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31. 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Books Received
35. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Guidelines for Authors
36. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Books Received
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. Journal of Early Modern Studies: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Dana Jalobeanu, Cesare Pastorino Introduction