in the supreme branch of metaphysics called philosophy of God or natural theology. 

     Philosophy is the highest human science among all the sciences attained solely through the powers of natural reason. But, as has been said, there is a superior science which is sacred theology wherein man participates in the knowledge proper to God Himself. Now the premises of theology are the truths formally revealed by God. These truths are called dogmas or articles of faith. The primary criterion of truth is the authority of God who reveals these truths to be believed. Theology’s illuminating light is no longer the natural light of human reason but rather the light of reason illumined by faith. Theology reigns supreme above all the human sciences by reason of the sublimity of its object, the certainty of its premises, and by the penetrating superiority of its light.

     As the king of the sciences, theology (the divine science) judges philosophy in the same sense that philosophy, the supreme human science, judges and governs the particular sciences: its government is by negative rule. Philosophy is subject to theology, neither in its premises nor in its method, but in its conclusions, over which theology exercises a control, thereby constituting itself a negative rule of philosophy. Theology’s negative government over philosophy consists in rejecting as erroneous any philosophical affirmation which contradicts a theological truth.

     How does philosophy help theology? The former helps the latter by: 1. demonstrating the praeambula fidei (the preambles to faith) which serve as a basis for revealed supernatural truths. They include the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, human freedom, and the natural law ; 2. by explaining through analogies, the truths of the faith; and 3. by confuting the errors against the faith as is the case in apologetics.

     Theology can likewise come to the assistance of philosophy as faith aids greatly in the very perfecting of human reason by guiding it in the paths of truth, preserving it from the manifold errors due to the weakness of human nature wounded by original sin, and its wallowing in vices which obscure and even blind reason from attaining natural truths. Inasmuch as philosophy is subject to the external control and negative government of sacred theology, it is protected from many false and erroneous positions, and thus its freedom to err is restricted, and its freedom to reach the truths which are discoverable by human reason is correspondingly safeguarded. Instead of doing violence to reason, supernatural faith protects and perfects it. 

     The human creature is limited and finite and God infinitely transcends him and his human powers, He being the Supremely Perfect, All-Knowing, Omnipotent Being, Creator of all that is. God created man for a destiny far surpassing the capabilities of his limited human nature, and from the very beginning (with the entrance of original sin in the world because of the pride and disobedience of first man), his greatest obstacle to this sublime destiny has been his pride and presumption concerning his own powers. From almost the very beginning, man sought to attain happiness on his own, transgressing the Eternal Law of God by sin. He aspired to become the final arbiter of good and evil. It is an immense error and presumption for man to think that, with his finite and limited intellect, he would be able to comprehend the very nature of God, to grasp His very Essence, and usurp His Eternal Law. Now, faith protects reason from falling into pride and presumption. And aside from protecting reason from these sins, it crowns and perfects it by giving it a special knowledge of those manifold sublime truths for which man’s philosophical inquiries have created so great a thirst for, such as the truths regarding the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, the truth about the human person, and the profound truths regarding the attributes and perfections of God.

     With the Cartesian revolt “philosophy is no longer ordered to theology as to a superior science; henceforth the philosopher’s work is completely self-contained, human wisdom perfects itself by its own efforts without feeling the need for a superior wisdom. Here we have the Cartesian rupture at its point of origin. Descartes ‘has opened up the line of thinkers who will be philosophers only’(M. DE WULF, Bull. de la Soc. Granc. de Philosophie, June, 1914). The result was a sort of derangement or ‘distraction’ of the philosophical truths, and finally, in spite of so many geniuses, the diminution of philosophical intellectuality. Why? St. Thomas loves to repeat that in every order of things the lower is strengthened by its union with the higher; that is why in the kind of ‘continuity’ formed by the hierarchized degrees of pure spirits, illuminating one another, per intuitum intellectus, the lower angel illumined by the higher angel is strengthened within by him in his own intellectual light. Men cannot be illuminated in that manner, because they are all of the same specific degree. But something similar is found in us, in so far as a sort of spiritual union between specifically different habitus maintains an inferior habitus or virtue in contact with a superior habitus or virtue. Thus the faith habitus strengthens the philosophical habitus in its own proper philosophical order with regard to a certain truth demonstrable by reason alone, such for example as the existence of God – object of science not of faith, for the philosopher – and makes it bring forth with more force, more perfection and more certitude its purely rational act of adhesion to that truth. So it is that the light of theology strengthens the light of philosophy. Let us not forget that metaphysics is a difficult thing for our minds and that the gods are jealous of our joy in it. There is only one way to stabilize it within us, and that is to order it to sacred science, which, in making use of it, elevates it. Orientated then toward those summits of supernatural truth accessible to theology alone, metaphysics reaches with more strength and more security toward the heights of the natural truth where it has its domain. If not, it will tend to descend.

     “Aristotle could philosophize without ordering metaphysics to a higher science (though he really had the idea of a higher contemplation, which he placed at the peak of metaphysics, and where man participates in the life of the gods), he could do so because in the first place he was living under the régime of the Gentiles, outside of the Mosaic revelation, before the Christian revelation; and because he found himself in absolutely unique conditions, exactly at the culminating point of Greek civilization and intellectuality, and because he profited by that Grecian success which could never again be found with the help of nature alone. Descartes could not philosophize in that way because he was living under the régime of the Gospel, and because Christian riches are heavy, much heavier to carry than the light crowns of pagans. By a merciless and blessed necessity, which springs from the depths of our natural weakness and of the demands of divine love, the Christian cannot neglect the comfortings from above and the order they demand, without collapsing everywhere (…) Aristotle could have been taken over by Christian wisdom, precisely because he succeeded, through a unique bit of luck and in spite of the errors of which he certainly was not free, in establishing the essential principles of metaphysics according to the demands of pure natural reason, and because Thomas Aquinas transfigured, strengthened and deepened that metaphysics in ordering it to the superior truth of theology. As for Descartes, eager to invent a more Christian and more spiritualistic philosophy, more simple and more angelic than that of St. Thomas, he allows preoccupations which come to him through his faith and even elements which derive from theology to filter into his philosophy itself, at the expense of its solidity. But that simplified and fragile philosophy he orders only to itself; philosophy is no longer to be strengthened and illumined by theology. And thus he shatters the foremost and highest of the hierarchical subordinations, the essential order which wills that in the vital economy of Christian intelligence, metaphysics, while keeping its autonomy as queen of human sciences, and depending intrinsically on rational evidence alone, should be placed under the superior light of theological wisdom and of supernatural truth”(J. MARITAIN, The Dream of Descartes, Philosophical Library, New York, 1944, pp. 86-88, 90).  

[37] E. GILSON, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1999, p. 109.

[38] E. GILSON, T. LANGAN, Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant, Random House, New York, 1964, pp. 57-58.

[39] See: E. GILSON, Descartes: Discours de la méthode, texte et commentaire, Vrin, Paris, 1930, p. 128.

[40] Cf. R. M. EATON, Descartes Selections, Scribner’s, New York, 1927, pp. 43-44.

[41] E. GILSON, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1999, pp. 104-105.

[42] E. GILSON, op. cit., p. 111. “Directly inspired by mathematics, the new method could not be universalized without undergoing a deep transformation. It had been a great idea to substitute algebraic signs for geometric lines and figures, but algebraic signs would never do in metaphysics, not always in physics, still less in biology, in medicine and in ethics. Descartes was therefore confronted with the necessity of extracting from his mathematical method that which would be applicable to all possible problems. The very nature of his own discovery invited him to think that it could be done without altering the nature of mathematical reasoning. Having succeeded in eliminating figures from geometry, he felt inclined to believe that quantity itself could be eliminated from mathematics. It was necessary for him to do that, at least if he wished to extend the mathematical method even to such problems as metaphysics and ethics, where no quantity is involved. Now, if quantity had to go, the algebraic signs by which it was expressed were bound to fall out of the picture, with the result that nothing was to be left of mathematical reasoning but order and measurement where matter is concerned, and order alone where the mind is not dealing with material objects. ‘Method’, says Descartes, ‘consists entirely in the order and disposition of the objects towards which our mental vision must be directed if we would find out any truth.’(Cf. R. M. EATON, op. cit., p. 56).

     “Let us, with Descartes himself, call that method ‘Universal Mathematics’; it certainly was universal, but could it still be called mathematics? Descartes felt sure it could, because he was aiming at a complete liberation of knowledge from its objects. According to Aristotle and the Scholastics, each science was both defined as a distinct branch of knowledge and determined in its method by the definite nature of its own object. Biology, for instance, was distinct from mathematics as a science because its proper object was life, and not quantity; for the same reason it was supposed to use a different method from that of mathematics, because what is more than simple quantity cannot be studied as if it were nothing else. Of course you can do it up to a point. You can do it exactly insofar as biological facts can be expressed in terms of quantitative values, but no further. Descartes’ own position was to be just the reverse. Since according to him all sciences were one, being but varied expressions of the same human reason, nothing could warn him that he was taking a chance in totally disregarding the rights of the object. Mathematics has something to say everywhere, because quantity is everywhere; and not only in physics, or in biology, but indirectly at least, even in sociology and in ethics. Statistics, for instance, have a definite part to play in social and moral sciences. But if you go one step further, and deprive mathematics itself of its proper object, it becomes a science of the relationships of order between all possible objects. Is that still mathematics, or is it logic?

     “At first sight, this is but a question of names. Shall we restrict the name of mathematics to the logical relations of order that apply to real or possible quantity, or extend the name of mathematics to all relations of order? Yet names have a dreadful power of suggestion. They are invitations to deal in the same way with what we call by the same name. By calling ‘universal mathematics’ a method, which had been extracted from geometry, algebra and logic, Descartes was pledging himself to the task of making all problems ‘almost similar to those of mathematics,’ as if the extreme simplicity of the object of mathematics was not partly responsible for the evidence of their conclusions. The evidence of mathematics depends upon both their complete abstract generality and the specific nature of their object. Because of its complete generality, the mathematical method can be indefinitely generalized, but, if we want it to yield evidence, it cannot be indiscriminately extended to all possible objects. These logical laws of abstract order which, applied to quantity, yield the exact science called mathematics lead to nothing but arbitrary generalizations when they apply to objects more complex than quantity. This, at least, is what happened to Descartes, and the result of his bold experiment was scientifically as well as philosophically disastrous.

     “The principle that lies at the root of Cartesian mathematicism is that, since the most evident of all sciences is also the most abstract, it would be enough to make all the other sciences as abstract as mathematics in order to make them just as evident. This, I am afraid, was a sophism because it disregarded the most important aspect of abstraction. To abstract is not primarily to leave something out, but to take something in, and this is the reason why abstractions are knowledge. Before stretching mathematical methods to nonquantitative objects, one should therefore remember that our abstract notions validly apply to what they keep of reality, not to what they leave out; next, one should make sure that the content of these nonquantitative concepts constitutes an object as completely analyzed, or analyzable, as numbers, figures or positions in space; last, but not the least, one should keep in mind that all conclusions drawn from incompletely analyzed or incompletely analyzable objects, logically correct as they may be, shall lack the specific evidence of mathematical conclusions. Everybody is free to call mathematics any logical ordering of more or less confused notions, but he will have made mathematics arbitrary in its results instead of making the results of other knowledge mathematically evident.

     “This is exactly what Descartes himself did. In order to make the objects of philosophical knowledge as similar as possible to those of mathematics, he reduced their number to three: thought, extension, and God. Moreover, in order to make them as simple as our notions of number and space, Descartes decreed that the whole content of each of them was such as can be exhausted by a simple intuition. This, of course, was a bold decision. Even number and space are far from being perfectly simple; but the notion of thought is a hopelessly confused one, and that of God is little more for us than the sign of that which surpasses human understanding. Yet, if Descartes wanted to achieve anything like a mathematical metaphysics, these concepts had to be held by him as so many clear and distinct ideas, which every mind can see within itself and see in the same way, provided only it pays attention to them. This is precisely what drove Descartes to the famous doctrine that our clear and distinct concepts are, in his own words, as many ‘simple natures,’ each of them endowed with a definite essence of its own, and wholly independent from the minds in which they dwell. From that time on, philosophy was to be the mathematical knowledge of the necessary order there is between the so-called simple-natures, or fundamental ideas of the human mind”(E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 112-115).   

[43] R. DESCARTES, Discourse on Method, II. Descartes’ First Rule is the rule of evidence: “To accept only what cannot be doubted, which means only the objects of rational intuition, i.e., of a direct glance of reason without the interference of sense perceptions. In other words, to accept only clear (directly seen) and distinct (unmistakable) ideas. This is the revolutionary change of the concept of truth: from being the correspondence of the mind with reality (objective concept of truth), it now becomes the identity of the mental content with itself in the thinking subject (subjective concept of truth). What matters is no longer the ‘truth’ but certainty (the subjective state of the mind)”(J. DE TORRE, The Humanism of Modern Philosophy, Southeast Asian Science Foundation, Manila, 1989, p. 48). Bittle rightly criticizes Descartes’ criterion of truth: “According to Descartes the things of which we have a clear and distinct idea are true. He accepted his own existence as true, because he has a ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’ idea of it. This, then, became for him the criterion of truth. Now, the ‘clearness’ and ‘distinctness’ of our ideas can be taken subjectively and objectively. Taken subjectively, it means that the idea as a subjective product of the intellect is clearly and distinctly conceived; it is clear and distinct to the intellect. But this does not give us a guarantee that this idea corresponds to reality, and that the reality represented in the idea actually exists. I can have, for instance, a very clear and distinct idea of a centaur or a fairy or a mythological deity; but does that mean that such beings exist? To distinguish between such beings and ‘real’ beings I need some criterion different from the subjectively clear and distinct ideas of them. Taken objectively, it means that the idea is clear and distinct as an interpretative representation of reality; the idea is such, because the reality itself is clear and distinct before the mind. In that case, however, we have immediate, objective evidence of reality as the criterion of truth, and not the mere clearness and distinctness of the idea as such. Descartes, however, took this criterion in a subjective sense, because he maintained that the external world cannot be presented to the spiritual mind. As such, his criterion of a ‘clear and distinct idea’ is inadequate, since it can never show us whether our judgments agree with reality”(C. BITTLE, Reality and the Mind, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1936, pp. 311-312).    

[44] Ibid. The Second Rule regards analysis: “To divide the object as much as possible, i.e., to analyze, to break down until we reach clear and distinct, simple intuitions which can be a starting point, since this is how one starts always in mathematics, and thus one goes from the easy to the difficult. By contrast to this mathematical mind, the metaphysical mind of St. Thomas Aquinas starts with the global view, the comprehensive vision of reality, when he says that the first object ‘falling’ into the mind is being, primum quod cadit in intellectum est ens; St. Thomas goes, so to speak, from the totality to the parts, while Descartes goes the opposite way”(J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 48).  

[45] Ibid. The Third Rule is the rule of synthesis: “To go from the simple to the composite, always assuming an order even where there is none, because order is intrinsic to the mind. Here Descartes applies the simplicity of divine knowledge (which knows all reality at a glance, so to speak) to the human mind, and introduces his theory of innate ideas, like that of order which will be the bone of contention with the empiricists. These ‘innate ideas’ are also a step towards Kant’s a priori forms and Hegel’s absolute idealism”(J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 49).

[46] Ibid. The Fourth Rule treats of enumeration: “To make complete enumerations by logical deduction, not only by sensible observation and memory. This is again typical of the mathematical method: to be completely deductive, independent from empirical experience. Naturally, this too was a point of clash with the empiricists.

     “These four rules inaugurate a philosophy which is a complete break with the act of being, i.e., with reality, and a flight into pure essences which are the object of rational intuition alone, and which are finally pronounced by Hegel to be the creatures of a deified human mind in a state of perpetual dialectical becoming”(Ibid.) 

