In the Discours de la méthode, Descartes presents himself as a heroic figure, standing up against the current Aristotelian orthodoxy in philosophy, and offering something new, a mechanist physics and the metaphysics to go along with it. But Descartes was by no means the only challenger to Aristotelian natural philosophy: by Descartes’s day, there were many. Descartes was read as one of this group, generally called the novatores in Latin, and often severely criticized for their advocacy of the new. Descartes (...) himself wanted to separate his philosophy from that of the novatores, who were thought to seek novelty rather than truth. But it was not so easy to distance himself. Many contemporary commentators, like Charles Sorel, put Descartes squarely in their camp, but at exactly the moment when novelty and innovation in natural philosophy was changing from being worthy of scorn to being praiseworthy. (shrink)
: Marin Mersenne was central to the new mathematical approach to nature in Paris in the 1630s and 1640s. Intellectually, he was one of the most enthusiastic practitioners of that program, and published a number of influential books in those important decades. But Mersenne started his career in a rather different way. In the early 1620s, Mersenne was known in Paris primarily as a writer on religious topics, and a staunch defender of Aristotle against attacks by those who would replace (...) him by a new philosophy. In this essay, I would like to examine Mersenne's changing attitude toward Galileo. In the early 1620s, Mersenne lists Galileo among the innovators in natural philosophy whose views should be rejected. However, by the early 1630s, less than a decade later, Mersenne has become one of Galileo's most ardent supporters. How, then, did Mersenne learn to love Galileo? (shrink)
The Cambridge History of 17th Century Philosophy offers a uniquely comprehensive and authoritative overview of early-modern philosophy written by an international team of specialists. As with previous Cambridge histories of philosophy the subject is treated by topic and theme, and since history does not come packaged in neat bundles, the subject is also treated with great temporal flexibility, incorporating frequent reference to medieval and Renaissance ideas. The basic structure of the volumes corresponds to the way an educated seventeenth - century (...) European might have organized the domain of philosophy. Thus, the history of science, religious doctrine, and politics feature very prominently. The narrative that unfolds begins with an intellectual world dominated by a synthesis of Aristotelianism and scholastic philosophy, but by the end of the period the mechanistic or "corpuscularian" philosophy has emerged and exerted its full impact on traditional metaphysics, ethics, theology, logic, and epistemology. (shrink)
: Important to Kuhn's account of scientific change is the observation that when paradigms are in competition with one another, there is a curious breakdown of rational argument and communication between adherents of competing programs. He attributed this to the fact that competing paradigms are incommensurable. The incommensurability thesis centrally involves the claim that there is a deep conceptual gap between competing paradigms in science. In this paper I argue that in one important case of competing paradigms, the Aristotelian explanation (...) of the properties of bodies in terms of matter and form as opposed to the Cartesian mechanist paradigm, where the properties of bodies are explained on the model of machines, there was no such conceptual gap: the notion of a machine was as fully intelligible on the Aristotelian paradigm as it was on the Cartesian. But this does not mean that the debate between the two sides was conducted on purely rational terms. Rational argument breaks down not because of Kuhnian incommensurability, I argue, but because of other cultural factors separating the two camps. (shrink)
In recent years philosophers of science have turned away from positivist programs for explicating scientific rationality through detailed accounts of scientific procedure and turned toward large-scale accounts of scientific change. One important motivation for this was better fit with the history of science. Paying particular attention to the large-scale theories of Lakatos and Laudan I argue that the history of science is no better accommodated by the new large-scale theories than it was by the earlier positivist philosophies of science; both (...) are, in their different ways, parochial to our conception of rationality. I further argue that the goal of scientific methodology is not explaining the past but promoting good scientific practice, and on this the large-scale methodologies have no obvious a priori advantages over the positivist methodologies they have tried to replace. (shrink)
everyone loves superheroes. superheroes, of course, have incredible powers; they can leap tall buildings in a single bound, excel in combat, and have X-ray vision. But, in addition, superheroes have a kind of simplicity of motive and focus that makes them pure and comprehensible in the way in which the people we actually know rarely are. For Superman it is about Truth, Justice, and the American Way. For Batman it is all about fighting evil: defeating the Joker, the Riddler, and (...) other nefarious characters. For Spiderman it is an outsized sense of mission: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Superheroes are superhuman individuals, who have a simple philosophy of life that motivates their every action. Of.. (shrink)
This paper attempts to characterize the method that Descartes put forward in the Discours de la methode of 1637 and the earlier Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii. It is argued that because if important changes in Descartes ' scientific and epistemological programs, Descartes abandons the method of his earlier years at just the moment that he makes it public in the Discours.
This essay reviews Robert Merrihew Adams’ approaches to the philosophy of Leibniz, both his general methodological approaches, and some of the main themes of his work. It attempts to assess his contribution both to the study of Leibniz and to the history of philosophy more generally.
This paper explores Leibniz's conception of body and extension in the 1680s and 1690s. It is argued that one of Leibniz's central aims is to undermine the Cartesian conception of extended substance, and replace it with a conception on which what is basic to body is force. In this way, Leibniz intends to reduce extension to something metaphysically more basic in just the way that the mechanists reduce sensible qualities to size, shape and motion. It is also argued that this (...) move is quite distinct from the reduction of body to monads and their appetitions and perceptions, so prominent in his later writings. (shrink)