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"THE TROJAN HORSE OF DESCARTES" : THE ORIGIN AND ROLE OF THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS WITHIN THE CARTESIAN SYSTEM (SUMMARY

Whenever we talk about the beginning of modern science, we remember the scientific revolution that began with the work of Copernicus and the emblematic "Galileo case". Galileo was summoned twice to the court of the Inquisition and in the final judgement; he was forced to recant his belief in the movement of the earth around the sun. I call this inquisitorial process "emblematic", as many have wanted to present it as one of the most notorious episodes of the contradiction between reason and faith, between science and religion, between ideological dogmatism and critical thinking. We have talked a lot about the opposition to scientific ideas in the seventeenth century by a Church rooted in the stubborn defence of the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian cosmology.

It is true that modern experimental science was developed from the seventeenth century within a controversial framework with the paradigms inherited from the past. It is true that the history of scientific thought underwent particularly strong confrontations. But today, thanks to the history of science, we know more about the prejudices of all kinds that have distorted the proper understanding of the Galileo case. We know that it was not a conflict between science and religion, or between rational and critical thinking, on the one hand and faith and theology on the other. Neither was Galileo able to show what he thought was true, nor did the Church condemn Galileo's ideas as heretical, much less subjected Galileo to cruel punishment. Galileo could comfortably and peacefully live out the last years of his life, but was not allowed to write or teach the movement of the Earth as real.

The Church, in that historical moment and from our contemporary perspective, did not work properly but nor did it lack relevant and logical reasons, not to judge, but to challenge the Galilean realism.

Firstly, seen from the perspective of our time, the Church curtailed the right to free inquiry and expression of philosophical or scientific thought. Regarding the controversy with Galileo, he did not know or was not able to respect the just claims of autonomy of the emerging scientific thought. Therefore, we could say that the Church did not act correctly with Galileo. Today it is something incomprehensible, even if it was normal in the past, the relationship of subjection and control exercised by religion in all fields of culture: because life in the seventeenth century was still determined by religion. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the greatest hostility towards new scientific ideas came from the Catholic Church, since they were also harshly execrated and persecuted by Protestantism.

Secondly, the Church also does not lack logic reasons to oppose the belief of Galileo about the movement of the Earth. Galileo emphasised the real sense that he had affirmation regarding the movement of the Earth which followed the heliocentric model. And this was not easily tolerated by theology or, above all, the official scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy. Nor were Galileo's atomistic beliefs easily admissible; but Pope Urban VIII sought that this other complaint be archived and that the accusations against Galileo be limited to his stubborn, realistic defence of the Copernican system and, in particular, of the rotation of the Earth. But, as I say, and as renowned philosophers of science (Popper and Feyerabend, among others) have taught us, the Church reasonably argued that the empirical contributions of Galileo to heliocentrism were not decisive or demonstrative. Galileo was able to show that heliocentrism best matched experience and had a greater explanatory power than the Ptolemaic model. But it was not about denying the facts observed by Galileo (for example, the phases of Venus and the satellites of Jupiter), but to logically weigh its demonstrative value. And it seems that Galileo's judges reasonably judged that the coherence of heliocentrism with the alleged empirical evidence was not a sufficient reason to preclude any other possible theoretical explanation and therefore, to declare the Copernican hypothesis as definitively verified.

Now, there is something that is often ignored in many historical and philosophical studies on the Galileo case. Whilst the objections raised against the realistic orientation represented by Galileo were logically very reasonable, such objections were based however, on a theological presupposition and less on pure formal logic. Indeed, it was assumed that, because God is absolutely free and all-powerful, nothing could hold back his infinite creative freedom. Thus, except God, nothing exists necessarily, everything is radically contingent, even the laws of nature that are created. Since God can choose to create infinite possible worlds, we, limited beings, can not know the order established by God in his creation in detail, because the mystery of his infinite power and will exceeds us absolutely. Thus, although we may prefer a theory for its explanatory and predictive utility, we can not claim it to be the only truth, as we radically overlook the mystery of freedom and divine wisdom.

So, in this way, the clash between Galileo and the Inquisition was the result of a struggle between two orientations or conceptions regarding the value of Copernican science. On the one hand, the instrumentalist orientation, which reduced the value of it to almost "theoretical fiction" valid only for its predictive utility, with contempt for its truth; on the other hand, the realistic orientation, which considered the heliocentric theory as a description of the real world. Whilst the first orientation was defended by all those who could not detach themselves from the Aristotelian-scholastic inheritance, the second could mostly be followed by those scientists who, influenced by Platonism, defended the need for mathematics to understand the underlying order of the natural world.

My theory is that Descartes was not at all alien to this struggle in which the value of emerging scientific thought itself was at stake. Descartes knew that reason and science was at stake with the Galileo case: not only its independence, but also the validity of its claims of certainty and its own progress. Therefore, in my book, I try to show up to what point methodical doubt and the Cartesian metaphysical system are nothing more than a construct developed from theological objection (the objection raised in the "angelic doctrine" of Pope Urban VIII) based on which, in the name of divine omnipotence, it was meant to combat scientific realism and to forcibly impose scientific instrumentalism.

It is certainly not news that the Cartesian system is placed within the context of the scientific revolution. But what is new is the reconstruction of the theoretical fiction of God the deceiver or the evil genius from his remote origin in medieval debates about divine omnipotence, until the time He reappears in the "angelic doctrine" by Galileo's friend, Pope Urban VIII.

The "Angelic doctrine" is the name by which Galileo himself refers to it in one of his works which, as I show, Descartes read. My thesis seeks to establish that the Cartesian idea of God the deceiver or the evil genius was the result of generalising and bringing this scholastic argument to its most radical (not to downplay the value of the new physics, but to question the totality of human knowledge). However, the objective of Descartes upon formulating such radical doubt was to refute and to blow up the argument of the "angelic doctrine". Because Descartes knew very well that this was waging a battle to defend the autonomy and independence of science.

Logically, Descartes would not have dared confess that he was trying to twist and turn, to a fault, the papal doctrine in order to demolish it... But Descartes knew what he was doing: after overcoming the methodical doubt with the famous "cogito ergo sum", Descartes reintroduced the idea of ​​Perfection and Divine Omnipotence to overcome the God the deceiver hypothesis and to justify that everything that was shown clearly and distinctly in a rational way is absolutely true. So, he gave the lie to the Pope and the Inquisition, and, moreover, he justified the scientific realism of Galileo against the theological pretensions of converting the new science into pure theory without more value than the utility to calculate and predict natural phenomena.

The idea contained in the title of the book is, thus, that Descartes used the idea of ​​divine omnipotence as a "Trojan horse" against the position of the official theology of the time against modern science. It uses theological concepts to eradicate the theological prejudices that limited the new scientific world.

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