The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism

By G. H.R. Parkinson | Go to book overview
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affect: a term that renders the Latin noun ‘affectus’. Some seventeenth-century Dutch philosophers used the term to mean ‘passion’: Spinoza, however, took the term in a wider sense, recognizing both active and passive ‘affects’, in the sense of active and passive emotions and desires.
analysis and synthesis: terms used by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophers in the senses in which they were used in classical Greek mathematics. Analysis is a type of proof in which one starts from the proposition to be proved and works back to the first principles on which the proposition logically depends. Descartes declared that he used the method in his Meditations. ‘Synthesis’ refers to the derivation of theorems from first principles, as in Euclid’s geometry, and in Spinoza’s Ethics.
a posteriori: see ‘a priori’.
a priori: an a priori proposition is a proposition such that, in getting to know its truth, one does not have to appeal to sense experience. Kant pointed out in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) that the distinguishing marks of such a proposition are necessity and strict universality, that is, universality such that no exceptions to it are allowed (e.g. ‘All bachelors are unmarried’—understanding ‘bachelor’ to mean ‘unmarried male’). Propositions which are not a priori, in that knowledge of their truth does rest on sense experience, are termed a posteriori.
Arminianism: the Arminians (also known as ‘Remonstrants’) were members of a religious sect founded by the Dutch Protestant theologian Jacobus Arminius (Hermans or Harmens: 1560-1609). The Arminians opposed the determinism (q.v.) of the Calvinists (see ‘Calvinism’). Their views were condemned at the Synod of Dort (1618-19).
ars inveniendi: the ‘art of discovery’. In the seventeenth century, philosophers looked for such an art or technique, which would establish rules for inquiry and do away with the need for individual genius or flair on the part of the inquirer. This ‘art’ was traditionally distinguished from the ‘ars judicandi’, the ‘art of judgement’; this was used to test the truth of propositions that were proposed to one, and involved syllogistic (q.v.).
attribute: in its basic sense, an ‘attribute’ is that which is attributed to, or predicated of, something. Descartes held that each substance (q.v.) has a principal attribute—extension in the case of corporeal substance, thought in the case of


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