Descartes’s Deduction of the Law of Refraction and the Shape of the Anaclastic Lens in Rule 8

Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 12 (2):395-446 (2022)
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Abstract

Descartes’s most extensive discussion of the law of refraction and the shape of the anaclastic lens is contained in Rule 8 of "Rules for the Direction of the Mind". Few reconstructions of Descartes’s discovery of the law of refraction take Rule 8 as their basis. In Rule 8, Descartes denies that the law of refraction can be discovered by purely mathematical means, and he requires that the law of refraction be deduced from physical principles about natural power or force, the nature of the action of light, and the behavior of light rays in a variety of transparent media. For over a century, however, there has been broad agreement that Descartes discovered the law of refraction by purely mathematical means, and that he only later provided the relevant physical rationale (via comparisons or analogies) in Dioptrics II. I execute each step in Descartes’s proposed deduction of the law of refraction and the shape of the anaclastic lens in Rule 8 and concretely show how Descartes could have discovered the law of refraction and the shape of the anaclastic by its means. Rule 8, I argue, reflects Descartes’s actual path to the discovery of the law of refraction and the shape of the anaclastic lens.

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Tarek Dika
Johns Hopkins University

Citations of this work

Descartes’s Deduction of the Law of Refraction and the Shape of the Anaclastic Lens in Rule 8.Tarek R. Dika - 2022 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 12 (2):395-446.

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Theories of Light from Descartes to Newton.A. I. Sabra - 1968 - Philosophy 43 (165):291-293.

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