Arnauld, Antoine (1612–1694)
Antoine Arnauld, a Jansenist theologian and Cartesian philosopher, was one of the most skilled philosophical and theological controversialists of the seventeenth century. His reputation was such that he was known in the early modern period as le grand Arnauld. Arnauld was born in Paris on February 8, 1612, the last of twenty children of Catherine Marion de Druy and the elder Antoine Arnauld. Arnauld's father served as an attorney for Queen Catherine de Médicis, and at the beginning of the seventeenth century he successfully argued the case in the Parlement de Paris for the expulsion of the Jesuits from France. Arnauld's sister, Mère Angélique Arnauld, was installed as abbess of Port-Royal des Champs at the age of thirteen and became a prominent member of the convent. Though Arnauld initially intended to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a lawyer, he later changed his mind and began to study theology in 1633. He received his baccalaureate in theology in 1635, and soon thereafter came under the influence of Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, the abbé de Saint-Cyran, who was then closely linked to Port-Royal. Because Saint-Cyran was also a political opponent of Cardinal Richelieu, Arnauld was prevented from receiving a doctorate from the Sorbonne during Richelieu's life. Soon after Richelieu's death, however, Arnauld received his doctorate in 1641 and became a member of the Sorbonne.
In 1641 Arnauld also wrote a critically sharp yet sympathetic set of objections to René Descartes's Meditations, an event that marks the start of his lifelong association with Cartesianism. In 1643 he published De la fréquente communion, an attack on the penitential theology of the Jesuits that earned him the enmity of members of that order. At the urging of Saint-Cyran, Arnauld also responded that same year to the criticisms of the theological account of grace and sin in the Augustinus (1640) by Cornelius Jansen, the bishop of Ypres, against the criticisms of Isaac Habert, a Paris theologian. In particular Arnauld insisted that Jansenius's views were in line with the criticisms in St. Augustine of the heretical Pelagian view that salvation depends on one's free will rather than on the workings of grace.
After 1648 Arnauld lived near Port-Royal as one of the solitaires associated with the convent. He was forced to go into hiding during this time because his opposition to the campaign against the Augustinus brought him into conflict with Cardinal Mazarin, the French first minister. This opposition also set Arnauld against the decision in Rome to condemn five propositions purportedly drawn from the Augustinus in 1653 and to attribute those propositions to Jansenius's text in 1656. Arnauld criticized those who refused absolution to the Duc de Liancourt because of his failure to assert that Jansenius affirmed these propositions. For his efforts, Arnauld was excluded from the Sorbonne in 1656, after a celebrated trial. In defense of Arnauld, the Port-Royal solitaire Blaise Pascal wrote a series of Lettres provinciales (1656–1657) attacking the moral theology of the Jesuits. In further response to the 1656 papal bull attributing the condemned propositions to the Augustinus, Arnauld argued that, though the pope's word is definitive with respect to the question de droit regarding the unacceptability of the propositions, it is not authoritative with respect to the question de fait concerning the presence of the propositions in Jansenius. He advocated a "respectful silence" in response to the pope's opinion on the latter question.
After 1661, when Louis XIV took sole control of the government following the death of Mazarin, considerable pressure was placed on those associated with Port-Royal to bring them into conformity with the official church rejection of Jansenism. This pressure involved the closing of the petite écoles at Port-Royal, but the instruction there informed two books that Arnauld coauthored with fellow Port-Royalists, the Grammaire generale et raisonée, which he authored with Claude Lancelot in 1660, and the Logique ou l'art de penser, which he authored with Pierre Nicole in 1662. Noam Chomsky (1966) emphasizes the importance of the view in the former work that there is an innate "universal grammar" responsible for language (compare Arnauld and Lancelot 1975). The latter work served as a popular Cartesian alternative to scholastic texts on logic, and indeed the University of Paris formally adopted it in 1720 for use with Descartes's Meditations.
