Geraud de Cordemoy: Six Discourses on the Distinction by Steven Nadler

By Steven Nadler

Steven Nadler offers the 1st English translation of a seminal paintings within the heritage of early smooth philosophy. Geraud de Cordemoy's Six Discourses at the contrast among the Soul and the Body (originally released in French in 1666) bargains an account of the brain and the physique in a person. Cordemoy is an unorthodox Cartesian who opts for an atomist notion of physique and topic. during this groundbreaking treatise, he additionally provides one of many earliest arguments for an occasionalist account of causation, with God serving because the actual reason behind physically motions on the earth and of rules within the brain. Nadler additionally comprises the 1st English translation of Cordemoy's brief Treatises on Metaphysics, that have been most likely written quickly after the Discourses, and expand his dialogue of mind-body union with attention of human freedom and happiness. The creation presents a biographical and historic context for Cordemoy's paintings and a research of his major philosophical doctrines, together with his effect on later thinkers (such as Leibniz and Malebranche).

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Lacking the causal power even to move another body, the human body certainly cannot exert a real and efficacious influence upon the human mind. Moreover, how could motion in a body genuinely bring about an effect in a mind? “If a body acts upon a mind, it cannot be by causing in it any change of motion, shape, or parts, since this mind does not have any of these things” (CG 149). Finally, the human mind is not the real cause of any motions in the body. The union of mind and body in a human being cannot, therefore, consist in any real causally interactive relationship between the two, but only in a law-like correlation in their respective states—what Hume will call “constant conjunction”—a correlation brought about and maintained by God.

The theologian-philosopher Antoine Arnauld (a contemporary of Cordemoy, the embattled intellectual leader of the French Jansenists, and a firebrand defender of Cartesianism), La Forge, and others insist that, while contact with an external object and the bodily motions that follow from this do not themselves directly cause any sensory effect in the mind, they do serve as the “occasion” for the mind itself causally to generate such effects. Here is La Forge’s description of the process: While it can be said that the bodies that surround our own, and generally everything that can compel us to think of bodies, or even of minds, when this does not result from our own will, are in some manner the cause of the ideas that we then have, because we would not have them [the ideas] on all of the occasions that we have them if they [the bodies] did not act upon our body.

52 La Forge is an occasionalist with respect to the motion of inanimate (but not animate) bodies. But he also insists that God has given to the soul an active faculty for causing ideas and other mental states. “All of our ideas considered in themselves in so far as they are only different ways of thinking, need . . ”53 La Forge is faithfully following Descartes’s own mature account of body–mind causation in the generation of sensory ideas. In his reply to Regius, Descartes notes how external objects do not transmit ideas to our mind through the sense organs.

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