Book review of John Schuster: Descartes-agonistes: Physico-mathematics, method and corpuscular-mechanism 1618-33. (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Volume 27.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2013, xix + 631pp. Descartes-Agonistes is the magnum opus of John Schuster, formerly of the University of New South Wales, honorary fellow at the University of Sydney. Its roots go back to the dissertation he wrote 35 years ago under Thomas Kuhn at Princeton University. As Schuster correctly remarks, some regard his dissertation as an underground classic. I count (...) myself among them: Schuster’s work has been directional in my work on the history of early modern science. Schuster himself prefers to regard his dissertation as ‘a vestige’ of a history of science of the 1970s that he has since gone beyond. In the 1980s, he elaborated and published on some central insights in a series of seminal articles, but his work on Descartes really got into its stride again around the turn of the millennium (Schuster 1980, 1990; Gaukroger et al. 2000). This book is the acme of this work, and grand it is: clocking 600 pages (excluding appendices) it extends, deepens and reinforces his analysis of Descartes into a dense and .. (shrink)
Snell's law of refraction did not affect the study of optics until twenty‐five years after its publication in 1637 and by then its universality threatened to break down already. Two optical phenomena—colour dispersion and strange refraction—were discovered that did not conform to the sine law. In the early 1670s, Isaac Newton and Christiaan Huygens respectively investigated these phenomena. They tried to describe the irregular behaviour of light rays mathematically and to reconcile it with ordinary refraction. This paper discusses their investigations (...) and aims at throwing new light on the history of seventeenth‐century optics. Both initially approached the problem in a mathematical way in which they built on Descartes' analysis of refraction. This is surprising because it contradicts their earlier dismissal of Descartes' account and it does not fit our picture of them as mathematical physicists. By looking more closely at their early investigations it becomes clear that Newton and Huygens first had to develop the approach to optics of their later writings. After Descartes placed the issue of the physical nature of light rays on the scientific agenda in 1637, they recognized its purport in their struggles with colour dispersion and strange refraction. It was at this point that their physical optics evolved from the traditional geometrical optics with which they had started. (shrink)
Isaac Beeckman was a master craftsman from the Zeeland town Middelburg who studied to become schoolmaster in the Holland towns of Rotterdam and Dordrecht. He was a strict Calvinist and a tireless observer and contemplator of natural phenomena. Foremost, he was the first mechanical philosopher in Europe who played a key role in the intellectual development of René Descartes and inspired pioneers of mechanistic thinking Marin Mersenne and Pierre Gassendi . We know this because Beeckman kept a journal throughout his (...) life in which he recorded his observations and ideas. The journal is a treasure trove of early modern knowing. Beeckman had a keen eye for the world around him and responded to what he saw, as well as the reflections of others, with a highly original mind. The journal was discovered in 1905 by Cornelis de Waard , who subsequently edited and published it between 1939 and 1953 . Although some acquainta .. (shrink)
Robert Smith’s A Compleat System of Opticks (1738) was the most prominent eighteenth-century text-book account of Newton’s optics. By rearranging the findings and conclusions of Opticks, it made them accessible to a wider public and at the same time refashioned Newton’s optics into a renewed science of optics. In this process, the optical parts of Principia were integrated, thus blending the experimental inferences and mechanistic hypotheses that Newton had carefully separated. The Compleat System was not isolated in its refashioning of (...) Newton’s optics. Dutch and English promoters of the new philosophy had preceded Smith by giving Opticks a text-book treatment, and they too integrated experimental and mechanistic inferences. In this way eighteenth-century text-books produced a natural philosophical discourse of light, colors and matter. This paper traces the refashioning of Newton’s optics in Dutch and English text-books of natural philosophy during the first half of the eighteenth century. It concludes with the Dutch translation of A Compleat System of Opticks and its reception among innovators of telescope manufacture. (shrink)
In two experiments and two different research paradigms, we tested the hypothesis that Zen meditation increases access to accessible but unconscious information. Zen practitioners who meditated in the lab performed better on the Remote Associate Test than Zen practitioners who did not meditate. In a new, second task, it was observed that Zen practitioners who meditated used subliminally primed words more than Zen practitioners who did not meditate. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.
Presented here is the German translation of Jan Patočka’s fragment Nitro a svět which was written in the 1940s and belongs to the so called „Strahov Papers“. The fragment reflects Patočka’s early attempts towards a thinking of subjectivity and the world. Thereby Patočka’s approach is phenomenological, but also integrates motives of German Idealism. The critical impact of the fragment lies in its orientation against the scientific biologism of its times.
We reproduce here forty previously unpublished letters sent by Jan Patočka to the Polish philosopher Krzysztof Michalski between 1973 and 1976. The letters to Michalski reveal his key role in motivating Patočka to formulate his ideas concerning the philosophy of history and present them first in a series of underground lectures in Prague and finally on paper in his last samizdat book, the Heretical Essays on the Philosophy of History.
To get distracted, to enclose and to give oneself. The Gesture of Transcendence in Jan Patočka The problem of transcendence can be traced throughout the whole work of Jan Patočka. The appeal to transcend our bonds to mere objectivity is a constant issue of his thought. It finds a new substantiation in the 1960s in his studies focusing on the meaning of the other as human being. The relation to the other person offers a special "occasion" or "place" of transcendence (...) and poses the challenge to transcend one's own particular setting. While in the mid-1960s Patočka maintains his earlier dramatic vocabulary to describe the process of transcendence, in the late 1960s his idiom becomes less vehement. Yet, it is precisely within this more "sober" framework that he symbolizes the process of transcendence with an emphatic turn to a "myth of the divine man" and its key metaphor of resurrection. To transcend means, for Patočka, always to liberate oneself from a state of self-distraction between things. However, in his late lectures, he briefly refers to a deeper layer, suggesting that this self-distraction has its "roots" in a self-enclosure or self-isolation, in the exclusive concentration on our own interests and in the illusion of our self-sufficiency. Transcendence, then, means to overcome this self-enclosure by means of a self-forgetting love. Are these rarely mentioned "roots" perhaps implicitly present in all Patočka's accounts of transcendence? (shrink)
Jan Łukasiewicz a élaboré un programme de recherche portant sur l’histoire de la logique. À son avis, la logique mathématique contemporaine (modern) est en continuité directe avec la logique formelle du passé. En conséquence, une interprétation correcte et fidèle des idées anciennes exige une application des outils logiques contemporains. Autrement dit, de bonnes études historiques sur la logique doivent consister à examiner la logique d’autrefois à travers les lunettes logiques contemporaine...