Introduction II.C:

2. Consistency with Religion

One part of the explanation is that is was perceived to be less of a threat to established religion.  Whereas the magical philosophy gave natural explanations for Biblical miracles, the mechanical philosophy left them unexplained, and therefore it was not viewed as a threat to Christian faith.  Indeed, since the age of miracles is passed, there is no reason suppose that God or the angels interfere with the mechanical operation of the material world.  Even if miracles did still occur, that would just be further evidence for the existence of God.  The mechanical philosophy was uncommitted about the existence of demons, who would in any case be limited by the laws of physics, but their existence was not essential to its support of Christianity.  (Therefore the mechanical philosophy did not oblige the church to argue for the existence of witches in order to prove the possibility of immaterial spirits.)  Further, since matter was by definition inert, it was apparent that the soul (at least its conscious, reasoning part) must be immaterial, a position consistent with religious dogma.  Since animals were not supposed to have immortal souls, with the same hopes and fears for the afterlife as we have, Cartesian philosophy had the further implication that animals are effectively complex machines, and therefore that their apparent suffering is illusory.  When Cartesians were criticized for their cruel vivisection experiments, they replied that their accusers had not outgrown their childish sensibilities.

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