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EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY

What is early modern philosophy?

Early modern philosophy is mainly centered on intellectual activity in the seventeenth century, with some overlap into the early eighteenth and late sixteenth centuries. Early modern philosophy was modern in its concerns with epistemology, or the nature and justification of human knowledge, the fact that the scientific revolution was by then taken for granted, and a new acceptance of logical argument and fact-based reasons as necessary ingredients for the practice of philosophy.

However, what made it "early" modern was the continued importance of religious issues, the background social need for philosophers to assert a belief in God, the continued reaction against Aristotelian scholasticism, and the unstable political context prior to the existence of strong nation states.

Who were the main early modern philosophers?

The customary division is between the rationalists and the empiricists. René Descartes (1596-1650), Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677), and Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) are usually listed as the epistemological rationalists, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) as the empiricists. However, for a more complete picture, Francisco Suârez (1548-1617) should be counted among the rationalists and Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) among the empiricists.

What is epistemological rationalism?

Epistemological rationalism is the position that human beings have important ideas or principles present in their minds from birth, and that the most important truths about the world can be derived from thought, without the need for experience. These a priori truths are also held to be logically certain, which is to say that it would entail a logical contradiction to deny them, and that they are absolutely certain, or, in current terminology, "true in all possible worlds."

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY RATIONALISM

Francisco SuArez

Who was Francisco Suârez?

Francisco Suârez (also called Doctor Eximius; 1548-1617) was a Spanish Jesuit theological philosopher. He taught mainly in Spain and Italy, at Salmanca, Rome, and Coimbra. He wrote On Law (1612), On the Trinity (1606), and On the Soul (1612). His best known work was his 54 arguments, or treatises, known as Metaphysical Disputations (1597), which were believed to have influenced Descartes, Leibniz, and Grotius in the seventeenth century, and Schopenhauer in the nineteenth. Suârez treated metaphysics in the first extended systematic way in the European tradition after Aristotle, which was not an Aristotelian commentary.

What was Francico Suârez's view of metaphysics?

Suârez defined metaphysics as the study of "being" insofar as it is real being. The idea of being was analogous to the similarities among things that existed. Suârez held that everything which exists is an individual, not capable of further division into individuals like it. Suârez' focus on the most general kinds of things that exist was echoed in Descartes' division of the world into mind and matter.

René Descartes

Who was René Descartes?

René Descartes (1596-1650) inaugurated modern philosophy with a pair of questions that persist to this day: How are mind and matter different? and How is the mind connected to the body? He did not set out to invent these questions, but encountered them himself while on the way toward trying to do something else. He was trying to prove to the Catholic Church that rigorous philosophy was compatible with religion and that science could be both certain and compatible with religion.

 
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