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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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Corpuscularianism and the Rise of Mechanism

Corpuscularianism and the Rise of Mechanism

(p.253) 8 Corpuscularianism and the Rise of Mechanism
The Emergence of a Scientific Culture

Stephen Gaukroger (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

From the early 17th century onwards, the dominant natural philosophy was mechanism: the view that all explanations must ultimately take the form of a reduction to a very economical range of features at the micro-corpuscularian level, e.g., in the paradigm case, size, speed, and direction of motion. Gassendi and Beeckman offered very different routes to mechanism: Gassendi's was a legitimatory programme that focuses on matter theory, whereas Beeckman's approach comes directly out of mechanics, which it attempted to transform into natural philosophy by fleshing it out in micro-corpuscularian terms. The crucial stage in mechanism comes with the rise of concerted attempts to integrate mechanics and matter theory into a consistent whole, at the same time offering the mechanism so devised as a complete theory of the cosmos, and it is the approaches of Hobbes, whose closest affinities are with Gassendi, and Descartes, whose closest affinities are with Beeckman, that bring out most clearly what is at issue here.

Keywords:   Isaac Beeckman, René Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, Thomas Hobbes, mechanism, micro-corpuscularianism

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