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  CONTEMPORAY WORKS ON COMMON SENSE TO BE REVIEWED IN “SENSUS COMMUNIS” AND IN OTHER PHILOSOPHICAL JOURNALS     H. Arendt, The Life of the Mind   F. Armengaud, Paradoxe et sens commun: G.E. Moore et la genèse de la philosophie analytique (Paris, 1986).             To be reviewed in a next issue   A. J. Ayer, Metaphysics and Common Sense (London, 1969).              R. J. Bogdan, ed., Mind and Common Sense: Philosophical Essays on Common Sense Psychology (Cambridge, UK, 1991).              F. Castellani and L. Montecucco, eds., Normatività logica e ragionamento di senso comune (Bolonia, 1998).             Reviewed by L. Duacastella in Sensus communis, 1 (2000), pp. 576-580.    E. Castelli, I paradossi del senso comune (Padova 1970). Reviewed by Marco M. Olivetti in Sensus communis, 2 (2001), pp. 576-580.  -  ,ed. Il senso comune (Padua, 1970)  J. Coates, The Claims of Common Sense: Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the Social Sciences, Cambridge University  Press, Cambridge.                         H.-G. Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode (Tubingen, 1960).    R. Garrigou-Lagrange, Le Sens commun, la philosophie de l’etre et les formu,les dogmatiques (Paris, 1909).             T.A.F. Kuipers and A.R. Mackor, eds., Cognitive Patterns in Science and Common Sense (Groninger Studies in Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Epistemology) (Amsterdam, 1965)              A. Livi, Filosofia del senso comune (Milan, 1990).            - Il senso comune tra razionalismo e scetticismo: Vico, Reid, Jacobi, Moore (Milan, 1992).         - Il principio di coerenza (Roma, 1997). Reviewed by P. Manganro, M. A. Mendosa, V. Possenti, and J. J. Sanguineti in Sensus communis, 1 (2000), pp. 105-117. - Verità del pensiero: fondamenti di logica aletica              E. Lobkowicz, Common Sense und Skeptizismus: Studien zur Philosophie von Thomas Reid und David Hume (Weinheim, 1986).          D. Lories, Le Sens commun et le jugement du “phronimos”: Aristote et le Stoiciens (Louvain, 1998).   L. Marcil-Lacoste, Claude Buffier and Thomas Reid: two Common-Sense Philosophers (Montreeal, 1982) M. A. Mendosa, Un sentiero interrotto: il “cogito” cartesiano e il suo impossibile esito realistico (Rome, 1999). Reviewed by G. Zarmati in Sensus communis, 2 (2001), pp. 319-327.   M.  Marsonet, I  limiti del  realismo: filosofia, scienza e senso comune (Milan, 2000).        G. Modica, La filosofia del “senso comune”  in Giambattista Vico (Caltanissetta, 1989).              G. E. Moore, A Defense of Common Sense (London, 1925).             A. Musgrave, Common Sense, Science and Scepticism  Cambridge, UK, 1993).               D.F. Norton, From Moral Sense to Common Sense: an Essay on the development of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy (San Diego, CA, 1966).   A. d’Ors, Dercho y sentido comun: siete lecciones de derecho natural como limite del derecho positivo (Madrid, 1995).              L. Pareyson, Verità e interpretazione (Milano 1971).             M. Polanyi, Tacit Dimension (New York, 1966). Reviewed by P. Manganaro in Sensus communis, 2(2001), pp. 568-599.   F. Restaino, Scetticismo e senso comune: la filosofia scozzese da Hume a Reid (Bari 1974).            Paolo Terenzi, La sociologia del senso comune in Hannah Arendt (Soveria Mannelli, 2002). Marina Savi, Il concetto di senso comune in Kant (Milan, 1998).             Reviewed by A. Acerbi in Sensus communis, 1 (2000), pp. 571-575.   J. D. Schaeffer, Sensus communis: Vico, Rhetoric amd the Limits of Relativism (London, 1990).   L. Turco, Dal sistema al senso comune (Studi sul newtonismo e gli illuministi britannici) (Bonomia, 1974).              L. Wittgenstein , Über Gewissheit (London, 1980).   I. Yarza, La razionalità dell’etica di Aristotele (Uno studio su “Etica nicomachea” I) (Rome, 2001).             Reviewd by A. Livi  in Sensus communis , 2(2001), pp. 342-343.              

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Catholic Fideism and its Origins in Modern Philosophy

Posted by admin | Posted in Philosophy and Theology | Posted on 28-06-2009


Modern Skepticism at the Origins of Fideism

by Antonio Livi


As I have already often argued, modern Western philosophy is deeply dependent from Christian revelation. Such a dependence has been demonstrated by contemporary historians on the basis of two undeniable facts: i) the fact that all modern philosophers, but especially René Descartes, assumed from the theological systems of medieval Christian thinkers some of their metaphysical concepts, mainly the concept of God as the infinite Being and the creator of limited beings[1]; and ii) the fact that  many modern Western philosophers were believers in the Christian revelation, and reflected on their faith in order to find a philosophical justification for believing in a non-visible doctrine granted by a visible authority. If this dependence is really a historical fact, – and I think that it is, then all history of modern philosophy should be understood as the history of Christian philosophy in the modern age[2]. So, several modern philosophical categories should be interpreted as produced by some kind of  Christian theological investigation, or at least as deeply connected with Christian theology. I have presented just in the light of this connection the modern philosophical category of “faith”, which is so important after Hume’s Treatises on human understanding, arguing that it is the origin of modern skepticism[3]. Now I want to suggest ideas for interpreting in the same way the historical category of “fideism”, which is evidently connected with the philosophical category of faith.

            No one between modern philosophers that today’s historians use to call “fideist” (Pascal, Kierkegaard, and others) called himself a “fideist”. Actually, this term is born at the end of nineteenth century, but the main reason why those philosophers did not call themselves “fideist” is that fideism is not a philosophical category but a historical one. Nevertheless, in the thought of Pascal, Kierkegaard, and other “fideists” we should find some philosophical ideas that justifies this denomination. In my opinion, this idea came out from the interpretation of Christian faith adopted by those philosophers on the basis of modern skepticism. The discussions held on this issue in the 16th century let us verify that actually modern skepticism was so deeply accepted both by catholic and protestant thinkers. Just in the middle of those discussions we found the point of departure of Cartesian way of thinking, – the assumption of a universal doubt as the most rational method for searching a certain knowledge. The relevance of this search for certainty in the epistemological interpretation of Christian faith is the issue I now will deal with.

