ARNAULD Antoine—theologian and philosopher, one of the greatest thinkers of the seventeenth century, the most famous representative and defender of Jansenism, b. February 5, 1612 in Paris, d. August 8, 1694 in Brussels.
He was born into a large and influential family long connected with Jansenism. His sister Jacqueline was the abbess of the cloister in Port-Royal in which she led a reform in the spirit of Jansenism. Arnauld studied philosophy in Calvi and Lisieux. He also began to study law. He became interested in theology under the influence of J. Duvergier. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1641 and receiving his doctorate in theology in 1643 he began to work at the Sorbonne. This was possible only after the dearth of Cardinal Richelieu who was opposed to his appointment. Arnauld made a distinction between fact and law in view of Pope Innocent X’s condemnation of five theses of Jansenius. He was removed from the Sorbonne in 1656 and took up residence in Port-Royal. In 1679 out of fear of repression from Louis XIV he left France and settled in the Netherlands. In 1690 Pope Alexander condemned three of Arnauld’s theses concerning the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. Arnauld died in exile.
Arnauld’s motives in his philosophical work are basically theological. Some of the most important works of Arnauld are: De la fréquente communion (P 1643, 173911) concerning the frequency of recieving communion and it contains propositions that Alexander VIII recognized as errors; a defense of Jansenius called Apologies de M. Jansenius (P 1643–1644); his two most important works on language and method—Grammaire générale et raisonné (P 1660, 17095, coauthored by P. Nicole), known under the title of La logique de Port-Royal, the most popular logic in the early modern period; Des vrayes et des fausses idées (Kö 1683), which two years later was published as Réflexions philosophiques et théologiques sur le nouveau système de la nature et de la grâce in which he criticized Malebranche’s theory of ideas (as Malebranche had presented it in De la recherche de la vérité); Arnaould also formulated constructive objections to Descartes’ Meditations whereby he gained a reputation as a penetrating and analytical philosopher.
In his philosophical views Arnauld was a Cartesian, a follower of the philosophy of Malebranche, and of St. Augustine. Despite his defense of Cartesian thought, Arnauld criticized it in several points. For example, he criticized the vicious circle in Descartes’ argument for the truth of cognition based on the irrefutability of God’s existence, and he questioned Descartes’ argument for the immateriality of the human mind. Arnauld rejected Malebranche’s doctrine of ideas and reworked the theory of clear and distinct ideas. His aim was to save science as such from falling into skepticism. To this end he also called for the construction of a new method and a new logic (realized in La logique de Port-Royal) which would avoid the limitations of scholastic logic (generally regarded as useless) and would be practical in character. The method indicated by Arnauld (and P. Nicole) was Cartesian, a priori and deductive.
The most important theological questions for Arnauld were the questions of grace and divine providence.
B. Matteucci, ECat I 2006–2007; A. del Noce, EF I 379–381; S. Romahnowa, Logika z Port-Royal na tle historii logiki i metodologii XVII w. [The Logic of Port- Royal upon the background of the history of the logic and methodology of the seventeenth century], in: Antoine A., P. Nicole, Logika, czyli sztuka myślenia [Logic, or the art of thinking], Wwa 1958, p. XI–XXVI; H. M. Bracken, EPh I 165–167; S. Nadler, REPh I 443–448.