Van Helmont’s hybrid ontology and its influence on the chemical interpretation of spirit and ferment

Foundations of Chemistry 18 (2):103-112 (2016)

Marina P. Banchetti
Florida Atlantic University
This essay proposes to discuss the manner in which Jan Baptista van Helmont helped to transform the Neoplatonic notions of vital spirit and of ferment by giving these notions an unambiguously chemical interpretation, thereby influencing the eventual naturalization of these ideas in the work of late seventeenth century chymists. This chemical interpretation of vital spirit and ferment forms part of Helmont’s hybrid ontology, which fuses a corpuscular conception of minima naturalia with a non-corporeal conception of semina rerum. For Helmont, chemical alterations involve the minima as physical units but also depend upon ferments that are contained in the semina, which function as formative spiritual agents. Helmont’s nuanced ontology ultimately contributes to the development of modern corpuscularian theory by explaining many chemical reactions in fundamentally corpuscular terms, as the addition and subtraction of particles.
Keywords J. B. van Helmont  Seventeenth century chymistry  Vital spirit  Ferment  Minima naturalia  Semina rerum
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10698-015-9243-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 49,040
External links

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

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Review: The Ferment of Van Helmont's Ideas. [REVIEW]James J. Bono - 1984 - Journal of the History of Biology 17 (2):291 - 294.
J. B. Van Helmont's Attack on Aristotle.Alice Browne - 1979 - Annals of Science 36 (6):575-591.
Stuff Versus Individuals.Lucía Lewowicz & Olimpia Lombardi - 2013 - Foundations of Chemistry 15 (1):65-77.


Added to PP index

Total views
37 ( #252,860 of 2,311,025 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #350,897 of 2,311,025 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature