I would like to ask whether there is any reasonable explanation why many after/today’s philosophers rather refer to Descartes than to Leibniz. Although Descartes had influenced significantly new modern era in philosophical thinking, so did Leibniz. Moreover, Leibniz proved some imperfections in Descartes’ metaphysics. I mean both of them deserve our attention, yet in my opinion Leibniz is somehow still in Descartes’ shadow. Why is that?
Meinel, Christoph (1992) Die Bibliothek des Joachim Jungius: ein Beitrag zur Historia litteraria der frühen Neuzeit. Veröffentlichung der Joachim-Jungius-Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 67. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen. ISBN 3-525-86256-3.
It certainly would be fun to reconstruct this library within EMTO. Part of what we should do with a possible second grant? Comments welcome!
According to the reviewer, the book gives a laudable account of the influence of Pythagoras on Renaissance thought. The attempt to trace Pythagorean ideas in works of art is seen in a less favourable light due to a heavy emphasis on numerological speculation.
tommorrisdotorg on typing as a strategy to put old texts in the public domain (in the UK, photographic reproductions of old prints have a copyright, the texts themselves are in the public domain):
I’m writing this post to explain as best as I can the current situation regarding the legal situation over unambigulously out-of-copyright texts in the British Library and the possibility of making public domain reproductions of them for release, say, on sites like Project Gutenberg or …
Interesting blog post on Kant and early Protestantism, particularly Calvin:
While Calvin, like Kant, vigorously resists the notion that the visible “church” (with all its cultic particularities and outward displays and transactions) exactly constitutes the invisible, his emphasis on the impress of God in the material world – and the world’s consequent ascent to God – allows him to retain an element of metaphysical hope which I believe is absent in Kant.
Longtemps négligée, l’histoire de la thérapeutique des époques médiévale et moderne s’impose aujourd’hui par sa capacité à relancer des problématiques d’histoire sociale et culturelle. La thérapeutique articule savoirs et pratiques, se pose au cœur de la relation de soins et alimente alternativement rivalité et cohésion professionnelles. Autant de manières de relire le statut et les fonctions du médicament, comme élément important de la thérapeutique entre les XIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Son étude permet d’articuler des analyses portant sur le corps, les représentations médicales, l’économie ou les acteurs de la santé.
In this blog post, I want to continue with Stefan’s recent theme of the role of experience in early modern Aristotelianisms (and there were many!). In particular I want to consider the role of experience in one rather unique Aristotelian, the English anatomist, physician and philosopher William Harvey (1578-1657), discoverer of the circuit of the blood in his (1628) De motu cordis. Harvey is unique not least because his name was associated not with the Aristotelian school at all, but rather with the new experimental philosophy. It is essential, then, that we keep distinct Harvey’s own self image as an Aristotelian, and his image as reflected in the work of others, as a new experimental philosopher, and even as a mechanical philosopher. To understand Harvey we must understand both of these images, of course, but here my concern is only with the image of Harvey we find in his own works. This is the first post of a few I have planned discussing Harvey’s Aristotelianism and his conception of experience. In this first installment, I provide some background on Harvey’s philosophy and the nature of his Aristotelianism.
Robert Boyle called Harvey ‘our English Democritus’—and this, despite the fact that Harvey was a lifelong opponent to corpuscular philosophies. Most likely, then, Boyle was pointing to Harvey not as any sort of atomist, but rather as a searcher into nature’s secrets, a great experimentalist and observer of animal bodies and their functioning. And though it is rarely if ever mentioned by those who lauded his name in this way, Harvey was a deeply committed Aristotelian.
In a moment we shall unpack some aspects of Harvey’s Aristotelianism, for as Stefan has demonstrated, this term covers a wide variety of positions and methods in the early modern period. But I want to note at the outset that, over the course of his career, Harvey’s commitment to Aristotle becomes, if anything, stronger. Thus we find in his last work, the Exercitationes de generatione animalium(1651), that the Praefatiocontains some of Harvey’s most explicit thoughts on method, which he expresses by means of an attempt to make cohesive the doctrines on knowledge of universals and particulars of the Posterior Analytics and the Physics, a traditional problem for followers of the Peripatetic. Clearly, in this work at least, Harvey understood his own method in terms of Aristotle’s.