[47] R. DESCARTES, Principles of Philosophy, I.

[48] It is not suprising to learn that Descartes’ writings were put on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Vatican from 1663 onwards after a commission found these works to be harmful to the Faith.

[49] Ibid.

[50] R. DESCARTES, Discourse on Method, IV.

[51] Ibid.

[52] R. DESCARTES, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Rule III, 5. 

[53] Ibid.

[54] R. DESCARTES, Meditations, I.

[55] R. DESCARTES, Meditations, II.

[56] C. BITTLE, Reality and the Mind, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1959, p. 54. 

[57] A. MILLAN PUELLES, Fundamentos de filosofía, Rialp, Madrid, 1976, p. 464. Cf. A. MILLAN PUELLES, Economía y libertad, Fondo para la Investigación Económica y Social, Madrid, 1974, pp. 162-163.  

[58] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 56-58.

[59] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 58-61. 

[60] It is, of course, true that ideas may become objects of knowledge in a secondary sense, to the degree that we reflect upon them. It would be knowing that we know what we know.

[61] J. LOCKE, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Introduction, no. 8 (what ‘idea’ stands for), taken from The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, ed. E. Burtt, The Modern Library, New York 1939, p. 247.

[62] J. LOCKE, op. cit., Book II, chapter 1, no. 1

[63] E. GILSON, Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1963, pp. 51-52. 

[64] R. DESCARTES, A Discourse on Method and Selected Writings, Meditation III, “Of God, that He Exists”, trans. John Veitch, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York 1951, p. 104.

[65] Ibid., p. 105.

[66] Ibid., p. 112.

[67] Ibid., pp. 114-115.

[68] Ibid., p. 115.

[69] Ibid., p. 115.

[70] Ibid., p. 121.

[71] In Lib. Boethii de Trin., q. 6, a. 2, ad 5.

[72] Studies on the Cartesian notion of man: A. G. A. BALZ, Dualism in Cartesian Psychology and Epistemology, in Studies in the History of Ideas (2), Columbia University Press, New York, 1925, pp. 83-157 ; A. G. A. BALZ, Man: Cartesian and Thomistic, “Review of Religion,” 11 (1947), pp. 339-380 ; G. JEFFERSON, Rene Descartes and the Localization of the Soul, “Irish Journal of Medical Science,” 285 (1949), pp. 691-706 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, L’individualité selon Descartes, Vrin, Paris, 1950 ; B. NARDI, Il dualismo cartesiano, La Goliardica, Rome, 1952 ; E. G. BALLARD, Descartes’ Revision of the Cartesian Dualism, “Philosophical Quarterly,” 7 (1957), pp. 249-259 ; J. MOURANT, Cartesian Man and Thomistic Man, “Journal of Philosophy,” 44 (1957), pp. 373-383 ; J. M. GABAUDE, Descartes et la notion de nature humaine, in La nature humaine. Actes du IXe Congrés des sociétés de philosophie de Langue française (Montpellier, 4-6 septembre, 1961), PUF, Paris, 1961, pp. 277-280 ; A. NICOLOSI, La psicologia cartesiana tra dualismo ed unità sostanziale, “Aquinas,” 26 (1983), pp. 35-52.      

[73] R. DESCARTES, Discourse on Method, IV.

[74] Cf. R. DESCARTES, Meditations on First Philosophy, 6.

[75] C. ADAM, P. TANNERY (eds.), Complete Works of Descartes, Paris, 1897-1913, vol. 7, p. 203, cf. vol. 9, p. 158.

[76] F. COPLESTON, A History of Philosophy, vol. 4 (Descartes to Leibniz), Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1958, pp. 120-121.

[77] In the Passions of the Soul, Descartes explains that “the soul is really joined to the whole body, and that we cannot, properly speaking, say that it exists in any one of its parts to the exclusion of the others, because it is one and in some manner indivisible…(But) it is likewise necessary to know that although the soul is joined to the whole body, there is yet a certain part in which it exercises its functions more particularly than in all the others; and it is usually believed that this part is the brain, or possibly the heart…But, in examining the matter with care, it seems as though I have clearly ascertained that the part of the body in which the soul exercises its functions immediately is in no way the heart, nor the whole of the brain, but merely the most inward of all its parts, to wit, a certain very small gland which is situated in the middle of its substance and which is so suspended above the duct whereby the animal spirits in its anterior cavities have communication with those in the posterior that the slightest movements which take place in it alter very greatly the course of these spirits; and reciprocally that the smallest changes which occur in the course of the spirits may do much to change the movement of this gland”(R. DESCARTES, Passions of the Soul, I, 30-31).      

[78] The ‘animal spirits’ here referred to are ‘the most animated and subtle portions of the blood’ which enter into the cavities of the brain. They are material bodies ‘of extreme minuteness,’ which ‘move very quickly like the particles of the flame which issues from a torch’; and they are conducted into the nerves and muscles ‘by means of which they move the body in all the different ways in which it can be moved’(R. DESCARTES, Passions of the Soul, I, 10). 

[79] R. DESCARTES, Passions of the Soul, I, 30-31.      

[80] R. DESCARTES, Letter to Mersenne, 30 July, 1640.

[81] R. DESCARTES, Passions of the Soul, I, 34.

[82] R. DESCARTES, op. cit., I, 32.

[83] This is something that Descartes would deny since, for him, res cogitans and res extensa are two complete substances, each with their own acts of being; such a doctrine undoubtedly compromises the unity of the human person. 

[84] I have substituted act of existence (utilized by Maurer) for act of being throughout this quote. 

[85] A. MAURER, Descartes and Aquinas on the Unity of a Human Being: Revisited, “American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly,” 67 (1993), pp. 507-508, 511.

[86] Studies on the Cartesian concepts of will and freedom: J. LAPORTE, La liberté selon Descartes, “Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 1937, pp. 101-164 ; J. M. GABAUDE, Liberté et raison. La liberté cartésienne et sa réfraction chez Spinoza et chez Leibniz, Association des Publications de L’Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, Toulouse, 1974 ; E. GILSON, La liberté chez Descartes et la Théologie, Vrin, Paris, 1982 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, La volonté chez Descartes et Malebranche, in Studi sul seicento e sull’immaginazione, Scuola normale superiore di Pisa, Pisa, 1985 ; N. GRIMALDI, Sur la volonté de l’homme chez Descartes et notre ressemblance avec Dieu, “Archives de Philosophie,” 50 (1987), pp. 95-107 ; J. M. BEYSSADE, Descartes on the Freedom of the Will,  “Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 1 (1988), pp. 9-25 ; J. L. CHÉDIN, Note sur vérité et volonté chez Descartes, “Revue de L’Enseignement Philosophique, 39 (1988), pp. 3-15 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, Liberté et égalité chez Descartes, “Archives de Philosophie,” 53 (1990), pp. 421-430.  

[87] Cf. R. DESCARTES, Meditazioni filosofiche, IV, Paravia, Milan, 1954, pp. 62-63.

[88] R. DESCARTES, Principia philosophica, I, no. 51.

[89] C. BITTLE, The Domain of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1948, pp. 259-260.

[90] Studies on Cartesian ethics and the provisional morality: E. BOUTROUX, Du rapport de la morale à la science dans la philosophie de Descartes, “Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale,” 1896, pp. 502-511 ; A. ESPINAS, Descartes et la morale, Bossard, Paris, 1925 ; P. MESNARD, Essai sur la morale de Descartes, Boivin, Paris, 1936 ; L. DE SIMONE, La morale provvisoria nel Discorso del Metodo di Cartesio, in Cartesio nel terzo centenario del Discorso del Metodo, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1937, pp. 299-303 ; H. GOUHIER, Descartes et la vie morale, “Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale,” 1937, pp. 165-197 ; E. M. ADAMS, Cartesianism in Ethics, “Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,” 2 (1940), pp. 353-366 ; H. SPIEGELBURG, Indubitables in Ethics: a Cartesian Mediation, “Ethics,” 58 (1947), pp. 35-50 ; D. J. MCCRACKEN, Descartes’ Ethics, in Thinking and Valuing, Macmillan, London, 1950, pp. 81-108 ; T. RUYSSEN, Prudence, sagesse, générosité ou les trois morales de Descartes, in Les sciences et la sagesse. Actes du Ve Congrès des sociétés de philosophie de Langue française (Bourdeaux, 14-17 septembre, 1950), PUF, Paris, 1950, pp. 235-238 ; R. CUMMING, Descartes’ Provisional Morality, “Review of Metaphysics,” 9 (1955), pp. 207-235 ; C. J. CHAMBERS, The Progressive Norm of Cartesian Morality, “New Scholasticism,” 42 (1968), pp. 374-400 ; M. GAGNON, Le rôle de la raison dans la morale cartésienne, “Laval théologique et philosophique,” 25 (1969), pp. 268-305 ; G. RODIS-LEWIS, La morale de Descartes, PUF, Paris, 1970 ; T. KEEFE, Descartes’s morale provisoire. A Reconsideration, “French Studies,” 26 (1972), pp. 129-142 ; R. SPAEMANN, La morale provisoire de Descartes, “Archives de Philosophie,” 35 (1972), pp. 353-367 ; L. VERGA, L’etica di Cartesio, Celuc, Milan, 1974 ; N. FOSCOLO DE MERCKAERT, Les trois moments moraux du Discours del la méthode. Projet de vie, morale de la recherche et morale par provision, “Revue philosophique de Louvain,” 73 (1975), pp. 607-627 ; L. VERGA, Ragione ed esperienza nelle morali di Cartesio e dei cartesiani, “Revue internationale de philosophie,” 29 (1975), pp. 453-474 ; R. CESAREO, L’evoluzione del problema morale nel pensiero di Cartesio, “Filosofia,” 36 (1985), pp. 79-108 ; A. MALO, La morale provvisoria nel Discorso sul metodo di Cartesio, “Cultura e Libri,” 42-43 (1989), pp. 5-15.     

[91] R. DESCARTES, The Philosophical Works of Descartes, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985, p. 122. 

[92] R. DESCARTES, The Philosophical Works of Descartes, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985, p. 123.

[93] Ibid.  

[94] R. DESCARTES, Passions of the Soul, art. 152. 

[95] R. DESCARTES, op. cit., art. 153.

[96] C. CHAMBERS, The Progressive Norm of Cartesian Morality, “The New Scholasticism,” 42 (1968), pp. 384-385. 

[97] Studies on Malebranche: H. GOUHIER, La vocation de Malebranche, Librairie Philosophique, Vrin, Paris, 1926 ; H. GOUHIER, La philosophie de Malebranche et son expérience religieuse, Librairie Philosophique, Vrin, Paris, 1928 ; R. W. CHURCH, A Study in the Philosophy of Malebranche, Allen and Unwin, London, 1931 ; A. CUVILLIER, Essai sur la mystique de Malebranche, Vrin, Paris, 1954 ; M. GUÉROULT, Malebranche, 3 vols., Aubier, Paris, 1955-1959 ; P. BLANCHARD, L’attention à Dieu selon Malebranche, méthode et doctrine, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1956 ; G. DREYFUS, La volonté selon Malebranche, Vrin, Paris, 1958 ; S. NICOLOSI, Causalità divina e libertà umana nel pensiero di Malebranche, CEDAM, Padua, 1963 ; S. BANCHETTI, Il pensiero e l’opera di N. Malebranche, Marzorati, Milan, 1963 ; L. VERGA, La filosofia morale di Malebranche, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1964 ; A. DE MARIA, Antropologia e teodicea di Malebranche, Ed. di “Filosofia,” Turin, 1970 ; S. BROWN (ed.), Nicholas Malebranche: His Philosophical Critics and Successors, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1991. 

[98] For Malebranche, the “mind or pure understanding is a passive power or faculty. It does not produce ideas: it receives them. The question arises, therefore, from what source does it receive them. How do ideas of things distinct from ourselves come to our minds? These ideas cannot come from the bodies which they represent. Nor can they be produced by the soul itself. For their production by man himself would postulate a power which he does not possess, namely, that of creation. Nor can we suppose that God has placed in the soul from the beginning a complete stock of innate ideas. The only reasonable explanation of our ideas, according to Malebranche, is that ‘we see all things in God’(N. MALEBRANCHE, The Search for Truth, III, 2, 6)…God has in Himself ‘the ideas of all the things which He has created; for otherwise He could not have produced them’(Ibid.). Further, He is present to us in so intimate a manner that ‘one can say that He is the place of spirits, in the same way spaces are in a sense the place of bodies’(Ibid.). It follows, therefore, according to Malebranche, that the mind can see in God the works of God, provided that He wills to reveal to it the ideas which represent them. And that God does so will can also be shown by various arguments. For example, as we can desire to see all beings, sometimes one and sometimes another, ‘ it is certain that all beings are present to our mind; and it seems that they cannot all be present to our mind unless God is present to it, that is to say, He who comprises all things within the simplicity of His being’(Ibid.). ‘I do not think that we can well explain the way in which the mind knows a diversity of abstract and general truths otherwise than by the presence of Him who can illuminate the mind in an infinity of ways’(Ibid.). Further, ideas act on our minds, illuminating them and rendering them happy or unhappy. But it is God alone who can change the modifications of our minds. ‘It must be, then, that all our ideas are in the efficacious substance of the divinity, which alone is intelligible or capable of illuminating us, because it alone can affect our intelligences’(Ibid.).”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 193-194).    

[99] “It is impossible for any created intellect to see the essence of God by its own natural power. For knowledge is regulated according as the thing known is in the knower. But the thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. Hence the knowledge of every knower is ruled according to its own nature. If therefore the mode of anything’s being exceeds the mode of the knower, it must result that the knowledge of the object is above the nature of the knower. Now the mode of being of things is manifold. For some things have being only in this one individual matter; as all bodies. But others are subsisting natures, not residing in matter at all, which, however, are not their own existence, but receive it; and these are the incorporeal beings, called angels. But to God alone does it belong to be His own subsistent being. Therefore what exists only in individual matter we know naturally, forasmuch as our soul, whereby we know, is the form of certain matter. Now our soul possesses two cognitive powers; one is the act of a corporeal organ, which naturally knows things existing in individual matter; hence sense knows only the singular. But there is another kind of cognitive power in the soul, called the intellect; and this is not the act of any corporeal organ. Wherefore the intellect naturally knows natures which exist only in individual matter; not as they are in such individual matter, but according as they are abstracted therefrom by the considering act of the intellect; hence it follows that through the intellect we can understand these objects as universal; and this is beyond the power of the sense. Now the angelic intellect naturally knows natures that are not in matter; but this is beyond the power of the intellect of our soul in the state of its present life, united as it is to the body. It follows therefore that to know self-subsistent being is natural to the divine intellect alone; and this is beyond the natural power of any created intellect; for no creature is its own existence, forasmuch as its existence is participated. Therefore the created intellect cannot see the essence of God, unless God by His grace unites Himself to the created intellect, as an object made intelligible to it”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 12, a. 4, c).

[100] C. BITTLE, God and His Creatures: Theodicy, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1953, pp. 42-44.

[101] De Spiritualibus Creaturis, 10, ad 8.

[102] T. GORNALL, A Philosophy of God, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1962, pp. 151-154. 

[103] N. MALEBRANCHE, Search of Truth, 7, 2, 3.

