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Philosophische Gotteserkenntnis bei Surez und Descartes im Zusammenhang mit der

niederlndischen reformierten Theologie und Philosophie des 17. Jahrhunderts by Aza


Goudriaan
Review by: Paul Richard Blum
Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Summer, 2002), pp. 752-753
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Renaissance Society of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1262354 .
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752 RENAISSANCE
QUARTERLY
book
thirty-eight
letters not found in the 1927 edition
by
Vincenzo
Spampanato
and scattered in
many publications.
Her
preface
includes a
plea
for a new and com-
plete
edition of all the letters. The collection includes
correspondence
with,
among
others,
Louis XIII of France and
Queen
Henrietta of
England, pleas
for food and
money,
and
dedicatory
letters. Ernst has also included lists of all extant works
(with
information about modern
editions),
of lost
works,
and an index of names.
Campanella scholarship
is
lively
and
thriving.
Thanks to these excellent
works,
its
vitality
has
just
become more visible and accessible.
MICHAEL H. SHANK
University
of Wisconsin-Madison
Aza Goudriaan.
Philosophische
Gotteserkenntnis bei Sudrez und Descartes im
ZusammenhangmitderniederZandischenreformierten TheologieundPhilosophie
des 17.
jahrhunderts
(Brill's
Studies in Intellectual
History,
98.) Leiden, Boston,
Cologne:
Brill, 1999. xi + 327
pp.
Euro 82. ISBN: 90-04-1627-3.
"Philosophical knowledge
of God
according
to Suarez and Descartes in the
context of Dutch reformed
theology
and
philosophy
in the seventeenth
century"
this is the title and the
program
of this
book,
a
theological
thesis of the
University
of Utrecht
(The Netherlands).
It draws
upon
the
largely accepted importance
of the
Jesuit
Francisco Suarez
(I 548-1617)
and of Ren6 Descartes for the birth of modern
philosophy.
However,
here the
history
is
presented
from a
specific angle,
the
per-
spective
of Dutch reformed
theology.
Since a
long
time it has been handbook
knowledge
that both the
Jesuit
author of the
Disputationes metaphysicae
(I 597)
and
Descartes were
intensely
read and received
among
the Calvinist
philosophers
and
theologians.
Therefore a careful look at their sources was needed. Goudriaan's result
is that in the
major
issues of
philosophical theology
the influence was much less
than one would have
thought.
What
actually happened
was a detailed
critique
of
both Suarez's and Descartes'
attempts
at
justifying knowledge
of God
by
means of
rational
arguments.
Therefore the merit of this book is that it reassesses both
phi-
losophies
from this
perspective
and shows their "inner tensions and inconsistencies"
(283),
which
only
thus can be made
apparent.
In two
parts
Goudriaan examines first SuArez's
concept
of
metaphysics,
which
seems to be uncertain whether
including
God as the
"primary object"
is
justified
or
not. Then follow
chapters
on the
ontological
status of
God,
on
proofs
for the exist-
ence of
God,
his
properties,
and on the
possibility
of
knowing
God. The second
part
discusses Descartes in
focusing
on his turn towards
epistemology
and
subjec-
tivity
in
metaphysics.
This results in his new
concept
of the Idea of God from
which certain
properties may
(or
may
not)
be derived. Descartes'
arguments
for the
existence of God are
extensively explained.
Here is also the
place
to connect Suarez
with Descartes. Goudriaan shows
convincingly
that the
Jesuit's
hesitating
treatment
of the
knowledge
of God as visio
beatifica
and Descartes'
optimism
about the
possi-
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REVIEWS 753
bility
of
knowing
God
(which
came close to such
vision)
are a common feature of
both
-
and both were
rejected by
their Dutch readers.
The discussions are
thoroughly argued
and documented.
However,
specialists
of
seventeenth-century
intellectual
history might
have the works of both
major fig-
ures at
hand,
but this is not sure for Goudriaan's Dutch
sources,
such as Franco
Burgersdijk,
Adriaan
Heerebord,
Abraham
Heidanus,
and
Jacobus
Revius. None of
these has been
reprinted
since the seventeenth
century,
but the author is
preparing
an edition of some of Revius' texts. Therefore instead of
quoting diligently
Des-
cartes and SuArez more service would have been
given by quotations
from their
critics. Given the
style
of this book it would be of little
help
to
argue
about details
of scholastic intricacies. No doubt the author is familiar with
these,
as well as with
the
problems
of Descartes'
metaphysics.
He himself is
largely
influenced
by
the
French
interpretation,
of his
sources,
especially by Jean-Luc
Marion and
Jean-
Franois
Courtine. As he takes
seventeenth-century
reformed thinkers as a lead in
his
interpretation
he seems to underestimate the nominalist influence on both
Suarez and on Descartes.
But,
in the first
place,
the author endorses a biblicist
standpoint:
while
philosophical
(or rather, natural)
theology
strives at
establishing
the truth of Christian belief
by exclusively referring
to rational
arguments,
this
posi-
tion does not exclude the existence and
validity
of revelation. But for the Dutch
readers this seems to have been an
original
sin.
They
couldn't
accept
from the
very
beginning
that Descartes'
skepticism
extended
(if
only methodically
and
tempo-
rarily)
even to the Bible.
They
also could not understand the
Jesuit's approach
when
he tried to
prove
the existence of God without
referring
to God as the creator.
SuArez
argued
that even if we take the whole of what there is as a "collection"
(i.e.
a
whole without
any
statement about its inner structure and
dependencies)
there
must be
'something independent'
(63
sq.).
Reformed
theologians
insisted on the
teaching
of St. Paul and others that the world
yields
some
knowledge
of its
creator,
and therefore
they
didn't see SuArez's
strategic
move
against
materialism
-
and
Goudriaan doesn't either.
Renaissance scholars will
profit
from this book as it
presents
two
major figures
of late Renaissance
philosophy
on their
way
into the
baroque
era.
Early
modernists
will
appreciate
the
theological
discussion between a
Catholic,
an ex-Catholic and
the Calvinists. Present
day philosophers
of
religion
will find
quite
a number of
problems
in the area of
justified
belief and of the existence of
God,
which are
unknowingly lurking
behind
ongoing
discussions.
PAUL RICHARD BLUM
Catholic P6ter
Pa'zmAny University Budapest/Piliscsaba (Hungary)
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