We must indeed admit that the epistemological question, so essential to modern thought, revolves around the problem of certainty, and that the problem of  certainty, as set out by Descartes and by all philosophers who follow his method, consists specifically in the attempt to determine the conditions of assent to what is not, or is not considered, self-evident. As Ralph McInerny wrote recently, «Descartes famously sought the beginnings of certain knowledge its primary instances, as the result of the application of a method.  claims he and others would make, revealed them all to be dubitable. This means that every claim to know for certain has been shown to be mistaken. More precisely, all knowledge claims dependent on sense perception and all mathematical propositions are susceptible of doubt, it is imaginable or conceivable that they are false, and therefore they must be set aside. No one has any warrant simply to assert that he knows these to be true»[4].  From this point of view, the main problem for a Christian philosopher in the Cartesian era was to express in rational term the possibility of Christian faith, understood precisely as the firm assent to what is not self-evident. This problem, which did not exist at all in classical Greek philosophy, is instead at the core of Christian thought.

Christian revelation, with its novelty and speculative fecundity so well brought to light by Étienne Gilson in the thirties[5], has not only had a positive impact in philosophy at the level of metaphysical, anthropological, and ethical notions, but also at the level of logical notions, among which the most important is doubtless that of “faith.” It is here that, in my opinion, modern philosophy so radically differs from classical philosophy, whereas it is homogeneous with Christian–medieval philosophy.[6] Therefore, the rupture with tradition produced by the Cartesian method must be considered within the Christian philosophical universe. This universe, in turn, is at the roots of the modern theoretical framework, distinctly different from the pre-Christian philosophical universe and not reducible to it. In this article I will examine an emblematic case, that of skepticism. My conviction is that the origins of modern skepticism are to be found in the hypothesis—induced from the typically Christian problem of faith—that what is essential lies beyond the immediate and that the certainty about the essential is reached after a long critical journey and with the decisive participation of an act of free choice.


Fideism as a result of modern skepticism among Christian philosophers


Even if in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries skeptically oriented philosophers were called “Pyrrhonists,” thus recalling ancient skepticism, modern skepticism, having developed within Christian culture, is very different from its pre-Christian precursor, since the latter, as Brochard pointed out, never denies completely the metaphysical value of common sense[7]. The new elements in modern skepticism have been brought to light by the historian Richard H. Popkin[8], who has examined philosophical thought in a specific moment of transition, the years 1500 to 1675. During these years the reappearance in Europe of the works of Sextus Empiricus provoked a renewed interest in Hellenistic skepticism, precisely when the discussion about the epistemological problems raised by the Reformation was most intense. The main epistemological problems raised by the Reformation were about individual conscience and subjective certainty about faith, but the problem of philosophy and in general that of reason outside the domain of Revelation, and the problem of the doctrinal authority of tradition and of the Magisterium were also raised. Simona Morini, summarizing Popkin’s research, remarks that «at the origin of modern thought and science there is not a conflict of science and faith in the first place, but a religious one, a problem within faith»[9]. I agree with this interpretation; furthermore, I extend it to the whole philosophical venture that begins with the encounter between Greek thought and Christian faith, which has given birth to entirely new problems and solutions, in relation to pre-Christian classical times. In particular, in the general context of the influence of Christianity on philosophy, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries represent the beginning of modern philosophy, characterized—always through the influence of Christianity—by the primacy of epistemology. One typical trait of the period from the mid-1500s to the end of the 1600s is precisely the skepticism of a large part of Catholic philosophical thought, whereas Catholic theological thought strengthened its dogmatism. Both dimensions— skepticism in philosophy and dogmatism in theology—seem to come from the crisis of religious conscience, and, more particularly, from the heightening of the problem of certainty about the “truth that saves”: namely, its sources, the channels through which it is transmitted, the criteria of verification, and the space for freedom of interpretation.

It is well-known that Luther, against whom Erasmus of Rotterdam argued, denied the authority of the Church, or of any human magisterium whatsoever, in interpreting the Scriptures. After Luther, then, Christianity faces the problem of the regula fide”: What is the criterion by which

one can identify the true doctrine of faith? The criterion of truth taken up by Lutherans was subjectivist and individualistic: For the believer only that is true which his conscience constrains him to believe from the reading of the Scriptures. Erasmus, on the contrary, considering the insurmountable difficulties in determining the true meaning of Scripture, embraced skeptical wisdom and advised trusting the apostolic succession (Tradition), submitting oneself to the interpretation given by the Church. In this sense, Erasmus can be seen as the founding father of a tradition of Christian–Catholic fideism that extends throughout modernity and eventually becomes the prevailing position in Catholic culture in postmodern times. After him, many “will use the skeptical argument to defend their own faith: in the absence of incontrovertible rational arguments in favor of one confession instead of another, why not trust faith or tradition?[10]». Paradoxically, a significant number of Catholic thinkers argued against the Lutherans on their same ideological ground, marked by antidogmatism and irrationalism.[11] However, it is Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) who expresses at the time of Erasmus the attitude of skeptical modern Catholics (the “nouveaux pyrrhoniens”) in all its radicalism. He writes that “man’s plague is the conceit of knowledge” and the only way we have to know ourselves is God’s Revelation:


“Everything we see without the light of his grace is nothing but vanity and madness.” (Michel de Montaigne, Apologie de Raymonde Sebond, I, 3).


The priest Pierre Charron (1541–1603) and the bishop Jean-Pierre Camus (1530–1600) were followers of Montaigne. The former, in a book written immediately after the death of his teacher Montaigne, extolled


“the wonderful beauty of the union between skepticism and Catholicism.” (Pierre Charron, Les trois livres de la Sagesse, III, 1).


The latter, who was also secretary of the bishop Saint Francis of Sales, argues against “protestant rationalism” and tries to protect Catholic faith from the dangers of a conceited human reason. The best thing, in his opinion, is a faith that does not rely on human certainties, easy to be destroyed, since the only truths that men know are those which God wanted to reveal to us:


“All the rest is nothing but dream, wind, smoke and opinion.” (Jean-Pierre Camus , Essay sceptique, I, 2, 3).


In France, Montaigne’s, Carron’s, and Camus’s skeptical perspective becomes in the first decades of the 1600s the philosophy of the “erudite libertines,”including Gabriel Naudé (Richelieu’s and Mazzarino’s librarian), Guy Patin (rector of the School of Medicine at the Sorbonne), Léonard Morandé (Richelieu’s secretary), Pierre Gassendi (the famous priest, scientist, and philosopher, who corresponded with Descartes), Isaac la Peyrère (secretary to the Prince of Condé), and François de la Mothe le Vayer, for whom


“the soul of a Christian skeptic is like a field clear of weeds, devoid of the dangerous axioms that cram the minds of so many cultivated people, and therefore ready to receive the dew of divine grace with much more happiness than if it were still full of the presumption that it has certain knowledge of all things and no doubts of any sort.”


