Géraud d’Cordemoy is considered one of the most important Cartesian philosophers after the death of Descartes, although he disagrees with Cartesian philosophy.
He was the only Cartesian philosopher to embrace atomistic ideas, in addition to discussing occasionalism. Let’s take a closer look at his life and work through a biography of Géraud d’Cordemoy in summary format.
Brief biography of Géraud d’Cordemoy
Géraud d’Cordemoy he was born in Paris on October 6, 1625, son of a professor at the University of Paris. He was the third of four children, the only male of the brothers. Beyond the fact that her father died at the age of 9, little is known about her childhood.
In his youth, he married Marie de Chazelles, although the exact date of the marriage is unknown. From this marriage, five children were born.
Géraud d’Cordemoy he earned his living as a lawyer, but that did not prevent him from becoming very active in Parisian philosophical circles.. He also worked as a linguist and private tutor, and was chosen as a member of the French Academy. In the rooms where he spoke of philosophy, he remained in contact with Emmanuel Maignan and Jacques Rohault, and had the privilege of being the guardian of the French dauphin, Louis, son of King Louis XIV.
Shortly after turning 58, Géraud de Cordemoy died of a sudden illness, dying on October 15, 1684.
Cordemoy’s essay Discours de l’Action des corps was published in 1664 with a speech by his friend Rohault in a posthumous publication of Descartes The World, by Claude Clerselier.
This essay, along with The Discernment of Body and Soul in Six Discernments Intended to Clarify Physics, would be Cordemoy’s most important work. In this work presents his thoughts on atomism, his arguments in favor of occasionalism and his distinctions between mind and body, And how these two elements would interact according to their dualistic conception of the human being.
Another important work by Géraud de Cordemoy is the Physical Discourse of the Word, published in 1668, with a copy of a letter written to a religious scholar of the Society of Jesus. This letter concerns an attempt at reconciliation with the philosophy of Descartes using the creation story as a background, with the exception of the book of Genesis.
With these works, Cordemoy will become one of the most important philosophers in France of his time.
In his first speech, Cordemoy talks about how the “bodies”, that is to say what would be equivalent to our idea of atom, remain on earth according to their own vision of physics.
Consider that “bodies” have (1) a limit in their extent, which gives them shape and says “figure”; (2) bodies are a substance and cannot be divided into other smaller bodies, nor can one body pass through another; (3) the relationship that the body has with other bodies is called “place”; (5) a change to another location is called movement; and (5) when the relationship remains unchanged or given strength, the body is at rest.
Cordemoy explains that matter is clearly understood as a collection of bodies; bodies are part of matter. When these remain very close together, they form a cluster; if they constantly change position, they are fluid; and if they cannot be separated from each other, they form a mass.
Cordemoy was not in favor of the idea that reality could be made up of two substances, which Descartes thought. For the more traditional Cartesians, there were two different things, bodies and matter. For Cordemoy, only bodies were the true extended substance, while matter was the body of bodies.
Cordemoy was one of the first to see that Cartesian physics led to occasionalism, A philosophical view that maintains that God is the only true and active cause in the world. He exposes this in his Fourth Discourse, in which he presents the idea that bodies do not have movement on their own, for they remain bodies when they are in motion. They do not turn into something momentary which has the property of movement so that in a state of rest they become bodies again.
This is why, since bodies do not have movement by themselves or do not generate it, what first had to give the original movement should not be a body. In Cordemoy’s philosophy, there are only two types of substances, those which are bodies and those which are spirit, so the first to give to the body was a spirit.
But the mind, at least the human, does not have an infinite capacity to generate movement. You cannot initiate any movement. For example, we cannot stop our liver cells from reproducing, or stop our bodies from aging through our thinking. It is on this basis that Cordemoy comes to the conclusion that the only one who could initiate a primordial movement is God, with an infinite spirit as to his capacity to influence bodies.
Language and speech
In his philosophy, Géraud de Cordemoy the question arises as to how he can be sure that others can think. It is clear that everyone is aware that they are thinking, but there is no way to get into other people’s minds and know if they are also thinking or not. It is then that he raises that this is observable by means of language.
Other human beings cannot be automatons devoid of the capacity to think since, through language, a system of they are able to creatively share their inner world. This creativity which characterizes human language cannot be explained by means of mechanical principles, which would be applicable to a soulless automaton, to a gear or to any type of machine.
Cordemoy distinguishes between the actual use of language and the simple act of making sounds. Language presupposes the capacity to be able to emit, by sound, signals of our own thought, that is to say to be able to account for what we have in the head.
For a speech to be made, Cordemoy raises the need to meet two conditions. The first is the physical act of making any sound, i.e. having a voice, something that comes from the body, and the other is having the ability to think, which can only come from the soul.
- Cordemoy, G. (1968) Philosophical works, Pierre Clair and François Girbal (eds.), Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
- Cordemoy, G., (1664), Discours de action des corps, Paris: Jacques Le Gras.
- Cordemoy, G., (1666) The discernment of the body and the soul in six discourses to serve for the clarification of physics, Paris.
- Cordemoy, G., (1668), Discours physique de la parole, Paris.