ABOUT THIS BOOK
Before publishing his landmark Meditations in 1641, Rene Descartes sent his manuscript to many leading thinkers to solicit their objections to his arguments. He included these objections, along with his own detailed replies, as part of the first edition. This unusual strategy gave Descartes a chance to address criticisms in advance and to demonstrate his willingness to consider diverse viewpoints—critical in an age when radical ideas could result in condemnation by church and state, or even death.
Descartes and his Contemporaries recreates the tumultuous intellectual community of seventeenth-century Europe and provides a detailed, modern analysis of the Meditations in its historical context. The book's chapters examine the arguments and positions of each of the objectors—Hobbes, Gassendi, Arnauld, Morin, Caterus, Bourdin, and others whose views were compiled by Mersenne. They illuminate Descartes' relationships to the scholastics and particularly the Jesuits, to Mersenne's circle with its debates about the natural sciences, to the Epicurean movements of his day, and to the Augustinian tradition. Providing a glimpse of the interactions among leading 17th-century intellectuals as they grappled with major philosophical issues, this book sheds light on how Descartes' thought developed and was articulated in opposition to the ideas of his contemporaries.