Few succeeded in opposing the cultural hegemony of the “Pyrrhonian” Catholic intellectuals. The Jesuit François Garasse dared to stigmatize Charron’s “alleged piety,” calling it a “very bad service done to his Country and to his faith.”Another religious, François Ogier, replied to Garasse in an irritated way: “Charron’s works are too elevated for a low and vulgar mind like yours.” Even Saint-Cyran reacted violently against Garasse, and his criticism of the Jesuit was so insistent that the authority of the Sorbonne finally censured Garasse. Meanwhile, the work of the Portuguese Francisco Sánchez (1560–1632), published in Lyon in 1581 and, significantly, titled Quod nil scitur, was becoming popular.This work expressed for the first time the idea of a voluntary and systematic doubt, which certainly inspired Descartes for his Discours de la méthode:


“Ad me proinde memetipsum retuli, omniaque in dubium revocans, ac si a quopiam nil unquam dictum, res ipsas examinare coepi, qui verus est sciendi modus.” (Francisco Sánchez, Quod nihil scitur, Ad lectorem)


Apologetic attempts and skeptical value of the Cartesian method


In his History of Skepticism, Popkin describes Descartes as somebody who, while claiming to have “triumphed over skepticism,” remained substantially its prisoner, to the point of becoming a “sceptique malgré lui.”[12] This interpretation, if correct, entails a clear characterization of rationalism in terms of skepticism. Rationalism, accordingly, would be much closer to British empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume) than critics usually say. Moreover, this interpretation would offer a better account of how the “critical” Kant could perform a synthesis between the rationalism inherited from Wolff and the empiricist stances coming from the reading of Hume. In short, the novelty of transcendental philosophy would have to be severely reassessed, in the sense that it would be evident that the true “Copernican revolution” was the one brought about, well before Kant, by René Descartes with his new method. The Cartesian method, implicitly based on an a priori choice, namely the choice to privilege the certainty of self-consciousness (the impossibility of doubting of a consciously exercised doubt) over the certainty of the “things” present to consciousness, represents indeed a turn of prime importance in the history of philosophy. From then on, the history of philosophy presents all thinkers necessarily aligned for or against the new methodological starting point, for or against “Cartesianism.” It being a question of choice— as Del Noce justly observed—modern philosophy after Descartes has always been aligned either for or against this choice of making the “primum cognitum” a pretext for affirming the subject’s freedom, for releasing consciousness from every dependency on the object.[13] As is known, for Martin Heidegger this is not the essential point of the turn Descartes inaugurated. For Heidegger, the essential point was rather shifting the focus from the question of truth to the question of certainty, or, in other words, giving up of the Greek notion of truth as manifestation of being (aletheia) and adopting instead the Scholastic notion of “conformity” of thought to the object (adaequatio intellectus ad rem), but exaggerating the subjective dimension: namely, the dimension in which the object of thought is not “being” but only the “representation” of being.[14] I do not want to focus now on the concept of truth proposed by Heidegger, which is compatible with the concept of truth as conformity of the thought to its object;[15] neither do I want to discuss here Heidegger’s interpretation of the Cartesian turn, regarding which I would refer to an accurate historical and critical study.[16] In my opinion, Descartes’s turn consists rather in the substitution of the certainties proper to the common sense—which refer to the indubitable presence of things in the world—with the certainty of the “cogito.” Cartesian “cogito” is nothing else but the doubt itself assumed as a limit that cannot be transcended, or, in gnosiological terms, thought without an object different from itself. So, even if the declared aim of Descartes’s philosophy was to overcome the skepticism of his time and to elaborate a new apologetics of Catholic faith,[17] this aim finally turns out to be substantially frustrated. Skepticism remains the substance of the method adopted by Descartes, even if his skepticism and that of his followers are radically different from the ancient one. In fact, Descartes’s skepticism was born and developed in the context of problems related to faith in Revelation and its defense from rationalistic criticisms. It must be acknowledged that post Cartesian skepticism is truly a new form of skepticism, theorized above all by Catholic thinkers who have followed Descartes’s method. In this regard, the different view adopted by Giambattista Vico is very interesting because this Neapolitan thinker dialectically opposed Cartesianism by focusing, not on its final outcomes, but precisely on its methodological principles. We can and must admit without suspicion that Descartes was entirely sincere when he declared that the final aim of the Discourse on Method is to

remake the whole building of science,“first philosophy” at its head, upon a new and most certain alethic foundation.[18] The problem with his alethic foundation, that is, with the indubitability of thought in act (the “cogito”), is that it does not recover what has been hopelessly lost at the beginning with the hyperbolic doubt, namely the object of thought (as knowledge), which primarily consists (primum cognitum) in the reality of the world.The “cogito,” in fact, is thought closed in upon itself, a thought that remained “empty,” having expelled from itself, via the “volo dubitare de omnibus,” the reality of the object. Certainly, this thought in act, from the point of view of formal logic, appears as indubitable. However, considered in relation to its content, that is, from the point of view of material logic, the “cogito” is nothing else but the same doubt with which the Cartesian investigation has begun its journey; the same doubt that has excluded all possible certainty about the world and all other evidences of common sense, considering them incapable of adjusting themselves to the concept of evidence previously adopted by Descartes. For this reason, I admit that Descartes sincerely (from a psychological point of view) set out to overcome skepticism in a rigorous and definitive way. But he actually continued to revolve within a skeptical logic, whose reasons he accepts and grants altogether. The novelty of his method to find the alethic foundation of knowledge lies precisely in the extreme radicalization of the skeptical stance, with the conscious (and voluntary) acceptance of doubt even from the foundations of knowledge, to the point of holding back the assent to the “primum cognitum.” The “hyperbolic” doubt is therefore the most explicit expression of skepticism as universal “epoché.” It suffices to think that the rules of public morality and the dogmas of catholic faith are only pragmatically secured, that is without any concern for its truth. Such truth could eventually be recovered in a second moment, but only as conclusions that dialectical reasoning obtains from the certainties resulting from the new method: namely, the certainty of the thinking self and the certainty of the existence of God as an innate idea.

Let us recall how Descartes refers to the maxims of provisional morality and to the dogmas of catholic faith:


“After having assured myself of these maxims and having put them aside, along with the truths of the faith, which have always held first place in my set of beliefs, I judged that, as far as the rest of my opinions were

concerned, I could freely undertake to rid myself of them. (Discourse on Method, III, 29, p. 15).


