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The Emergence of a Scientific CultureScience and the Shaping of Modernity 1210-1685$
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Stephen Gaukroger

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199296446

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296446.001.0001

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The Scope of Mechanism

The Scope of Mechanism

Chapter:
(p.323) 9 The Scope of Mechanism
Source:
The Emergence of a Scientific Culture
Author(s):

Stephen Gaukroger (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296446.003.0010

There are three areas of particular concern to mechanists, concerns which highlight the legitimatory aspects of the mechanist project in natural philosophy. The first is the question of how mechanists deal with the explanatory load placed on their systems by a combination of minimal explanatory resources and ambitious explanatory aims. In particular, the role that the doctrine of primary and secondary qualities plays in this respect, especially in Malebranche's reworking of Cartesianism. Second, there is the attempt to extend mechanism into the realms of vital and cognitive functions, phenomena that were treated as part of natural philosophy in the early-modern period, and which generated a great deal of controversy. Finally, there is the question of the relation between natural philosophy expanded into the biological realm and the traditional practice of clinical medicine, which harbours a very different model of understanding biological processes as they relate to illness and health.

Keywords:   explanatory aims, health, Nicolas Malebranche, medicine, primary qualities, secondary qualities

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