Article ID: CBB000770689

Mechanisms of Life in the Seventeenth Century: Borelli, Perrault, Régis (2005)


Des Chene, Denis (Author)

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Volume: 36
Pages: 245--260

Publication Date: 2005
Edition Details: Part of a special issue: “Mechanisms in Biology”
Language: English

In Descartes's reformulation of natural philosophy, two aspects of what came to be known as the mechanical philosophy were intimately joined: mechanism as an ontology of nature, according to which all natural things had only `mechanical' properties; and mechanism as a method of explanation. One could, and many philosophers did, adopt mechanism as a method of explanation without adopting a mechanistic ontology. I examine two successors of Descartes who did just that, and one who did not. Giovanni Alfonso Borelli in his De motu animalium (1680) and Charles Perrault in his Mécanique de animaux (1680--1688, Vol. 3) propose and argue for a variety of mechanical accounts of the operations of animals, in particular of their muscles. They reject, however, the Cartesian reduction of animal souls to mechanical forces; the principle of animal motion for them remains a non-mechanical soul. Pierre Sylvain Régis in his Cours entier de philosophie (1690, 1691) follows Descartes in taking the `physical cause' of motion in animals to be the fermentation of blood in the heart, and thus denies animal souls any role in his physiology. That he can do so while taking over, sometimes word for word, Perrault's accounts of animal motion shows that mechanistic explanation and mechanistic ontology could easily part company.

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Article Craver, Carl F.; Darden, Lindley (2005) Introduction. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (p. 233). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Schmaltz, Tad M.
Henry, John
Des Chene, Denis
Carraud, Vincent
Wheeler, Michael
Hatfield, Gary Carl
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Perspectives on Science
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Monist: An International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Liguori Editore
Rubbettino Editore
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Natural philosophy
Descartes, René
Régis, Pierre Sylvain
Borelli, Giovanni Alfonso
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Malebranche, Nicolas de
Galilei, Galileo
Time Periods
17th century
Early modern
18th century
Great Britain
Accademia del Cimento, Florence

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