In these words the typical traits of “Catholic Pyrrhonism” are easy to recognize. Faith is separated from philosophical reason, in the sense that whereas faith means to profess certainty (only externally?) without any rational foundation, philosophical reason adopts as starting point the “doute hyperbolique.” I repeat that at the psychological level there is no difficulty in admitting that Descartes’s programmatic intention is actually that of finally overcoming the skeptical doubt. The fact is that, contrary to his good intentions, he will never be able to get out of a doubt that embraces the evidences of common sense.The new certainties are of a different kind, as are different the criterion of truth and the credentials that those certainties can exhibit (in fact, such certainties will be abandoned one by one by those modern thinkers who adopted the Cartesian method). Regarding sixteenth-century Catholic skepticism, which was more ideological than theoretical, the Cartesian method presents itself as the powerful and suggestive synthesis of two opposite stances: on the one

hand, the deconstructive stance, which leads to the hyperbolic extension of doubt; on the other hand, the constructive stance, which leads to the ambitious project of a total science based upon absolutely incontrovertible foundations. The possibility of uniting both opposed rational claims  (which the Baroque defines as the humility or weakness of human reason, opposed to pride or self-consciousness of one’s own faculties) lies in having changed the place of the verification of truth from the domain of knowledge (relation of thought with the object extra mentem) to the domain of consciousness (relation of thought with itself as representation, in the immanence of the object in the mind).With the methodical doubt the immediate presence of extramental reality to consciousness is eliminated, and so for the first time in the history of philosophy all certainties of common sense are disqualified in their pretension to truth. They had been until then, for all philosophers—Greek and Christian, the certainties that had to be rightfully considered, from a logical point of view, the primary, absolutely incontrovertible self-evident truths. For the first time then, philosophy expresses an act of freedom of thought: which means that thought emancipates itself from the metaphysical presence of things, of  the self, of God, and of the moral law. The Cartesian revolution changes the way of understanding alethic logic. The world and all other objects of experience—until then a starting point of absolute alethic value for philosophical reflection—become with Descartes precarious and provisional conclusions one can obtain starting from the “cogito,” considered as a founding certainty and model of truth in general. From then on, the itinerary of the mind, for those who accept the Cartesian method, is from the self to the world (with the mediation, for Descartes, of divine truthfulness), where the “self ” means thought in act, or thought as act (of “representing,” of “identifying” the object).[19] Since we had previously mentioned the Catholic intellectuals (including clerics) who in the seventeenth century professed skepticism, we now want to point out that the Catholic Descartes, despite all his precautions, was finally subject to the condemnation of the Church, who could not help noticing that the Cartesian method, with regard to revealed dogma, implies the voluntary decision of doubting also faith, which for a Catholic equals to an act of apostasy. Just for those reasons, in 1680 all Descartes’s works were included in the Index librorum prohibitorum. But what is more interesting for us is that from a specifically logical viewpoint Descartes doubts the certainties of common sense, which have a capital importance for faith, as they are its necessary premises. Indeed, it can be said that the logic of common sense is even more fundamental than the notional contents of common sense, which constitute the “praembula fidei.”[20] This logic can be condensed in the modern philosophical formula of “realism,” understood as Gilson did, namely as “methodical realism,” that is as the only method that allows philosophy to be seen as a “search for the truth” about the world, man and God.[21] Metaphysical realism is indeed faith’s own logic, insofar as divine revelation is addressed to man with a language that presupposes in him a true experience of the world and of himself, and that he knows God as different from the world, as the first Cause and the ultimate End of everything—and all this with his natural reason alone, even if “as through a mirror, and in mystery.”                      

We now have to analyze Descartes’s way of expressing his conviction of  having overcome skepticism, even though he had begun with hyperbolic doubt; that is, with the discovery of the evidence his mind has of the doubt itself: “I think, therefore I am [ Je pense, donc je sui].” Let us read what he writes:


And noticing that this truth—I think, therefore I am—was so firm and so

certain that the most extravagant suppositions of the skeptics were

unable to shake it, I judged that I could accept it without scruple as the

first principle of the philosophy I was seeking.” (Descartes, Discourse on Method, IV, 32, p. 17).


The doubt—here lies the force of the Cartesian argument—is thought  in act, and as such it is indubitably present to consciousness (presence of thought to thought). However, since this act of thought is a doubt—that is, a holding back of the judgment about the hypothesis of knowledge— it cannot be the thought of something; it can only be the thought of nothing (of nothingness as object of thought, of nothingness as true). The certainty of the cogito, therefore, does not refer to anything outside the mind (aliquid extra mentem), let alone the realities from which hyperbolic doubt had freed itself. As has been rightly observed, “the cogito is not an act of reflection, it does not consist in thinking of the thought—since this would require a mental word—but it consists directly in pure thought, free from every thought object.”[22] If somebody were to object that this interpretation is arbitrary, one should answer that it is Descartes himself who validated it. Indeed, to the objection that “there is no thought without object” he replied:


“I deny that the thinking substance is in need of  anything other than itself in order to perform its own activity.” (Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Ad II Obiectiones, Responsiones, in ed. C. Adam and P. Tannery, Oeuvres de Descartes: vol. VII, Paris: J.Vrin, 1964, p. 136).


The concept of “empty thought” misses a characteristic of subjectivity that I highlighted elsewhere,[23] and that had already been analyzed by Antonio Millán-Puelles,[24] namely that the subject, properly speaking, is never to himself an immediate object of knowledge. The reason is that the (human) subject knows himself only by reflecting upon his own acts (especially thoughts and wishes), which have the material world as their proper object. The (human) subject, accordingly, knows directly not himself (i.e., the source of thought and free will) but an object of his own knowledge. In other words, the knowledge that the subject has of himself is a second intention knowledge attained by reflectively focusing on his acts of knowing the world—this is the logical order that must be respected in philosophy.[25] Now, this feature of human self-knowledge does not prevent thought from being “full” rather than “empty.” Empty thought is postulated only when the thinking self (res cogitans) wants to make of the existence of his own thought the first certainty absolutely speaking, in place of the certainty of the existence of the world. But this “empty thought” makes the very notion of “subject” meaningless, as well as that of “knowledge.”[26] As Rafael Corazón incisively observes, “as long as the thought focuses on something, on an object, self-consciousness is impossible, because the subject is never object: Descartes seizes the act of thinking, not the thought when it is an object for thinking.”[27] Corazón concludes his analysis of the cogito (which he locates in the doctrine of innate ideas) as follows: “If the cogito is indeed an act of self-consciousness, thought is immediately known, without reflection: consequently, there is no thought thinking itself , because what appears is only thinking thought. What is distinctive in this, as well as in the other innate ideas, is that they are not ideas as objects of thought, they do not lie ‘in front of ’ the thought. The reason is that, were they objects of thought, Descartes would have fallen again into the state of doubt; now, instead, he cannot absolutely doubt that he doubts, i.e. that he thinks.”[28] It should be noticed that, unlike ancient skepticism, Descartes’s does not consist in extending doubt to the widest possible range of objects of  knowledge, but in remaining within thought, having removed its object. If it is true that Descartes, in so doing, finds a most certain starting point, which is a judgment of existence (as alethic logic requires), it is also true that, unlike the concept of first judgment in ancient philosophy—that is, a judgment that allows for the research of an always wider and better knowledge, starting from a most certain knowledge, or a primum cognitum, with objective value—the Cartesian judgment is, strictly speaking, the elimination of knowledge.[29]