In 1669 the campaign against Jansenism was brought to a temporary end by the Peace of the Church that Pope Clement IX established in concert with Louis XIV. During this temporary truce, which allowed for the respectful silence concerning the heretical nature of the Augustinus, Arnauld turned his attention to his work with Nicole on the three-volume Perpétuité de la foi (1669–1674), which attacked the Eucharistic theology of the Calvinists. In 1672 Arnauld met the German intellectual Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz during the latter's visit to Paris, and in 1679 he met his fellow Cartesian, Nicolas Malebranche. Both of these meetings set the stage for important later exchanges on philosophical and theological matters.
In 1679 Louis XIV forced Arnauld to leave France, bringing to an end the Clementine Peace. Arnauld took up residence in the Spanish Netherlands, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1683 he composed a critique of Malebranche's Recherche de la vérité, which triggered a long and increasingly bitter dispute with Malebranche over issues concerning the nature of ideas and of grace and divine providence. In 1686 Arnauld began a brief but important correspondence with Leibniz on a summary of Leibniz's Discourse on the Metaphysics and the Monadology. This correspondence addressed issues concerning the nature of divine freedom and creation as well as the tenability of a Cartesian conception of the material world.
In 1690 Arnauld succeeded in his campaign to have certain works of Malebranche placed on the Roman Index of Prohibited Books. During this same time he engaged in disputes with Nicole over general grace and one's knowledge of moral truth. Arnauld was also involved in several disputes with the Jesuits in the Spanish Netherlands. He died in Brussels on August 8, 1694, and was buried in the Church of St. Catherine in that city. His heart was buried in Port-Royal, and after the destruction of the latter in 1710 it was moved to the Church de Palaiseau.
Faith and Freedom
Arnauld was fond of the Augustinian slogan that "what we know, we owe to reason; what we believe, to authority" (1964–1967, p. 38:94). This slogan reflects Arnauld's own view that philosophy and theology are distinct disciplines with their own standards. Philosophical questions are to be resolved through the use of reason, and he took issue with scholastics who attempted to settle such questions by means of an appeal to the authority of Aristotle. In contrast, Arnauld insisted that questions pertaining to religious belief, and in particular to the content of the Catholic faith, are to be decided by an appeal to the authority of Scripture, interpreted in light of the church tradition. Here, he took issue with Jesuit critics who attempted to use their Aristotelian philosophy to explicate the mysteries of the faith.
Arnauld did recognize a distinction between "sacred theology" concerning Catholic doctrine and "natural theology" concerning theological truths accessible to reason. Indeed, one of the reasons he defended Cartesian philosophy so vigorously, even in the face of opposition from his fellow Port-Royalists, was that he took it to provide compelling arguments for the existence of a transcendent God and for the real distinction of the human soul from body. For Arnauld, Descartes's theistic and dualistic system complemented perfectly a theology based on the authority of Augustine.
Arnauld began by defending the particular version of Augustinian theology in Jansen's work. In particular, he was concerned to argue with Jansenius for the view that meritorious action is the result of grace that is "efficacious in itself," that is, that brings about the relevant action. This position conflicted with the Jesuit insistence on one's ability to freely reject the divine grace that is offered. In the last decade of his life, however, Arnauld rejected Jansen's account of grace in terms of a prevenient state of delight that causes the meritorious action. He claimed to find in St. Thomas Aquinas the alternative view that efficacious grace is simply the meritorious act of will that God produces in each person. His final position did not bring him closer to the Jesuits, however, and is in fact similar to the view of the Dominican Domingo Bañez, which the Jesuits had opposed, that God causally determines free human action.
The other theological issue of most importance to Arnauld concerned the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. According to the Council of Trent there is in this sacrament a "marvelous and unique change of the whole substance of the bread into the body [of Christ], and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood, while only the appearances [species ] of bread and wine remain." Arnauld and Nicole composed Perpétuité de la foi, in which they defended the Tridentine doctrine against the Calvinist position that Christ has a merely "spiritual presence" in this sacrament. In 1680 Arnauld wrote in defense of the compatibility of Descartes's view with Catholic teachings on the Eucharist to silence critics, including some Port-Royalists, who charged that Cartesianism has heretical implications. His "Examen" considers a text in which it is argued that since Christ's body must be present in the sacrament without its extension, it cannot be the case, as the Cartesian doctrine, that extension constitutes the essence of body. Arnauld countered that Catholic teaching requires only that Christ's body is present without the impenetrability by means of which it is enclosed in a place.
