Descartes and the last Scholastics: objections and replies -- Descartes and the Scotists -- Ideas, before and after Descartes -- The Cartesian destiny of form and matter -- Descartes, Basso, and Toletus: three kinds of Corpuscularians -- Scholastics and the new astronomy on the substance of the heavens -- Descartes and the Jesuits of La Fleche: the Eucharist -- Condemnations of Cartesianism: the extension and unity of the universe -- Cartesians, Gassendists, and censorship -- The cogito in the seventeenth century.
No single text could be considered more important in the history of philosophy than Descartes' Meditations. This unique collection of background material to this magisterial philosophical text has been translated from the original French and Latin. The texts gathered here illustrate the kinds of principles, assumptions, and philosophical methods that were commonplace when Descartes was growing up. The selections are from: Francisco Sanches, Christopher Clavius, Pierre de la Ramee (Petrus Ramus), Francisco Suárez, Pierre Charron, Eustachius a Sancto Paulo, Scipion Dupleix, (...) Marin Mersenne, Pierre Gassendi, Jean de Silhon, François de la Mothe le Vayer, Charles Sorel, and Jean-Baptiste Morin. (shrink)
Descartes. An Intellectual Biography by Stephen Gaukroger, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995. xx + 499pp. 25.00 ISBN 0-19-823994-7 Descartes. Biographie by Gen vieve Rodis-Lewis, Calmann-L vy, Paris, 1995. 371pp.
Before publishing his landmark Meditations in 1641, Rene Descartes sent his manuscript to many leading thinkers to solicit their objections to his arguments. He included these objections, along with his own detailed replies, as part of the first edition. This unusual strategy gave Descartes a chance to address criticisms in advance and to demonstrate his willingness to consider diverse viewpoints--critical in an age when radical ideas could result in condemnation by church and state, or even death. Descartes and his Contemporaries (...) recreates the tumultuous intellectual community of seventeenth-century Europe and provides a detailed, modern analysis of the Meditations in its historical context. The book's chapters examine the arguments and positions of each of the objectors--Hobbes, Gassendi, Arnauld, Morin, Caterus, Bourdin, and others whose views were compiled by Mersenne. They illuminate Descartes' relationships to the scholastics and particularly the Jesuits, to Mersenne's circle with its debates about the natural sciences, to the Epicurean movements of his day, and to the Augustinian tradition. Providing a glimpse of the interactions among leading 17th-century intellectuals as they grappled with major philosophical issues, this book sheds light on how Descartes' thought developed and was articulated in opposition to the ideas of his contemporaries. (shrink)
Descartes' image of the tree of knowledge from the preface to the French edition of the Principles of Philosophy is usually taken to represent Descartes' break with the past and with the fragmentation of knowledge of the schools. But if Descartes' tree of knowledge is analyzed in its proper context, another interpretation emerges. A series of contrasts with other classifications of knowledge from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries raises some puzzles: claims of originality and radical break from the past do (...) not seem warranted. Further contrasts with Descartes' unpublished writings and with school doctrines lead to the ironic conclusion that, in the famous passage, Descartes is attempting to appeal to conventional wisdom and trying to avoid sounding novel. (shrink)
I discuss two questions: (1) would Duhem have accepted the thesis of the continuity of scientific methodology? and (2) to what extent is the Oxford tradition of classification/subalternation of sciences continuous with early modern science? I argue that Duhem would have been surprised by the claim that scientific methodology is continuous; he expected at best only a continuity of physical theories, which he was trying to isolate from the perpetual fluctuations of methods and metaphysics. I also argue that the evidence (...) does not support the conclusion that early modern doctrines about mathematics and physics are continuous with the subalternation of sciences from Grosseteste, Bacon, and the theologians of fourteenth-century Oxford. The official and dominant context for early modern scientific methodology seems to have been progressive Thomism, and early modern thinkers seem to have pitted themselves against it. (shrink)
Some philosophers of science suggest that philosophical assumptions must influence historical scholarship, because history (like science) has no neutral data and because the treatment of any particular historical episode is going to be influenced to some degree by one's prior philosophical conceptions of what is important in science. However, if the history of science must be laden with philosophical assumptions, then how can the history of science be evidence for the philosophy of science? Would not an inductivist history of science (...) confirm an inductivist philosophy of science and a conventionalist history of science confirm a conventionalist philosophy of science? I attempt to resolve this problem; essentially, I deny the claim that the history of science must be influenced by one's conception of what is important in science — one's general philosophy of science. To accomplish the task I look at a specific historical episode, together with its history, and draw some metamethodological conclusions from it. The specific historical episode I examine is Descartes' critique of Galileo's scientific methodology. (shrink)
We examine Duhem's critique of Maxwell, especially Duhem's complaints that Maxwell's theory is too bold or not systematic enough, that it is too dependent on models, and that its concepts are not continuous with those of the past. We argue that these complaints are connected by Duhem's historical criterion for the evaluation of physical theories. We briefly compare Duhem's criterion of historical continuity with similar criteria developed by "historicists" like Kuhn and Lakatos. We argue that Duhem's rejection of theoretical pluralism (...) was a primary factor preventing him from recognizing Maxwell's work as an autonomous tradition. (shrink)