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date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle has often been treated as merely a “popularizer” of Descartes’s philosophy, it is shown here that Fontenelle’s Cartesianism is a peculiar one. Cartesianism is mainly treated by Fontenelle as an exemplary modern “way of reasoning”, and absolutely not as a coherent “system” that one should adhere to. This has two consequences: first, this way of reasoning, the “geometrical spirit”, can be applied to domains that the Cartesian system would have forbidden (poetic, politics, etc.); and second, this way of reasoning, supposedly relying on higher norms of clarity, is used by Fontenelle to oppose the Newtonian system of attraction at a time when all his contemporaries are adopting it.

Keywords: Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, modernity, physics, popularization, geometrical spirit

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