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Arnauld, Antoine (1612–94)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DA001-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Antoine Arnauld, a combative theologian and Cartesian philosopher, was one of the most important and interesting figures of the seventeenth century. As the most prominent spokesperson and defender of the Jansenist community based at Port-Royal, almost all Arnauld’s efforts were devoted to theological matters. But early on, with his largely constructive objections to Descartes’ Meditations in 1641, he established a reputation as an analytically rigorous and insightful philosophical thinker. He went on to become perhaps Descartes’ most faithful and vociferous defender. He found Cartesian metaphysics, particularly mind-body dualism, to be of great value for the Christian religion. In a celebrated debate with Nicolas Malebranche, Arnauld advanced something like a direct realist account of perceptual acquaintance by arguing that the representative ideas that mediate human knowledge and perception are not immaterial objects distinct from the mind’s perceptions, but are just those perceptions themselves. His criticisms of Leibniz gave rise to another important debate. He also co-authored the so-called ‘Port-Royal Logic’, the most famous and successful logic of the early modern period. The underlying motives in all Arnauld’s philosophical writings were, however, theological, and his greatest concern was to safeguard God’s omnipotence and to defend what he took to be the proper Catholic view on questions of grace and divine providence.

Citing this article:
Nadler, Steven. Arnauld, Antoine (1612–94), 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA001-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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