The logic of founding science on the cogito, then, turns out to be a complete epistemic rupture with the whole of classical tradition, above all pre-Christian one. As a French critic points out: “[I]n the dubito, or cogito, thought is grasped in a pure state, as gold after being purified from the slag. It is a first and absolute notion, because it is perceived independently of everything that is not itself. . . . It is a notion that presupposes none other  before.”[30] We are therefore completely immersed in the realm of a “logic of presupposition” to which I referred elsewhere as the foundation of alethic logic,[31] and which consists in looking for the “first uncaused cause” of the cognitive process. As an American philosopher correctly wrote, «the search for an authentically presuppositional-less philosophical system ends once one recognizes that thought, reality and language are always found interdependent and therefore laden with already established presuppositions».[32]  This cause is, for Descartes, thought perceived as actual by the thinking subject. This is the authentic revolution in the history of philosophy, the complete reversal of the logical order, starting from the self-evident perception of the self that comes before the selfevident existence of the world. And, since this self is understood as pure thought without the world as its object, it is empty thought nourished by its sole self-consciousness. Let us see again how Descartes’s argument goes:


“I will now close my eyes, I will stop my ears, I will turn away my senses from their objects, I will even efface from my consciousness all the images of corporeal things; or at least, because this can hardly be accomplished,

I will consider them as empty and false; and thus, holding converse only with myself, and closely examining my nature, I will endeavor to obtain by degrees a more intimate and familiar knowledge of myself.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, III, 35, p. 24).


When Descartes says that he “will consider empty and false” “all the images of corporeal things,” he makes a judgment of alethic value (or disvalue) about the immediate self-evident truth of the world. In this way, this truth is condemned to be insignificant, whereas the self-evident truth of thought (of an empty thought) is privileged. That this thought is empty results from a careful reading of a passage of the Meditationes de prima philosophia in which Descartes, arguing for the

certainty of the self, makes recourse to the hypothesis of an evil genius:


“But there is some deceiver or other who is supremely powerful and

supremely sly and who is always deliberating deceiving me. Then too

there is no doubt that I exist, if he is deceiving me. And let him do his

best at deception, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long

as I shall think that I am something.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, II, 25, p. 18).


The key words in this text are “so long as I shall think.” Descartes is clearly referring to the act of thinking. It is thought in act that is selfevident to itself, that is always self-evident in and of itself, independently of its content, whatever it may be; even independently of having a content at all.


“Surely, in this first instance of knowledge, there is nothing but a certain

clear and distinct perception of what I affirm.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, III, 35, p. 24).


More explicitly:


“I only perceive the fact of perceiving, that is the fact that I think.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, II, 29, p. 20).


The object of thought does not exist any more, or better it becomes irrelevant. Therefore, the doubt about the reality of the objects of thought is not eradicated. The skeptical doubt, Descartes argues, may still remain, and the hypothesis of error and complete deceit may be admitted. In order to give the new science a foundation it is enough to be aware of doubting, of thinking in some way whatsoever:


“Yet I certainly do seem to see [certe videre videor], hear, and feel warmth. This cannot be false. Properly speaking, this is what in me is called ‘sensing.’ But this, precisely so taken, is nothing other than thinking.” (Ibidem).


Not without reason do many scholars speak of Descartes’s substantial “skepticism.”[33] In fact, the undeniable reality of the thinking self does not solve any problem about the truth of our knowledge; it just makes the subject “certain” (that is, it compels the subject to assent due to the intrinsic self-evident perception thought has of its own act of thinking). This interpretation is confirmed by the studies of those who have qualified the cogito” as a mere ‘deixis’, that is, as something of a purely indexical nature, without any notional content, but with an exclusively pragmatic function. As Andrea Bonomi states, “the first guaranteed certainty is only possible on the basis of an experience that each of us can and should personally have. In this sense, the whole demonstration can be seen as an invitation to have this experience. . . .The use (essential here) of the indexical “I” makes this argument pragmatic in a double sense: first, in the ordinary one, since it prompts an activity, a “doing something” (which is basically a becoming aware from a first-person viewpoint); and, second, in the sense in which one speaks of pragmatic as opposed to syntax and semantics, as the argument is centered around the indicale “I,” which allows one to denote each time a different subject.”[34]

From an analytic point of view, Philip Larrey shows that once common sense validity is abandoned (as in Rorty), a logical system cannot recuperate proper certainty.[35] A further confirmation is the impossibility of moving from this individual subjective certainty to a universal criterion of certainty. A deep logical inconsistency immediately becomes manifest as soon as Descartes tries this step. Here, reference could be made to Quine’s insistence on the primary role of the object in determining truth values, an insistence that many pass by without taking in account; as Larrey wrote,  “Quine, through Tarski, thereby maintains a consistent insistence on the object’s primary role in understanding truth, albeit through the truth predicate. Even semantical considerations of logical truth, where extramental reality would appear as irrelevant, bring us back to a triangular paradigm where the object’s role is determining.”[36] Some have even spoken of an “ontological fall,” in the sense that the step from the deixis of the cogito to the ontology of sum looks like a realistic remainder Descartes probably inherited from the medieval Scholastics.[37]



A New Concept of Truth



To conclude on this point,we should say that from a historical viewpoint great attention should be given to the reversal brought about in the concept of truth by the Cartesian revolution. Indeed, Descartes understands the truth of the cogito as merely indexical. The “I” which is grasped with complete certainty is not a substance, but the act of thinking: thought in act. Consider the following sentence:


“But doubtless I did exist, if I persuaded myself of something.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, II, 25, p. 18).


This and similar expressions should be interpreted in the light of what Descartes says immediately afterward:


“I am, I exist—this is certain. But for how long? For as long as I am thinking; for perhaps it could also come to pass that if I were to cease all thinking I would then utterly cease to exist.” (Meditations on First Philosophy, II, 25,  p. 19).