Though Arnauld thought of himself primarily as a theologian, his writings on both human freedom and the Eucharist reflect his ability to grapple with the subtle philosophical issues pertaining to theological topics. This facility with philosophical discourse is revealed as well in his interaction with three of his great philosophical contemporaries: Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz.
Arnauld and RenÉ Descartes
meditations and correspondence
Arnauld's set of objections to the Meditations prompted Descartes to comment that he could not have asked for a more perceptive critic. Arnauld was particularly sympathetic to those aspects of the Meditations that he took to be in line with Augustinian views of the soul and God. The first two sections of Arnauld's Fourth Objections are in fact devoted to these two topics. He offered penetrating objections in these sections to Descartes's arguments for mind-body distinctness and for the existence of God, as well as mentioning difficulties concerning Descartes's denial of the souls of nonhuman animals, his discussion of the "material falsity" of sensations, and the circularity of his defense of the truth of clear and distinct perceptions. Still, Arnauld also emphasized the Augustinian nature of Descartes's insistence that the intellect is distinct from and epistemically superior to the senses, and he showed himself to be sympathetic throughout to the central conclusions of the Meditations.
In a final section, "Points Which May Cause Difficulty to Theologians," Arnauld insisted that Descartes's principle that proper assent is governed by clear and distinct perception be restricted to intellectual matters to allow for the Augustinian conclusion that one's religious beliefs are grounded in one's acceptance of religious authority. He further noted that what is "likely to give the greatest offense to theologians" is the appearance that Descartes's view that bodily modes are inseparable from the substance they modify conflicts with the Catholic doctrine that in the Eucharist the sensible species of the bread and wine remain without inhering in any substance.
In 1648 Arnauld renewed contact with Descartes while in hiding because of the political controversies in France involving Jansenism. Arnauld asked for clarification on several issues pertaining to the nature of memory, the relation of particular thoughts to the attribute of thought, the duration of mind as a thinking thing, and Descartes's argument for the impossibility of a vacuum. In responding to questions concerning this argument, Descartes cited his view that all truths depend on God's omnipotence in warning against the claim that God cannot create a vacuum. Neither in this correspondence nor in his later exchanges with Malebranche and Leibniz, where this view was broached, did Arnauld take a firm position on Descartes's doctrine that all truths depend on God's will. However, Arnauld did profess himself satisfied with Descartes's responses to his questions concerning the nature of mind and its relation to body, concluding that "what you wrote concerning the distinction between the mind and the body seems to me very clear, evident, and divinely inspired" (1964–1967, vol. 5, p. 186).
qualifications of cartesianism
In his correspondence with Descartes Arnauld professed satisfaction with Descartes's solution to the problem concerning the Eucharist raised in the Fourth Objections. However, he mentioned as a further difficulty that Descartes's identification of the extension of a body with its quantity seems to conflict with the Catholic teaching that Christ's body is present in this sacrament without local extension. Descartes did not respond to this difficulty, even though in earlier correspondence with the Jesuit Denis Mesland he had proposed that the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist is explained by the union of His soul with the matter of the elements. This proposal provided the basis for a Cartesian account of the Eucharist in the Considérations sur l'état present (1671) by the French Benedictine Robert Desgabets. Louis XIV's confessor declared the Considérations to be heretical, and Louis had his archbishop of Paris condemn it. When called before the archbishop, Arnauld and Nicole denounced the work, in part to disassociate it from their own account of the Eucharist in their writings against the Calvinists. In his later 1680 "Examen" Arnauld did offer his own version of a Cartesian account of the Eucharist. However, his version deviates from Descartes's own views insofar as it requires the possibility of the existence of the extension of Christ's body apart from the quantity by means of which it occupies a place.
