This is the first intellectual biography of Descartes in English. Stephen Gaukroger provides a rich, authoritative account of Descartes' intellectual and personal development, understood in its historical context, and offers a reassessment of all aspects of his life and work.
Why did science emerge in the West and how did scientific values come to be regarded as the yardstick for all other forms of knowledge? Stephen Gaukroger shows just how bitterly the cognitive and cultural standing of science was contested in its early development. Rejecting the traditional picture of secularization, he argues that science in the seventeenth century emerged not in opposition to religion but rather was in many respects driven by it. Moreover, science did not present a unified picture (...) of nature but was an unstable field of different, often locally successful but just as often incompatible, programmes. To complicate matters, much depended on attempts to reshape the persona of the natural philosopher, and distinctive new notions of objectivity and impartiality were imported into natural philosophy, changing its character radically by redefining the qualities of its practitioners.The West's sense of itself, its relation to its past, and its sense of its future, have been profoundly altered since the seventeenth century, as cognitive values generally have gradually come to be shaped around scientific ones. Science has not merely brought a new set of such values to the task of understanding the world and our place in it, but rather has completely transformed the task, redefining the goals of enquiry. This distinctive feature of the development of a scientific culture in the West marks it out from other scientifically productive cultures. In The Emergence of a Scientific Culture, Stephen Gaukroger offers a detailed and comprehensive account of the formative stages of this development---and one which challenges the received wisdom that science was seen to be self-evidently the correct path to knowledge and that the benefits of science were immediately obvious to the disinterested observer. (shrink)
This ambitious and important book, first published in 2001, provides a truly general account of Francis Bacon as a philosopher. It describes how Bacon transformed the values that had underpinned philosophical culture since antiquity by rejecting the traditional idea of a philosopher as someone engaged in contemplation of the cosmos. The book explores in detail how and why Bacon attempted to transform the largely esoteric discipline of natural philosophy into a public practice through a program in which practical science provided (...) a model that inspired many from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Stephen Gaukroger shows that this reform of natural philosophy was dependent on the creation of a new philosophical persona: a natural philosopher shaped through submission to the dictates of Baconian method. This book will be recognized as a major contribution to Baconian scholarship, of special interest to historians of early-modern philosophy, science, and ideas. (shrink)
This book deals with a neglected episode in the history of logic and theories of cognition: the way in which conceptions of inference changed during the seventeenth century. The author focuses on the work of Descartes, contrasting his construal of inference as an instantaneous grasp in accord with the natural light of reason, with the Aristotelian view of inference as a discursive process. Gaukroger offers a new interpretation of Descartes`s contribution to the question, revealing it to be a significant advance (...) over humanist and late Scholastic conceptions. He argues that Descartes's account played a pivotal role in the development of our understanding of the nature of inference. (shrink)
The most comprehensive collection of essays on Descartes' scientific writings ever published, this volume offers a detailed reassessment of Descartes' scientific work and its bearing on his philosophy. The 35 essays, written by some of the world's leading scholars, cover topics as diverse as optics, cosmology and medicine, and will be of vital interest to all historians of philosophy or science.
Towards the end of his life, Descartes published the first four parts of a projected six-part work, The Principles of Philosophy. This was intended to be the definitive statement of his complete system of philosophy, dealing with everything from cosmology to the nature of human happiness. In this book, Stephen Gaukroger examines the whole system, and reconstructs the last two parts, 'On Living Things' and 'On Man', from Descartes' other writings. He relates the work to the tradition of late Scholastic (...) textbooks which it follows, and also to Descartes' other philosophical writings, and he examines the ways in which Descartes transformed not only the practice of natural philosophy but also our understanding of what it is to be a philosopher. His book is a comprehensive examination of Descartes' complete philosophical system. (shrink)
How did we come to have a scientific culture -- one in which cognitive values are shaped around scientific ones? Stephen Gaukroger presents a rich and fascinating investigation of the development of intellectual culture in early modern Europe, a period in which understandings of the natural realm began to fragment.
