This blog discusses the combination of Gassendi’s religious belief with his Epicureanism. It explores how his commitment to Epicurean philosophy is distorted as a result, before determining whether his overall view is consistent. The original title of this essay was ‘Whole Resolved Into Parts: Pierre Gassendi and the Reconciliation of Atomism and Christianity’.
Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), 17th century French philosopher, priest, astronomer, mathematician, and scholar of ancient thought, is best known for his ‘Epicurean project’, an attempt to fuse Christian belief with Epicurean ideas. Through a close reading of chapter eight of the third book on Physics in his 1658 posthumous work The Syntagma Philosophicum, an attempt will be made to discern whether this enterprise of Gassendi’s is, on the whole, consistent. The main proposition is that, read historically, Gassendi’s synthesis is problematic, but approached through a mereological lens, it makes sense. Gassendi’s conception of atomism, and its attendant problems, are examined first. His reconciliation of parts (i.e. atoms) and the whole (i.e. universe) is assessed second. The problems of incorporeality and the void are analysed third. The paper concludes with an appraisal of Gassendi’s system overall.