Arnauld also departed from Descartes's views on human freedom. Although he approved of the account that Descartes provided in the Fourth Meditation, he was less happy with later correspondence in which Descartes attempted to accommodate the Jesuit position that free action involves an indifference that explains the power of the agent to act otherwise. Indeed, in response to Desgabets's claim that Descartes is "exceedingly enlightened in matters of religion," Arnauld responded that Descartes's "letters are full of Pelagianism and, outside of the points which he was convinced by his philosophy—like the existence of God and the immortality of the soul—all that can be said of him to his greatest advantage is that he always seemed to submit himself to the Church" (1964–1967, vol. 1, p. 671). Therefore, Arnauld's theological commitments placed clear constraints on what he could accept from Descartes's own writings.
Arnauld and Nicolas Malebranche
the search and ideas
During the early 1670s Arnauld was on friendly terms with his younger Cartesian colleague, Malebranche. He also had an initially positive view of Malebranche's masterwork, the Search after Truth (first published 1674–1675). After seeing an initial draft of Malebranche's Treatise on Nature and Grace (1680), however, Arnauld had a more negative view. In a meeting with Malebranche in 1679, just before he left France for good, Arnauld took exception to the claim in that work that though God wills that all be saved, his wisdom requires that he distribute grace by means of a "general will" that allows for the salvation of only a few. Arnauld objected that this emphasis on the role of the general will is a novelty that is out of line with the view, deriving from the work of the church fathers, that God exhibits a "particular providence" in distributing grace to those whom he has predestined for salvation.
After Malebranche decided to publish his Treatise in 1680, Arnauld decided to go public with his criticisms of Malebranche. The public debate began with the publication in 1683 of Arnauld's On True and False Ideas, and it lasted until Arnauld's death in 1694. During his lifetime Arnauld published eight critiques of Malebranche and Malebranche published seven responses. A further text from Arnauld was published after his death, and Malebranche published three further responses to Arnauld, with the last appearing in 1709. The debate ranged over several topics, the most well known being the nature of ideas, but included as well the relation of "intelligible extension" to God, the relation of pleasure to happiness, the nature of causation, miracles, the efficacy of grace, divine providence, and divine freedom.
The issue of ideas is prominent at the start of the debate, for Arnauld's On True and False Ideas focuses on the doctrine in the Search after Truth that "we see all things in God," and more specifically, that one perceives bodies by means of ideas that exist in the divine intellect. For Arnauld, such a doctrine has the "bizarre" consequence that "we see God when we see bodies, the sun, a horse, or a tree" (1964–1967, p. 38:236). Still, Arnauld objected not only to the placement of ideas of material objects in God but also, and more basically, to the reification of the ideas. As an alternative to Malebranche's claim that the ideas one perceives are "representative beings" distinct from one's perceptions, he offered the position, which he claimed to find in Descartes's Third Meditation, that such ideas are merely the "objective reality" of perceptions, that internal feature of the perceptions in virtue of which they represent particular objects. Malebranche sometimes offered a different reading of this text, on which the objective reality of an idea is something distinct from the perception as a modification of mind. However, he typically appealed not to Descartes but to the view, which he claimed to find in Augustine, that "archetypes" in the divine intellect serve as the principle of one's knowledge of objects. In response, Arnauld insisted that it was never Augustine's intention to hold that one apprehends features of God's essence in perceiving objects.
god and general will
The debate over the nature of ideas held the attention of the early modern intellectual community, with philosophers as diverse as John Locke, Leibniz, Pierre Bayle, and Pierre-Sylvain Regis offering commentaries on it. Indeed, Arnauld's friend, Nicole, claimed that the preoccupation with the topic of ideas served to divert attention from more important theological issues. Even so, most of the exchanges between Arnauld and Malebranche concerned just such issues. As discussed earlier, Arnauld's initial concerns with Malebranche's system derived from the claim in Malebranche that God distributes grace by means of His "general will." But Arnauld also objected that the stress on the generality of God's action undermined the belief in miraculous exceptions to the natural order. Most fundamentally, Arnauld was worried that the introduction of Malebranche's impersonal "God of the philosophers" would displace the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," a God who takes a personal interest in the welfare of His creatures. Arnauld held that the latter sort of God governs by means of particular volitions, even in the case where He acts in accord with general laws.
