The Mechanical Philosophy

Part of the Studies in European History book series (SEURH)


Natural philosophy and the mathematical disciplines underwent considerable reforms during the Renaissance but before the dominant scholastic-Aristotelianism could be replaced something more was required. Scholastic natural philosophy was a complete system, seemingly capable of dealing with most questions about the physical world. The Aristotelianism which formed the core of the system was dovetailed pretty neatly with Ptolemaic astronomy and with Galenic medicine. Furthermore, it was based upon a coherent and powerful metaphysics, and, thanks to the work of Thomas Aquinas and other Church leaders since the thirteenth century, it was seen as a ‘handmaiden’ to the ‘Queen of the Sciences’, theology. The essential unity of approach to the nature of the physical world, from the macrocosm to the microcosm, was seen as unshakeable testimony to the truth of the system. During the Renaissance that unity began to break up, but the general tendency among intellectuals was to patch up the old system and to stick with it. To be a natural philosopher, after all, was to be in possession of a key to answering all questions about the physical world. The result was, however, a proliferation of Aristotelianisms: a whole series of often ingenious refinements, re-working and re-interpretations of traditional scholasticism to accommodate the latest findings and the latest fashions of thought [192].


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Copyright information

© John Henry 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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