Studies in Seventeenth-Century European Philosophy is a collection of new, specially written essays on the flowering of modern philosophy on the continent of Europe. It is the second volume in a series designed to combine historical and analytical commentary on significant topics or periods in the history of philosophy. The philosophy of seventeenth-century Europe was shaped by scientific and theological tensions. These are reflected in different readings of and reactions to Aristotle's philosophy and to the scholastic and other traditions, in the light of new learning and of concerns about matter and mechanism. This volume focuses on the work of Descartes, later Cartesians, Leibniz, and Bayle. It reassesses the influence of Augustine on Descartes and of the Reformed tradition on Leibniz, and traces anticipations of Leibniz's monadology in the cabalistic notions of van Helmont, the preformationist theories of Malebranche, and the experimental work of Dutch microscopists. New light is shed on the occasionalist theory of causation.
The controversy over mind and matter is typical of the sceptical impasses that led Bayle to support toleration in all speculative matters, but how far this was a shield for free thinking in matters of faith and morals continues to attract debate.