This chapter is chiefly devoted to Pierre Nicole and François Lamy, both to a certain extent followers of Descartes, though Jacques Esprit, a sometime collaborator of La Rochefoucauld’s, is also discussed. They analyse the sources of illusion in human life: the close relation of the mind to the body; attachments to external objects and other people; the passions; and above all self-love, which is both the secret and vitiating motive of most of our actions as well as a narcissistic attachment to an image of ourselves, which we prefer to the ugly reality. At times it is detectable, but it is especially elusive when it disguises itself as charity, the love of God, so cunningly that we cannot know if our motives or our state are spiritually good or bad. These writers, therefore, hold that we can be actuated by ‘imperceptible thoughts’. The theological and philosophical implications of this are discussed.
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