Between Actor and Spectator: Arnout Geulincx and the Stoics

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The work of Arnout Geulincx (1624-1669), a Flemish Cartesian that developed a highly curious 'parallelistic' view on the universe, shows striking prima facie resemblances to Stoicism. Should we label Geulincx a reinventor of Stoic tenets, albeit within a strict Cartesian theoretical framework? To answer this question, my contribution begins by discussing relevant aspects of Stoicism and by introducing the 'existential' philosophy of Geulincx, whose metaphysical views on man brought him to adopt an ethics based upon absolute obedience and humility. It will discuss Geulincx's own views on the Stoics and, finally, compare Geulincx's philosophy with the Stoic world view. The main argument will be that, despite a deep affinity and many parallels, one crucial difference remains, as the dualism any true Cartesian metaphysics implies has important consequences for Geulincx's ethics in general and for his view on man in particular. As we will see, man plays a very peculiar role in the cosmic drama that we call the 'universe'.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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