Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 November 2014
This article examines the conception of elements in the natural philosophy of Nicolaus Taurellus (1547–1606) and explores the theological motivation that stands behind this conception. By some of his early modern readers, Taurellus may have been understood as a proponent of material atoms. By contrast, I argue that considerations concerning the substantiality of the ultimate constituents of composites led Taurellus to an immaterialist ontology, according to which elements are immaterial forms that possess active and passive potencies as well as motion and extension. In Taurellus's view, immaterialism about elements provides support for the theological doctrine of creation ex nihilo. As he argues, the ontology of immaterial forms helps to explicate a sense in which creatures are substances, not accidents of the divine substance. In particular, he maintains that immaterial forms stand in suitable relations of ontological dependence to God: creation dependence (since forms would not exist without the divine act of creation), but neither subsistence dependence (since forms continue to exist without continued divine agency) nor activity dependence (since forms are active without requiring divine concurrence).