Henry More and the Scientific Revolution

  • A. Rupert Hall
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 127)


The relation of Henry More to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century has been a matter of greater interest to historians of philosophy than to historians of science. The same remark might be applied, indeed, to other philosophers who have reflected critically or otherwise upon mathematics and natural science — George Berkeley, to cite another English example. However, the case of More is a little different in that positive influence upon the greatest of English scientists has been more than once confidently claimed for him. The writings of More perhaps most frequently considered by historians of philosophy are his his four letters to Descartes written in 1648–9. Without by any means belittling their importance as indications of contemporary idealist response to Descartes’s philosophy, there are good reasons for not giving them great prominence when thinking about More in relation to science. In them More himself gave pride of place to the epistemological and metaphysical problems he found in Descartes’s writings; although he does raise scientific objections to Descartes’s treatment of the planetary motions, of optics, of magnetism and so forth, not to say of Descartes’s fundamental theory of motion (but perhaps this is as much a matter of metaphysics as of science), these do not inhibit him from declaring in later writings that Descartes had constructed as perfect an explanatory mechanism for the universe as anyone could hope to meet with.


Royal Society Active Principle Scientific Revolution Natural Theology Absolute Space 
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    More, CSPW, Preface p. xii.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    More, Poems, Psychathanasia, 3, stanza 44.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., stanza 37.Google Scholar
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    More, CSPW, Preface, xiv-xv. This quotation gives occasion to remark upon the (to me) strange infrequency of references to Kenelm Digby in More’s works. ‘Sympathy’ for More embraced what we still call the sympathetic vibration of two strings in resonance — yet another physical phenomenon that he regarded as inexplicable upon mechanical principles.Google Scholar
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1990

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  • A. Rupert Hall

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