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Descartes And The Jesuits Of La Flèche: The Eucharist

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Chapter Summary

During the second half of the seventeenth century, Descartes and the Cartesians were very heavily criticized by various scholastics, and especially by the Jesuits, for their explanations of the Eucharist. The authorities at Louvain had previously found offensive the Cartesian principle that the extension of bodies constitutes their essential and natural attribute. This chapter proposes to read the letters to Mesland in the context of Descartes' correspondence with the Jesuits in general and in the broader context of discussions of the Eucharist before the 1640s. Descartes would then be seen as making genuine attempts at enlisting the Jesuits into teaching his philosophy, attempts that follow the same practices as those of previous natural philosophers, attempts that will fail, of course, but that need not have failed. In this way, we can see that the common view of Descartes on the Eucharist is false on almost every count.

Keywords: Cartesian principle; Descartes; Jesuits; the Eucharist



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