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Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity$
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Catherine Wilson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199238811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199238811.001.0001

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Mortality and Metaphysics

Mortality and Metaphysics

(p.106) 4 Mortality and Metaphysics
Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity

Catherine Wilson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Epicurean philosophers maintained that the human soul, composed of a particular kind of subtle atom, conferred sensibility and thought only so long as it permeated the organic body. Every atomic composite was subject to dissolution, and complex living, thinking entities were necessarily short-lived. This Epicurean tenet was resisted by many early modern philosophers as offensive to Christianity and also as subjectively implausible. Descartes presented arguments in his Meditations to show that the human soul could not be an atomic composite, and could be inferred to be incorporeal and immortal. Spinoza however was scornful of Cartesian dualism, and his own theory of immortality does not imply survival of the person of the sort posited by Christian doctrine. Leibniz argued that organisms were soul-body composites that were naturally indissoluble and as a consequence immortal.

Keywords:   body, Cartesianism, conatus, death, dualism, organism, immortality, sensibility, soul, Spinoza

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