As has been rightly observed, “the cogito is the paradigm of every truth, because if there is thought, there is necessarily a thinking subject. . . . It is not a matter of having a subject that is ‘thought of,’ or of having an idea of the subject. . . . The criterion is the facticity of the subject, its existence as a plain and empirical fact, so much so that the investigation of the nature of this subject comes subsequently, and is not included in the first self-evident knowledge. . . .The reflexive dimension of truth is substituted for in Descartes by self-consciousness, because in him, much more than in the philosophy before him, truth resides properly in the faculty of knowledge, since reality is never known. Truth in short is not conformity, but consists in the clarity and distinction of ideas, which allow the formulation of a judgment.”[38] Using the same paradigm, the empiricist David Hume says that the simplest and most “vivid” sensations are those  which deserve to be taken as “true,” even if they do not provide us with the knowledge of substances and of causal processes.[39] The existence of the physical world is reached by Descartes only at the end of his new metaphysical construction. The world is admitted as a conclusion of a demonstration, which starts with the cogito and continues by deducing the existence of God from the innate idea of the infinite. This long and winding way takes the world as “non self-evident.”[40] It is unavoidable, therefore, that the certainty about the existence of the world, which depends on an unlikely and complex demonstrative process, turns out to be a “faith,” a “belief ” based upon the will to believe (in fact, William James in the twentieth century will speak of a will to believe).

Among the Cartesians, David Hume was the first who called the belief about the existence of the world a “faith” (belief). Hume’s openly skeptical outcome brings to light the logic at the bottom of the Cartesian method, which we could define—borrowing the expression from Pietro Prini, who applied it to Gabriel Marcel—the “methodology of the unverifiable.”[41] Unverifiable, in Descartes, is not, as in the Christian philosophy of the Fathers and of the Middle Ages, the supernatural mystery—that is, God, Who absolutely transcends the world, and demands faith in His revealing word. It is rather the world itself that experience can no longer verify, and which is—hypothetically, in a precarious way—reached via a sequence of logical arguments that, incidentally,

involve concepts (like “causality”) that in turn presuppose the knowledge of the world.[42] But it is the will to believe in the existence of the world (res extensa) that makes what in itself is unverifiable an object of “faith.” Precisely the same will sets in motion the deconstructive method of hyperbolic doubt (“volo dubitare de omnibus”), and, for Descartes, has a power of determination

over the intellect:


“[T]he will is also required, in order that assent may be given to the thing which has been perceived in some way. Moreover, complete perception of the thing is not required, at least not in order to judge [it]

in some way or another; for we can assent to many things which we

know only very obscurely and confusedly.” (Principles of Philosophy, I, 34: trans. V. Rodger and R. P. Miller, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1939, p. 16).



Many interpreters of Descartes oppose demonstrative reason, which confirms the existence of the world, to faith, which in no way is able to confirm the existence of what has been revealed through supernatural mysteries.[43] In reality, Descartes does not distinguish between demonstrative

reason and faith, but assumes as the paradigm of “pure” or “separated” philosophy precisely what should only appertain to faith, namely the certainty of what is not self-evident.[44]



Cartesianism at the Center of the Debate on Faith and Reason in France



After Descartes, the fortune of Cartesianism and anti-Cartesianism in France—related also to Spinoza’s and Leibniz’s philosophies—shows how rooted the persuasion was that philosophy should be confronted in the first place with faith: a confrontation that should take place in the field

of the certainty of what is not self-evident.The results of this confrontation are called “dogmatism” (or rationalism), on the one hand, and “neopyrrhonism,” on the other.These two approaches both assume the Cartesian non-self-evident truth of the sensible world, replaced by the equally Cartesian self-evident truth of (empty) thought.[45] An attempt to open new critical horizons can be seen in Blaise Pascal’s (1623–1662) apologetic project. Pascal understood very well that the non-self-evident truth of the world was such only if one assumed deductive demonstration as the paradigm of rationality. We should recall the famous “thought” in which Pascal tries to distinguish the intuitive function from the discursive function (calling the former “heart,” and leaving the term “reason” to the latter):


“We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The skeptics, who have only this for their object, labor to no purpose. We know that we do not dream. And however impossible it is for us to prove it by reason, this inability demonstrates only the weakness of our reason, but not, as they affirm, the uncertainty of all our knowledge. For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust these intuitions of the heart, and must base on them every argument.” (Pascal, Thoughts, trans.W. F.Trotter, New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1910, n. 282).  


It is clear from this and many other passages that Pascal tried to give a new foundation to apologetics starting from the recognition of a “minimum” of natural, pre-scientific cognoscibility of reality, thus indicating to French philosophy of his time the way out of the false dilemma “either rationalism or skepticism.” Pascal proposes an attitude of trust in reason that may overcome skepticism, but without pretending to possess truth always and indubitably. He writes in another fragment:


“This is our true state; this is what makes us incapable of certain knowledge and of

absolute ignorance.” (Pascal, Thoughts, n. 72).


But it is also clear that Pascal’s attempt was not able to succeed fully, due to the impossibility of avoiding, in his historical circumstances, the language and therefore the logical categories employed by Descartes.[46] No wonder then if we find as well in the Pensées clearly fideistic claims (selected and quoted later on by all those who, along the centuries, preferred to read Pascal as a fideist). For example:


“Man is only a subject full of error, natural and ineffaceable, without grace. Nothing shows him the truth. Everything deceives him.” Pascal, Thoughts, n. 83.


The unity of the human intellect in its two different but not conflicting functions of intellectus and ratio was still in need of being recovered. In this environment, and shortly afterward, a first outline of a philosophy of common sense came from the Jesuit Charles Buffier (1661–1737), who inspired the philosophy of Thomas Reid (1710–1796) and the Scottish School with his Traité des premières vérités et de la source de nos jugements, and who is still studied today with interest by those who look for a way out of fideism.[47] But in those years in France, neither Buffier nor any other Catholic intellectual could contain the rising tide of fideism, which many theologians and clerics saw as the sole alternative to Cartesian rationalism and to the persistent attempts by Cartesians to rationalize Christian faith. Among Protestants, too (both Lutherans and Calvinists), fideism was the prevailing position; and philosophical skepticism seemed to be the only possible option for Christian believers.

