The Mechanization of Natural Philosophy is organised in three parts corresponding to three problems :
PART 1. Historical contruction of the category of "mechanical philosophy"
Key-questions are adressed in this part : what does the expression "mechanical philosophy" refer to ? How, when and why was the category of mechanical philosophy constructed ? In what respect is it useful for historians of scientific and philosophical ideas to qualify an author as a "mechanical philosopher" ? Garber points out the differences between a certain number of authors who are usually considered to be mechanical philosophers and claims that the expression "mechanical philosophy" does not refer to anything before Boyle. Giglioni shows that Francis Bacon’s hylozoist conceptions prevent him from being described as a mechanical philosopher ; he consequently asks why Bacon’s works are read as if he were a mechanical philosopher. Roux argues that it was worth enquiring how the opposition between the old philosophy and the new philosophy was used in the seventeenth century, and presents her her own findings concerning this opposition in France between 1660 and 1690.
PART 2. Mechanical philosophy and theories of matter
This part allows us to qualify the thesis according to which the adoption of mechanical philosophy implied the rejection of substantial forms and the adoption of a corpuscular or atomist theory of matter. Navarro presents the atomist conceptions of the Valencian physician Bernat d’Oless Rovera (ca. 1430-1531), his reception in sixteenth-century Spain, in particular in the works of Pereira and Valles. Martin shows that Late-Renaissance Aristotelian meteoreological explanations resorted rarely to formal or final causes, and that Descartes’s Météores were not, in that respect, as innovative as one might think. Gomez offers a detailed presentation of Galileo’s mechanisation of light, in which she argues that neither Galileo nor his disciples renounced physical atomism in favour of a purely mathematical atomism. Palmerino emphasizes that a certain number of authors, notwithstanding their positions on mathematical and physical atomism and without any explicit argument, assume an isomorphism between physical magnitudes (space, time, matter) or between physical phenomena (acceleration /deceleration, rarefaction /condensation).
PART 3. Mechanical philosophy applied
This part is devoted to the relationship between mechanical philosophy and various sciences. First papers analyses this relationship in mathematized domains. De Buzon focuses on Beeckman’s and Descartes’ principles of conservation of motion, in order to outline their different conceptions of the relationship between physics and mathematics. Through a detailed account of a manuscript on hydrostatics by James Gregorie (1638-1675), as well as of the scientific context, in which it was copied in 1740, Malet shows that the Edinburgh Enlightement was as mathematical as it was experimental. We also focus on domains where mechanical philosophy failed to provide satisfactory accounts of phenomena. Manning detailed analysis shows the ambiguity and complexities of the Cartesian notion of an organism. From Lambert’s careful analysis of Dionis (1643-1718), we could infer that there is a certain affinity between mechanical philosophy on the one hand, and chirurgical and anatomical practices on the other. Franckowiak examines how the French Chemist Duclos (1598-1685) critized Boyle’s attempt to find in the mechanical philosophy some foundations for chemistry.
Table of contents
Daniel Garber and Sophie Roux, "Introduction"
1. The Construction of Historical Categories
Daniel Garber, "Remarks on the Pre-History of the Mechanical Philosophy"
Guido Giglioni, "How Bacon Became Baconian"
Sophie Roux, "An Empire Divided : French Natural Philosophy (1670-1690)"
2. Matter, Motion, Physics and Mathematics
Victor Navarro Brotons, "Matter and Form in Sixteenth-Century Spain : Some Case Studies"
Carla Rita Palmerino, "The Isomorphism of Space, Time and Matter in Seventeenth-Century Natural Philosophy"
Frédéric de Buzon, "Beeckman, Descartes and Physico-mathematics"
Antoni Malet, "Between Mathematics and Experimental Philosophy : Hydrostatics in Scotland about 1700"
3. Mechanical Philosophy Applied
Susana Gómez, "From a Metaphysical to a Scientific Object : Mechanizing Light in Galilean Science"
Craig Martin, "Causation in Descartes’ Les Météores and Late-Renaissance Aristotelian Meteorology"
Gideon Manning, "Descartes’ Healthy Machines and the Human Exception"
Jacques Lambert, "Mechanism and Surgery : Dionis’s Anatomy (1690)"
Rémi Franckowiak, "Du Clos and the Mechanization of Chemical Philosophy"