[104] “Malebranche accepted the Cartesian dichotomy between spirit and matter, thought and extension; and he drew the conclusion that neither can act directly on the other. He speaks, indeed, of ‘the soul’ (l’âme), but this term does not mean soul in the Aristotelian sense; it means the mind (l’esprit). And although he speaks of the soul’s dependence on the body and of the close union between them, his theory is that mind and body are two things between which there is correspondence but not interaction. The mind thinks, but it does not, properly speaking, move the body. And the body is a machine adapted indeed by God to the soul, but not ‘informed’ by it according to the Aristotelian sense of the term. True, he traces at length the correspondence between physical and psychic events, between, for example, modfications in the brain and modifications in the soul. But what he has in mind is psycho-physical parallelism rather than interaction. ‘It seems to me quite certain that the will of spiritual beings is incapable of moving the smallest body which there is in the world. For it is evident that there is no necessary connection between our will, for example, to move our arm and the arm’s movement. It is true that it moves when we will, and that we are thus the natural cause of the movement of our arm. But natural causes are not at all true causes, they are only occasional causes, which act only by the power and efficacy of God’s will, as I have just explained.’(N. MALEBRANCHE, op. cit., 6, 2, 3).

     “Malebranche does not deny, therefore, that I am in some sense the natural cause of the movement of my arm. But the term ‘natural cause’ means here ‘occasional cause.’ How could my volition be anything else than an occasional cause? I certainly do not know how I move my arm, if I move it. ‘There is no man who knows what he must do to move one of his fingers by means of the animal spirits. How then could men move their arms? These things appear to me to be evident and also, it seems to me, to all those who are willing to think, though they may be perhaps incomprehensible to all those who are only willing to sense’(Ibid.). Here Malebranche assumes the very questionable assumtion of Geulincx, that a true causal agent knows that he acts and how he acts. Moreover, that I should be the true cause of my arm’s movement is a contradictory notion. ‘A true cause is a cause between which and its effect the mind perceives a necessary connection. It is thus that I understand the term’(Ibid.). To be a true cause is to be a creative agent, and no human agent can create. Nor can God communicate this power to a human being. Hence we must conclude that God moves my arm on the occasion of my willing that the arm should be moved’(Ibid.). God, therefore, is the one and only true cause…natural causes are not true causes…the only true cause is a supernatural agent, God. And this general principle must obviously hold good with regard to the relation between soul and body in man. There is parallelism but not interaction. And from this Malebranche draws the conclusion that ‘our soul is not at all united to our body in the way that common opinion supposes that it is. The soul is united immediately and directly to God alone’(N. MALEBRANCHE, Conversations on Metaphysics and Religion, 7, 15).”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 188-190).       

[105] W. TURNER, op. cit., p. 465.

[106] Studies on Spinoza: H. H. JOACHIM, A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza, Clarendon, Oxford, 1901 ; E. GILSON, Spinoza interprète de Descartes, La Haye, 1923 ; R. P. MCKEON, The Philosophy of Spinoza: The Unity of His Thought, Longmans, Green, New York, 1928 ; L. ROTH, Spinoza, Benn, London, 1929 ; H. WOLFSON, The Philosophy of Spinoza, 2 vols., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1934 ; H. H. JOACHIM, Spinoza’s Tractatus de intellectus emendatione: A Commentary, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1940 ; S. HAMPSHIRE, Spinoza, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1954 ; G. H. R. PARKINSON, Spinoza’s Theory of Knowledge, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1954 ; J. DUNNER, Baruch Spinoza and Western Democracy, The Philosophical Library, New York, 1955 ; H. F. HALLETT, Benedictus Spinoza: The Elements of His Philosophy, Oxford University Press, New York, 1957 ; D. BIDNEY, The Psychology and Ethics of Spinoza, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1960 ; P. DI VONA, Studi sull’ontologia di Spinoza, 2 vols., La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1960-1969 ; H. H. JOACHIM, A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza, Russell & Russell, New York, 1964 ; C. DE DEUGD, The Significance of Spinoza’s First Kind of Knowledge, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1966 ; H. G. HUBBELING, Spinoza’s Methodology, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1967 ; A. NAESS, Creation and Cognition in Spinoza’s Theory of Affects, University of Oslo Press, Oslo, 1967 ; C. GALLICET CALVETTI, Spinoza. I presupposti teoretici dell’irenismo etico, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1968 ; E. M. CURLEY, Spinoza’s Metaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969 ; J. A. WOLFSON, The Philosophy of Spinoza, 2 vols., Schoken, New York, 1969 ; T. C. MARK, Spinoza’s Theory of Truth, Columbia University Press, New York, 1972 ; R. SAW, The Vindication of Metaphysics: A Study in the Philosophy of Spinoza, Russell & Russell, New York, 1972 ; S. P. KASHAP (ed.), Studies in Spinoza: Critical and Interpretive Essays, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1973 ; E. E. HARRIS, Salvation from Despair: A Reappraisal of Spinoza’s Philosophy, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973 ; K. JASPERS, Spinoza, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1974 ; G. GIULIETTI, Spinoza: la sua vita, il suo pensiero, Treviso, Canova, 1974 ; S. BRETON, Spinoza, Cittadella, Assisi, 1975 ; P. DI VONA, Baruch Spinoza, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1975 ; A. NAESS, Freedom, Emotion and Self-Subsistence: The Structure of a Central Part of Spinoza’s Ethics, University of Oslo Press, Oslo, 1975 ; E. FREEMAN, M. MANDELBAUM (eds.), Spinoza: Essays in Interpretation, Open Court, LaSalle, IL, 1975 ; C. MORALES, Baruch Spinoza: Tratado teológico-politico, Colección Crítica Filosófica, EMESA, Madrid, 1976 ; J. B. WILBUR (ed.), Spinoza’s Metaphysics: Essays in Critical Appreciation, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1976 ; G. CAMPANA, Liberazione e salvezza dell’uomo in Spinoza, Città Nuova, Rome, 1978 ; R. W. SHAHAN, J. I. BIRO (eds.), Spinoza: New Perspectives, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1978 ; C. VINTI, La filosofia come “vitae meditatio”: una lettura di Spinoza, Città Nuova, Rome, 1979 ; M. GRENE (ed.), Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1979 ; P. WIENPAHL, The Radical Spinoza, New York University Press, New York, 1979 ; A. GUZZO, Il pensiero di Spinoza, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1980 ; F. MIGNINI, Introduzione a Spinoza, Laterza, Bari, 1983 ; F. ALQUIÉ, Il razionalismo di Spinoza, Milan, 1987 ; P. MARTINETTI, Spinoza, Bibliopolis, Naples, 1987 ; R. DIODATO, Sub specie aeternitas: luoghi dell’ontologia spinoziana, CUSL, Milan, 1990 ; E. G. BOSCHERINI, Che cosa ha vermente detto Spinoza, Ubaldini, Rome, 1991 ; E. G. BOSCHERINI, Baruch Spinoza, Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1991 ; P. CRISTOFOLINI, Spinoza per tutti, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1993.  

[107] Pantheism (from the Greek pan, meaning all, and Theos, meaning God) is the philosophical doctrine that teaches the identity of God with either a part (partial pantheism) or the whole (total pantheism) of the world. It negates the transcendence of God (held by Theists to be absolutely distinct from the world; God’s Being is not the being of creatures). Pantheism’s most famous exponents include Spinoza and Hegel (who are total pantheists). Since God is reduced to the world, which is then divinized, pantheism is, in reality, nothing but a masked atheism.

[108] R. DESCARTES, Principia philosophica, I, no. 51.

[109] B. SPINOZA, Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometrical Order, I, definition 3.

[110] Cf. F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., p. 540.

[111] Man, for Spinoza, would not be “a composition of two finite substances but only of two corresponding modes of the one divine substance. Spinoza’s answer to the Cartesian dualism of mind-substance and body-substance is to deny the substantial character of the two terms and to achieve the harmony of mind and body through their mutual expression of the same substance, even though they do so under different attributes”(J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 75).

[112] R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, Love of Wisdom, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, pp. 222-223.

[113] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 549.

[114] J. DE TORRE, The Humanism of Modern Philosophy, Southeast Asian Science Foundation, Manila, 1989, p. 63.

[115] I. DILMAN, Free Will, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 129.

[116] I. DILMAN, op. cit., pp. 134, 138.

[117] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 77-78.

[118] Studies on individuation: G. M. MANSER, Das thomistische Individuationsprinzip, “Divus Thomas,” 12 (1934), pp. 221-27, 279-300 ; E. HUGUENY, Résurrection et indentité corporelle selon les philosophies de l’individuation, “Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques,” 23 (1934), pp. 94-106 ; J. B. WALL, The Mind of St. Thomas on the Principle of Individuation, “Modern Schoolman,” 1940-1941, pp. 41ff. ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il pensiero di San Tommaso sul principio di individuazione, “Divus Thomas,” 45 (1942), pp. 35-81 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, De Gaetano e il principio d’individuazione, “Divus Thomas,” 26 (1949), pp. 202-208 ; J. BOBIK, La doctrine de Saint Thomas sur l’individuation des substances corporelles, “Revue Philosophique de Louvain,” 51 (1953), pp. 5-41 ; J. BOBIK, Dimensions in the Individuation of Bodily Substances, “Philosophical Studies,” 4 (1954), pp. 60-79 ; J. KLINGER, Das Prinzip der Individuation bei Thomas von Aquin, “Münsterschwarzacher Studien (II),” Vier Turme Verlag, Münsterschwarzacher, 1964 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il principio d’individuazione dei corpi e Giovanni di S. Tommaso, “Aquinas,” 12 (1969), pp. 59-99 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il principio d’individuazione nella scuola tomistica, Pontificia Università Lateranense, Rome, 1971 ; S. P. SFEKAS, The Problem of Individuation in Aristotelian Metaphysics, New York, 1979 ; J. OWENS, Thomas Aquinas: Dimensive Quantity as Individuating Principle, “Medieval Studies,” 50 (1988), pp. 279-310. 

[119] See the third and eleventh questions of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae.

[120] Studies on the real distinction between essence and act of being: H. RENARD, Essence and Existence, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 21 (1946), pp. 53-65; H. RENARD, Being and Essence, “The New Scholasticism”, 23 (1949), pp. 62-70; C. FABRO, La nozione metafisica di partecipazione, 2nd ed., S.E.I., Turin, 1950, pp. 218-219; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, La distinzione reale nel ‘De ente et essentia’ di S. Tommaso, “Doctor Communis”, 10 (1957), pp. 165-173; W. L. REESE,  Concerning the “Real Distinction” of Essence and Existence, “The Modern Schoolman” 38 (1961), pp. 142-148; M. W. KEATING, The Relation Between the Proofs for the Existence of God and the Real Distinction of Essence and Existence in St. Thomas Aquinas, Fordham University, New York, 1962; L. SWEENEY, Existence/Essence in Thomas Aquinas’s Early Writings, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 37 (1963), pp. 105-109; J. BOBIK, Aquinas on Being and Essence, Notre Dame, IN, 1965, pp. 162-170; J. OWENS, Quiddity and Real Distinction in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Mediaeval Studies”, 27 (1965), pp. 1-22; B. NEGRONI, Essenza ed esistenza nell’omonimo opuscolo di S.Tommaso d’Aquino, in Atti del Congresso Internazionale Tommaso d’Aquino nel suo VII Centenario (6), Rome-Naples, 1974, pp. 238-289; A. MAURER, St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Toronto, 1968, pp. 21 ff; T. E. Dillon, The Real Distinction Between Essence and Existence in the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 1977; M. KOSUGI, Esse and Essentia in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Studies in Medieval Thought”, 21 (1979), pp. 155-163; J. WIPPEL, Aquinas’s Route to the Real Distinction. A Note on the “De ente et essentia”, c. 4, “The Thomist”, 43 (1979), pp. 279-295; J. OWENS, Stages and Distinction in “De ente”: A Rejoinder, “The Thomist”, 45 (1981), pp. 99-123; J. WIPPEL, Essence and Existence in the “De ente”, ch. 4, and Essence and Existence in Other Writings, in  Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1984, pp. 107-161; S. MacDONALD, The Esse/Essentia Argument in Aquinas’s “De ente et essentia”, “Journal of the History of Philosophy”, 22 (1984), p. 158 ff ; L. DEWAN, Saint Thomas, Joseph Owens, and the Real Distinction Between Being and Essence, “The Modern Schoolman”, 61 (1984), pp. 145-156; W. PATT, Aquinas’s Real Distinction and Some Interpretations,  “The New Scholasticism”, 62 (1988), pp. 1-29; M. BROWN, Aquinas and the Real Distinction: A Re-evaluation, “New Blackfriars”, 67 (1988), pp. 170-177; F. A. CUNNINGHAM, Essence and Existence in Thomism: A Mental vs. the “Real Distinction?”, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1988; M. BEUCHOT, La esencia y la existencia en Tomás de Aquino, “Revista de Filosofia” (Mexico), 22 (1989), pp. 149-165; L. DEWAN, St. Thomas and the Distinction between Form and Esse in Caused Things, “Gregorianum”, 80 (1999), pp. 353-369.

[121] Studies on Thomistic participation metaphysics: C. A. HART, Participation and the Thomistic Five Ways, “The New Scholasticism”, 26 (1952), pp. 267-282; W. NORRIS CLARKE, The Meaning of Participation in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 26 (1952), pp. 147-157 ; L. B. GEIGER, La participation dans la philosophie de St. Thomas d’Aquin, Paris, 1953; G. LINDBECK, Participation and Existence in the Interpretation of  St. Thomas Aquinas, “Franciscan Studies”, 17 (1957), pp. 1-22, 107-125; C. FABRO, Partecipazione e causalità, S.E.I., Turin, 1961 ; La nozione metafisica di partecipazione, 3rd ed., S.E.I. Turin, 1963; Elementi per una dottrina tomistica della partecipazione, “Divinitas”, 2 (1967), pp. 559-586 ; The Intensive Hermeneutics of Thomistic Philosophy: The Notion of Participation, “The Review of Metaphysics”, 27 (1974), pp. 449-491; Partecipazione agostiniana e partecipazione tomistica, “Doctor Communis”, 39 (1986), pp. 282-291 ; H. J. JOHN, Participation Revisited, “The Modern Schoolman”, 39 (1962), pp. 154-165 ; J. ARTOLA, Creación y participación, Publicaciones de la Institución Aquinas, Madrid, 1963; P. C. COURTÈS, Participation et contingence selon Saint Thomas d’ Aquin, “Revue Thomiste”, 77 (1969), pp. 201-235; J. CHIU YUEN HO, La doctrine de la participatión dans le Commentaire de Saint Thomas sur le “Liber de Causis”, “Revue philosophique de Louvain”, 27 (1972), pp. 360-383; T. FAY, Participation: The Transformation of Platonic and Neoplatonic Thought in the Metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas, “Divus Thomas”, 76 (1973), pp. 50-64; O. N. DERISI, Participación, acto y potencia y analogia en Santo Tomás, “Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica”, 65 (1974), pp. 415-435; La existencia o esse imparticipado divino, causa de todo ser participado, “Sapientia”, 31 (1976), pp. 109-120; El fundamento de la metafisica tomista: El Esse e Intelligere Divino, fundamento y causa de todo ser y entender participados, “Sapientia” 35 (1980), pp. 9-26; Del ente participado al Ser imparticipado, “Doctor Communis”, 35 (1982), pp. 26-38; La participación del ser, “Sapientia”, 37 (1982), pp. 5-10, 83-86, 243-248; La participación de la esencia, in Cinquant’anni di Magistero Teologico. Scritti in onore di Mons. Antonio Piolanti, “Studi tomistici” (26), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1985, pp. 173-184; P. LAZZARO, La dialettica della partecipazione nella Summa contra Gentiles di S. Tommaso d’Aquino, Parallelo, Regio Calabria, 1976 ; K. REISENHUBER, Participation as a Structuring Principle in Thomas Aquinas’ Teaching on Divine Names, “Studies in Medieval Thought”, 20 (1978), pp. 240-242; A. BASAVE, La doctrina metafisica de la participación en santo Tomás de Aquino, “Giornale di Metafisica”, 30 (1979), pp. 257-266; A. L. GONZÁLEZ, Ser y participación, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1979; P. MAZZARELLA, Creazione, partecipazione, e tempo secondo san Tommaso d’Aquino, “Studia Patavina”, (1982), pp. 308-335; J. F. WIPPEL, Thomas Aquinas and Participation, in Studies in Medieval Philosophy, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1987, pp. 117-158 ; C. P. BIGGER, St. Thomas on Essence and Participation, “The New Scholasticism”, 62 (1988), pp. 319-348; T. TYN, Metafisica della sostanza. Partecipazione e analogia entis, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna, 1991, pp. 18-20, 523-583, 813-933 ; R. A. TE VELDE, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden, 1995.

