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31 Mar

Cautious Cartesian: Thomas Gowan

Descartes and Ars Sciendi (edit of  public domain image, Wikimedia)

Descartes and Ars Sciendi
(edit of public domain image, Wikimedia)

While there were few Cartesians in England, there is evidence for Descartes’ philosophy having an important influence in 17th century England (Lamprecht). There is little similar evidence in 17th century Ireland before William Molyneux’s early (possibly the first) translation of Descartes’ Mediations into English in 1680. Even on the continent where the “new philosophy” was freely circulated it seems Irish adopters of Cartesianism were few.

One who adopted the mechanistic philosophy (though perhaps not of the Cartesian variety) was Dr. Bernard Connor (1666-98). He was educated in Paris, where lecturers such as Edmond Pourchot taught Cartesianism covertly, despite the repeated condemnations of Cartesianism by the University. There is evidence suggesting that students of the Irish College in Paris may have been taught philosophy by Pourchot in the 1670s and 1680s. Connor, also educated in Rheims and Montpellier, applied mechanistic principles to medicine and also wrote a controversial tract attempting to give natural explanations of miracles.
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