Teleomechanism redux? The conceptual hybridity of living machines in early modern natural philosophy
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
We have been accustomed at least since Kant and mainstream history of philosophy to distinguish between the ‘mechanical’ and the ‘teleological’; between a fully mechanistic, quantitative science of Nature exemplified by Newton (or Galileo, or Descartes) and a teleological, qualitative approach to living beings ultimately expressed in the concept of ‘organism’ – a purposive entity, or at least an entity possessed of functions. The beauty of this distinction is that it seems to make intuitive sense and to map onto historical and conceptual constellations in medicine, physiology and the related natural-philosophical discussions on the status of the body versus that of the machine. In this presentation I argue that the distinction between mechanism and teleology is imprecise and flawed, on the basis of a series of examples: the presence of ‘functional’ or ‘purposive’ features even in Cartesian physiology; work such as that of Richard Lower’s on animal respiration; the fact that the model of the ‘body-machine’ is not at all a mechanistic reduction of organismic properties to basic physical properties but on the contrary a way of emphasizing the uniqueness of organic life; and the concept of ‘animal economy’ in vitalist medical theory, which I present as a kind of ‘teleo-mechanistic’ concept of organism (borrowing a term of Timothy Lenoir’s which he used to discuss 19th-century embryology) – neither mechanical nor teleological.
|Keywords||teleomechanism vitalism early modern natural philosophy|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library||
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Charles T. Wolfe (2011). Why Was There No Controversy Over Life in the Scientific Revolution? In Victor Boantza Marcelo Dascal (ed.), Controversies in the Scientific Revolution. John Benjamins.
Marina Paola Banchetti-Robino (2011). Ontological Tensions in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Chemistry: Between Mechanism and Vitalism. Foundations of Chemistry 13 (3):173-186.
Michael J. Denton, Govindasamy Kumaramanickavel & Michael Legge (2013). Cells as Irreducible Wholes: The Failure of Mechanism and the Possibility of an Organicist Revival. Biology and Philosophy 28 (1):31-52.
Peter Anstey & Alberto Vanzo (2012). The Origins of Early Modern Experimental Philosophy. Intellectual History Review 22 (4):499-518.
Charles T. Wolfe (2010). Embodied Empiricism. In Charles T. Wolfe & Ofer Gal (eds.), The Body as object and instrument of knowledge. Springer. 1--6.
Donald Rutherford (ed.) (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
Charles T. Wolfe (2012). Forms of Materialist Embodiment. In Matthew Landers & Brian Muñoz (eds.), Anatomy and the Organization of Knowledge, 1500-1850. Pickering and Chatto.
Deborah J. Brown (2012). Cartesian Functional Analysis. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):75 - 92.
Walter M. Elsasser (1987/1998). Reflections on a Theory of Organisms: Holism in Biology. Published for the Johns Hopkins Dept. Of Earth and Planetary Sciences by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
Antonia LoLordo (2007). Pierre Gassendi and the Birth of Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
Marina Paola Banchetti-Robino, Ontological Tensions in 16th and 17th Century Chemistry: Between Mechanism and Vitalism.
Charles T. Wolfe (2010). Rethinking Empiricism and Materialism: The Revisionist View. Annales Philosophici 1 (1):101-113.
Dennis Des Chene (2012). Using the Passions. In Martin Pickavé & Lisa Shapiro (eds.), Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
Jan-Erik Jones (2012). Review of John Locke and Natural Philosophy. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2012.
Added to index2011-11-19
Total downloads236 ( #2,735 of 1,679,396 )
Recent downloads (6 months)29 ( #6,830 of 1,679,396 )
How can I increase my downloads?