The good life in the scientific revolution: Descartes, Pascal, and the cultivation of virtue

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2):pp. 321-322 (2008)
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Abstract

It can be fairly said that the Fall of Adam is not much on the minds of scientists nowadays. But apparently it was in the days of the scientific revolution. Jones reads Descartes, Pascal, and Leibniz as all discovering in the new science different implications for our ruined natural state. For these thinkers , the Fall meant losing epistemic privileges and moral attunement. Losing Eden meant losing our place in the universe. And the promise of the new science, some hoped, was that we could gain a better perspective of our place and adjust our expectations accordingly: “mathematics and natural philosophy offered both empirical evidence for humanity’s capacities and, if correctly tuned, remedies for its faults” . But the remedies these philosophers advocated differed in significant ways.For Descartes, the remedy was to secure the right method. Indeed, Jones reads the Geometry as meant as an Ignatius Loyola-like set of exercises for disciplining the human mind. Rather than memorizing scholastic definitions and snapping them together like pieces in a puzzle, Descartes advocated problem-solving mechanisms in which the interdependence of the

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Charlie Huenemann
Utah State University

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