[122] C. HART, op. cit., p. 194.

[123] Studies on Leibniz: H. W. CARR, Leibniz, Little, Brown, Boston, 1929 ; F. OLGIATI, Il significato storico di Leibniz, Milan, 1934 ; F. AMERIO, Leibniz, La Scuola, Brescia, 1943 ; F. BRUNNER, Etudes sur la Signification de la Philosophie Historique de Leibniz, Vrin, Paris, 1951 ; J. GUITTON, Pascal et Leibniz, Paris, 1951 ; R. W. MEYER, Leibniz and the Seventeenth Century Revolution, Bowes & Bowes, Cambridge, 1952 ; Y. BELAVAL, Leibniz critique de Descartes, Gallimard, Paris, 1960 ; L. COUTURAT, La Logique de Leibniz, d’après des documents inédits, Olms, Hildesheim, 1961 ; Y. BELAVAL, Leibniz: Initiation à sa philosophie, Vrin, Paris, 1962 ; G. MARTIN, Leibniz: Logic and Metaphysics, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1964 ; E. CIONE, Leibniz, Libreria scientifica editrice, Naples, 1964 ; G. H. R. PARKINSON, Logic and Reality in Leibniz’s Metaphysics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1965 ; D. CAMPANALE, La finalità morale nel pensiero di Leibniz, Adriatica, Bari, 1966 ; M. GUEROULT, Leibniz: Dynamique et Métaphysique, Aubier-Montaigne, Paris, 1967 ; G. MARTIN, Leibniz: Logic and Metaphysics, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1967 ; K. MULLER, G. KRONERT, Leben und Werk von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: eine Chronik, Klostermann, Frankfurt am Maim, 1969 ; H. G. R. PARKINSON, Leibniz on Human Freedom, Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, 1970 ; J. ORTEGA Y GASSET, The Idea of Principle in Leibniz and the Evolution of Deductive Theory, Norton, New York, 1971 ; F. VOLTAGGIO, Che cosa ha brevemente detto Leibniz, Ubaldini, Rome, 1971 ; H. ISHIGURO, Leibniz’s Philosophy of Logic and Language, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1972 ; L. E. LOEMKER, Struggle for Synthesis: The Seventeenth Century Background of Leibniz’s Synthesis of Order and Freedom, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1972 ; D. O. BIANCA, Introduzione alla filosofia di Leibniz, La Scuola, Brescia, 1973 ; P. COSTABEL, Leibniz and Dynamics, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1973 ; H. W. B. JOSEPH, Lectures on the Philosophy of Leibniz, Greenwood, Westport, Conn., 1973 ; C. D. BROAD, Leibniz: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, London, 1975 ; J. HOSTLER, Leibniz’s Moral Philosophy, Duckworth, London, 1975 ; H. G. FRANKFURT (ed.), Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 1976 ; M. MUGNAI, Astrazione e realtà. Saggio su Leibniz, Feltrinelli, Milan, 1976 ; R. MCRAE, Leibniz: Perception, Apperception, and Thought, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1976 ; Y. BELAVAL, Etudes leibniziennes, Gallimard, Paris, 1976 ; V. MATHIEU, Introduzione a Leibniz, Laterza, Bari, 1976 ; M. KULSTAD (ed.), Essays on the Philosophy of Leibniz, Rice University Press, Houston, 1978 ; K. MOLL, Der junge Leibniz, 2 vols., Fromann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1978 ;  M. DASCAL, La Sémiologie de Leibniz, Aubier-Montaigne, Paris, 1978 ; N. RESCHER, The Philosophy of Leibniz, Rowman & Littlefield, Towata, NJ, 1979 ; A. R. HALL, Philosophers at War: The Quarrel Between Newton and Leibniz, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1980 ; M. HOOKER (ed.), Leibniz: Critical and Interpretive Essays, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1982 ; S. BROWN, Leibniz, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1984 ; B. MATES, The Philosophy of Leibniz: Metaphysics and Language, Oxford University Press, New York, 1986 ; M. DASCAL, Leibniz: Language, Signs and Thought. A Collection of Essays, John Benjamins, Philadelphia, 1987 ; O. POMBO, Leibniz and the Problem of a Universal Language, Nodus Publikationem, Münster, 1987 ; C. WILSON, Leibniz’s Metaphysics: A Comparative and Historical Study, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1989 ; V. MATHIEU, Introduzione a Leibniz, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1991 ; M. KULSTAD, Leibniz on Apperception, Consciousness, and Reflection, Philosophia Verlag, Munich, 1991. 

[124] G. W. LEIBNIZ, Discourse on Metaphysics, VIII, from Leibniz Selections, P. Weiner trans., Scribner’s, New York, 1951, p. 300.

[125] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 263-264.

[126] G. W. LEIBNIZ, Monadology, 1-2, Weiner, 533.

[127] R. P. PHILLIPS, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, vol. 1, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London,  1935, pp. 34-35.

[128] Kenneth Dougherty explains that “the dynamist admits ‘action at a distance,’ that is action without any medium through which the action passes to the patient. Hence, they posit only empty space between their unextended entities. But experimental science rejects as physically impossible the action of a physical force through a total vacuum. If there were ‘action at a distance’ the effect at a distance would be instantaneous. Time, however, is required for sound, light, or other phenomena to travel. If the phenomenon is a wave, it must have a medium. A particle also takes time to move across the gap, and so it is not ‘action at a distance.’ Dynamists cannot explain why gravitation diminishes as the distance increases and vice versa. This should not be if ‘action at a distance,’ which would be instantaneous, took place. Furthermore, empty spaces or vacua, which the dynamist posits, are contradictory to motion. Once an initial mover has ceased moving a mobile being, the medium does not rest. It facilitates motion. But a vacuous medium has nothing to facilitate motion. Motion could not be in a vacuum. It violates the principle that whatever is moved is moved by another. We are speaking here about a perfect vacuum and not the so-called ‘vacuum’ spoken of by the physicist as in the experiment of pumping the air out of the bell jar. This latter is not really a case of a vacuum”(K. F. DOUGHERTY, Cosmology, Graymoor Press, Peekskill, New York, 1953, p. 100). 

[129] P. J. GLENN, Cosmology, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1941, pp. 142-143.

[130] C. BITTLE, From Aether to Cosmos, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1941, pp. 244-245.

[131] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 245-246.

[132] G. W. LEIBNIZ, Monadology, no. 45, in Discourse on Metaphysics, Correspondence with Arnauld, and Monadology, Open Court, Chicago, 1918, pp. 260-261.

[133] J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 73.

[134] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 564.

[135] C. BITTLE, op. cit., p. 368.

[136] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 25, a. 6, ad. 3.

[137] Ibid.

[138] Ibid.

[139] R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, The One God, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1943, pp. 723-724. 

[140] Studies on Pascal: E. BOUTROUX, Pascal, Hachette, Paris, 1900 ; A. HATZFELD, Pascal, F. Alcan, Paris, 1901 ; F. STROWSKI, Pascal et Son Temps, 3 vols., Plon-Nourrit, Paris, 1921 ; J. CHEVALIER, Pascal, Plon, Paris, 1922 ; D. NEDELKOVITCH, La Pensée Philosophique Crèatrice de Pascal, Felix Alcan, Paris, 1925 ; M. DUCLAUX, Portrait of Pascal, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1927 ; J. CHEVALIER, Pascal, Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1930 ; M. BISHOP, Pascal: The Life of Genius, Reynal & Hitchcock, New York, 1936 ; A. D. SERTILLANGES, Blaise Pascal, Paris, 1941 ; H. F. STEWART, The Secret of Pascal, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1941 ; H. F. STEWART, B. Pascal, Milford, London, 1942 ; E. CAILLIET, The Clue to Pascal, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1943 ; M. F. SCIACCA, Pascal, Brescia, 1944 ; H. DANIEL-ROPS, Pascal et Nôtre Coeur, Editions F. X. Le Roux & Cie., Paris, 1948 ; L. LAFUMA, Récherches Pascaliennes, Delmas, Paris, 1949 ; J. LAPORTE, Le Coeur et la Raison selon Pascal, Elzevir, Paris, 1950 ; J. GUITTON, Pascal et Leibniz, Paris, 1951 ; L. M. HUBERT, Pascal’s Unfinished Apology: A Study of the Plan, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1952 ; P. MESNARD, Pascal, Harvill Press, London, 1952 ; F. T. H. FLETCHER, Pascal and the Mystical Tradition, Philosophical Library, New York, 1954 ; L. JERPHAGNON, Pascal et la Souffrance, Les Editions Ouvrières, Paris, 1956 ; E. MORTIMER, Blaise Pascal, Harper, New York, 1959 ; C. JOURNET, Verità di Pascal, Ed. Paoline, Cinisello B., 1960 ; C. BAUDOUIN, Pascal ou l’Ordre du Coeur, Plon, Paris, 1962 ; J. GUITTON, Il genio di Pascal, Ed. Paoline, Cinisello B., 1964 ; J. STEINMANN, Pascal, Burns & Oates, London, 1965 ; L. PAREYSON, L’etica di Pascal, Giappichelli, Turin, 1966 ; R. GUARDINI, Pascal for Our Time, Herder and Herder, New York, 1966 ; P. M. TOESCA, Pascal, l’uomo ritrovato, Studium Parmense, Parma, 1971 ; A. BAUSOLA, Introduzione a Pascal, Laterza, Bari, 1973 ; R. HAZELTON, Blaise Pascal: The Genius of His Thought, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1974 ; P. SERINI, Pascal, Einaudi, Turin, 1975 ; A. MOSCATO, Pascal e la metafisica, Tilgher, Genoa, 1978 ; A. KRAILSHEIMER, Pascal, Dall’Oglio, Milan, 1981 ; E. ROSSI, La politica come follia (Ironia e verità in Pascal), Studium, Rome, 1984.   

[141] F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 155.

[142] The Provincial Letters were condemned by the Congregation of the Index in 1657.

[143] F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 156-157. 

[144] B. PASCAL, Pensées, art. 24, v.

[145] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., p. 528.

[146] E. GILSON, T. LANGAN, op. cit., p. 483.

[147] Studies on Bacon: J. DE MAISTRE, Examen de la philosophie de Bacon, Paris, 1836 ; J. SPEDDING, Account of the Life and Times of F. Bacon, 2 vols., London, 1879 ; G. FONSEGRIVE, F. Bacon, Paris, 1893 ; J. NICHOL, Francis Bacon, His Life and Philosophy, 2 vols., London, 1901 ; K. FISCHER, Francis Bacon und seine Schule, Heidelberg, 1923 ; A. LEVI, Il pensiero di F. Bacon, Turin, 1925 ; C. D. BROAD, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, Cambridge, 1926 ; J. BROCHARD, La Philosophie de Bacon, Paris, 1926 ; W. FROST, Bacon und die Naturphilosophie, Munich, 1927 ; M. STURT, Francis Bacon. A Biography, London, 1932 ; S. CASELLATO, Francesco Bacone, CEDAM, Padua, 1941 ; F. H. ANDERSON, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, Chicago, 1948 ; A. CRESSON, Francis Bacon, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1948 ; R. W. GIBSON, Francis Bacon, Oxford, 1950 ; B. FARRINGTON, Francis Bacon: Philosopher of Industrial Science, London, 1951 ; A. W. GREEN, Sir Francis Bacon, His Life and Works, Denver, 1952 ; A. SABETTI, Francesco Bacone e la fondazione della scienza, Liguori, Naples, 1968 ; P. ROSSI, Francesco Bacone: dalle magia alla scienza, Einaudi, Turin, 1974 ; E. DE MAS, Francis Bacon, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1978.

[148] J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 33.

[149] P. GLENN, op. cit., pp. 281-282.

[150] P. GLENN, op. cit., pp. 282-283.

[151] F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 299-300.

[152] P. GLENN, op. cit., p. 283.

[153] Studies on Hobbes: C. C. ROBERTSON, Hobbes, Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1886 ; F. J. E. WOODBRIDGE, The Philosophy of Hobbes, H. W. Wilson, Minneapolis, 1903 ; F. TÖNNIES, Thomas Hobbes: Leben und Lehre, Frommann, Stuttgart, 1925 ; F. BRANDT, Thomas Hobbes’ Mechanical Conception of Nature, Hachette, Paris, 1928 ; J. LAIRD, Hobbes, Benn, London, 1934 ; L. STRAUSS, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936 ; J. BOWLE, Hobbes and His Critics: A Study of Seventeenth-Century Constitutionalism, Cape, London, 1951 ; H. MACDONALD, M. HARGREAVES, Thomas Hobbes: A Bibliography, London, 1952 ; R. POLIN, Politique et philosophie chez Thomas Hobbes, Presses Universitaires, Paris, 1953 ; H. WARRENDER, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes, Clarendon, Oxford, 1957 ; S. I. MINZ, The Hunting of Leviathan: Seventeenth Century Reactions to the Materialism and the Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1962 ; F. C. HOOD, The Divine Politics of Thomas Hobbes, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964 ; A. PACCHI, Convenzione e ipotesi nella formazione della filosofia naturale di Hobbes, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1965 ; A. PACCHI, Introduzione a Hobbes, Laterza, Bari, 1979 ; A. CAMPODONICO, Metafisica e antropologia in Thomas Hobbes, Res Editrice, Milan, 1982 ; T. MAGRI, Saggio su Thomas Hobbes: gli elementi della politica, Il Saggiatore, Milan, 1982 ; W. SACKSTEDER, Hobbes Studies, Bowling Green, KY, 1982 ; A. GARGANI, Hobbes e la scienza, Einaudi, Turin, 1983 ; D. NEGRI, Teoria della scienza e forma della politica in T. Hobbes, Guida, Naples, 1984 ; A. A. ROGOW, Thomas Hobbes: Radical in the Service of Reaction, W. W. Norton, New York, 1986 ; C. SCHMITT, Scritti su Hobbes, Giuffrè, Milan, 1986 ; D. BAUMGOLD, Hobbes’s Political Theory, Cambridge, 1988 ; L. NEGRI, Persona e Stato nel pensiero di Hobbes, Jaca Book, Milan, 1988 ; R. TUCK, Hobbes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1989 ; A. PACCHI, Introduzione a Hobbes, Laterza, Bari, 1990 ; M. REALE, La difficile eguaglianza. Hobbes e gli animali politici: passioni, morale, socialità, Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1991 ; S. A. LLOYD, Ideals as Interests in Hobbes’s Leviathan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992 ; A. P. MARTINICH, The Two Gods of Leviathan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992 ; G. BORRELLI, Ragion di Stato e “Leviatano,” Il Mulino, Bologna, 1993 ; G. MARRAMEO, Dopo il “Leviatano”: individuo e comunità nella filosofia politica, Giappichelli, Turin, 1995 ; G. SORGI (ed.), Politica e diritto in Hobbes, Giuffrè, Milan, 1995 ; T. SORELL (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996 ; M. RHONHEIMER, La filosofia politica di Thomas Hobbes, Armando, Rome, 1998. 

[154] Two portions of this work appeared in 1650 under the titles Human Nature or the Fundamental Elements of Policy and De corpore politico.

[155] Cf. V. BOURKE, History of Ethics, vol. 1, Image Doubleday, New York, 1968, p. 194. 