Indeed, this was the opinion expressed by Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) in his famous Dictionnaire historique et critique, first published in Rotterdam (1695–1697) and then in Amsterdam (1702). On the Catholic side, Pierre-Daniel Huët’s work (1630–1721) is emblematic. He was bishop of Avranches and a great friend of two other important ecclesiastics, Bossuet and Fénelon.[48] Huët, who corresponded also with Leibniz, is known for having started his philosophical production as a Cartesian and for having ended up as an anti-Cartesian, by publishing in 1689 his renowned Censura philosophiae cartesianae. In reality, both at the beginning and at the end, the bishop of Avranches reasons according to the skeptical assumptions present in the Cartesian method, even though his primary source is Gassendi. In Huët’s apologetic work, “the question at stake was the preliminary role that reason should have in the act of adhesion to faith. Huët was convinced that Cartesian reason, instead of being ‘auxilium fidei,’ constitutes a hardly surmountable obstacle. . . . In reassessing the boundaries between faith and reason, it was necessary to bring that ‘superbe raison’ back. . . . to the limitations of its own constitutive weakness, so that it could accept sua sponte the submission to revealed truth. Skepticism seemed to be a suitable instrument for that end, because it was able to show reason’s insufficiency already in the natural sphere. . . .The originality of Huët’s strategy was in this apologetic use of classical skepticism, reread and modernized through elements taken from Gassendi, and from Cartesian philosophy as well. Of the latter, Huët stressed its Pyrrhonist outcomes, thus attacking the Cartesian pretension of the self-evident [truth of the cogito], showing that it is impossible to reach it in any domain, and justifying at the same time the

need of returning to tradition and authority.”[49] This is how Huët’s argument proceeds. In his Traité philosophique de la faiblesse de l’entendement humain he holds that philosophy is the “search for truth” but is unable to reach some truths with certainty; philosophy must thus yield the way to faith:


“Man cannot know the truth with perfect certainty if he relies upon his Reason alone,” because the senses deceive us, the intellect is fallible, and self-evident truth itself is frequently deceitful. For all these reasons

we must admit that human reason is not capable of “true knowledge,” insofar it lacks a “certain rule of the truth,” that is, a procedure that would allow to distinguish truth from falsity in a definite way.” (Pierre-Daniel Huët, Traité philosophique de la faiblesse de l’entendement humain, Amsterdam: Henry du Sauzet, 1723, p. 234).


The Traité philosophique came out in 1723, after Huët’s death. The Jesuit Baltus published a commentary in 1726, recognizing that the cultured bishop was motivated by the good intention of humiliating human reason—so prone to pride—by inducing it to submit itself again to the authority of Tradition. However, Baltus points out, Huët tended to grant too much to the stances of the “nouveaux Pyrrhonisme”.[50] It is true—as Elena Rapetti rightly observes—that “Huët’s apologetic work can be read as the history of a long battle against Cartesian self-evident [truth of the cogito], in the name of the certainty of faith and of the reassessment of the historical facts in which Huët saw the foundation of Revelation.”[51] It is true too that such reassessment of the historical facts related to Christian revelation is absolutely necessary, and deserved a better reception by Christian theologians and philosophers—who, due to the popularity of rationalism in the interpretation of Christianity (particularly after Lessing and Kant), preferred to follow instead other paths.[52]65 However, it is also true that the discussion opposing rationalism to skepticism should have been overcome by bringing it back to its source; that is, by means of a radical criticism of Cartesian method and its assumptions, thus allowing for the recovery of the epistemic foundations of every truth in the incontrovertible self-evident truth of the existence of the world. Such a foundation is only implicit in Saint Thomas’s philosophy, because nobody, in ancient Greek and Christian thought, nor in Christian medieval culture, had yet formulated the philosophical hypothesis of denying the self-evident truth of the existence of the world as the starting point of metaphysics. But it is precisely by going back to Thomas’s method that many philosophers of the twentieth century have been able to oppose post-Cartesian idealism with a valid realist theory, capable of resisting the criticism of dogmatism and ingenuity that Descartes’s heirs have always addressed against it.[53]







[1] See Etienne Gilson, Le role de la pensée médiévale dans la formation du système cartésien, Paris: Vrin, 1930.

[2] Cfr Antonio Livi, Il principio di coerenza. Senso comune e logica epistemica (Rome: Armando, 1997); Idem, La filosofia e la sua storia, vol. II: La filosofia moderna (Rome: Società Editrice Dante Alighieri, 1999).

[3] Cfr Antonio Livi, “La categoria filosofica della ‘fede’ alle origini dello scetticismo moderno”, in Doctor communis, 2 (2003), pp. 57-78; Idem, “The Philosophical Category of Faith  at the Origin of Modern Skepticism” in Nova et vetera, English edition, 1(2003), pp. 321-340.

[4] Ralph McInerny, “Implicit Philosophy,” in Sensus communis, 3(2002), p. 56.


[5] Cfr Etienne Gilson, L’Esprit de la philosophie médiévale, (Paris: Vrin, 1931-1932).

[6] See A. Livi, Il cristianesimo nella filosofia: Il problema della filosofia cristiana nei suoi sviluppi storici e nelle prospettive attuali (L’Aquila: Japadre, 1969).

[7] See Victor Brochard, Les Sceptiques grecs, II ed. (Paris:Vrin, 1923), 413.

[8] See Richard H. Popkin, History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes (New York: Assen, 1960).

[9] Simona Marini, Introduzione to Richard H. Popkin, La storia dello scetticismo: Da Erasmo a Spinoza, Italian translation from the second English edition (Milan: Anabasi, 1995), 12.

[10] Armando Massarenti, “Il dogmatismo (non la religione) è il vero nemico,” Il Sole–24 Ore (February 26, 1995), 28.

[11] See Ramón García de Haro, Historia teológica del modernismo (Pamplona: Eunsa, 1969); Richard Popkin, “Fideism, Quietism, and Unbelief: Skepticism For and Against Religion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in ed. Marcus Hester, Faith, Reason, and Skepticism (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992).

[12] See Popkin, History of Scepticism, chap. 10.

[13] See Augusto Del Noce, Cartesio (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1989).

[14] See Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, trans. A. Schuwer and R. Rojcewicz (Bloomington:

Indiana University Press, 1992); and Nietzsche, trans. D. F. Krell (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979).


[15] See A. Livi, La ricerca della verità: Dal senso comune alla dialettica (Rome: Leonardo

da Vinci, 2001).

[16] See Leonardo Messinese, Heidegger e la filosofia moderna: L’“inizio” della soggettività:

Descartes (Rome: Lateran University Press, 2004).

[17] “Not only the aim of the Cartesian doubt differs from the aim of the sceptical

doubt, but its method is not the same either.” (E. Gilson, in René Descartes, Discours de la méthode. Texte et commentaire, 6th ed., ed. Etienne Gilson, Paris:Vrin, 1925, 1987, p. 269).

[18] “My plan has never been more than to try to reform my own thoughts and to build upon a foundation which is completely my own.” Descartes, Discourse on Method, II, 15, trans.D. A. Cress (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1980), p. 8.

[19] The language of scientists is still borrowed from that of the philosophers who continue to hold the Cartesian turn as necessary and irreversible. See among others the Italian philosopher Virgilio Melchiorre, from the Catholic University

of Milan, who has recently written: “That philosophy has regenerated herself  finding the own starting point in the certainty of the cogito, is to be understood firstly as an essentially methodological gain, rather than as an ontological one.” Dialettica del senso. Percorsi di fenomenologia ontologica (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2002), p. 16.