Arnauld further protested against the suggestion in Malebranche that God cannot act to correct certain deficiencies in creation since He is constrained to act by means of His general will. For Arnauld, such a suggestion involves an unacceptable limitation of God's freedom. On this point Arnauld showed some sympathy for considerations that led Descartes to affirm that God is not constrained by the eternal truths since they derive from his free will. Even so, he never did explicitly affirm this doctrine in his exchange with Malebranche. One can speculate that Arnauld was reluctant to endorse this philosophical position due to his uncertainty about its implications for theology. This would at least be in keeping with his concern, evident in his long debate with Malebranche, to purify theology of various novelties deriving from philosophy.
freedom and causation
Arnauld's lifelong preoccupation with theological issues involving Jansenism is reflected in his objections to the view in Malebranche that meritorious action involves one's free and undetermined "consent" to the promptings of divine grace. Arnauld commented that he did not think that "Pelagius ever said anything more pelagian" (1964–1967, p. 37:648f). Though Arnauld later retracted his original endorsement of the view in Jansenius that this consent is determined by a psychological state of delight deriving from grace, he consistently held that such consent must be determined by God's action. It is interesting, however, that Arnauld at the same time took exception to the occasionalist position in Malebranche that God is the only real cause and that creatures serve merely as inefficacious "occasional causes" for the exercise of divine power. Since Arnauld held that mind is "more noble than" body, and since he accepted the Augustinian dictum that the less noble cannot act on the more noble, he allowed that bodily events can be only occasional causes of changes in mental states. He apparently saw no difficulty in allowing for the action of bodies on each other or the action of mind on body.
Arnauld and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
fatalism and actualism
On February 11, 1686, in the midst of Arnauld's polemical exchanges with Malebranche, Leibniz sent a request to the Landgrave Ernst von Hessen-Rheinfels to pass along to Arnauld "a short discourse" on "questions of grace, the concourse of God and creatures, the nature of miracles, the cause of sin, the origin of evil, the immortality of the soul, ideas, etc." (Mason 1967, p. 3). This discourse was simply a list of the titles of the thirty-seven articles of what became Leibniz's Discourse on Metaphysics. Arnauld engaged somewhat reluctantly with Leibniz on the content of some of these articles. In the end the two exchanged through Hessen-Rheinfels some dozen letters before Arnauld, preoccupied with other matters, failed to respond to Leibniz's letter to him of October 9, 1687. Leibniz attempted to reengage the correspondence in 1688 and 1690 letters to Arnauld, but without success.
In his initial response to Leibniz, Arnauld took exception to the claim in the title to article thirteen of Leibniz's discourse that "since the individual concept of each person contains once for all everything that will ever happen to him, one sees in it the a priori proofs or reasons for the truth of each event, or why the event has occurred rather than another," even though such truths "are nevertheless contingent, being based on the freewill of God and creatures" (Mason 1967, p. 5). He held that this claim is "shocking" since it seems to imply that everything that happens is obliged to do so "through a more than fatal necessity" (p. 9). In particular, God would have no choice, having decided to create Adam, to create all the features of the world that Adam actually inhabits.
After Leibniz bitterly rejected the charge of fatalism and some further letters were exchanged, Arnauld withdrew his charge in a letter of September 28, 1686. His willingness to do so was prompted by Leibniz's insistence that certain truths that are present in the individual concept of a person are present there only contingently. Even so, Arnauld mentioned in this letter that he still had qualms about Leibniz's conception of God as "having chosen the universe amongst an infinite number of other possible universes which he saw but did not wish to create." A hint concerning the source of these qualms is provided by Arnauld's insistence in an earlier letter that God's omnipotence, being a "pure act," does "not permit the existence in it of any possibility" (Mason 1967, p. 31f). On Arnauld's view here, possibilities pertain only to the substances that God has freely created. On the basis of such a view, one commentator claims to find in Arnauld an "actualism" that contrasts with a "possibilism" in Leibniz that allows for possibilities founded in nothing external to the divine intellect (Nelson 1993). A further development of this sort of actualism may have led Arnauld to endorse some version of Descartes's doctrine of the creation of the eternal truths. As in the case of his debate with Malebranche, however, Arnauld failed in his correspondence with Leibniz to take any explicit stand on this doctrine.