[156] “Hobbes’ philosophy is materialistic in the sense that it takes no account of anything but bodies. And in so far as the exclusion of God and of all spiritual reality is simply the result of a freely chosen definition, his materialism can be called methodological”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 5).

[157] Bourke writes that, for Hobbes, “pleasure is that which ‘helps’ vital or animal motion; pain hinders it. Good means whatever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire; evil is the object of his aversion. Thus, Hobbes’ rule of egoism may be stated: ‘It is natural, and so reasonable, for each individual to aim solely at his own preservation or pleasure’ The distinction of good and evil, then, depends on the relation of the objects of appetite to the person who desires or hates them. In the context of civil society (the commonwealth), actions are good or evil depending on their relations to the laws of a given state. ‘For it was shown that the civil laws were the rules of good and evil, just and unjust, honest and dishonest; that therefore what the legislator commands, must be held for good, and what he forbids for evil’(T. HOBBES, De cive, in English Works of Thomas Hobbes, vol. 2, ed. W. Molesworth, Bohn and Longmans, London, 1839-1845, p. 196).”(V. BOURKE, op. cit., p. 194).

[158] “Philosophy and reasoning are for him coextensive; and from this it follows that theology is irrational”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 6).

[159] T. HOBBES, Leviathan, I, 13.

[160] Ibid.

[161] Ibid.

[162] T. HOBBES, Leviathan, ch. XVII.

[163] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., pp. 577-578.

[164] F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 50.

[165] J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 129.

[166] A. FAGOTHEY, op. cit., pp. 387-388. 

[167] CCC, 1880.

[168] “And indeed nature, or rather God who is the author of nature, wills that man should live in a civil society; and this is clearly shown both by the faculty of language, the greatest medium of intercourse, and by numerous innate desires of the mind, and the many necessary things, and things of great importance, which men isolated cannot procure, but which they can procure when joined and associated with others”(Leo XIII, Diuturnum, 7).

[169] There are a number of elements necessary for a society. A society cannot exist without its members who can only be persons; herds of animals are not societies since a society is a moral union supposing the agreement of wills. Therefore, only rational beings can form a society. A society must also be united in a stable or enduring way. The members of the society must be able to cooperate or work together for the attainment of some end. A society is held together by moral bonds of means and end. It must also be equipped with a moral power called authority (which is the right to determine the means and direct the members in their use) in order to be able to guide the cooperative effort of the common good. The material cause of a society is its members; the formal cause is the moral bond uniting the members; the efficient cause is its founder, and in a lesser way those who keep it going; and the final cause is the end or common good sought by the members which they hope to gain by their cooperative effort.

     What is the end of society? “The human person…is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions”(VATICAN II, Gaudium et Spes, 25, 1. Cf. CCC, 1881). “In the plan of the Creator, society is a natural means which man can and must use to reach his destined end. Society is for man and not vice versa. This must not be understood in the sense of liberalistic individualism, which subordinates society to the selfish use of the individual; but only in the sense that by means of an organic union with society and by mutual collaboration the attainment of earthly happiness is placed within the reach of all”(PIUS XI, Divini Redemptoris, 29). “For nature has not formed society in order that man might look to it as an end, but in order that in it and through it he might find fitting help to his own perfection”(LEO XIII, Sapientiae Christianae, 2). “The origin and the primary scope of social life is the conservation, development and perfection of the human person, helping him to realize accurately the demands and values of religion and culture set by the Creator for every man and for all mankind, both as a whole and in its natural ramifications”(PIUS XII, Christmas Message, 1942).

     Human society has a divine origin, being constituted by God, the Author of nature, the Supreme Authority and source of all social authority. “God has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority”(LEO XIII, Libertas, 21). Society must recognize God as its author, respect His laws, and honor Him. “The State…must evidently act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, commanding every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness…bind also the civil community by a like law. For men living together in society, no less than individuals, owe gratitude to God. It is He who gave it being and maintains it, and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings”(LEO XIII, Immortale Dei, 3). “If then any State aims only at external advantage and wealth, it is wont in its government to put God and the moral law aside, it wrongfully turns away from its end and from the teaching of nature, and cannot be called a community or society, but is rather a deceitful resemblance and a parody”(LEO XIII, Sapientiae Christianae, 2). “A social teaching or a social reconstruction program which denies or prescinds from this internal relation to God of everything that regards men, is on a false course; and while it builds up with one hand, it prepares with the other the material which sooner or later will undermine and destroy the whole fabric”(PIUS XII, Christmas Message, 1942).

[170] Studies on Hobbes and religion: S. HOLM, L’attitude de Hobbes à l’égard de la religion, “Archives de Philosophie,” 12 (1936), pp. 227-248 ; F. C. HOOD, The Divine Politics of Thomas Hobbes, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964 ; W. B. GLOVER, God and Thomas Hobbes, in Hobbes Studies, ed. K. C. Brown, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1965 ; H. W. SCHNEIDER, The Piety of Hobbes, in Thomas Hobbes in His Time, R. Ross, H. W. Schneider, and T. Waldman (eds.), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1974 ; S. SUTHERLAND, God and Religion in Leviathan, “Journal of Theological Studies,” 25 (1974), pp. 373-380 ; S. R. LETWIN, Hobbes and Christianity, “Daedalus,” 105 (1979), pp. 1-21 ; P. T. GEACH, The Religion of Thomas Hobbes, “Religious Studies,” 17 (1981), pp. 549-558 ; J. EISENACH, Hobbes on Church, State, and Religion, “History of Political Thought,” 3 (1982), pp. 215-243 ; R. J. HALLIDAY, T. KENYON, A. REEVE, Hobbes’s Belief in God, “Political Studies,” 31 (1983), pp. 418-433 ; B. MILNER, Hobbes on Religion, “Political Theory,” 16 (1988), pp. 400-425 ; A. PACCHI, Hobbes and the Problem of God, in Perspectives on Thomas Hobbes, G. A. J. Rogers and A. Ryan (eds.), The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988 ; P. SPRINGBORG, Hobbes on Religion, in The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, T. Sorell (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 346-380.         

[171] J. MARITAIN, Moral Philosophy, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1960, p. 93.

[172] J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 134.

[173] J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 135.

[174] Studies on Locke: J. GIBSON, Locke’s Theory of Knowledge and its Historical Relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1917 ; S. P. LAMPRECHT, The Moral and Political Philosophy of John Locke, Columbia University Press, New York, 1918 ; J. W. GOUGH, Locke’s Political Philosophy: Eight Studies, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1950 ; J. D. O’CONNOR, John Locke, Penguin, Baltimore, 1952 ; J. W. YOLTON, John Locke and the Way of Ideas, Oxford University Press, New York, 1956 ; R. H. COX, Locke on War and Peace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1960 ; R. CRIPPA, Esperienza e libertà in John Locke, Marzorati, Milan, 1960 ; K. DEWHURST, John Locke (1632-1704) Physician and Philosopher, Wellcome Historical Medical Library, London, 1963 ; M. SELIGER, The Liberal Politics of John Locke, Allen & Unwin, London, 1968 ; J. L. KRAUS, John Locke, Philosophical Library, New York, 1968 ; J. W. YOLTON (ed.), John Locke: Problems and Perspectives: A Collection of New Essays, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1969 ; J. DUNN, The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the Two Treatises of Government, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1969 ; S. ALEXANDER, Locke, Kennicat, New York, 1970 ; J. W. YOLTON, Locke and the Compass of Human Understanding, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970 ; R. S. WOOLHOUSE, Locke’s Philosophy of Science and Knowledge, Barnes & Noble, New York, 1971 ; R. J. AARON, John Locke, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971 ; C. A. VIANO, John Locke: dal razionalismo all’Illuminismo, Einaudi, Turin, 1973 ; A. SABETTI, La filosofia politica di John Locke, Liguori, Naples, 1971 ; J. D. MABBOTT, John Locke, Macmillan, London, 1973 ; W. EUCHNER, La filosofia politica di Locke, Laterza, Bari, 1976 ; J. L. MACKIE, Problems from Locke, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976 ; I. MANCINI, G. CRINELLA, John Locke, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1976 ; W. EUCHNER, La filosofia politica di John Locke, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1976 ; B. D. BARGER, Locke on Substance, Sheffield, Manhattan Beach, CA, 1976 ; I. C. TIPTON (ed.), Locke on Human Understanding, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977 ; J. H. FRANKLIN, John Locke and the Theory of Sovereignty, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1978 ; G. PARRY, John Locke, Allen & Unwin, London, 1978; M. SINA, Introduzione a Locke, Laterza, Bari, 1982 ; J. J. JENKINS, Understanding Locke, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982 ; J. COLMAN, John Locke’s Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1983 ; F. FAGIANI, Nel crepuscolo della probabilità: ragione ed esperienza nella filosofia sociale di John Locke, Bibliopolis, Naples, 1983 ; I. C. TIPTON, Locke: Reason and Experience, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1983 ; K. I. VAUGHN, John Locke: Economist and Social Scientist, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1983 ; R. S. WOOLHOUSE, Locke, Harvester, Brighton, 1983 ; N. WOOD, The Politics of Locke’s Philosophy: A Social Study of ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,’ University of California Press, Berkeley, 1983 ; A. PACCHI, Introduzione alla lettura del Saggio sull’intelletto umano, Unicolpi, Milan, 1983 ; J. DUNN, Locke, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1984 ; R. PITITTO, John Locke: mondo linguistico e interpretazione, Athena, Naples, 1984 ; N. TARCOV, Locke’s Education for Liberty, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984 ; M. CRANSTON, John Locke: A Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985 ; S. GOYARD-FABRE, John Locke et la raison raisonnable, Vrin, Paris, 1986 ; R. W. GRANT, John Locke’s Liberalism, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987 ; W. M. SPELLMAN, John Locke and the Problem of Depravity, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988 ; R. SPECHT, John Locke, C. H. Beck, Munich, 1989 ; R. POLIN, John Locke, Pellicani, Rome, 1990 ; M. R. AYERS, Locke, 2 vols., Routledge, London, 1991 ; J. W. YOLTON, Locke and French Materialism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991 ; J. M. VIENNE, Expérience et raison: Les fondements de la morale selon Locke, Vrin, Paris, 1991 ; P. A. SCHOULS, Reasoned Freedom: John Locke and the Enlightenment, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1992 ; A. J. SIMMONS, The Lockean Theory of Rights, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1992 ; J. W. YOLTON, A Locke Dictionary, Blackwell, Oxford, 1993 ; M. SINA, Introduzione a Locke, Laterza, Bari, 1993 ; V. CHAPPELL (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Locke, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994.      

[175] J. LOCKE, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, vol. 2, book 4, ch. 1, p. 167.

[176] J. LOCKE, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Introduction, Oxford, 1894, p. 32.

[177] C. BITTLE, The Whole Man, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1945, pp. 314-315.

[178] C. BITTLE, op. cit., p. 315.

[179] “Locke concedes that we legitimately assert the existence of this substratum distinct from its properties, for one cannot conceive of modes without a subject which bears them up; we are, however, totally ignorant of its nature or quiddity, for our ideas, coming from experience, do not allow us to know simple qualities and their diverse combinations in any proper sense. It is clear in this theory that substance, in the ordinary sense of the word, designates a vague something of which we have no clear idea and whose essence it is impossible to penetrate”(F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., pp. 601-602). 

[180] J. LOCKE, op. cit., vol. 1, book 2, ch. 23, pp. 406-407.

[181] Cf. P. GEACH, Reference and Generality, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1962, pp. 38-40.

[182] Cf. ARISTOTLE, Metaphysics, VII, 3, 1029a 9-27.

[183] Cf. ARISTOTLE, op. cit., VII, 3, 1029a 28.

[184] A. LLANO, op .cit., p. 119-120. 

[185] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., p. 611. 

[186] Studies on Berkeley: A. LEVI, La filosofia di George Berkeley, Turin, 1922 ; G. A. JOHNSTON, The Development of Berkeley’s Philosophy, Macmillan, New York, 1923 ; G. D. HICKS, Berkeley, Benn, London, 1932 ; A. A. LUCE, Berkeley and Malebranche: A Study in the Origin of Berkeley’s Thought, Oxford University Press, New York, 1934 ; J. WILD, George Berkeley: A Study of His Life and Philosophy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1936 ; G. J. WARNOCK, Berkeley, Penguin, Baltimore, 1943 ; A. A. LUCE, Berkeley’s Immaterialism: A Commentary on His ‘Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge,’ Nelson, London, 1945 ; F. BENDER, George Berkeley’s Philosophy Re-examined, H. J. Paris, Amsterdam, 1946 ; J. J. LAKY, A Study of George Berkeley’s Philosophy in the Light of the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C., 1950 ; J. O. WISDOM, Unconscious Origins of Berkeley’s Philosophy, Hogarth Press, London, 1953 ; M. M. ROSSI, Saggio su Berkeley, Laterza, Bari, 1955 ; E. A. SILLEM, George Berkeley and the Proofs for the Existence of God, Longmans, Green, London, 1957 ; A. D. RITCHIE, George Berkeley: A Reappraisal, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1967 ; G. ARDLEY, Berkeley’s Renovation of Philosophy, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1968 ; G. W. ENGLE, G. TAYLOR (eds.), Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 1968 ; G. D. HICKS, Berkeley, Russell & Russell, New York, 1968 ; M. M. ROSSI, Introduzione a Berkeley, Laterza, Bari, 1970 ; G. J. STACK, Berkeley’s Analysis of Perception, Mouton, The Hague, 1970 ; D. PARK, Complementary Notions: A Critical Study of Berkeley’s Theory of Concepts, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1972 ;  R. J. BROOK, Berkeley’s Philosophy of Science, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973 ; H. M. BRACKEN, Berkeley, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1974 ; I. C. TIPSON, Berkeley: The Philosophy of Immaterialism, Methuen, London, 1974 ; C. D. BROAD, Berkeley’s Argument, Haskell, New York, 1975 ; G. PITCHER, Berkeley, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1977 ; P. F. MUGNAI, Segno e linguaggio in George Berkeley, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, Rome, 1979 ; W. E. STEINKRAUS (ed.), New Studies in Berkeley’s Philosophy, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1982 ; C. M. TURBAYNE (ed.), Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1982 ; S. PARIGI, Il mondo visibile (George Berkeley) e la “perspectiva,” Olschki, Florence, 1995 ; K. P. WINKLER (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006. 

[187] G. BERKELEY, Principles of Human Knowledge, I, 3.

[188] J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 90.

[189] C. MASCIA, A History of Philosophy, St. Anthony Guild Press, Paterson, NJ, 1957, pp. 343-344. 

