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181. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Laura Georgescu One Experiment, Different Uses: Floating Magnetic Bodies in Peregrinus, Norman and Gilbert
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This paper argues that local epistemic aims shape and transform the function played by an experiment. It shows that different uses of the same experimental context change the status of the experiment in the larger knowledge scheme. I deal with this problem in the context of early modern science, where experiments were often transferred from one domain of knowledge or from one problem to another. Thus, I assess how the technique of freely floating magnetic bodies was used experimentally in the following treatises: Peter Peregrinus’ Epistola de magnete, Robert Norman’s The Newe Attractive and William Gilbert’s De magnete. If the thesis is correct, then context-sensitive analyses of the transfer of experiments across domains (or problems) are necessary in order to understand both the function of the experiment in each knowledge context and what legitimizes the transfer.
182. 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.
183. 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.
184. 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.
185. 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.
186. 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.
187. 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.
188. 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.
189. 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.
190. 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.
191. 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.
192. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Benedino Gemelli Bacon in Holland: some evidences from Isaac Beeckman’s Journal
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The so-called “Scientific Revolution” is the result of a complex interaction between the world of ideas and that of concrete human activity with the aim of discovering the mysteries of nature. Not only books but also notebooks mediate this dialectical relationship: in this way, the complex features of a theoretical system can coexist with the detailed observations of everyday natural phenomena (like water drops, or burning candles), in order to test the foundations of a whole philosophy of nature in the micro-world. Bacon himself suggested leaving general observations aside in order to reach closer to phenomena: Isaac Beeckman, in the isolation of his Journal, notes in chronological order his own laboratory and reading experiences, together with his meditations, producing an intellectual account of great cultural and scientific interest, discovered by Cornelis De Waard in 1905, in the Provincial Library of Zeeland [Middelburg]. Beeckman also owned some of Francis Bacon’s major works: from some of the notebook annotations presented in this article it is possible to see that Bacon’s explanations of simple natural phenomena did not always agree with the emerging physico-mathematical turn. Bacon is blamed for the use of old-fashioned categories, like sympathies and occult qualities, which need to be replaced by a fully corpuscular, mathematical and geometrical mechanical philosophy.
193. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Daniel Garber Merchants of Light and Mystery Men: Bacon’s Last Projects in Natural History
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This essay explores the natural history project that Bacon undertakes in the last part of his life. After setting aside the Novum organum and the attempt to set out a method of interpreting nature in detail, Bacon turned to the project of outlining what a natural history should look like. Part of this project involved the composition of some natural histories to serve as models of what a natural history should look like. He published two of six exemplary histories he planned, the Historia vitae et mortis and the Historia ventorum. Both of these are very carefully organized works in learned Latin. However, shortly after his death, William Rawley, his literary executor, published Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum, presented as “a natural history in ten centuries.” The style of this work is altogether different from the Latin natural histories: it is in English, not Latin, and, as Rawley put it in his letter to the reader, “it may seeme an Indigested Heap of Particulars.” In this essay, I discuss the relations between the formal Latin natural histories and the Sylva. Appealing to the structure of Salomon’s House in the New Atlantis, published in the same volume as the Sylva, I argue that the Sylva Sylvarum represents the very first stages of constructing a natural history, while the Latin natural histories represent later stages in the process, where the observations, experiments, and other materials collected from various sources are arrayed in a more orderly and systematic fashion.
194. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Arianna Borrelli Thinking with optical objects: glass spheres, lenses and refraction in Giovan Battista Della Porta’s optical writings
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In the Natural magic and On refraction Giovan Battista Della Porta gave the first detailed accounts of optical effects produced with the spherical mirrors and lenses which had recently become popular in Europe. These writings have received a largely negative treatment in the historiography of early modern optics, which has focused on the development of theories of light and vision. Reassessing the significance of the work of Della Porta, I shall argue that they are a most valuable source to reconstruct how the systematic study and conceptualization of new optical artifacts was a key factor in the development of geometrical optics. Della Porta’s optical experiences with glass spheres and lenses can in my opinion be understood as part of a process of “thinking with objects” similar to that described by Domenico Bertoloni Meli (2006) in the case of early modern mechanics. It was a process in which Della Porta conceptualized complex optical artifacts in terms of simpler ones, transforming them into philosophical instruments whose workings could be subsumed under a small number of rules and providing the necessary epistemic framework in which, later on, the sinus law of refraction could be formulated.
195. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Dana Jalobeanu, Cesare Pastorino Introduction
196. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Daniel Schwartz Is Baconian Natural History Theory-Laden?
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The recent surge of interest in Bacon’s own attempts at natural history has revealed a complex interplay with his speculative ideas in natural philosophy.This research has given rise to the concern that his natural histories are theory-laden in a way that Bacon ought to find unacceptable, given his prescription in the Parasceve for a reliable body of factual instances that can be used as a storehouse for induction. This paper aims to resolve this tension by elaborating a moderate foundationalist account of Bacon’s method and by appealing to a distinction he makes, in a letter to Father Fulgentio, between pure and impure natural histories. I argue that the discussions of causes and axioms in the published histories render them impure, since that material properly belongs to Part Four of the Instauratio, but that this interplay with Part Four is necessary for the sake of the continued refinement of Part Three (the natural historical part). Bacon ultimately aims for a storehouse of instances, to be attained at the culmination of this process of refinement, and at that point the history should be published in its pure form.
197. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Sergius Kodera The Laboratory as Stage: Giovan Battista della Porta’s Experiments
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This article surveys the vast range of different literary genres to which Giovan Battista Della Porta (1535-1615) contributed; it thereby encompasses not merely Porta’s contributions to a specific form of science, his numerous texts on physiognomics and his influential Magia naturalis , but also his no less prolific literary production for the theater, since I argue that his scientific production can best be understood when viewed alongside it. In fact, when read together, these different orientations his work took represent an amazingly coherent form of early modern thought--although one remarkably different from later forms of science in that it constitutes a kind of performative natural philosophy, which I call scienza. This article, therefore, presents Porta less as a forerunner of modern science, instead situating his work for the laboratory as well as for the stage in the context of a peculiar form of theatricality. In short, Porta’s magus emerges as a very peculiar kind of stage director--an expert in the manipulation of appearances and audiences, and a dexterous creator of marvels. His practice echoes the very modes of dissimulation that were characteristic for the social comportment of a courtier in Baroque culture. The following article develops these ideas by pointing to some specific examples, namely Porta’s histrionic use of the magnet as described both in the second edition of the Magia naturalis (1589) and in some of his comedies, and his method of gathering and displaying fragmented parts of the human body for his work on palmistry (written between1599 and 1608).
198. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Samuel Kahn Defending the possible consent interpretation from actual attacks
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In this paper, I defend the possible consent interpretation of Kant’s formula of humanity from objections according to which it has counterintuitive implications. I do this in two ways. First, I argue that to a great extent, the supposed counterintuitive implications rest on a misunderstanding of the possible consent interpretation. Second, I argue that to the extent that these supposed counterintuitive implications do not rest on a misunderstanding of the possible consent interpretation, they are not counterintuitive at all.
199. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Patrick Brissey Rule VIII of Descartes’ Regulae ad directionem ingenii
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On the developmental reading, Descartes first praised his method in the first instance of Rule VIII of the Regulae ad directionem ingenii, but then demoted it to provisional in the “blacksmith” analogy, and then found his discrete method could not resolve his “finest example,” his inquiry into the essence and scope of human knowledge, an event that, on this reading, resulted in him dropping his method. In this paper, I explain how Rule VIII can be read as a coherent title and commentary that is a further development of the method of the Regulae.
200. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Karen Pagani To Err is Human, to Forgive Supine: Reconciling (and) Subjective Identity in Rousseau’s Émile et Sophie, ou Les Solitaires
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This essay interrogates the degree to which the views on anger and reconciliation expressed in Les Solitaires relate to Rousseau’s thoughts on subjectivityand, especially, the radically dissimilar psychological experiences of the individual-acting-as-such and that of the citizen qua citizen. I argue that the conflict and the tragedy with which both Émile and Sophie are confronted in Les Solitaires is cast by Rousseau as a necessary step in their acquisition of a more self-conscious moral perspective that enables both protagonists to articulate and reconcile their bifurcated identities as individuals and as citizens. Through an analysis of Émile’s deliberations concerning the appropriateness of forgiveness in the case of Sophie’s infidelity, I suggest that the very sophistication of the protagonists’ reflections on their unfortunate circumstances reveals their acute awareness as to the difficulties and alienation that inexorably results from the social contract and, it follows, from all contracts that are derived therefrom (particularly that of marriage). As such, the text must be read as a further development upon the principles of education established in Émile, ou de l’Éducation, as well as a devastating and, for Rousseau, out of character condemnation of marriage.