In the mid-seventeenth century a movement of self-styled experimental philosophers emerged in Britain. Originating in the discipline of natural philosophy amongst Fellows of the fledgling Royal Society of London, it soon spread to medicine and by the eighteenth century had impacted moral and political philosophy and even aesthetics. Early modern experimental philosophers gave epistemic priority to observation and experiment over theorising and speculation. They decried the use of hypotheses and system-building without recourse to experiment and, in some quarters, developed a (...) philosophy of experiment. The movement spread to the Netherlands and France in the early eighteenth century and later impacted Germany. Its important role in early modern philosophy was subsequently eclipsed by the widespread adoption of the Kantian historiography of modern philosophy, which emphasised the distinction between rationalism and empiricism and had no place for the historical phenomenon of early modern experimental philosophy. The re-emergence of interest in early modern experimental philosophy roughly coincided with the development of contemporary x-phi and there are some important similarities between the two. (shrink)
Peter Anstey presents a thorough and innovative study of John Locke's views on the method and content of natural philosophy. Focusing on Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding, but also drawing extensively from his other writings and manuscript remains, Anstey argues that Locke was an advocate of the Experimental Philosophy: the new approach to natural philosophy championed by Robert Boyle and the early Royal Society who were opposed to speculative philosophy. On the question of method, Anstey shows how Locke's pessimism about (...) the prospects for a demonstrative science of nature led him, in the Essay, to promote Francis Bacon's method of natural history, and to downplay the value of hypotheses and analogical reasoning in science. But, according to Anstey, Locke never abandoned the ideal of a demonstrative natural philosophy, for he believed that if we could discover the primary qualities of the tiny corpuscles that constitute material bodies, we could then establish a kind of corpuscular metric that would allow us a genuine science of nature. It was only after the publication of the Essay, however, that Locke came to realize that Newton's Principia provided a model for the role of demonstrative reasoning in science based on principles established upon observation, and this led him to make significant revisions to his views in the 1690s. On the content of Locke's natural philosophy, it is argued that even though Locke adhered to the Experimental Philosophy, he was not averse to speculation about the corpuscular nature of matter. Anstey takes us into new terrain and new interpretations of Locke's thought in his explorations of his mercurialist transmutational chymistry, his theory of generation by seminal principles, and his conventionalism about species. (shrink)
This paper argues that, contrary to the claims of Alan Chalmers, Boyle understood his experimental work to be intimately related to his mechanical philosophy. Its central claim is that the mechanical philosophy has a heuristic structure that motivates and gives direction to Boyle's experimental programme. Boyle was able to delimit the scope of possible explanations of any phenomenon by positing both that all qualities are ultimately reducible to a select group of mechanical qualities and that all explanations of natural phenomena (...) are to be in terms of the operations of machines and are to appeal only to qualities that are already familiar. This is illustrated by his investigations into the Torricellian experiment. Boyle's explanation of the elevation of the mercurial cylinder by appeal to the spring of the air was an intermediate mechanical explanation. Boyle was convinced that the spring of the air was ultimately reducible to the mechanical qualities. This in turn had implications for his research into the cause of respiration. In a move that was both parsimonious and consistent with the broad requirements of the mechanical philosophy, Boyle was able to solve the problem of the cause of the inflow of air into the lungs by appeal to his research in pneumatics. This application of a mechanical explanation in pneumatics to physiology is just what one would expect if the mechanical philosophy was as universal as Boyle claimed it to be. Therefore, far from Boyle's experiments having a life of their own, they were clearly directed by and understood in terms of the mechanical philosophy.Keywords: Air-pump; Boyle; Chalmers; Experiment; Explanation; Mechanism. (shrink)
This paper provides an analysis of Robert Boyle's most detailed discussion of the Baconian method of natural history. In a long letter to Henry Oldenburg dated 13 June 1666 and in ancillary manuscript material, Boyle spells out the method or 'Designe' by which he believes experimental programs in natural philosophy should be written up. The 'Designe' is enormously important in giving a clear statement of the precise contours of Boyle's Baconian methodology and providing a key to understanding the rationale, composition (...) and format for many of his published histories. Works such as New Experiments and Considerations Touching Cold, Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood and even his more speculative writings such as An Introduction to the History of Particular Qualities are best understood in terms of Boyle's overall method as articulated in his “Designe about Natural History”. (shrink)
This paper gives a detailed analysis of four seed lists in the journals of John Locke. These lists provide a window into a fascinating open network of botanical exchange in the early 1680s which included two of the leading botanists of the day. Pierre Magnol of Montpellier and Jacob Bobart the Younger of Oxford. The provenance and significance of the lists are assessed in relation to the relevant extant herbaria and plant catalogues from the period. The lists and associated correspondence (...) provide the main evidence for Locke's own important, through modest contribution to early modern botany, a contribution which he would have regarded as a small part of the broader project of constructing a natural history of plants. They also provide a detailed case study of the sort of open and informal network of knowledge exchange in the early modern period that is widely recognised by historians of science, but all too rarely illustrated. (shrink)
This paper presents a comprehensive study of Robert Boyle’s writings on seminal principles or seeds. It examines the role of seeds in Boyle’s account of creation, the generation of plants and animals, spontaneous generation, the generation of minerals and disease. By an examination of all of Boyle’s major extant discussions of seeds it is argued that there were discernible changes in Boyle’s views over time. As the years progressed Boyle became more sceptical about the role of seminal principles in the (...) generation of minerals and he came to reject the spontaneous generation of insects and animals from putrefying matter. It is also argued that Boyle’s notion of a generative or ‘plastick’ principle creates a tension within his mechanical philosophy. He appeals to a plastick power in order to explain those phenomena of generation that are beyond the explanatory resources of the corpuscular hypothesis. However, when pressed to explain the nature of this power he either hints, somewhat paradoxically, that it too can be explained mechanically or admits his nescience. (shrink)
This paper argues that the English philosopher John Locke, who has normally been thought to have had only an amateurish interest in botany, was far more involved in the botanical science of his day than has previously been known. Through the presentation of new evidence deriving from Locke’s own herbarium, his manuscript notes, journal and correspondence, it is established that Locke made a modest contribution to early modern botany. It is shown that Locke had close and ongoing relations with the (...) Bobarts, keepers of the Oxford Botanic Garden, and that Locke distributed seeds and plant parts to other botanists, seeds of which the progeny almost certainly ended up in the most important herbaria of the period. Furthermore, it is claimed that the depth of Locke’s interest in and practice of botany has a direct bearing on our understanding of his views on the correct method of natural philosophy and on the interpretation of his well known discussion of the nature of species in Book III of his Essay concerning human understanding. (shrink)
In June 1668 Anthony Ashley Cooper, later to become the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, underwent abdominal surgery to drain a large abscess above his liver. The case is extraordinary, not simply on account of the eminence of the patient and the danger of the procedure, but also because of the many celebrated figures involved. A trove of manuscripts relating to this famous operation survives amongst the Shaftesbury Papers in the National Archives at Kew. These include case notes in the hand (...) of the philosopher John Locke and advice from leading physicians of the day including Francis Glisson, Sir George Ent and Thomas Sydenham. The majority of this material has never been published before. This article provides complete transcriptions and translations of all of these manuscripts, thus providing for the first time a comprehensive case history. It is prefaced with an extended introduction. (shrink)
Two medical essays in the hand of John Locke survive amongst the Shaftesbury Papers in the National Archives (National Archives PRO 30/24/47/2, ff. 31r–38v and ff. 49r–56r). Since the 1960s their authorship has been disputed. Some scholars have attributed them to the London physician Thomas Sydenham, others have attributed them to Locke. Detailed analyses of their contents and the context of their composition provide very strong evidence for Lockean authorship. This is reinforced by the application of the most recent techniques (...) of computational stylistics. (shrink)
This collection of new essays on John Locke's philosophy provides the most up-to-date entrée into the exciting developments taking place in the study of one of the most important contributors to modern thought. Covering Locke's natural philosophy, his political and moral thought and his philosophy of religion, this book brings together the pioneering work of some of the world's leading Locke scholars.