concomitance and cartesianism
In contrast to his treatment of Leibniz's critique of the eternal truths doctrine, Arnauld did engage both Leibniz's "hypothesis of concomitance or agreement between substances" and his claim that the reality of material objects depends on their possession of a "substantial form." Arnauld urged that the hypothesis of concomitance is not distinct in the end from the occasionalist position that God brings about the harmony among various substances by means of an eternal act of will. Moreover, he objected to Leibniz's claim that the soul expresses everything in its body on the Cartesian grounds that the soul must have some thought or knowledge to express anything. Since the soul has no more thought or knowledge "of the movements of lymph in the lymphatic vessels than of the movements of Saturn's satellites" (Mason 1967, p. 132), it cannot intelligibly be said to express this aspect of its body. Arnauld's Cartesianism is also evident in his response to Leibniz's position that to be substantial, material objects must have a unity conferred on them by an immaterial and indivisible substantial form. Assuming the Cartesian identification of matter with extension, Arnauld held that all material objects are mere composites and that their unity derives not from Leibniz's substantial form but from the functional interrelation of their parts.
In the note to Hessen-Rheinfels accompanying his final letter to Leibniz, Arnauld expressed the opinion that it would be "preferable" if Leibniz, a lifelong Protestant, "gave up, at least for a time, this sort of speculation, and applied himself to the greatest business he can have, the choice of the true religion" (Mason 1967, p. 138). This opinion indicates Arnauld's own preference for theology over philosophical speculation. Even so, his philosophically rich exchanges with Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz provide reason for philosophers to be grateful that he did not give up philosophical speculation entirely in the interests of furthering acceptance of the Catholic faith.
See also Aristotle; Augustine, St.; Augustinianism; Bayle, Pierre; Cartesianism; Descartes, René; Desgabets, Robert; Jansenism; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Locke, John; Logic, History of; Malebranche, Nicolas; Nicole, Pierre; Pascal, Blaise; Pelagius and Pelagianism; Thomas Aquinas, St.
Arnauld, Antoine, and Claude Lancelot. The Port-Royal Grammar: General and Rational Grammar. Translated and edited by Jacques Rieux and Bernard E. Rollin. The Hague: Mouton, 1975.
works by arnauld
Oeuvres de Messire Arnauld. 42 vols. Brussels: Culture et Civilisation, 1964–1967.
On True and False Ideas, New Objections of Descartes' Meditations and Descartes' Replies. Translated by Elmar J. Kremer. Lewiston, NY: Mellen Press, 1990.
Textes philosophiques. Translated by Denis Moreau. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2001.
works on arnauld
"Antoine Arnauld (1612–1694)." Philosophe, Écrivain, Théologien, Chroniques de Port-Royal (Paris) 44 (1995).
Chomsky, Noam. Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
Kilcullen, John. Sincerity and Truth: Essays on Arnauld, Bayle, and Toleration. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Kremer, Elmar J., ed. The Great Arnauld and Some of His Philosophical Correspondents. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
Kremer, Elmar J., ed. Interpreting Arnauld. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Laporte, Jean. La doctrine de Port-Royal. 2 vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1923.
Mason, H. T., ed. and trans. The Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1967.
Moreau, Denis. Deux Cartésiens, La Polemique entre Antoine Arnauld et Nicolas Malebranche. Paris: J. Vrin, 1999.
Nadler, Steven M. Arnauld and the Cartesian Philosophy of Ideas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Ndiaye, Aloyse Raymond. La Philosophie d'Antoine Arnauld. Paris: J. Vrin, 1991.
Nelson, Alan. "Cartesian Actualism in the Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence." Canadian Journal of Philosophy 23 (4) (1993): 675–694.
Pariente, Jean-Claude. L'analyse du langue à Port-Royal: Six études logico-grammaticales. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1985.
Yolton, John W. Perceptual Acquaintance: From Descartes to Reid. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Tad M. Schmaltz (2005)