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Gassendi the Atomist Lynn Sumida Joy

Gassendi the Atomist By Lynn Sumida Joy

Gassendi the Atomist by Lynn Sumida Joy

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This account of Gassendi's life and work offers a provocatively new perspective from which to view the influence of humanism on seventeenth-century thought. As Professor Joy makes clear, his reform of philosophy raised questions about the aims of science, which we ourselves are still asking.

Gassendi the Atomist Summary

Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science by Lynn Sumida Joy

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.

Table of Contents

Preface; List of illustrations; Introduction; 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; Notes; Index of names.

Additional information

Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science by Lynn Sumida Joy
Cambridge University Press
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