ABSTRACTThis paper expounds and critically assesses G. W. Leibniz’s mature theory of the cohesion of material bodies. Leibniz’s later view of cohesion was forged in polemical engagement with the views of John Locke and the Dutch natural philosopher Nicolaas Hartsoeker and it is in Leibniz’s response to Locke in his New Essays on Human Understanding, and especially his correspondence with Hartsoeker, that the theory is revealed. After setting out Locke’s theory of solidity and cohesion, the paper examines Leibniz’s response to (...) Locke in the New Essays. It then proceeds to the mechanical theory of conspiring motions developed in the Hartsoeker correspondence. The final section of the paper poses three problems for Leibniz’s theory – explanatory, empirical, and conceptual. (shrink)
This paper analyses the different ways in which Isaac Newton employed queries in his writings on natural philosophy. It is argued that queries were used in three different ways by Newton and that each of these uses is best understood against the background of the role that queries played in the Baconian method that was adopted by the leading experimenters of the early Royal Society. After a discussion of the role of queries in Francis Bacon’s natural historical method, Newton’s queries (...) in his Trinity Notebook are shown to reveal the influence of his early reading in the new experimental philosophy. Then after a discussion of Robert Hooke’s view of the role of queries, the paper turns to an assessment of Newton’s correspondence and Opticks. It is argued that the queries in his correspondence with Oldenburg on his early optical experiments are closely tied to an experimental program, whereas the queries in the Opticks are more discursive and speculative, but that each of these uses of queries represents a significant Baconian legacy in his natural philosophical methodology.Author Keywords: Bacon; Experiment; Hypothesis; Method; Newton; Query. (shrink)
This article examines the views of René Descartes, Robert Boyle, and John Locke on essence and kinds and outlines the polemical stances that motivate and direct each of their views. It describes the ontological categories to which they subscribed and their own speculative theories about the actual kinds in the world. It categories to which they subscribed and their own speculative theories about the actual kinds in the world and discusses the late-Aristotelian theory of substantial forms.
This chapter examines the main theories of material qualities developed by leading British philosophers during the seventeenth century, describes the taxonomy of qualities during this period, and analyzes the epistemological and metaphysical theses that influenced the development of the theory of material qualities in Great Britain. It also considers the relevant works of Thomas Hobbes, Walter Charleton, Robert Boyle, John Locke, and Isaac Newton.
The chapter examines the views of John Locke on the study of human understanding, focusing on his work entitled An Essay concerning Human Understanding and Of the Conduct of the Understanding. It highlights Locke's use of the Stoic tripartite division of knowledge into natural philosophy, ethics, and logic, and his emphasis on the importance of the senses in the acquisition of sensitive knowledge of the natural world. The chapter also discusses the normative aims for the study of the understanding, and (...) the relation between understanding and the will. (shrink)
Today, John Locke is recognized as one of the most important and formative philosophical influences on the modern world. His imprint is still felt in political and legal thought, in educational theory, moral theory and in the theory of knowledge. Lockes key works, Two Treatises of Government , and the monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , provoked lively debate when they were first published in 1690 and remain standard texts in undergraduate philosophy courses throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. (...) It is not surprising therefore that Locke scholarship is a burgeoning force in the history of philosophy and that his ideas and arguments are repeatedly alluded to in current philosophical debate. Indeed, since the publication of the first series of Locke: Critical Assessments in 1991, Locke research has proceeded apace, and it is now fitting that a second Critical Assessments series be published. Of particular importance in recent work on Locke has been research into the colonial contexts of his political writings; a more nuanced and historically grounded approach to Lockes writings on natural philosophy; and a theological turn in Locke scholarship that has centred on the content and reception of his The Reasonableness of Christianity . Each of these new trends is represented in this second series, as are recent contributions to long-standing debates concerning Lockean interpretation and influence. (shrink)