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The Cartesian Destiny of Form and Matter

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It would seem that there are enormous differences between strict hylomorphism and Cartesianism on form and matter: (i) for a strict hylomorphist, matter and form cannot be separated, but for a Cartesian, matter and form are really distinct ; (ii) for a strict hylomorphist, form is the principle of being and matter the principle of individuation, but for a Cartesian, the mind-a form-is the principle of individuation for persons, if anything is. However, these breaks are not as severe as might have been thought, if seventeenth century scholastics are taken into account. For a variety of reasons, the late Aristotelians broke with Aristotle and accepted the reality of matter without form, form without matter, and form as the principle of individuation. In addition, the intellectual landscape of seventeenth century philosophy was not limited to the properly scholastic ; there were anti-Aristotelian options (some corpuscularian, others not) available before Descartes. Given that the gulf between the schoolmen and novatores like Descartes was not so great, the way was open for certain compromises. These were sought in a variety of scholastic restatements of Cartesianism from more or less Cartesian positions. Thus, it can be said that some varieties of Aristotelianism in the seventeenth century prepared the ground for the acceptance of Cartesianism and the eventual attempts at their reunification.

Affiliations: 1: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia


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