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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Antoine Arnauld (1612 – 1694) was a French theologian by trade, a barrister by instinct. Rest, rest, shall I have not all eternity to rest.

Antoine Arnauld

Antoine Arnauld, philosopher of religion

Source of Antoine Arnauld quotes: A web search has essentially no quotes, which is pitiful for a philosopher who wrote many books, but there are some lengthy selections readily available at: Early Modern TextsStanford, GoogleBooks,


Rest, rest, shall I have not all eternity to rest.


That’s his quote. I have included a passage below, not a short quote, to give you the flavor of Arnauld’s writing.

Arnauld to Leibniz, 1687

It is a long time since I received your letter, but I have been so busy since then that I couldn’t answer it sooner.

I don’t clearly understand what you mean by this ‘clearer expression that the soul has of what is happening just then in its body’ of how that expression can bring it about that when my arm is injured my soul knows this injury before it feels pain from it. This same clearer etc. expression should therefore inform the soul of an infinity of other things occurring in my body—e.g. the goings-on of digestion and nutrition—of which it actually knows nothing.

As for your statement that although my arm rises when I will to raise it, it’s not that my soul causes this movement in my arm, but rather: When I will to raise my arm, that is at the very moment when the body is all set to carry this out by virtue of its own laws. That this happens at the exact moment when the will is inclined to it is part of the amazing but unfailing harmony between things that God set up when he made his decision about the sequence of all events in the universe.

That strikes me as a rewording of the thesis that my will is the occasional cause of my arm’s movement, and that God is the real cause of it. The occasionalists don’t say that God does this in time, through a new act of will that he exercises each time I will to raise my arm; but rather that through a single act of the eternal will he has chosen to do everything that he has foreseen to be needed for the universe to be what he judged it should be.

Isn’t that what your thesis boils down to when you say that what causes the movement of my arm when I will to raise it is the amazing but unfailing harmony among things that comes from God’s having had it in mind in advance when he made his decision about this succession of all things in the universe? I think so, and here is why.

This ‘having in mind’ by God couldn’t have made something happen without a real cause; so we must find the real cause of my arm’s movement, You won’t allow that it is my will. And I don’t think you will allow, either, that a body can be moved by itself or by another body as a real and efficient cause. So you’ll have to say that this ‘having in mind’ by God is itself the real and efficient cause of my arm’s going up; you yourself call this having in mind God’s ‘decision’, and decision is the same as will; therefore, according to you, every time I will to raise my arm, the real and efficient cause of this movement is God’s will—which is just what the occasionalists say

Now for the problem numbered (2)

I now know that your position is quite different from what I had thought. I had thought you were arguing like this: Bodies must be true substances; They can’t be true substances without having a true unity; They can’t have true unity without having a substantial form; therefore The essence of body can’t be extension; every body, as well as being extended, must have a substantial form.


COMMENTS on Antoine Arnauld

When my list of philosophers was first made I was under the impression that Antoine Arnauld was in the top 100 of philosophers with impact on the current world. However, when doing a quote search on him, for this post, the only thing that appears is, Rest, rest, shall I have not all eternity to rest. That statement came from a man who wrote tirelessly for over fifty years, and his contacts were many of the most important and famous people of his time. But, now he’s gone! There are probably others even more famous and more important in their time who are even more totally forgotten. Why? There is something to be learned here.

Why are Diogenes’ off-hand comments remembered two and a half thousand years later, and Arnauld’s careful analyses all but forgotten a few hundred years later, and probably millions, and perhaps billions, of modern people’s equal efforts and equally deep and witty sayings totally ignored and never approach public consciousness? In my January 1st post, every year, I attempt to answer that question by identifying the person whose actions will be remembered five hundred years in the future.

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