[190] Studies on Hume: C. W. HENDEL, Studies in the Philosophy of David Hume, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1925 ; J. LAIRD, Hume’s Philosophy of Human Nature, Methuen, London, 1932 ; B. M. LAING, David Hume, Benn, London, 1932 ; R. W. CHURCH, Hume’s Theory of Understanding, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1935 ; H. H. PRICE, Hume’s Theory of the External World, Clarendon, Oxford, 1940 ; N. K. SMITH, The Philosophy of David Hume, Macmillan, London, 1941 ; R. M. KYDD, Reason and Conduct in Hume’s Treatise, Oxford University Press, New York, 1946 ; A. B. GLATHE, Hume’s Theory of the Passions and of Morals, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1950 ; D. G. MACNABB, David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality, Hutchinson, London, 1951 ; T. BRUNIUS, David Hume on Criticism, Stockholm, 1951 ; J. A. PASSMORE, Hume’s Intentions, University Press, Cambridge, 1952 ; A. BASSON, David Hume, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1958 ; J. B. STEWART, The Moral and Political Philosophy of David Hume, Columbia University Press, New York, 1963 ; C. W. HENDEL, Studies in the Philosophy of David Hume, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1963 ; R. M. KYDD, Reason and Conduct in Hume’s Treatise, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1964 ; A. SABETTI, Hume filosofo della religione, Liguori, Naples, 1965 ; J. V. PRICE, The Ironic Hume, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1965 ; L. L. BONGIE, David Hume: Prophet of the Counter-Revolution, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1965 ; R. F. ANDERSON, Hume’s First Principles, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1966 ; D. G. C. MACNABB, David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality, Archon Books, Hamden, Conn., 1966 ; P. S. ÁRDAL, Passion and Value in Hume’s Treatise, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1966 ; J. PASSMORE, Hume’s Intentions, Basic Books, New York, 1968 ; J. WILBANKS, Hume’s Theory of Imagination, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1968 ; D. BROILES, The Moral Philosophy of David Hume, The Hague, 1969 ; A. SANTUCCI, Sistema e ricerca in D. Hume, Laterza, Bari, 1969 ; G. STERN, A Faculty Theory of Knowledge: The Aim and Scope of Hume’s First Enquiry, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, 1971 ; I. CAPPIELLO, La morale della simpatia di David Hume, Liguori, Naples, 1971 ; C. MAUND, Hume’s Theory of Knowledge: A Critical Examination, Macmillan, New York, 1972 ; G. CARABELLI, Hume e la retorica dell’ideologia, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1972 ; D. C. STOVE, Probability and Hume’s Inductive Scepticism, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973 ; M. DAL PRA, Hume e la scienza della natura umana, Laterza, Bari, 1973 ; J. NOXON, Hume’s Philosophical Development, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973 ; N. CAPALDI, David Hume the Newtonian Philosopher, Twayne, Boston, 1975 ; D. FORBES, Hume’s Philosophical Politics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975 ; J. HARRISON, Hume’s Moral Epistemology, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976 ; B. STROUD, Hume, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1977 ; J. BRICKE, Hume’s Philosophy of Mind, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1980 ; J. L. MACKIE, Hume’s Moral Theory, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1980 ; A. SANTUCCI, Introduzione a Hume, Laterza, Bari, 1981 ; J. HARRISON, Hume’s Theory of Justice, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1981 ; D. MILLER, Philosophy and Ideology in Hume’s Political Thought, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1981 ; T. L. BEAUCHAMP, A. ROSENBERG, Hume and the Problem of Causation, Oxford University Press, New York, 1981 ; A. SANTUCCI, Scienza e filosofia scozzese nell’età di Hume, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1983 ; D. W. LIVINGSTON, Hume’s Philosophy of Common Life, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984 ; L. TURCO, Lo scetticismo morale di David Hume, Clueb, Bologna, 1984 ; D. F. NORTON, David Hume: Common-Sense Moralist, Sceptical Metaphysician, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1984 ; M. DAL PRA, David Hume: la vita e l’opera, Laterza, Bari, 1984 ; G. PALOMBELLA, Diritto e artificio in David Hume, Giuffrè, Milan, 1984 ; R. J. FOGELIN, Hume’s Skepticism in the Treatise of Human Nature, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1985 ; F. G. WHELAN, Order and Artifice in Hume’s Political Philosophy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1985 ; J. V. PRICE, David Hume, Twayne, New York, 1986 ; F. RESTAINO, David Hume (1711-1776), Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1986 ; J. CHRISTENSEN, Practicing Enlightenment: Hume and the Formation of a Literary Career, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1987 ; J. C. A. GASKIN, Hume’s Philosophy of Religion, Macmillan, New York, 1988 ; N. CAPALDI, Hume’s Place in Moral Philosophy, Peter Lang, New York, 1989 ; G. STRAWSON, The Secret Connexion: Causation, Realism and David Hume, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989 ; A. SCHWERIN, The Reluctant Revolutionary: An Essay on David Hume’s Account of Necessary Connection, Lang, New York, 1989 ; N. PHILLIPSON, Hume, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 1989 ; C. MONTELEONE, L’Io, la mente, la ragionevolezza: saggio su David Hume, Ed. Bollati-Boringhieri, Turin, 1989 ; D. PEARS, Hume’s System: An Examinaton of the First Book of His Treatise, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990 ; M. A. BOX, The Suasive Art of David Hume, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1990 ; J. W. DANFORD, David Hume and the Problem of Reason: Recovering the Human Sciences, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990 ; D. T. SIEBERT, The Moral Animus of David Hume, University of Delaware Press, Cranbury, 1990 ; E. LECALDANO, Hume e la nascita dell’etica contemporanea, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 1990 ; R. GILARDI, Il giovane Hume: il ‘background’ religioso e culturale, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1991 ; A. BAIER, A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume’s Treatise, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1991 ; D. E. FLAGE, David Hume’s Theory of Mind, Routledge, New York, 1991 ; F. SNARE, Morals Motivation and Convention: Hume’s Influential Doctrines, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1991 ; T. PENELHUM, David Hume: An Introduction to His Philosophical System, Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, IN, 1992 ; J. B. STEWART, Opinion and Reform in Hume’s Political Philosophy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1992.       

[191] Cf. D. HUME, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I (Of the Understanding), Part I, Section I (Of the Origin of Our Ideas).

[192] D. HUME, op. cit., I, 2, 6.

[193] Hume repeatedly denies the objective, universal and necessary validity of the principle of causality in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, which is contained in his work Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1748.

[194] “A prominent part of Hume’s philosophy is his theory of associationism. We speak, for example, of the principle of causality, and consider it to be a universally and necessarily valid axiom that ‘Every effect must have a cause.’ Hume claims that this axiom is derived from experience. What we perceive is an invariable sequence of events: one thing invariably follows an antecedent event, and from this sequence we conclude that the antecedent event ‘causes’ the one that follows as an ‘effect.’ We do not perceive anything like the ‘production’ of one thing by another. From his phenomenalistic, sensationalistic standpoint, Hume could not admit real ‘causation.’ Whenever we observe one event to occur, we feel the mental compulsion to assert that the other will follow. But whence the mental compulsion to conjoin just these two events as ‘cause’ and ‘effect’? Hume gives as the reason that ‘the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant and to believe that it will exist.’ In other words, it is the association of ideas which compels us to formulate necessary and universal judgments, axioms, and principles. Such judgements, axioms, and principles have no objective value, but are mere associations of impressions derived from the succession of phenomena”(C. BITTLE, op. cit., p. 317).

[195] “Having eliminated an objective origin for the idea of active power and the causal bond, Hume had to trace them to purely subjective conditions within the perceiver. The objects of perception are atomic, unconnected units which may, nevertheless, follow one another in a temporal sequence and pattern. Through repeated experience of such sequences, the imagination is gradually habituated to connect antecedent and consequent objects in a necessary way. The necessity does not arise from any productive force or dependence on the side of the objects so related but comes solely from the subjective laws of association operating upon the imagination to compel it to recall one member of the sequence when the other is presented. The causal bond consists entirely in our feeling of necessity in making the transition, in thought, from one object to the other. The philosophical inference from effect to cause is abstract and empty until it is strengthened by the natural relation set up by the workings of habit and association upon the imagination. Given this all-embracing psychological basis, however, causal inference can have nothing stronger than a probable import. Absolute certainty cannot be achieved, since the mind is not dealing with dependencies in being, on the side of the real things, but is confined phenomenalistically to its own perceptions and their relations. It is very likely that our habitual connection among ideas corresponds to some causal link among real things, but this can never be verified. Hence causal inference can yield only probability and belief, not certainty and strict knowledge. Hume rigidly applied this conclusion to the a posteriori argument for God’s existence, maintaining that it is, at the very most, a probable inference and nowise a demonstration”(J. COLLINS, God in Modern Philosophy, Regnery, Chicago, 1967, p. 117).   

[196] D. HUME, A Treatise on Human Nature, I, 3, 6.

[197] D. HUME, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, VII, 1, 50.

[198] G. F. KREYCHE, Causality, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1967, p. 346. Benignus’ Critique of Hume’s Rejection of Efficient Causality: “1. Sensism. Hume’s original error, which led to his rejection of substance and causality as valid philosophical concepts, was sensism. He considered experience as the sole ultimate source of valid human knowledge, which it is, but by experience he meant pure sensation, or at very best perception, and nothing more. Impressions of sense and their less vivid relics in the mind, namely, ideas, are the only data of knowledge for which experience vouches, according to Hume. We have no impression of causality or substance; therefore, he argues, these are not given in experience.

     “Hume mistakes an analysis of the factors in perception for an account of the perceptive act. The data of pure sensation are, as he says, fragmentary and intermittent sense impressions. But the act which he is analyzing is not an act of pure sensation. What I perceive is not these fragmentary impressions, but the things of which they are accidents. It is doubtful that even animals perceive merely sensory qualities. Substances (i.e., particular, concrete) are the data of perception. They are incidental sensibles immediately perceived by means of internal sense co-operating within external sense. In his analysis Hume takes as the immediate datum of perception something which is actually known only as a result of a difficult abstraction, namely, the pure sensation. Then his problem is to discover how, starting from pure sensations, we come to believe in objective substances which exist unperceived and permanently. It is a false problem.

     “2. Human Experience Includes Understanding. Hume is right in saying that we never have a sensory impression of causality or substance. But he is wrong in saying that we never experience causes or substances. Efficient causes are immediately experienced every time we observe anything physically influencing anything else, every time, for example, we see a hammer driving a nail. But the cause qua cause is never sensed directly; cause, like substance, is only sensed per accidens. The cause as a sensible object, its movement, and the subsequent movement of the object acted upon are the immediate data of sense. But to limit experience to the sensible data perceived is to imply that man perceives without ever at the same time understanding what he perceives. When I perceive a hammer descending upon a nail and the nail moving further into the wood, I also understand that the hammer is something and is driving the nail into the wood. Both perception and understanding are equally parts of the experience. To exclude the understanding is to reduce all human experience to uncomprehending sense awareness. Not only is this not the only kind of human experience, but, at least in the case of adults, it never normally occurs at all. We simply do not perceive without some understanding of what we are perceiving; we do not perceive phenomena without perceiving them as the phenomena of something; nor do we perceive one thing acting upon another without at the same time understanding the former as a cause of the effect produced in the latter.

     “3. Understanding in Perception. There is surely a crystal-clear distinction between mere perceiving and understanding. The domestic animals of the battlelands of Europe are no more spared the bombing and the fire, the hunger and the cold, the noise and the stench, than are their human owners. But they have no understanding of what is going on; no reason for what is happening is known to them, and none is sought. Their minds do not grope for reasons the way their parched tongues crave for water. The darkness that their eyes suffer when they are driven in the midst of the night through strange lands is matched by no darkness of intellect seeking a reason which it cannot find – that awful darkness which is so often the lot of man. Failure to understand could no more be a privation and a suffering in man if his intellect were not made for grasping the reasons and causes of things, than blindness would be a suffering if sight never grasped the visible. A man who does not understand feels frustrated, because his mind is made for understanding; he suffers when he cannot grasp the reason, because he knows that there is a reason. Perception is not understanding; but normally some understanding occurs together with perception: we could not possibly have the experience of failing to understand what we perceive, if we did not have the prior experience of understanding what we perceive.

     “4. Cause is ‘Given’ to the Intellect. Cause is something that we grasp intellectually in the very act of experiencing action – whether our own action or another’s. We understand the cause as producing the effect: the hammer as driving the nail, the saw as cutting the wood, the flood as devastating the land, the drill as piercing the rock, the hand as molding the putty, ourselves as producing our own thoughts, words, and movements, our shoes as pinching our feet, a pin as piercing our finger, our fellow subway travelers as pressing our ribs together. We do not think that the nail will ever plunge into the wood without the hammer, the marble shape up as a statue without a sculptor, the baby begin to exist without a father, the acorn grow with no sunlight; if something ever seems to occur in this way, we do not believe it, or we call it a miracle (i.e., we attribute it to a higher, unseen cause). In a similar manner, substance is given directly to the intellect in the very act of perception; the substance is grasped as the reason for the sensible phenomena.

     “5. The Subjectivistic Postulate. The arguments of Hume are based on the subjectivistic postulate, namely, that we know nothing directly except our own ideas. From this starting point, certitude about real causality can never be reached. The only causality that could ever possibly be discovered if the primary objects of our knowledge were our own ideas would be the causal relations among the ideas themselves. No such relations are as a matter of fact found, since none exist and since the subjectivistic postulate is false to begin with. Causal relations exist between objects and the mind, and between the mind and its ideas, but not between ideas and ideas. Hume places causality in our mind, as a bond between ideas, when he accounts for our idea of causality by attributing it to mental custom. Whatever his intention, he actually presents similar successions of ideas as the cause of our ideas of causality and the principle of causality. As a matter of fact, such causality would not account for our belief in causality, because it would never be an idea, but only an unknown bond connecting ideas. It is only because Hume is already in possession of the concept of causality gained through external experience that he is able to formulate the theory that invariable succession of ideas produces mental custom, which in turn gives rise to the idea of cause.

     “6. Imagination and Causality. It is, perhaps, this locating of causality among our ideas that leads Hume to a very peculiar argument against the principle of causality: ‘We can never demonstrate the necessity of a cause to every new existence, or new modification of existence, without showing at the same time the impossibility there is that anything can ever begin to exist without some productive principle…Now that the latter is utterly incapable of a demonstrative proof, we may satisfy ourselves by considering, that as all distinct ideas are separable from each other, and as the ideas of cause and effect are evidently distinct, it will be easy for us to conceive any object to be non-existent at this moment, and existent the next, without conjoining to it the distinct idea of a cause or productive principle. The separation, therefore, of the idea of a cause from that of a beginning of existence, is plainly possible fot the imagination; and consequently the actual separation of these objects is so far possible, that it implies no contradiction nor absurdity; and it is therefore incapable of being refuted by any reasoning from mere ideas; without which it is impossible to demonstrate the necessity of a cause’(D. HUME, Treatise of Human Nature, I, 3, 3).

     “This argument, even if we overlook the flagrant petitio principii in the statement that ‘all distinct ideas are separable from each other,’ is no argument at all. What Hume says is nothing more than that he can imagine a thing beginning to exist without a cause, and that consequently no argument from mere ideas can ever prove the necessity of a cause. We can agree with him that no argument from mere ideas can ever prove real causality; but we will add that that is why Hume could never prove it – he started with mere ideas, or rather images. Aside from this, the argument is utterly unrelated to the subject of causality. Imagination has nothing to do with causes or with beginnings of existence. I never imagine anything as beginning to exist, or even as existing; I simply imagine the thing, and in my image there is no reference to existence. The thing which I imagine may as easily be a fire-breathing dragon as my own brother. The reference to existence lies in thought, not in imagination. The words of Hume, ‘The separation, therefore, of the idea of a cause from that of a beginning of existence, is plainly possible for the imagination,’ have no real meaning, because the imagination never possesses the idea of a beginning of existence. Thought judges whether a thing conceived exists or not, and thought (even Hume’s ‘natural belief’) judges that nothing begins to exist without a cause. Surely, I can imagine a situation in which a certain thing is not an element and then a situation in which it is. To do this is not to conceive the thing as beginning to exist; it is merely to imagine it after not imagining it. Such imaginative play has no connection with causality, except in the obvious sense that I could not imagine anything, to say nothing of making imagination experiments, if I had not the power of producing, that is, causing images in my mind; and presumably that is not the sense in which Hume intended his illustration to the interpreted.