In the early decades of the seventeenth century, various attempts were made to develop a dynamical vocabulary on the basis of work in the practical mathematical disciplines, particularly statics and hydrostatics. The paper contrasts the Mechanica and Archimedean approaches, and within the latter compares conceptions of statics and hydrostatics and their possible extensions in the work of Stevin, Beeckman and Descartes. Descartes’ approach to hydrostatics, a discussion of which forms the core of the paper, is shown to be quite different (...) from that of his contemporaries, above all in its attempt to provide a natural-philosophical grounding for hydrostatics while at the same time using it to develop a range of concepts, approaches and ways of thinking through problems that would shape Descartes’ mature work in optics and cosmology.Author Keywords: Scientific revolution; René Descartes; Isaac Beeckman; Simon Stevin; History of mechanics; History of statics; History of optics. (shrink)
In this groundbreaking collection of essays the history of philosophy appears in a new light, not as reason's progressive discovery of its universal conditions, but as a series of unreconciled disputes over the proper way to conduct oneself as a philosopher. By shifting focus from the philosopher as proxy for the universal subject of reason to the philosopher as a special persona arising from rival forms of self-cultivation, philosophy is approached in terms of the social office and intellectual deportment of (...) the philosopher, as a personage with a definite moral physiognomy and institutional setting. In so doing, this collection of essays by leading figures in the fields of both philosophy and the history of ideas provides access to key early modern disputes over what it meant to be a philosopher, and to the institutional and larger political and religious contexts in which such disputes took place. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- 1. Introduction -- 2. Aren't all judgements biased in one way or another? -- 3. Don't all judgements involve some assumptions? -- 4. Doesn't science show there is no objectivity? -- 5. Is it possible to represent things objectively? -- 6. Is objectivity a form of honesty? -- 7. Objectivity in numbers? -- 8. Can the study of human behaviour be objective? -- 9. Can there be objectivity in ethics? -- 10. Can there be objectivity (...) in taste? -- References -- Further reading. (shrink)
Experimental natural philosophy was a mid-seventeenth-century development in which physical enquiry proceeded by connecting phenomena in an experimentally guided fashion, as opposed to attempting to account for them in terms of some underlying micro-corpuscular structure. The approach proved fruitful in two areas: Boyle’s experiments on the air pump and Newton’s experiments on the prism. This chapter argues that Lockean empiricism, which was subsequently taken to embody the principles behind Newtonianism, was an outcome of these developments and that it was worked (...) into an epistemological doctrine only when Locke encountered Malebranche’s vindication of the sole legitimacy of micro-corpuscularian explanation. The chapter reveals a form of empiricism—empiricism as a successor to, and refinement of, seventeenth-century experimental natural philosophy—which is intimately tied up with natural-philosophical practice, and is quite distinct from the speculative epistemology to which it is reduced in the rationalism and empiricism debates. (shrink)
This article examines the role of picturability in mathematical demonstration in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and draws attention to the general question of the role that picturability places in cognitive grasp. It suggests that mathematical demonstration is particularly applicable in cognitive grasp it allows the problematic to be identified with some precision. It also discusses infinitesimal analysis and the question of direct proof and evaluates the role of picturability in the analysis of human cognitive capacities.
Contrary to most modern interpretations, in the early modern period, history was an indispensable resource for many philosophers. The different uses of history by Bacon, Gassendi, Locke, and Hume are explored to establish the role of history as a resource in early-modern philosophy.
Within twenty years of one another, Bacon and Descartes proposed cosmologies which relied heavily on matter theory. In both, the distribution of matter in the cosmos determined what centers of rotation there were, and rotating bodies were carried around by the motion of an all-encompassing celestial fluid in which they were embedded. But the role of matter theory in the two accounts is very different, both in motivation and in the level at which it is active in guiding physical theory. (...) Matter theory in Baconian cosmology stands as a foundational discipline, being virtually constitutive of physical theory, as it had been for natural philosophers from Thales onwards, whereas in Descartes it is subservient to the needs of his optics and his mechanics. Comparison of the two cases shows how the role of matter theory came to be radically modified in seventeenth-century cosmology. (shrink)
In this paper I want to examine in some detail one eighteenth-century attempt to restructure the foundations of mechanics, that of Leonhard Euler. It is now generally recognized that the idea, due to Mach, that all that happened in the eighteenth century was the elaboration of a deductive and mathematical mechanics on the basis of Newton's Laws is misleading at best. Newton's Principia needed much more than a reformulation in analytic terms if it was to provide the basis for the (...) comprehensive mechanics that was developed in the eighteenth century. Book II of the Principia, in particular, where the problem of the resistance offered to the motion of a finite body by a fluid medium was raised, was generally thought to be in large part mistaken and confused. There were also a number of areas crucial to the unification of mechanics which Newton did not deal with at all in the Principia: particularly the dynamics of rigid, flexible and elastic bodies, and the dynamics of several bodies with mutual interactions. Although a start had been made on some of these topics in the seventeenth century , it was only in the eighteenth century that they were subjected to detailed examination, and Euler's contribution to the development of these topics, and hence to the unification of mechanics, was immense. (shrink)
This book provides a valuable understanding on the different views of the passions in the Seventeenth Century. The contributors show that fundamental questions about the nature of wisdom, goodness and beauty were understood in terms of the contrast between reason and passions in this era. Those with an interest in philosophy, the history of medicene, and women's studies will find this collection a fascinating read.