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Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy
Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World


  • Date Published: January 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521524926

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About the Authors
  • This book is about the influence of varying theological conceptions of contingency and necessity on two versions of the mechanical philosophy in the seventeenth century. Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) and René Descartes (1596–1650) both believed that all natural phenomena could be explained in terms of matter and motion alone. They disagreed about the details of their mechanical accounts of the world, in particular about their theories of matter and their approaches to scientific method. This book traces their differences back to theological presuppositions they inherited from the Middle Ages. Theological ideas were transformed into philosophical and scientific ideas which led to the emergence of different styles of science in the second half of the seventeenth century.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521524926
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Theology and the Philosophy of Nature:
    1. Divine power and divine will in the Middle Ages: historical and conceptual background
    2. Baptizing epicurean philosophy: Gassendi on divine will and the philosophy of nature
    3. Providence and human freedom in Christian epicureanism: Gassendi on fate, fortune and divination
    4. Theology, metaphysics, and epistemology: Gassendi's 'Science of Appearances'
    5. Eternal truths and the laws of nature
    Part II. The Theological Foundations of Descartes' Philosophy of Nature:
    6. Gassendi and Descartes in conflict
    7. Introduction: theories of matter and their epistemological connections
    8. Gassendi's atomism, an 'empirical' theory of matter
    9. Mathematizing nature: Descartes' geometrical theory of matter
    10. Conclusion: theology transformed and the emergence of styles of science.

  • Author

    Margaret J. Osler, University of Calgary

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