     “7. Loaded Dice. The subjectivistic postulate prejudices the whole issue as to the reality of causes before examination of the question even begins. If knowledge cannot attain to anything real and extramental, it cannot attain to real, extramental causes. The only causality it could possibly discover would be causal relation among images in the mind. If the object is read out of court by the postulate that we know only our ideas, objective causality is read out with it. It is not surprising that sensism and subjectivism should lead to the explicit denial of the principles of causality, sufficient reason, and substance, since they begin with their implicit denial. Sensations, impressions, images, separated from any being arousing them must be viewed by any intelligent mind as so many phenomena without any sufficient reason for existing. Normal men cannot abide sensory experiences without objective reasons. They regard a person who has such experiences as a psychopathic case; they say, ‘He imagines things,’ and suggests a psychiarist”(BENIGNUS, op. cit., pp. 337-341).     

[199] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 343-349.

[200] J. HIRSCHBERGER, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 235.

[201] D. HUME, A Treatise of Human Nature, I, 4, 1.

[202] D. HUME, op. cit., I, 4, 6.

[203] D. HUME, op. cit., Appendix.

[204] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 436-439.

[205] Cf. D. HUME, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (written before 1752 and published posthumously in 1779).

[206] Describing Hume’s nominalism, Bittle writes: “Relative to universal ideas, Hume maintains that we find a resemblance between objects and apply the same name to them; then, after a ‘custom’ of this kind has been estblished, the name revives the ‘idea,’ and the imagination conceives the object represented by the ‘idea’(C. BITTLE, op. cit., p. 317). 

[207] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 317-319.

[208] Studies on Rousseau: J. LEMAITRE, J. J. Rousseau, Calmann-Levy, Paris, 1907 ; E. FAGUET, Vie de Rousseau, Lecène et Oudin, Paris, 1911 ; H. HÖFFDING, J. J. Rousseau et sa philosophie, Alcan, Paris, 1912 ; E. FAGUET, Rousseau penseur, Lecène et Oudin, Paris, 1912 ; J. FABRE, J. J. Rousseau, Alcan, Paris, 1912 ; E. SEILLIÈRE, J. J. Rousseau, Garnier, Paris, 1921 ; C. W. HENDEL, J. J. Rousseau, Moralist, Oxford University Press, London, 1934 ; A. COBBAN, Rousseau and the Modern State, Allen & Unwin, London, 1934 ; J. MARITAIN, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, London, 1945 ; I. BABBITT, Rousseau and Romanticism, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1947 ; E. CASSIRER, The Question of Rousseau, Columbia University Press, New York, 1954 ; F. C. GREEN, J. J. Rousseau, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955 ; P. CASINI, Rousseau, Cei, Rome, 1966 ; G. F. D’ARCAIS, Il problema pedagogico dell’“Emilio,” La Scuola, Brescia, 1972 ; A. ILLUMINATI, J. J. Rousseau, La Nuova Italia, Florence, 1975 ; S. COTTA, Rousseau, in Grande Antologia Filosofica, vol. 15, Marzorati, Milan, 1976 ; H. GOUHIER, Filosofia e religione in J. J. Rousseau, Laterza, Bari, 1977 ; J. STAROBINSKI, La trasparenza e l’ostacolo. Saggio su Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1982 ; C. CEGOLON, L’idea di libertà in Rousseau, La Scuola, Brescia, 1984 ; M. TROMBINO, L’“Emilio” di Rousseau e il problema della sua interpretazione tra ‘800 e ‘900, Paravia, Turin, 1990. 

[209] J. J. ROUSSEAU, Social Contract, I, 6.

[210] Cf. J. J. ROUSSEAU, Social Contract, IV, 1.

[211] V. BOURKE, History of Ethics, vol. 1, Image, Doubleday, New York, 1968, p. 243. Concerning the general will, Rousseau explains that the State is ‘a moral being possessed of a will. This general will, which always tends to the preservation and welfare of the whole and of every part, and which is the source of the laws, constitutes for all the members of the State, in their relations to one another and to it, the rule of what is just or unjust’(J. J. ROUSSEAU, Discourse on Political Economy, Everyman Library, New York, n.d., p. 253). Copleston writes that, for Rousseau, “it is idle, for instance, to say that Spartan children were morally guilty of theft when they stole to supplement their meagre repasts. For they were acting in accordance with the general will of the Spartan state. And this was for them the measure of just and unjust, right and wrong”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., p. 71). The problem with this doctrine of the general will as the arbiter of what is good and evil, just and unjust, is this: what if the ‘general will’ favors actions not in accord with the objective moral order, like abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, and acts of agression on the part of the State against smaller countries in order to acquire their wealth? Does the ‘general will,’ the will of the majority, render these immoral and unjust actions good and moral? By no means! Rousseau is quite mistaken here. Copleston continues with his explanation of Rousseau’s concept of the ‘general will’ writing: “If we take a particular society within the State, say a religious body, this society possesses a will which is general in relation to its members; that is to say, it possesses a common will directed to the attainment of the ends of the society. But this will is particular if it is considered in relation to the general will of the State. Now, moral goodness involves identification of one’s particular will with the general will. It follows, therefore, that a man may be a good member of some religious body, for example, but a bad citizen. For though his will may be at one with the general will of the former, this general will may be at variance with the general will of the State which comprises the religious body within itself…The general will of the State, being more general than the general will of any society within the State, must prevail; for it is  more just and directed to a more universal good. We can conclude, therefore, that ‘the first and most important rule of legitimate or popular government, that is to say, of government whose object is the good of the people, is…to follow in everything the general will’(J. J. ROUSSEAU, op. cit., p. 255). Again, ‘if you would have the general will accomplished, bring all the particular wills into conformity with it; in other words, as virtue is nothing more than this conformity of the particular wills with the general will, establish the reign of virtue’(J. J. ROUSSEAU, op. cit., p. 260). But if virtue is nothing more than the conformity with the general will, to establish the reign of virtue can be nothing more than to conform all particular wills to the general will. Hence public education, on the necessity of which Rousseau lays stress, must be directed to facilitating and securing this conformity…’ The first duty of the legislator is to make laws conformable to the general will’(J. J. ROUSSEAU, op. cit., p. 258).”(F. COPLESTON, op. cit., pp. 71-72). Is being virtuous nothing more than the conformity to the general will, I ask? Was one virtuous because one conformed to the ‘general will’ as manifested in the Nazi State? Or is rather being virtuous based on the conformity of one’s actions to objective moral absolutes and the objective natural law (which is independent of the State and to which sovereigns, legislators and citizens are morally bound to), regardless if the majority clamor for bread, circuses and blood? Rousseau is certainly wrong here.  

     Maritain writes that Rousseau makes the ‘general will’ into a sort of ‘immanent social God.’ In his early work, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes and Rousseau, the French Thomist gives his thoughts about the ‘general will’ and relates it to the Rousseauian concepts of the ‘common good’ and ‘sovereignty,’ pointing out that Rousseau’s naturalistic notions are very different from their classical and Christian counterparts, for they are set in a very different ontological setting, namely, one that is wholely immanentistic and pantheistic: “The General Will is the finest myth of Jean-Jacques, the most religiously manufactured. We might call it the myth of political pantheism. The General Willis the Common Self’s own will, born of the sacrifice each has made of himself and all his rights on the altar of the city. Truth to tell, here there is a question of a kind of immanent God mysteriously evoked by the operation of the pact, of whose decrees the majority of votes is only a sign, a sacred sign which is only valid under certain conditions – particularly, Rousseau teaches, under the condition that no partial society exist in the whole. Immanent social God, common self which is more I than myself, in whom I lose myself and find myself again and whom I serve to be free – that is a curious specimen of fraudulent mysticism. Note how Jean-Jacques explains that the citizen subject to a law against which he voted remains free, and continues to obey only himself: men do not vote, he says, to give their opinion; they vote that, by the counting of votes, the general will may be ascertained, which each wills supremely, since it is what makes him a citizen and a freeman. ‘When then the opposite opinion to my own carries the day, that proves nothing but that I was wrong, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my private opinion had carried the day, I should have done differently from what I willed; and then I should not have been free.’ What does he hold out to us here but a preposterous transposition of the case of the believer who, when he prays for what he thinks expedient yet asks and wills chiefly that God’s Will may be done? The vote is conceived by him as a species of ritual petition and evocation addressed to the General Will. (…)

    “The myth of the General Will is central and dominant in Rousseau’s political theory, like the notion of the common good in Aristotle’s. The common good, as the end sought, essentially implies the guidance of an intelligence, and the ancients defined law as an arrangement of the reason tending to the common good and promulgated by him who has care of the community. The General Will, which animates and moves the social body, imposes itself on all by its mere existence; it is enough for it to be, and it is shown by numbers. Law will then be defined as the expression of the General Will, and it will no longer proceed from reason but from numbers. It was essential to law as the ancients understood it that it should be just. Modern law has no need to be just, and it demands obedience all the same. Law as the ancients understood it was promulgated by some ruler; modern law is in sole command. As Malebranche’s God reserved to Himself alone the power of acting, so that mythical sign enthroned in the heaven of abstractions reserves authority. Below it on earth men are, from the point of view of the relations between authority and submission, mere dust, alike and absolutely shapeless. (…)

    “The law only exists in so far as it expresses the General Will. But the General Will is the will of the people. ‘The people who are subject to the laws, should be the author of the laws,’ for so they obey only themselves, and we are at the same time ‘free and subject to the laws, since they are only records of our wills.’ Sovereignty, then, resides essentially and absolutely in the people, in the shapeless mass of all individuals taken together, and since the state of society is not natural but artificial, it has its origin not in God but in the free will of the people itself (If Rousseau  sometimes repeats the classical formulas which make God the source of sovereignty, he does so either illogically, or because he deifies the will of the people). Every state which is not built on this foundation is not a State governed by laws, a legitimate State; it is the product of tyranny, a monster violating the rights of human nature. There we have the true myth of modern Democracy, its spiritual source, absolutely opposite to Christian law which will have sovereignty derive from God as its first origin and only go through the people to dwell in the man or men charged with the care of the common good”(J. MARITAIN, Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, pp. 134-137).                          

[212] J. J. ROUSSEAU, Social Contract, I, 6. 

[213] Ibid.

[214] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 539-340.

[215] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 340-341.

[216] Cf. E. GILSON, T. LANGAN, op. cit., pp. 379-380.

[217] Cf. J. J. ROUSSEAU, Emile, Book 3.

[218] E. GILSON, E. LANGAN, op. cit., pp. 378-379.

[219] Rousseau’s naturalist pedagogy has had such an immense influence on the modern day educational system where naturalism and humanistic secularism are the rule, both in the secular institutions and in the Christian schools, colleges and universities where traditional catechesis is eliminated for ‘Christian experience programs’ which focus on experience to the exclusion of the objective content of the Faith. How can I experience Jesus if I don’t know who He is? The result: Jesus is thought of by the students to be just a ‘good man’ on the same level as any other religious figure in history for they were never taught that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is true God and True Man, not just a ‘good man who helped others.’ Lamentably, Rousseau’s pedagogic  naturalism has almost entirely stifled traditional catechesis (faithful to the Magisterium) in the Catholic educational system worldwide over the past forty years. Only pockets of resistance to the utopia of Emile remain, though the publication and wide dissemination of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in our time gives us reason for hope.       

[220] F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., p. 748.

[221] Studies on Kant: F. PAULSEN, Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1902 ; E. CAIRD, The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, 2 vols., Macmillan, New York, 1909 ; K. VORLÄNDER, Immanuel Kant: Der Mann und das Werk, 2 vols., Felix Meiner Verlag, Leipzig, 1924 ; E. ADICKES, Kant und das Ding an sich, Pan Verlag, Berlin, 1924 ; A. C. EWING, Kant’s Treatment of Causality, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1924 ; C. C. J. WEBB, Kant’s Philosophy of Religion, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1926 ; F. E. ENGLAND, Kant’s Conception of God, Allen and Unwin, London, 1929 ; N. K. SMITH, A Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Macmillan, London, 1930 ; A. D. LINDSAY, Kant, Benn, London, 1934 ; H. J. PATON, Kant’s Metaphysic of Experience: A Commentary on the First Half of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Macmillan, New York, 1936 ; A. C. EWING, A Short Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Methuen, London, 1938 ; C. G. GARNETT, The Kantian Philosophy of Space, Columbia University Press, New York, 1939 ; G. T. WHITNEY, D. F. BOWERS (eds.), The Heritage of Kant, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1939 ; W. T. JONES, Morality and Freedom in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Oxford University Press, New York, 1940 ; T. D. WELDON, Introduction to Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason,’ Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1945 ; G. ARDLEY, Aquinas and Kant, Longmans, Green, New York, 1950 ; A. E. TEALE, Kantian Ethics, Oxford University Press, New York, 1951 ; G. MARTIN, Kant’s Metaphysics and Theory of Science, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1955 ; S. KÖRNER, Kant, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1955 ; V. MATHIEU, La filosofia trascendentale e l’“Opus postumum” di Kant, Turin, 1958 ; T. D. WELDON, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1958 ; G. BIRD, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962 ; H. J. DE VLEESCHAUWER, The Development of Kantian Thought, Thomas Nelson, London, 1962 ; N. K. SMITH, A Commentary to Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason,’ Humanities Press, New York, 1962 ; A. RIGOBELLO, I limiti del trascendentale in Kant, Silva, Milan, 1963 ; R. P. WOLFF, Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1963 ; L. BECK, Studies in the Philosophy of Kant, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1965 ; N. ROTENSTREICH, Experience and Its Systematization: Studies in Kant, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1965 ; J. BENNETT, Kant’s Analytic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1966 ; D. P. DRYER, Kant’s Solution for Verification in Metaphysics, Allen & Unwin, London, 1966 ; F. DELEKAT, Immanuel Kant, Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg, 1966 ; H. HEIMSOETH, Transzendentale Dialektik: Ein Kommentar zu Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 4 vols., Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1966-1971 ; M. S. GRAM (ed.), Kant: Disputed Questions, Quadrangle, Chicago, 1967 ; J. HARTNACK, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1967 ; R. P. WOLFF (ed.), Kant: A Collection of Critical Essays, Doubleday Anchor, Garden City, NY, 1967 ; F. E. ENGLAND, Kant’s Conception of God, Humanities Press, New York, 1968 ; J. KEMP, The Philosophy of Kant, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1968 ; S. VANNI ROVIGHI, Introduzione allo studio di Kant, La Scuola, Brescia, 1968 ; M. S. GRAM, Kant, Ontology, and the A Priori, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1968 ; L. BECK (ed.), Kant Studies Today, Open Court, LaSalle, IL, 1969 ; T. K. SWING, Kant’s Transcendental Logic, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1969 ; S. J. AL-AZM, The Origins of Kant’s Arguments in the Antinomies, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1972 ; N. ROTENSTREICH, Experience and Its Systematization: Studies in Kant, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1972 ; A. RIGOBELLO (ed.), Ricerche sul trascendentale kantiano, Antenore, Padua, 1973 ; A. MELNICK, Kant’s Analogies of Experience, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1973 ; A. LLANO, Fenómeno y trascendencia en Kant, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1973 ; L. BECK (ed.), Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1974 ; J. BENNETT, Kant’s Dialectic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1974 ; W. H. WALSH, Kant’s Criticism of Metaphysics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1975 ; W. H. WERKMEISTER (ed.), Reflections on Kant’s Philosophy, University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, 1975 ; H. J. DE VLEESCHAUWER, L’evoluzione del pensiero di Kant, Laterza, Bari, 1976 ; T. E. WILKERTON, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976 ; G. G. BRITTAN, Kant’s Theory of Science, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1978 ; C. D. BROAD, Kant: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1978 ; R. WALKER, Kant, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1978 ; P. GUYER, Kant and the Claims of Taste, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1979 ; R. VERNEAUX, E. Kant: ‘Critica della ragion pura,’ Japadre, L’Aquila, 1979 ; W. H. WERKMEISTER, Kant’s Silent Decade: A Decade of Philosophical Development, University Presses of Florida, Tallahassee, 1979 ; A. GUERRA, Introduzione a Kant, Laterza, Bari, 1980 ; W. H. WERKMEISTER, Kant: The Architectonic and Development of His Philosophy, Open Court, LaSalle, IL, 1980 ; J. N. FINDLAY, Kant and the Transcendental Object: A Hermeneutic Study, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1981 ; J. V. BUROKER, Space and Incongruence: The Origin of Kant’s Idealism, D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1981 ; K. AMERIKS, Kant’s Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982 ; J. N. MOHANTY, R. W. SHAHAN (eds.), Essays on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1982 ; R. WALKER, Kant on Pure Reason, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982 ; M. S. GRAM (ed.), Interpreting Kant, Iowa University Press, Ames, Iowa, 1982 ; R. B. PIPPIN, Kant’s Theory of Form: An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1982 ; A. RIGOBELLO, Kant. Che cosa posso sperare, Studium, Rome, 1983 ; O. HÖFFE, Immanuel Kant, C. H. Beck, Munich, 1983 ; H. E. ALLISON, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1983 ; G. NAGEL, The Structure of Experience: Kant’s System of Principles, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1983 ; R. E. AQUILA, Representational Mind: A Study of Kant’s Theory of Knowledge, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1983 ; K. ASCHENBRENNER, A Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Aesthetic and Analytic, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1983 ; A. W. WOOD (ed.), Self and Nature in Kant’s Philosophy, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1984 ; R. E. BUTTS, Kant and the Double Government Methodology: Supersensibility and Method in Kant’s Philosophy of Science, D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1984 ; R. KENNINGTON (ed.), The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Volume 12, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1985 ; W. RITZEL, Immanuel Kant: Eine Biographie, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1985 ; K. VORLÄNDER, Immanuel Kants Leben, Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg, 1986 ; G. RICONDA, Invito al pensiero di Kant, Mursia, Milan, 1987 ; A. GULYGA, Immanuel Kant: His Life and Thought, Birkauser, Boston, 1987 ; P. GUYER, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987 ; F. MENEGONI, Finalità e destinazione morale nella “Critica del Giudizio” di Kant, Trent, 1988 ; M. MEYER, Science et Métaphysique chez Kant, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1988 ; A. T. WINTERBOURNE, The Ideal and the Real: An Outline of Kant’s Theory of Space, Time, and Mathematical Construction, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1988 ; P. FAGGIOTTO, Introduzione alla metafisica kantiana della analogia, Massimo, Milan, 1989 ; F. O’FARRELL, Per leggere la ‘Critica della ragion pura’ di Kant, Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Rome, 1989 ; R. E. AQUILA, Matter in Mind: A Study of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1989 ; E. FÖRSTER (ed.), Kant’s Transcendental Deductions: The Three ‘Critiques’ and the ‘Opus postumum,’ Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1989 ; P. KITCHER, Kant’s Transcendental Psychology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990 ; C. T. POWELL, Kant’s Theory of Self-Consciousness, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990 ; H. SCHWYZER, The Unity of Understanding: A Study in Kantian Problems, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990 ; V. MELCHIORRE, Analogia e analisi trascendentale. Linee per una nuova lettura di Kant, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1991 ; M. FRIEDMAN, Kant and the Exact Sciences, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1992 ; M. PAOLINELLI, Il filosofo e il tecnico della ragione, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1993 ; M. KUEHN, Kant. A Biography, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001 ; E. WATKINS, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.       

