The Conquest of Cartesianism
M ONTESQ,UIEU, or to give him his full name, CharlesLouis Joseph de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et deMontesquieu, was born in the year 1689 and thus belonged to the generation whose keenest and most independent minds reacted against the Cartesian philosophy which had dominated French thinking up to the end of the seventeenth century. His eye was turned towards the concrete, not, like that of Descartes, towards the abstract. He was a lover of facts and not of speculation: speculation seemed to him pale, anremic, a plaything for listless intellects, facts colourful, real, vital, the proper concern of the social philosopher. It is true that a careful analysis can discern some traces of the Cartesian outlook even in his work; but they are few and far between, accidental rather than essential, and certainly not, as some writers have tried to make out, characteristic of his total achievement.