The Reception of L’Homme Among the Leuven Physicians: The Condemnation of 1662 and the Origins of Occasionalism
There is abundant commentary in the literature on the successive censures of Descartes’s philosophy by the Leuven theological faculty in 1662 and the Holy Office in 1663. This essay seeks to demonstrate that the 1662 condemnation struck in particular an occasionalist interpretation of the mind–body problem that had been developed in the Leuven medical faculty. The first part studies the traces of occasionalism in the works of the Leuven physicians Guillaume Philippi and Gerhard van Gutschoven. The second part examines the Compendium omnium præcipuarum actionum automaticarum, a thesis defended under the direction of Professor Pierre Dorlix 5 months prior to the theologians’ censure. I will show that the thesis cites long passages from the manuscript of L’Homme in van Gutschoven’s possession and that it also contains the first occurrence, 4 years before La Forge, of the term causa occasionalis. I conclude that the 1662 censure was prompted by the spreading of a variant of Descartes’s philosophy that drew on the occasionalist solution to account for the functions of the soul (attention, voluntary action) exclusively with the movements of the machine of the body.