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Arnauld, Antoine

1. Dates
Born: Paris, 6 or 8 Feb. 1612
Died: Brussels, 6 August 1694
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 82
2. Father
Occupation: Lawyer
His father was a lawyer, an "avocat" to the Parlement of Paris, one of the most celebrated lawyers of his day and a passionate opponent of the Jesuits, who had twenty children (ten of whom survived) of which Antoine was the last. The father of Antoine's mother was "avocat général" to the Parlement of Paris. The family was more than merely prominent.
In view of Arnauld's career and the prominence of many members of the family, it seems clear that he was reared in circumstances that were, at the least, affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: France
Career: France, Belgium
Death: Belgium
4. Education
Schooling: Paris, D.D.
Arnauld was a student at the collège Calvi and then at the collège Lisieux at the Sorbonne. He studied theology under Lescot, who was Richelieu's confessor and thus not entirely happy with Arnauld's ultimate views. Arnauld defended his bachelor's thesis in 1635 and received the doctorate in theology in 1641.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Ordained as a priest in 1641, Arnauld became the leader of French Jansenism in 1643 upon the death of du Vergier; he was expelled from the Sorbonne in 1656 for his Jansenist views.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Natural Philosophy
His Elemens (1667) reworked and reordered the Euclidean theorems in the light of contemporary literature and Pascal's influence.
His philosophical contributions are to be found in his objections to Descartes' Meditations, in his dispute with Malebranche, and in the Port-Royal Logic, which he wrote with Pierre Nicole. The Port-Royal Logic, a text developed from Descartes' regulae, had an enormous influence as a textbook until comparatively recent times.
Despite the work above, Arnauld was primarily a theologian and a metaphysician. His history was completely entwined with that of Port-Royale.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Personal Means, Patronage
Secondary: Academia
1638, he received a sub-deaconship.
1639, he received two benefices, the cantorship and canonry of Verdun, which he had qualms about accepting and resigned fairly soon.
1641, he was ordained and afterwards received a pension from the Seminary Bons-Enfants.
He entered the Sorbonne in 1643. I gather that this means that he was admitted to the faculty of theology, and I assume that he received income. He was expelled because of his Jansenism in 1656.
It seems clear that Arnauld always had inherited means on which he lived, at least in part. He gave all of his wealth (whatever it was) to Port-Royale, keeping for himself only the usufruct, which was his only income. His history is completely entwined with that of Port-Royale. I have been unwilling to make the effort to become the master of the truly enormous body of literature about Port-Royale, so that I remain somewhat uncertain about the material details of Arnauld's life. I think that he lived in Port-Royale from 1648 to 56 and again from 1668-79. (Though initially a convent, it appears to have had some male residents during the 17th century.) Part of the difficulty of Arnauld is that he lived extensive periods (1644-48, and 1656-68) in hiding. Apparently he was dependent largely on wealthy and prominent patrons who concealed him during these periods. He exiled himself in 1679, when the crown again began to persecute Port- Royale and Jansenism, to Belgium and finished his life there. I have found nothing at all to explain what he and the circle around him lived on, and I do not see how it could have been anything other than his own personal means.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official, Government Official
1639, Arnauld's cousin by marriage, the Marquis de Feuquières, had him named cantor of the church of the city of Verdun, of which the marquis was governor. Initially Arnauld refused. He was scrupulous about absentee benefices; he said later that no more than five out of a hundred holders of such benefices found their salvation. However, du Vergier de Hauranne, abbot of Saint-Cyran, his teacher and the leader of Jansenism, forced him to reverse his decision and accept the position in order that it not fall into the hands of the opposition. This episode was confined to the early years of Arnauld's career. After the death of de Vergier, Arnauld succeeded him as the leader of Jansenism.
He dedicated his Tradition de l'eglise, 1644, to the Queen. In view of the outcome of that work and Arnauld's need to go into hiding, I am reluctant to see the dedication in terms of patronage, except in so far as Arnauld undoubtedly hoped it would win protection.
In 1644, when Arnauld declined to answer the summons to Rome, he took refuge with M. Hamelin, a high government official, with whom he stayed for a number of years.
In the period 1656-68, when Port-Royale was under persecution, it was saved by bishops of the Church, especially four and among the four especially Nicolas Pavillon, Bishop of Aleth. In 1667 the bishops engaged the new Pope, Clement IX, in the project that led to peace in 1668.
During the period of persecution, Arnauld had several refuges. About 1666 the Duchess of Longueville (the sister of the great Condé and sister-in-law of Louis XIV) gave him refuge, and after the peace of 1668, which allowed Port-Royale to flouish openly again, she continued to defend it and Arnauld, until her death in 1679.
NBG calls Innocent XI Arnauld's protector; Sainte-Beuve says that under Innocent Arnauld always had a sure refuge in Rome.
In 1679, when Arnauld chose exile, he stayed in Mons for about six months with M. Robert, President of the Council of Hainault.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Voluminous correspondence with Descartes and Leibniz, among others.
Dispute with Malebranche.
Objections to Descartes' Meditations.
Collaboration with Pierre Nicole.
  1. New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1, 841-2.
  2. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 3, 859-67.
  3. H.L.Brekle, " Semiotik und linguistische Semantik in Port-Royal," Indogermanische Forschungen, 69 (1964), pp.103-121.
  4. Nouvelle biographie générale, 3, 282-90.
  5. Sainte-Beuve, Port-Royale.
  6. A. Gazier, Histoire générale du mouvement janseniste, (Paris, 1922).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. K.Bopp, "Arnauld als mathematiker" in Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der mathematischen Wissenschaften, 14 (1902).
  2. Noam Chomsky, Cartesian Linguistics,( N.Y., 1966). P123 .C54
  3. Pasquier Quesnel, Histoire abregée de la vie et des ouvrages de Mr Arnauld, (Cologne, 1695).
  4. C. Gazier, Histoire du monastère de Port-Royale, (Paris, 1928).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University
Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.
©1995 Al Van Helden
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