Wikipedia article on Thomas Merton states:

He believed that for the most part, Christianity had forsaken its mystical tradition in favor of Cartesian emphasis on "the reification of concepts, idolization of the reflexive consciousness, flight from being into verbalism, mathematics, and rationalization.

What did he mean by Cartesian? Why did he use this word?

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    What did you find, yourself, when you looked up 'Cartesian' ? – Nigel J Dec 20 '18 at 15:11
  • I wonder if Thomas Merton truly understood what he meant when he mentioned the Cartesianism about Christianity? – Ken Graham Dec 20 '18 at 22:06
  • @SijuGeorge Human mind and human body are neither distinct nor separable. Save in death, which will be overcome by resurrection. – Nigel J Dec 21 '18 at 0:46
  • @NigelJ Isn't the mind immaterial & body material? So why are they not distinct? And why are they not separable? How does one account for Out-of-body experience if they are not separable? – Siju George May 1 '19 at 6:00

In a very vague sense in many 19th and 20th century Christian writings when someone talks about "Cartesian" they mean they just mean whatever can be boiled down to the maxim:

I think therefore I am

And like evolution, people get the impression that reading that line gives them all they need to know about Principia philosophiae the same way "Survival of the Fittest" gives them all they need to know about Origin of Species. And because of this:

It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.

G.K. Chesterton - The Everlasting Man

Maybe Thomas Merton was writing about something deeper. He was a popular author writing philosophy for the masses, and this, at least probably lends itself to the idea that describing something or someone as Cartesian means branding them a Materialist Philosophy; one that would be banned in happier times (i.e. the Middle Ages).

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    What about Cartesian dualism: dividing reality into "thinking things" (res cogitans) and "extended things" (res extensa)? – Geremia Dec 20 '18 at 20:04
  • (cf. De Koninck on the dogma of the Assumption, which Pius XII defined in Munificentissimus Deus, which stresses, against Cartesian dualism, the unity of the human body and soul, since it proclaims that the Blessed Mother was assumed body and soul into heaven) – Geremia Dec 20 '18 at 20:06

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