Theology and History in Seventeenth-Century France: Problems and Perspectives
This chapter highlights the Augustinian current in 17th-century French culture, especially the movement known as Jansenism with which Pascal was associated. It sets out the main tenets of Jansenist theology and contrasts these with the dominant emphasis of Jesuit teaching. Various interpretations (sociological and theological) of Jansenism are discussed, and the label ‘Jansenist’ itself examined. In any case, ‘Jansenism’ must be set within a broader Augustinian intellectual tendency, within which Descartes and Malebranche can also be located. All three writers practise what Charles Taylor has called ‘radical reflexivity’, an approach he traces to Augustine, whereby the thinker seeks truth first and foremost by examining his or her experience of thinking. This approach strongly affected writers' conception of the relationship of the human mind to the body and to the material world, but so did images drawn from mystical writing of the mind as an ‘interior’ space.
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