Vol. 7 (2022)

Moderni contro moderni: la strategia apologetica del cartesiano Gerdil

Carlo Borghero
"Sapienza" Università di Roma

Published 2022-11-18


  • Counter-Enlightenment,
  • Materialism,
  • Spinozism,
  • Cartesianism,
  • Philosophical apologetics

How to Cite

Borghero, C. (2022). Moderni contro moderni: la strategia apologetica del cartesiano Gerdil. Diciottesimo Secolo, 7, 111–126. https://doi.org/10.36253/ds-13850


Follower of Malebranche, H.S. Gerdil is one of the greatest Eighteenth-Century Catholic philosophers. His Dissertation on the incompatibility of the principles of Descartes and Spinoza (1760), the subject of this article, highlights, thanks to an analytical examination of the texts, the irreconcilability between the two metaphysical perspectives. But the dissertation is not only a defense of Cartesianism against the accusation of closeness to Spinozism made by Leibniz and others – an accusation that for the author is denied by Spinoza’s own Epistolary – it is also a recapitulation of Gerdil’s philosophical apologetics. This is characterized by a skilful use of Descartes’ philosophy to contrast all forms of materialistic monism, whether they derive from Spinoza, Locke or Leibniz. Against these philosophies Gerdil does not use the Aristotelian scholasticism but the philosophy of Descartes, considered the true champion of Modern philosophy. By clearly separating Descartes from Spinoza, Gerdil also constructs a narrative of philosophical modernity different from the one made by Voltaire in the Lettres philosophiques and accepted by the manifestos of the Lumières. The modèle anglais is replaced with the defense of the relevance of Cartesianism and its usefulness in contrasting the Eighteenth-Century materialistic and atheistic philosophies, presented as a corruption of Descartes’ genuine principles, the only ones to guarantee the coexistence of philosophy with religion.


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