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1. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Claudio Buccolini Mersenne Translator of Bacon?
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Several scholars, such as Corneliis de Waard (1933) and Frances Amalia Yates (1947), have suggested that Marin Mersenne may have translated some parts (or even the whole) of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum. This supposed translation, into Latin, according to De Waard, or into French, according to Yates, has not yet come to light. This paper presents the identification of a partial French translation of Century II of the Sylva Sylvarum in a manuscript by Mersenne, written between 1626 and 1629. This partial translation was probably realized by Marin Mersenne himself, for his own use. It consists of a part of Sylva Sylvarum concerning sounds, the subject Mersenne was working on in that period.
2. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Benedino Gemelli Isaac Beeckman as a Reader of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum
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The Journal of the Dutch natural philosopher and scientist Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637) is an important document of the new science; it gives us important insights into corpuscularian physics, mechanical philosophy, and the physico-mathematical project. It is also valuable for documenting Beeckman’s sustained interest in ancient and contemporary authors and his strategies as a reader. This paper discusses Beeckman’s reading of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum (1626), an important source for Beeckman’s science of nature. I do not propose here a thorough reading of Beeckman’s annotations to Sylva but I mainly concentrate on a number of yet unexplored fragments of Beeckman’s journal. I discuss these fragments in the wider context of Beeckman’s reading of Sylva, but I also assess their value as elements in a larger natural philosophical debate over the nature of light and sounds taking place in the mid-seventeenth century.
3. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Mihnea Dobre On Glass-Drops: a Case Study of the Interplay between Experimentation and Explanation in Seveenteenth-Century Natural Philosophy
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The glass drop is a tear-shaped object with many curious properties. Although having a fragile tail, its main body is hard to break. On the other hand, breaking such a drop produces a loud noise and many very small particles of glass. In the seventeenth century, these objects became the focus of both experimental and natural philosophical investigation. In this article, I examine the ways in which various natural philosophers have dealt with glass-drops. This is neither a complete enumeration of the countless attempts to explain the object and its associated phenomena, nor a search for its origins. Rather, this study offers a glimpse into what was at stake in the inclusion of the glass drop—a new scientific object—into natural philosophy. I shall argue that a full description of the drop and of its properties required both experiment and speculation.
4. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Sarah Irving Rethinking Corruption: Natural Knowledge and the New World in Joseph Hall’s Mundus Alter et Idem
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One of the most humorous and visceral early modern satires, Joseph Hall’s Mundus Alter et Idem (1606?), parodied the corruption of the social and political order of sixteenth-century Europe, depicted in the new world of Terra Australis Incognita. Hall’s dystopia has traditionally been understood as a satire upon humanity’s moral perversion, and is often placed alongside other early modern parodies, such as Erasmus’ Praise of Folly. While this scholarship has added much to our understanding of Hall’s Mundus, this article argues that Hall’s anxieties about corruption in the Mundus stem from his Protestant theological conception of the fundamental corruption of human reason. I argue that this anxiety about humanity’s cognitive abilities underlies Hall’s skepticism about travel. He doubted the veracity of travelers’ testimony, as well as the reliability and usefulness of the natural knowledge that could be discovered in the New World.
5. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Andrea Strazzoni A Logic to End Controversies: The Genesis of Clauberg’s Logica Vetus et Nova
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This article provides an analysis of Johannes Clauberg’s intentions in writing his Logica vetus et nova (1654, 1658). Announced before his adherence to Cartesianism, his Logica was eventually developed in order to provide Cartesian philosophy with a Scholastic form, embodying a complete methodology for the academic disciplines based on Descartes’ rules and a medicina mentis against philosophical prejudices. However, this was not its only function: thanks to the rules for the interpretation of philosophical texts it encompassed, Clauberg’s Logica was meant to provide a general hermeneutics designed to put an end to the quarrels raised by the dissemination of Cartesianism. Such quarrels, according to Clauberg, were caused by the misinterpretation of Descartes’ texts in Revius’ Methodi cartesianae consideratio theologica (1648) and Statera philosophiae cartesianae (1650) and in Lentulus’ Nova Renati Descartes sapientia (1651), which criticized the apparent lack of a logical theory in Descartes’ philosophy and its supposed inconsistencies. Clauberg answers their criticisms by giving a clear account of Descartes’ logical theory and by undermining the interpretative criteria they assumed, in light of a general theory of error. Polemics over Cartesian philosophy, in this way, favored the development of a comprehensive Cartesian methodology for academic disciplines and of the first hermeneutics for philosophical texts.
6. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Markku Roinila Leibniz and the Amour Pur Controversy
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The topic of disinterested love became fashionable in 1697 due to the famous amour pur dispute between Fénelon (1651-1715) and Bossuet (1627-1704). It soon attracted the attention of Electress Sophie of Hanover (1630-1714) and she asked for an opinion about the dispute from her trusted friend and correspondent, the Hanoverian councilor Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). This gave Leibniz an opportunity to present his views on the matter, which he had developed earlier in his career (for example, in Elementa juris naturalis of 1671 and Codex iuris gentium of 1693). In his 1697 letter to Sophie he did not explicitly take sides in the dispute, but formulated his own views on the topic in a theological manner, aiming to provide an account of disinterested love which would surpass the doctrines of both French theologians. In addition to presenting Leibniz’ early views on disinterested love and examining this alternative formulation of his views on love, I will show that after the letter Leibniz gave this alternative perspective up and returned to his earlier, more philosophical views on the topic, which suggests that he regarded them to be superior to the theological version, where the virtue of charity was related to the virtue of hope.
7. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Andrea Sangiacomo What are Human Beings? Essences and Aptitudes in Spinoza’s Anthropology
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Spinoza deals with humans and “human essence” but it is not clear how consistent his use of these notions is. The problem evoked by Spinoza’s anthropology concerns in turn the status of singular versus general essences and the relationship between those essences and their concrete condition of existence. In this paper, I propose to distinguish between these levels in order to argue that humanity exists insofar as different individuals can agree among themselves and become adapted to each other to live and operate together. Firstly, I examine Spinoza’s use of the term “aptus” in order to show that eternal singular essences can exist in different ways according to the extent they can be “adapted” to their environment, that is, to external causes. Secondly, I claim that “human essence” has to be understood as a general essence which therefore results from the “agreements” produced among certain singular essences. Thirdly, I argue that, contrary to the remarkable interpretation provided by Valtteri Viljanen, this ontological picture cannot be explained only by reference to formal causation but needs a genuine kind of efficient causation.
8. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Susan Mills The Challenging Patient: Descartes and Princess Elisabeth on the Preservation of Health
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In this paper I examine Descartes’ goal concerning the preservation of health—his proclaimed “principal end” of his studies—and reasons for it. At the centre of my investigation are Princess Elisabeth’s challenging comments concerning the attractiveness of death, which she makes in response to Descartes’ medical advice in their long-running correspondence of letters. Her challenge, I claim, strikes at Descartes’ medical project at large: she understands Descartes to endorse certain principles concerning the soul that are at odds with his medical ambition to preserve the health of the body. Descartes dispels Elisabeth’s challenge, but not with—what I argue—is his absolute reason for preserving health. For that, I turn to Descartes’ exposition in the Sixth Meditation of dropsy as a “true error of nature.” Unlike the other reasons for Descartes’ concern with health that I take up in my analysis of Descartes’ medical project, this one does not justify the preservation of health by the goods of health but, rather, by the order of nature that God ordained in creating the human being as a composite of soul and body.
9. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Edward Slowik Leibniz and the Metaphysics of Motion
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This essay develops an interpretation of Leibniz’ theory of motion that strives to integrate his metaphysics of force with his doctrine of the equivalence of hypotheses, but which also supports a realist, as opposed to a fully idealist, interpretation of his natural philosophy. Overall, the modern approaches to Leibniz’ physics that rely on a fixed spacetime backdrop, classical mechanical constructions, or absolute speed, will be revealed as deficient, whereas a moreadequate interpretation will be advanced that draws inspiration from an invariantist conception of reality and recent non-classical theories of physics.
10. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Silvia Manzo The Preservation of the Whole and the Teleology of Nature in Late Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern Debates on the Void
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This study shows that an important number of late medieval, Renaissance and early modern authors postulated the same teleological principle in order to argue both for and against the existence of the vacuum. That postulate, which I call the “principle of subordination,” holds that in order to preserve the good of nature, the particular and specific natures must be subordinated to the common and universal nature. In other words, in order to preserve nature as a whole, the individual tendencies of bodies must be subordinated to the general tendency of nature. Throughout the wide range of cases addressed in this study, a continuity is observed in the rationales underlying the discussions about the existence of the vacuum. All of them, tacitly or not, ascribed to nature the teleological principle of subordination, mostly by interpreting traditional experimental instances. Although this continuity is clearly recognizable, variations in nuances and details are also present, owing to the various contexts within which each response to the question of the existence of a vacuum emerged.