22. One can see a Cartesian inspiration in parts of this passage. However, in contrast to Descartes, who goes from mind (“I think, therefore I am”), to God, to body, to the rest of the material world, d’Alembert starts from physical sensations, material facts, and the demands of the body. Then he moves to the historical formation of society and ideas of ethics, thereafter to knowledge of the soul, and finally to God. Again he adds historical considerations and Lockeian sensationalism to the timeless Cartesian metaphysical derivation of the origin of ideas. He defends this sequence later against the complaints of the pious by claiming that experience, history, and reason show that the notions of vices and virtues have preceded knowledge of the true God among the pagans ( Oeuvres, I, 14–15).

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