Though Harvey studied at Cambridge what must have been an entirely traditional course on natural philosophy, we know that he was influenced rather more by the Aristotelianism he imbibed at his training in Padua just after the turn of the century (1600-1602). Harvey was thus explicitly anti-Scholastic, writing in the margins of a copy of his own De generatione that “The elenchic disputations of the Scholastics in which they drag truth by the neck to confirm a hypothesis has the result that in this way we can prove or defend anything we choose.”i Instead, as Andrew Cunningham has argued in his (1985) paper “Fabricius and the ‘Aristotle Project’ in Anatomical Teaching and Research at Padua,” Harvey’s indoctrination into Aristotle at Padua was deeply influenced by the new humanist translations of Aristotle, especially his books on animals. Cunningham argues that Fabricius’ project was to resuscitate the methods and project that Aristotle puts forward in these animal books, a project which is obviously incomplete and full of incorrect assertions. Thus, for both Harvey and Fabricius, the goal was not to defend Aristotle’s doctrines (except insofar as they were proven correct by experience) but rather to extend and expand upon Aristotle’s (distinctly teleological) project of explaining living things.
Harvey’s training in anatomy and natural philosophy by Fabricius was part of the latter’s attempt to fix the errors of previous anatomists, such as Vesalius and Colombo, by adopting the methods and standards of Aristotle’s explanations of animal bodies and souls as found in the Parva naturalia, the De partibus animalium, and the De generatione animalium. So, for instance, Fabricius’ argued that anatomists must move beyond knowledge merely of structure (often called historia) to knowledge of actions and uses (actiones, usus or utilitas, though, in fact, the terminology is both complicated and used differently by different authors, and even sometimes within the same work). Knowledge of uses and actions, although expressed using the Galen derived terminology of the physicians, is, in fact, a distinctly Aristotelian model of scientific knowledge, and can be understood as knowledge of final causes and the efficient causes that bring them about.
Indeed, the De usu partium, which is one of the key sources for this terminology, is perhaps Galen’s most Aristotelian work. We must not dismiss the influence of Galen on Harvey, for Harvey’s training took place in a distinctly medical context—and, in the early modern period, Galen was nearly synonymous with medicine. Harvey’s Aristotelianism is, in fact, deeply influenced by Galen’s philosophy and methods, though this influence is hard to detect since he never talks about Galen in the same way as Aristotle, and, furthermore, Galen’s own philosophy is deeply Aristotelian in many ways. Again, like with Aristotle, Harvey’s agreements with Galen are not so much on substantive doctrines—for all know that Harvey’s De motu cordis was aimed at proving Galen’s (and Aristotle’s) doctrines on the heart to be false—but rather on matters of method. The most important work to note here is Galen’s De placitis hippocratis et platonis, a work in which he takes Aristotle to task for failing to abide by his own methods. But, though Galen justifies his methods based on Aristotle’s conception of science and scientific explanation, he is just as innovative a thinker, and his influence on Harvey and early modern anatomy should not be underestimated.
We conclude this first post, then, with this thought, namely, that Harvey must be located in the context of Renaissance medical humanism, a blend of Aristotle and Galen and other Ancient philosophers. Later in life, responding to a query from John Aubrey on what philosophers to read and learn from (found in the Brief Lives), Harvey bid Aubrey “…to goe to the fountain head, and read Aristotle, Cicero, Avicenna, and did call the neoteriques shitt-breeches.”ii The referent of ‘neoteriques’ is a bit obscure, but we have good reason to include here not only those, from our perspective, who seem new and innovative, thinkers such as Descartes or Gassendi, but the much wider class of writers contemporary to Harvey, such as Laurentius, Scaliger, and Fernel. Even Fabricius does not merit remit from Harvey’s gaze, and many times throughout the De generatione Harvey takes his teacher to task not only for getting the facts wrong, but for not even understanding the appropriate way to explain various natural phenomena. (So, for instance, Harvey criticizes him for using material causes where efficient and final ones are needed.) Harvey’s philosophy then, while definitely and distinctly Aristotelian, embraces a wide variety of Ancient sources and philosophies, and Harvey’s erudition and wide reading can be glimpsed from the wide range of figures he cites, from Augustine to Hippocrates to Pliny and beyond. Like many of those from a medical background (and in distinction to those with more traditional training), Harvey’s philosophy was eclectic. His respect for the Ancients, though both deep and broad, was a matter of adopting that philosophy which worked. Harvey was, we might say, interested not in whose philosophy could be justified most completely through disputations (no wringing of truth by the neck), but rather he was interested in that philosophy which helped him best understand, explain, and investigate the natural world. His commitment to Aristotle was one that he thought justified and reinforced by his experiments and experiences, a matter not of reflexive belief but of confidant empirical warrant, supported by his long career and his many dissections and experiments.
In the next installment, I will delve more specifically into how Harvey conceives of experience and its relation to scientific knowledge.
iThese annotations are found in the copy of De generatione animalium (1651) in the Pybus Collection at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, probably made in 1653. Some of the notes, including this one, are found in: Harvey 1981 , Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals, Trans. and Ed. Gweneth Whitteridge, p.455.
iiAubrey, John (1898), Brief Lives Vol. I, Ed. Andrew Clark, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 300.