The Renaissance and 17th Century Rationalism (Routledge by G. H. R. Parkinson

By G. H. R. Parkinson

This fourth quantity lines the background of Renaissance philosophy and 17th century rationalism, protecting Descartes and the beginning of recent philosophy.

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124), where Descartes criticizes Galileo on the grounds that ‘his building lacks a foundation’. (See also G. Molland, Chapter 3 of this volume, p. ) 32 This view has been challenged, where Spinoza is concerned, by Alan Donagan (Spinoza, Brighton, Harvester, 1988, esp. p. 68). Donagan argues that Spinoza did not so much try to justify the principles of the new physics as generalize from them. It has also been argued by Stuart Brown that Leibniz was a foundationalist only during his early years, but later took the view that the philosopher should seek out and explore fruitful hypotheses (Stuart Brown, Leibniz, Brighton, Harvester, 1984).

Belief in the existence of such a being was not peculiar to the rationalists, but their arguments for its existence were distinctive. These arguments had to be a priori, and the rationalists based them on the concept of God. One argument offered by Descartes was that this concept was such that only a God could have implanted it in us. Alternatively, Descartes argued that the concept was such that one could not, without self-contradiction, deny that God existed. 35 8 RENAISSANCE AND SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY RATIONALISM Given a knowledge of the existence and nature of the supreme being, the task of the rationalist was, as it were, to build on this foundation by deriving the consequences which followed.

Mackay (eds) The Impact of Humanism on Western Europe (London, Longman, 1990), pp. 99–117. Copenhaver, CHRP, p. 106. 10 cf. Burke, op. cit. 11 Cesare Vasoli, ‘The Renaissance Concept of Philosophy’, CHRP, p. 73. Stephens, The Italian Renaissance (London, Longman, 1990), pp. xvi, 54, 137, 149. 13 The phrase comes from Owen Chadwick, The Secularisation of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1975). INTRODUCTION 11 14 A Latin translation of Diogenes Laertius’ Life of Pyrrho was available in the late 1420S; but it was above all the printing of Latin versions of Sextus Empiricus in 1562 and 1569 which stimulated interest in the ancient sceptics.

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