By William Thomas Tucker

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Prior to that time there had been a vigorous campaign to promote Descartes’s views, particularly in France. A primary basis for these views was not only the works Descartes published during his lifetime, but also unpublished manuscripts that Chanut transferred from Sweden to France. Clerselier received the manuscripts and proceeded to produce various posthumous publications: the Rules, The World, a three-volume set of Correspondence, and various collections and translations of Descartes’s works.

Similar troubles arose at the University of Leiden in 1647, which resulted in a prohibition against the teaching of Descartes’s works in 1648. During this same period, Descartes made a few trips to France (1644, 1647, and 1648), the first since his departure to the Netherlands in 1628. During the first two trips he resided with the abbé Claude Picot, who was a member of Mersenne’s circle and the future translator of the Principles. Descartes was able to review some of Picot’s translation as early as 1644, and in 1646–1647, he made significant corrections to it, including the addition of replies to some objections.

Rohault’s textbook went through several editions, and it was widely used well into the 18th century. The popularity of this text is a reminder that Cartesian physics retained considerable support during this time. Indeed, Cartesian mechanism provided a primary source for opposition on the continent to the appeal of gravitational forces in the Principia mathematica (1687) of Sir Isaac Newton. Ultimately, however, the success of Newton’s Principia led Voltaire to declare the defeat of Cartesianism in his Lettres Philosophiques (1734).

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