Mechanisms of life in the seventeenth century: Borelli, Perrault, Régis

In Descartes’s reformulation of natural philosophy, two aspects of what came to be known as the mechanical philosophy were intimately joined: mechanism as an ontology of nature, according to which all natural things had only ‘mechanical’ properties; and mechanism as a method of explanation. One could, and many philosophers did, adopt mechanism as a method of explanation without adopting a mechanistic ontology. I examine two successors of Descartes who did just that, and one who did not. Giovanni Alfonso Borelli in his De motu animalium and Charles Perrault in his Mécanique de animaux propose and argue for a variety of mechanical accounts of the operations of animals, in particular of their muscles. They reject, however, the Cartesian reduction of animal souls to mechanical forces; the principle of animal motion for them remains a non-mechanical soul. Pierre Sylvain Régis in his Cours entier de philosophie follows Descartes in taking the ‘physical cause’ of motion in animals to be the fermentation of blood in the heart, and thus denies animal souls any role in his physiology. That he can do so while taking over, sometimes word for word, Perrault’s accounts of animal motion shows that mechanistic explanation and mechanistic ontology could easily part company
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.03.002
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,411
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Nathan Alexander (2007). The Visibilité of the Hidden God. Philosophy and Theology 19 (1/2):151-170.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

14 ( #312,996 of 1,924,735 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #96,510 of 1,924,735 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.