[20] It is just what pope John Paul II teaches in his encyclical Fides et ratio; see Antonio Livi, “Filosofia e fede nella Fides et ratio: Un’analisi epistemologica,” in Divus Thomas, 95 (1999): pp.123–45; “Verità della fede e verità della ragione: Considerazioni di logica aletica in margine alla Fides et ratio,” in Aquinas 44 (2001): pp. 175–97.

[21] See Etienne Gilson, Le Réalisme méthodique (Paris: Téqui, 1935). See Antonio Livi, “Il realismo gnoseologico, oggi,” in Aquinas 40 (1997): pp. 221–35; Maria Antonietta Mendosa, Un sentiero interrotto: l’impossibile esito realistico del “cogito” (Rome: Aracne, 2000).

[22] Rafael Corazón, “Naturaleza de las ideas innatas cartesianas,” in Anuario filosófico 62 (1993): p. 49.

[23] See A. Livi, Filosofia del senso comune, op. cit.

[24] See Antonio Millán-Puelles, La estructura de la subjetividad (Madrid: Rialp, 1970).

[25] See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae,  I, q. 87, aa. 1, 3.


[26] On this point, see Alberto Caturelli, “Meditaciones sobre el sentido y el alcance del cogito cartesiano,” in ed. Juan Fernando Ortega and Marco Parmeggiani, Retorno crítico a los orígenes de la modernidad (Málaga: Contrastes, 1997), pp. 123–44;David Murdoch, “The Cartesian Circle,” in Philosophical Review 29 (1999): pp. 234–45; Antonio Livi, “Verità e certezza nella dialettica cartesiana,” in Sensus communis 2 (2001): pp. 263–75.

[27] Rafael Corazón, op. cit., pp. 49–50.

[28] Rafael Corazón, op. cit., pp. 51.

[29] For similar (and even more radical) criticisms to Descartes, see Ferdinand Alquié, La Découverte métaphysique de l’homme chez Descartes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950), p. 185; and Leonardo Polo, Evidencia y realidad en Descartes, 2nd ed. (Pamplona: Eunsa, 1983), pp. 92–97.

[30] Jean Laporte, Le Rationalisme de Descartes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1950), p. 17.

[31] See A. Livi, Verità del pensiero. Fondamenti di logica aletica (Rome: Lateran University Press, 2002), pp. 2–34.

[32] Philip Larrey, “A reading of Antonio Livi’s Verità del pensiero”, in Sensus Communis, 3 (2002): p. 447.

[33] See Marjorie Grene, “Descartes and Skepticism,” in The Review of Metaphysics 89 (1999): pp. 553–72.


[34] Andrea Bonomi, “Sul Cogito cartesiano: natura inferenziale e criteri di giustificabilità,” in ed. Gabriele Usberti, Problemi fondazionali nella teoria del significato (Florence: Leo Olschki, 1991), p. 27. Andrea Bonomi, “Sul Cogito cartesiano: natura inferenziale e criteri di giustificabilità,” in ed. Gabriele Usberti, Problemi fondazionali nella teoria del significato (Florence: Leo Olschki, 1991), p. 27.


[35] Philip Larrey, “Common Sense, Conceptual Schemes and Alethic Logic”, in Aquinas 44 (2003): pp. ?

[36] Philip Larrey, “Revisionism for the truth predicate?”, in Il Cannocchiale: rivista di studi filosofici, No. 1-2, 1996, p. 157.


[37] See Michel Henry, Généalogie de la psychanalyse: Le commencement perdu (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985), pp. 53–56.



[38] Rafael Corazón, op. cit., pp. 54–55.

[39] See, on this point,A. Livi,“L’uomo alla prova del metodo empirico,” in Nuntium 18 (2002): pp. 152–60.


[40] “The primordial and founding certainty, universally accepted by common sense—that is, the certainty of the existence of the visible world, made of matter—becomes problematic, and must be recovered by means of a complex

reasoning, which is only possible at the end of the philosophical itinerary” See Salvatore Nicolosi, in ed. Angela Ales Bello, Pensare Dio a Gerusalemme (Milan: Mursia, 2000), p. 186.


[41] See Pietro Prini, Gabriel Marcel o la metodologia dell’inverificabile (Rome: Studium, 1968).


[42] See Antonio Livi, Il principio di coerenza, pp. 55–65.

[43] See Jean-Pierre Deschepper, “Comptes-rendus”, in Revue Philosophique de Louvain 89 (2001): 758: “The strict delimitation of the comprehensible of first philosophy, regarding the incomprehensible of faith, opens the field of philosophy to the sole reason.”

[44] See Thomas C. Vinci, Cartesian Truth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); André Robinet, Descartes, la lumière naturelle: Intuition, disposition, complexion (Paris: Vrin, 1999).


[45] See, e.g., the arguments adopted by each party in two famous controversies: that of Geulincx against Spinoza and that of Arnauld against Malebranche: see Bernard Rousset, Geulincx entre Descartes et Spinoza (Paris: Vrin, 1999]); and Denis Moreau, Deux cartésiens: la polémique entre Antoine Arnauld et Nicolas Malebranche (Paris:Vrin, 1999).

[46] See Antonio Livi, Il senso comune tra razionalismo e scetticismo, cit., pp. 50–55.

[47] See Louise Marcil-Lacoste, Claude Buffier and Thomas Reid:Two Common-Sense Philosophers (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University, 1982); Ralph McInerny, “Implicit Philosophy,” pp. 47–65.


[48] See Elena Rapetti’s recent historiographic study, “L’epistolario di Pierre-Daniel

Huet e la filosofia cartesiana,” in Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica 93 (2001): pp. 257–79.



[49] Elena Rapetti, op. cit., pp. 266–67.

[50] See Jean-François Baltus,“Sentiment sur le Traité de la faiblesse de l’esprit humain à M. l’Abbé d’Olivet, de l’Académie Françoise,” in Continuation des Mémoires de Litterature et della’Histoire de M de Salangre, 1(1726), part I, 220.


[51] Elena Rapetti, op. cit., p. 279.


[52] On the historical dimension of Christian faith, see Antonio Livi, La ricerca della verità: Dal senso

comune alla dialettica , 2nd edition (Rome: Leonardo da Vinci, 2003), pp. 170–179.


[53] See Fortunato Tito Arecchi, “Truth and certitude in the scientific language,” in

ed. F. Schweitzer, Self Organization of Complex Structures—From Individual to Collective Dynamics (London: Gordon and Breach, 1996), pp. 3–20; Antonio Livi, Tommaso d’Aquino: il futuro del pensiero cristiano (Milan: Mondadori, 1997); Il realismo come metodo necessario della metafisica: Riflessioni sul pensiero di Etienne Gilson, in ed. Horst Seidl, Realismus als philosophisches Problem (Hildesheim: Olms, 2000), pp. 131–38.

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