Article ID: CBB768305096

The Experimental Physics of Jacques Rohault (2018)


Jacques Rohault (1618–72) is often considered to be one of the most meticulous followers of Descartes. Despite this, Rohault’s natural philosophy lacks much of the metaphysical bulwark that typifies Cartesian treatises of the seventeenth century. Instead, Rohault’s work, as well as his popular weekly meetings, strongly emphasized rigorous observation and experimentation. Traditionally, this emphasis on experiment over metaphysics is seen as a pragmatic omission to avoid the perils associated with censorship and Cartesian metaphysics. However, I find that the lack of explicit metaphysics has real consequences that play out in the role Rohault assigns to experimentation. To show this, I highlight several areas where he adopts a broad experimental methodology even though Descartes explicitly rejects the relevancy of experiment on metaphysical topics. I place special emphasis Rohault’s extensive experiment on the void. In short, Rohault’s experimentation was designed to prove, through experimental means, that the void does not exist, whereas for Descartes, this was only able to be settled through the use of pure reason. This shows two things. First, Rohault represents a new strain of pragmatist-Cartesians. Second, it adds more nuance to the initial struggles of early Cartesians to distance themselves from Descartes’ most obvious problems.

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Article Alberto Vanzo (2018) Introduction. British Journal for the History of Philosophy (pp. 805-811). unapi

Article Alberto Vanzo (2018) Introduction. British Journal for the History of Philosophy (pp. 805-811). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Naginski, Erika
Blair, Ann M.
Dobre, Mihnea
Wolfe, Charles T.
Salter, Alan
Ott, Walter R.
Bulletin d'histoire et d'èpistémologie des sciences de la vie
Foundations of Science
Perspectives on Science
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Oxford University Press
Harvard University
L'Erma di Bretschneider
Natural philosophy
Experiments and experimentation
Philosophy of science
Descartes, René
Rohault, Jacques
Locke, John
Newton, Isaac
Harvey, William
Boyle, Robert
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
Early modern
16th century
Great Britain
Leiden (Netherlands)
Paris (France)
Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome)

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