[222] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, xvi, J. M. D. Meiklejohn translation.

[223] A. LLANO, op. cit., p. 97.

[224] I. KANT, op. cit., B 42 and B 49.

[225] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, (trans. Max Müller), Macmillan, New York, 1927, pp. 16-17.

[226] Cf. I. KANT, op. cit., pp. 18-20, 24-28.

[227] C. BITTLE, Reality and the Mind, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1936, p. 111.

[228] A. LLANO, op. cit., pp. 94-95.

[229] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, A 19, A 109, B 34; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Prologue 13, remark 2.

[230] I. KANT, op. cit., pp. 34, 24.

[231] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 111-112.

[232] Ibid.

[233] I. KANT, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Prologue 13, remark 2.

[234] Cf. F. COPLESTON, A History of Philosophy, Volume 6: Wolff to Kant, Image Doubleday, New York, 1985, pp. 270-271.

[235] Cf. N. ABBAGNANO, Storia della filosofia. Volume Quarto: La filosofia moderna dei secoli XVII e XVIII, TEA, Milan, 1995, pp. 346-351.

[236] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, B 311.

[237] I. KANT, op. cit., B 307.

[238] Cf. B. MONDIN, Corso di storia della filosofia, volume 2, Massimo, Milan, 1993, p. 358.

[239] C. BITTLE, op. cit, p. 312.

[240] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd ed., trans. by Max Muller, Macmillan, New York, 1900, p. 94.

[241] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 312-313.

[242] C. BITTLE, op cit., p. 313.

[243] The corporeal things of the extra-mental world impinge on our external senses, impressing their qualities on the individual external sense organs capable of receiving such stimulation. The products of the external senses are then differentiated, compared and synthesized by the internal sense power central sense (or sensus communis), producing the perceptual whole (the percept, which is the impressed species of a sensible order). Our percepts, in turn, provide the stimuli for the other internal senses, namely, imagination, memory, and the cogitative, each of which is capable of forming an image (or phantasm) of the object presented to sense. This image or phantasm is the expressed species of a sensible order, and completes the knowledge of the thing on the sensory level.  

     After this comes the role of the agent intellect with its activity of abstraction. It is the power of the mind to abstract. The intellect forms its ideas by turning its attention upon the content of the image, either of the central sense or of the imagination. By means of abstraction, the intellect grasps the essential elements of the thing represented in the image, leaving aside the individualizing material determinations, thereby making the image ‘intelligible.’ This power or capacity of the intellect, whereby it actively modifies itself so as to represent within itself in an abstract manner what is concretely represented in the image, is termed the active or agent intellect. The result of this abstractive process is the abstracted nature, the impressed species of an intelligible order, which is the ‘idea’ in a rudimentary, primitive form.

     Then we have the role of the potential intellect (also called the passive or possible intellect), which is the power of the mind to understand. It is the capacity or power of the mind to express the essence of the represented thing in an ‘idea’ or ‘concept.’ The essential elements, after being abstracted from the image, are presented by the agent intellect to the potential intellect; the latter expresses the elements in conceptual terms by gathering them together into an abstract intellectual representation of the thing. This completed idea or concept is the expressed species of an intelligible order, a mental sign that signifies the essence of a thing.

     It is imporant for us know that the concept is not that which we understand but that by means of which we understand. What is known in the first instance is the object (the thing) itself in reality. An idea is simply an instrument of knowledge, not the object which we know in the first instance. We can, of course, make ideas the objects of our knowledge in a second instance, in a second movement, which is in reflection, but it is crucial to make clear that what we know in the first movement of our mind is the thing in extra-mental, extra-subjective reality. To say that what we know in the first instance can be only our ideas and impressions in our mind is to fall into the error of  subjectivism.  

[244] J. DE TORRE, The Humanism of Modern Philosophy, Southeast Asian Science Foundation, Manila, 1989, p. 119. 

[245] Kant uses this term to describe the effort to draw a conclusion from a principle like the soul, world, or God which is in fact devoid of content, representing as they do only formal functions.

[246] Cf. I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, “Transcendental Dialectic,” Book II, Part 1, A 342, B 400ff.

[247] J. HIRSCHBERGER, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 299-300.

[248] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, B 410-411.

[249] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 494-495.

[250] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, A 158 ; B 197, 2nd ed., trans. N. K. Smith, Macmillan, London, 1933, p. 194.

[251] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 182-183. Collins notes that “the coercive force of the Kantian critique of natural theology depends upon acceptance of his view that the requirements for the knowledge proper to classical physics are the requirements for all knowledge, that the conditions of the object of physics are therefore the same as the conditions for all knowable experience, that experience is confined to sensible appearances and their formal conditions, that the general, formal factors in knowledge derive entirely from the nature of consciousness, and that man has only sensuous intuition”(J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 183).

[252] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 184-185.

[253] I. KANT, Opus Postumum, VII.V.3-XXII, 55.6.

[254] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.4-XXII, 60.14.

[255] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.3-XXII, 56.13.

[256] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.2-XXII, 51.2.

[257] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.X.1-XXII, 118.14.

[258] I. KANT, op. cit., I.III.1.-XXI, 27.16.

[259] I. KANT, op. cit., I.IV.3-XXI, 48.4.

[260] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.X.1-XXII, 118.4.

[261] Studies on Kant’s moral philosophy: G. KRÜGER, Philosophie und Moral in der Kantischen Kritik, J. C. B. Mohr, Tübingen, 1931 ; W. T. JONES, Morality and Freedom in the Philosophy of Kant, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1940 ; H. J. PATON, The Categorical Imperative: A Study in Kant’s Moral Philosophy, Hutchinson, London, 1947 ; D. ROSS, Kant’s Ethical Theory: A Commentary on the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1954 ; L. W. BECK, A Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960 ; P. A. SCHILPP, Kant’s Pre-Critical Ethics, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL, 1960 ; M. GREGOR, Laws of Freedom: A Study of Kant’s Method of Applying the Categorical Imperative in the Metaphysik der Sitten, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1963 ; T. C. WILLIAMS, The Concept of the Categorical Imperative: A Study of the Place of the Categorical Imperative in Kant’s Ethical Theory, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968 ; H. B. ACTON, Kant’s Moral Philosophy, Macmillan, London, 1970 ; H. E. JONES, Kant’s Principle of Personality, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1971 ; P. HUTCHINGS, Kant on Absolute Value: A Critical Examination of Certain Key Notions in Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and Of His Ontology of Personal Values, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1972 ; K. WARD, The Development of Kant’s View of Ethics, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1972 ; R. P. WOLFF, The Autonomy of Reason: A Commentary on Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Harper & Row, New York, 1973 ; O. NELL, Acting on Principle: An Essay on Kantian Ethics, Columbia University Press, New York, 1975 ; B. AUNE, Kant’s Theory of Morals, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1979 ; V. ROSSVAER, Kant’s Moral Philosophy: An Interpretation of the Categorical Imperative, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1979 ; R. P. STEVENS, Kant on Moral Practice, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 1981 ; T. AUXTER, Kant’s Moral Teleology, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 1982 ; J. G. COX, The Will at the Crossroads: A Reconstruction of Kant’s Moral Philosophy, University Press of America, Washington, D.C., 1984 ; J. E. ATWELL, Ends and Principles in Kant’s Moral Thought, Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht, 1986 ; V. J. SEIDLER, Kant, Respect and Injustice: The Limits of Liberal Moral Theory, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1986 ; B. CARNOIS, The Coherence of Kant’s Doctrine of Freedom, Chicago University Presss, Chicago, 1987 ; P. C. LO, Treating Persons as Ends: An Essay on Kant’s Moral Philosophy, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1987 ; H. E. ALLISON (ed.), Kant’s Practical Philosophy, “The Monist,” 72 (1989) ; O. O’NEILL, Construction of Reason: Explorations of Kant’s Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989 ; R. J. SULLIVAN, Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989 ; R. L. VELKLEY, Freedom and the End of Reason: On the Moral Foundations of Kant’s Critical Philosophy, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1989 ; H. E. ALLISON, Kant’s Theory of Freedom, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990 ; L. A. MULHOLLAND, Kant’s System of Rights, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990 ; A. B. WOOD, Kant’s Ethical Thought, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999.  

[262] I. KANT, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, section 1.

[263] Ibid.

[264] I. KANT, op. cit., section 2.

[265] Ibid.

[266] Ibid.

[267] A. FAGOTHEY, op. cit., pp. 195-196.

[268] A. FAGOTHEY, op. cit., p. 197.

[269] A. FAGOTHEY, op. cit., pp. 200-201, 206.

[270] I. KANT, The Critique of Judgment, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1952, p. 38.

[271] For Kant, “the aesthetic judgement has the form ‘This is beautiful.’ This is a judgment of taste. That is, it is an articulation of a feeling of pleasure in the object about which the judgment is made. However, it is a peculiarity of this kind of judgment that it prescinds from any use or value, or even the existence, of the aesthetic object. It is a ‘disinterested’ pleasure that gives rise to the judgement, a pleasure detached from any kind of utilitarian or moral signification that the object may have.

     “Since the judgement is based upon, and expresses, a feeling of disinterested pleasure, it is also a subjective judgement. That is, it is not open to verification in the way that an objective judgement such as ‘This is made of wood’ would be. Yet despite this resistance to verification, the aesthetic judgement is a universal one. For, since all human minds are alike, they can all agree on which objects are beautiful and which are not. If ‘This is beautiful’ is true for one person, it must be true for all persons (although some may be blind to the object’s beauty for reasons of personal history).

     “Because of its subjectivity, the aesthetic judgement is not a cognitive one. Cognitive judgements about things are judgements that certain concepts are true of them – for instance, that the concept wood is true of a wooden object. This is not the case with the aesthetic judgement, since ‘beauty’ is not the name of a concept, but an expression of a feeling of disinterested pleasure. None the less, when I say ‘This is beautiful’ about a beautiful object I am saying something true about the object, albeit a truth expressed without the use of a concept. The aesthetic judgement, that is, expresses a geniune understanding of its object. On the other hand, the object has become an object of consciousness in the first place through the activity of my imagination. It follows that aesthetic experience is an experience of the harmony that exists between my imagination and my understanding. Thus the ancient, Pythagorean conception of harmony finds in Kant a new form and a new articulation.

     “So far as art is concerned, Kant considered artistic aesthetic objects to be, like natural aesthetic objects, detached from utilitarian and moral considerations, to be objects of a free and joyous play of the mind. To a large extent, therefore, we ignore the content of works of art – since content might generate utilitarian or moral judgements – and take pleasure instead in their formal properties. The art object becomes an aesthetic object in virtue of these formal properties alone.

     “To sum up: Kant’s monumental aesthetic theory rests upon the central idea of subjective harmony. The aesthetic sentiment or feeling of pleasure depends upon and derives from the free, non-conceptual and harmonious interplay of the imagination and the understanding. The spiritual power that creates artistic ideas and masterpieces consists in the perfect harmonisation of imagination and understanding. In so far as this harmony is beyond the boundaries of subjective individuality, the feeling of pleasure elicited by beauty is an a priori faculty that grounds the universal and necessary validity of aesthetic judgements. Finally, in the light of the idea of teleology, Kant understood art to be the conscious creation of objects that engender, in those who contemplate them, the impression that they have been created without intention, freely, as if they resembled natural processes”(H. BREDIN, L. SANTORO-BRIENZA, Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Introducing Aesthetics, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2000, pp. 81-83).

[272] Studies on Kant’s aesthetics: R. A. C. MACMILLAN, The Crowning Phase of the Critical Philosophy: A Study in Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Macmillan, London, 1912 ; H. W. CASSIRER, A Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Methuen, London, 1938 ; T. E. UEHLING, The Notion of Form in Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Mouton, The Hague, 1971 ; F. COLEMAN, The Harmony of Reason: A Study in Kant’s Aesthetics, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1974 ; D. W. CRAWFORD, Kant’s Aesthetic Theory, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1974 ; P. GUYER, Kant and the Claims of Taste, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1979 ; E. SCHAPER, Studies in Kant’s Aesthetics, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1979 ; T. COHEN, P. GUYER, Essays in Kant’s Aesthetics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1982 ; S. KEMAL, Kant and Fine Art: An Essay on Kant and the Philosophy of Fine Art and Culture, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986 ; K. E. ROGERSON, Kant’s Aesthetics: The Roles of Form and Expression, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1986 ; M. MCCLOSKEY, Kant’s Aesthetic, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1987 ; P. CROWTHER, The Kantian Sublime: From Morality to Art, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989.