1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Geulincx, Arnold

GEULINCX, ARNOLD (1624–1669), Belgian philosopher, was born at Antwerp on the 31st of January 1624. He studied philosophy and medicine at the university of Louvain, where he remained as a lecturer for several years. Having given offence by his unorthodox views, he left Louvain, and took refuge in Leiden, where he appears to have been in the utmost distress. He entered the Protestant Church, and in 1663, through the influence of his friend Abraham Heidanus, who had assisted him in his greatest need, he obtained a poorly paid lectureship at the university. He died at Leiden in November 1669. His most important works were published posthumously. The Metaphysica vera (1691), and the Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, sive Ethica (under the pseudonym “Philaretus,” 1675), are the works by which he is chiefly known. Mention may also be made of Physica vera (1688), Logica restituta (1662) and Annotata in Principia philosophiae R. Cartesii (1691).

Geulincx principally deals with the question, left in an obscure and unsatisfactory state by Descartes, of the relation between soul and body. Whereas Descartes made the union between them a violent collocation, Geulincx practically called it a miracle. Extension and thought, the essences of corporeal and spiritual natures, are absolutely distinct, and cannot act upon one another. External facts are not the causes of mental states, nor are mental states the causes of physical facts. So far as the physical universe is concerned, we are merely spectators; the only action that remains for us is contemplation. The influence we seem to exercise over bodies by will is only apparent; volition and action only accompany one another. Since true activity consists in knowing what one does and how one does it, I cannot be the author of any state of which I am unconscious; I am not conscious of the mechanism by which bodily motion is produced, hence I am not the author of bodily motion (“Quod nescis quomodo fiat, id non facis”). Body and mind are like two clocks which act together, because both have been set together by God. A physical occurrence is but the occasion (opportunity, occasional cause) on which God excites in me a corresponding mental state; the exercise of my will is the occasion on which God moves my body. Every operation in which mind and matter are both concerned is an effect of neither, but the direct act of God. Geulincx was thus the first definitely to systematize the theory called Occasionalism, which had already been propounded by Gérauld de Cordemoy (d. 1684), a Parisian lawyer, and Louis de la Forge, a physician of Saumur. But the principles on which the theory was founded compelled a further advance. God, who is the cause of the concomitance of bodily and mental facts, is in truth the sole cause in the universe. No fact contains in itself the ground of any other; the existence of the facts is due to God, their sequence and coexistence are also due to him. He is the ground of all that is. My desires, volitions and thoughts are thus the desires, volitions and thoughts of God. Apart from God, the finite being has no reality, and we only have the idea of it from God. Descartes had left untouched, or nearly so, the difficult problem of the relation between the universal element or thought and the particular desires or inclinations. All these are regarded by Geulincx as modes of the divine thought and action, and accordingly the end of human endeavour is the end of the divine will or the realization of reason. The love of right reason is the supreme virtue, whence flow the cardinal virtues, diligence, obedience, justice and humility. Since it is impossible for us to make any alteration in the world of matter, all we can do is to submit. Chief of the cardinal virtues is humility, a confession of our own helplessness and submission to God. Geulincx’s idea of life is “a resigned optimism.”

Geulincx carried out to their extreme consequences the irreconcilable elements in the Cartesian metaphysics, and his works have the peculiar value attaching to the vigorous development of a one-sided principle. The abrupt contradictions to which such development leads of necessity compels revision of the principle itself. He was thus important as the precursor of Malebranche and Spinoza.

Edition of his philosophical works by J. P. N. Land (1891–1893, for which a recently discovered MS. was consulted); see also the same editor’s Arnold Geulincx und seine Philosophie (1895), and article (translated) in Mind, xvi. 223 seq.; V. van der Haeghen, Geulincx. Étude sur sa vie, sa philosophie, et ses ouvrages (Ghent, 1886); E. Grimm, A. Geulincx’ Erkenntnisstheorie und Occasionalismus (1875); E. Pfleiderer, A. G. als Hauptvertreter der okkasionalistischen Metaphysik und Ethik (1882); G. Samtleben, Geulincx, ein Vorgänger Spinozas (1885); also Falckenberg, Hist. of Mod. Philos. (Eng. trans., 1895), ch. iii.; G. Monchamp, Hist. du Cartésianisme en Belgique (Brussels, 1886); H. Höffding, Hist. of Mod. Philos. (Eng. trans., 1900), i. 245.