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Gassendi the Atomist

Gassendi the Atomist
Advocate of History in an Age of Science


Part of Ideas in Context

  • Date Published: August 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521522397

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About the Authors
  • Scholars in the early seventeenth century who studied ancient Greek scientific theories often drew upon philology and history to reconstruct a more general picture of the Greek past. Gassendi's training as a humanist historiographer enabled him to formulate a conception of the history of philosophy in which the rationality of scientific and philosophical inquiry depended on the historical justifications which he developed for his beliefs. Professor Joy examines this conception and analyzes the nature of Gassendi's historical training, especially its relationship to his career as a physicist and astronomer. She shows how he rehabilitated Epicurean atomism by bringing together the arguments of the Greek atomists and those of his contemporaries. In doing so, he produced an account of the natural world which made it an object of empirical study and mechanical explanation.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2002
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521522397
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Other atomists, other skeptics, and other Epicureans: the problem of determining the context of Gassendi's career
    Part I. Humanist Historiography:
    2. Refuting Aristotle is not enough: how to acquire the skills of a French humanist
    3. Gassendi's Life of Peiresc: the humanist's unattainable goal of writing a universal history
    4. The growth of Gassendi's Epicurean project: from biography and commentary to a history of philosophy
    Part II. Physics and the History of Philosophy:
    5. Unrecognized cultural baggage: the incoherence of contemporary debates about atoms
    6. Uncertainties of observation and explanation: the role of optical anomalies in astronomy
    7. Skepticism is based on bad history: Gassendi interprets Epicurus' arguments concerning the existence and qualities of atoms
    8. Epicurus' conception of proof and Gassendi's historical justification of an atomist metaphysics and physics
    9. Between culture and nature: was Gassendi a historian, a scientist, an empiricist?
    List of abbreviations used in the notes
    Index of names.

  • Author

    Lynn Sumida Joy

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