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Hobbes's Challenge to Descartes, Bramhall and Boyle: A Corporeal God

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This paper brings new work to bear on the perennial question about Hobbes's atheism to show that as a debate about scepticism it is falsely framed. Hobbes, like fellow members of the Mersenne circle, Descartes and Gassendi, was no sceptic, but rather concerned to rescue physics and metaphysics from radical scepticism by exploring corporealism. In his early letter of November 1640, Hobbes had issued a provocative challenge to Descartes to abandon metaphysical dualism and subscribe to a ‘corporeal God’; a provocation to which the Frenchman angrily responded, but was perhaps importantly influenced. Hobbes's minimal realism was consonant with atheism, to which Descartes felt he was being forced. Moreover, Hobbes was unrelenting in his battle against Cartesian dualism, for which he saw Robert Boyle's experimental science as a surrogate.

Keywords: Boyle; Bramhall; Corporeal God; Descartes; Hobbes

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Economics, Free University of Bolzano,

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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