Volume 18, Issue 2, 2021
Mário João Correia
Experience and Natural Philosophy in the Italian Renaissance
Nicoletto Vernia and Gomes of Lisbon on the Subject-Matter of Physics
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one of the most controversial intellectual disputes was the question of method in natural philosophy, or physics. The tensions between observational experience and geometrization, demonstration from the effects (demonstratio quia, a posteriori) and from the causes (demonstratio propter quid, a priori), and between Aristotle’s authority and new philosophical tendencies made some philosophers search for new solutions. Others criticized these new solutions and tried to show the validity of several medieval scholastic readings of Aristotle. With this article, I intend to present the role of experience in the dispute between Nicoletto Vernia’s approach to the subject-matter of physics and Gomes of Lisbon’s response to it. While Vernia holds that the subject-matter of physics is mobile body, Gomes argues it is natural substance. What is at stake is how to combine experience, definition, and demonstration to obtain a consistent scientific method. Only through the study of this kind of text and discussion can we gather a solid background to elucidate what has changed and what has been inherited from the past in the scientific shift of the seventeenth century.