November 09, 2005

Grotius, Gassendi, Geulinex, Gioberti

Hugo Grotius, 1583–1645, Dutch jurist and humanist, supported Oldenbarneveldt against Maurice of Nassau. After Maurice gained power he had Grotius condemned (1619) to prison for life, but Grotius made a daring escape in 1621 and fled to Paris. There, expanding certain views he had earlier recorded but had never published, he wrote De jure belli ac pacis [concerning the law of war and peace] (1625, definitive ed. 1631), usually considered the first definitive text on international law. In it Grotius contended that natural law prescribes rules of conduct for nations as well as for private individuals. He derived much of the specific content of international law from the Bible and from classical history. Although he did not condemn war as an instrument of national policy, he maintained that it was criminal to wage war except for certain causes. Much of his book is an attempt to make the conditions of warfare more humane by inducing respect for private persons and their property. Grotius returned briefly to Holland in 1631, but was forced to flee in 1632. From 1635 to 1645 he represented Sweden at the French court. Although generally regarded as the founder of international law, Grotius was indebted for much of his work to earlier scholars, especially Gentili. Grotius was also a leading student of theology and biblical criticism, and he wrote an authoritative account of contemporary Dutch political affairs. See study by E. Durnbauld (1969).The Columbia Encyclopedia
Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655): There are three strands of Gassendi's philosophy which are quite notable.
  • First, he was responsible for making atomism respectable in European intellectual circles of the 17th century. Atomism derived from Greek philosophers, was transmitted and modified by Lucretius and Epicurus. In the Epicurean form atomism was incompatible with Christianity. Gassenid made atomism respectable by modifying it so that it did not conflict with Christianity. Thus, instead of insisting on the eternity of atoms, Gassendi has God create the atoms.
  • Connected with his efforts to make atomism respectable was his rejection of Aristotelianism. There was, from the Renaissance on, a revolt against Aristotelian philosophy. Many of the philosophers of the 17th century were part of this revolt. Aristotle had rejected atomism, and this gives Gassendi some reason to reject Aristotle. The conection between Aristotle and the Scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages, which still dominated the universities in Gassendi's time, provided another reason for philosophers opposed to Scholasticism to reject Aristotelian philosophy.
  • The third feature of Gassendi's philosophy is that he advocated a moderate skepticism. This moderate skepticism influenced philosophy perhaps more profoundly than Descartes' attempts to refute skepticism entirely. Captain's Choice Time Line Sources

Arnold Geulincx (1625-1669) {1} developed the ontologism and occasionalism which were latent in the Cartesian separation of mind and matter, and in the Cartesian principle that matter is essentially inert.

  • Ontologism. Unless I know how an event happens I am not its cause: quod nescis quomodo fiat, id non facis. Now, I am ignorant of the manner in which a sense-stimulus passes into, or becomes a sensation in, the mind. Therefore I do not cause the sensation. Neither does the body cause it; for the body is essentially inert, unconscious, non-rational. Consequently, the sensation -- and what is true of sensation is true of all knowledge -- is caused by God Himself, the body and the bodily stimulus being merely the occasions of the conscious act.
  • Occasionalism. Similarly, I have no consciousness of the manner in which my volitions effect movements of my own body or of external things. It is not I, therefore, who produce these movements, but God, Who by divine decree (instituto quodam decretoque divino) ordained that material things should be the occasions of effects which He alone produces.
  • Ethical Doctrines. From these speculative principles Geulinex deduces certain ethical doctrines. He assumes that where I can do nothing I ought not to will anything (ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis). It is my duty, therefore, to renounce the world and all worldly motives of action, to retire within myself and cultivate, in humility and patience, the supreme virtue which is love of God and of reason (amor Dei ac rationis). In this system of conduct the hierarchical idea is not happiness, but duty. Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner

Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-1852): Gioberti's writings are more important than his political career. In the general history of European philosophy they stand apart. As the speculations of Rosmini-Serbati, against which he wrote, have been called the last link added to medieval thought, so the system of Gioberti, known as "Ontologism", more especially in his greater and earlier works, is unrelated to other modern schools of thought. It shows a harmony with the Roman Catholic faith which caused Cousin to declare that "Italian philosophy was still in the bonds of theology", and that Gioberti was no philosopher. Method is with him a synthetic, subjective and psychological instrument. He reconstructs, as he declares, ontology, and begins with the "ideal formula", "the Ens creates ex nihilo the existent." God is the only being (Ens); all other things are merely existences. God is the origin of all human knowledge (called l'idea, thought), which is one and so to say identical with God himself. It is directly beheld (intuited) by reason, but in order to be of use it has to be reflected on, and this by means of language. A knowledge of being and existences (concrete, not abstract) and their mutual relations, is necessary as the beginning of philosophy. Gioberti is in some respects a Platonist. He identifies religion with civilization, and in his treatise Del primato morale e civile degli Italiani arrives at the conclusion that the church is the axis on which the well-being of human life revolves. In it he affirms the idea of the supremacy of Italy, brought about by the restoration of the papacy as a moral dominion, founded on religion and public opinion. In his later works, the Rinnovamento and the Protologia, he is thought by some to have shifted his ground under the influence of events. Exiled 1833 NNDB Copyright ©2005 Soylent Communications

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