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The Limits of Mechanism and the Experimental Philosophy of the Royal Society

  • Robert Crocker
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 185)

Abstract

In a well-known passage in the Divine Dialogues, one of the most reflective of More’s characters, Bathynous, describes a dream.1 Whilst asleep in a forest, he dreams that in the same forest he is presented with the ‘two keys of Providence’ by a ‘divine Sage’ or messenger from God. The first, silver key contained a scroll representing the Copernican and Cartesian ‘true Systeme of the World’, which was revealed only after the dreamer had placed the jumbled letters on the outside of the key into their correct order, which spelt out the Platonic motto, ‘Claude Fenestras, ut luceat domus’ ‘Close the windows in order to light the house’).2 This asserted the idea that true knowledge of even the physical world depended upon a prior withdrawal from the senses — that the windows of the soul must be closed before true knowledge can be discoverd by the intellect. In a similar manner, placing the jumbled letters inscribed upon the second, golden key into their correct order revealed the complementary devotional motto, ‘Amor Dei lux Animae’ (‘The love of God is the light of the soul’).3 This in turn revealed a list of More’s favourite doctrines written on the key’s scroll, the first six of twelve aphorisms. These are worth quoting in full:4
  1. 1.

    The Measure of Providence is the Divine Goodness, which has no bounds but it self, which is infinite.

     
  2. 2.

    The Thread of Time and the Expansion of the Universe, the same Hand drew out the one and spread out the other.

     
  3. 3.

    Darkness and the Abyss were before the light, and the Suns or Stars before any Opakeness or Shadow.

     
  4. 4.

    All Intellectual Spirits that ever were, are or ever shall be, sprung up with the Light, and rejoiced together before God in the Morning of the Creation.

     
  5. 5.

    In the infinite Myriads of free Agents which were the Framers of their own Fortunes, it had been a wonder if they had all of them taken the same Path; and therefore Sin at the long run shook hands with Opacity.

     
  6. 5.

    As much as the light exceeds the Shadows, so much do the regions of Happiness those of Sin and Misery.

     

Keywords

Royal Society Experimental Philosophy True Knowledge Private Conversation Free Enquiry 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    DD: 247–53.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    DD: 252. This motto inspired the title of a work by Elys, Amor Dei Lux Animae (1670).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    DD: 252–3.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    DD: 253; and see Richard Roach’s interpretation of this in White, Restoration of all Things (1712), Sig.A 2.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    DD: 255–6.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    See IS,preface, sects.13–14.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    III,xü,1.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    IS,Ill,xii,9.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See IS, III,xiii,8, on its power in the ‘nascency’ and ‘coalescency’ of things.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    IS, III,xii,2.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    IS,preface, sect.12, and III,xiii.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See IS, III,xii,4–5, where Helmont on sympathetic cures, and Harvey on the generation of the foetus are used. See the valuable article by Pagel, “The Reaction to Aristotle in seventeenth century Biological Thought.” E.A. Underwood (ed.), Science, Medicine and History (1979), vol.1: 489–509; and below.Google Scholar
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    See EM xxvii,4, and below.Google Scholar
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    I,ix,ff See also S. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan (1969): 84–95 and below.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    IS I,ix, which lists and quotes Hobbes’ arguments.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    IS I,x,1.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    IS I,x,2–5.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See More, True Notion: 135–6.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    True Notion: ibid.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    True Notion: 170–3.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See the discussion of the available evidence and the related secondary literature in Hall, Henry More, chapter 10.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    See the discussion below, Chapter 14.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Worthington: vol.2, 254. See below, Chapter 12.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    CSPW: `Preface General’, xi-xii.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Worthington: ibid.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    See below, next chapter.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    DD: x; see also EM: `Prefatio’, sect. 4.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    DD: x-xi.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
  34. 34.
    DD: xii. Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    DD: xiii. Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See below, Chapter 10.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    DD: ibid. See More’s earlier criticism of Descartes in AA II,ii,7–14; and II,xii, 1 ff.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    See for example, Henry Stubbe, in his Letter to Dr Henry More printed with his Reply unto a Letter (1671): 73–4; and below Chapter 12.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
  40. 40.
    See below, Chapters 11–14.Google Scholar
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    See below, and also Hall, Henry More, chapters 10–11.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    See below, and AA Appendix, vii.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    The EE was More’s most popular work. First published in 1667, there are at least 10 editions of this work, including a popular English translation (1690).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    EE (1669), Pref., sects. 4–5 (More’s own italics), and EM vi-viii, and the ‘hyle’ of the Psychodia Platonica discussed above. More’s concept of space and its likely influence on Newton has attracted a predictably large modem audience. See particularly J.E. Power, “Henry More and Isaac Newton on Absolute Space”, JHI 32 (1970): 286–96; J.E. McGuire, “Force, Active Principles and Newton’s Invisible Realm”, Ambix 15 (1968): 154–208; idem, “Atoms and the `Analogy of Nature’: Newton’s Third Rule of Philosophizing”, Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1 (1970): 3–58; and A.R. Hall, Henry More: Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ibid, sects. 6–13.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    EM viii, 8: trans. by M. Boylan, “Henry More’s Space and the Spirit of Nature”, JHP (1980): 400.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    EE (1669), Pref. Sect. 14 (More’s italics).Google Scholar
  48. 48.
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  50. 50.
    See DNB. Stubbe, 1632–1676, was a physician, author, and Parliamentarian soldier, who for a time was keeper of the Bodleian Library. The great difficulty many have had interpreting the writings of Stubbe derive from his transformation at the Restoration from an anti-Royalist pamphleteer (under the patronage of Henry Vane), to a pamphleteer apparently for hire. He was clearly a learned man, who corresponded with many, including Hobbes. His attacks on the Royal Society, our concern here, were probably funded by conservative Aristotelian opponents of the Society. See J.R. JacobsGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Legends no Histories: Or, a Specimen of some Animadversions Upon the History of the Royal Society. Wherein,besides, the several Errors against Common Literature, sundry mistakes about the making of Salt-Petre and Gun-Powder are detected, and rectified…Together with the Plus-Ultra of Mr. Joseph Glanvil reduced to a Non-Plus (1670).Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Plus Ultra Reduced (1670): 173.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    See More’s account of the episode, in a letter to Anne Conway, August 6th, 1670, Nicolson: 303.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Sprat, History of the Royal Society (1667): 348. On Sprat and his History see Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: CUP, 1981): 29–31.Google Scholar
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  58. 58.
    Letter to Dr Henry More in A Reply unto the Letter Written to Mr. Henry Stubbe In Defence of the History of the Royal Society (Oxford, 1671): 63, where Stubbe speaks of “the long acquaintance I have had with you [More], the respect wherewith I mention you, and the place I hold in the esteem of a Family which you honour..”Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    See Nicolson: 303, where More speaks of his resentment at being used by Stubbe as “a clod in the field to pelt” his friends at the Royal Society with.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    In Glanvill, Praefatory Answer (1670): 154–5.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Discussed below.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    On Beale’s role in the commissioning of Sprat’s History, see Michael Hunter, Science and Society in Restoration England (Cambridge: CUP, 1981): 194–7.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    See Beale’s letter, June 24th, 1671, printed in Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg (1965–77), vol.8: 120; and see More’s report of Stubbe’s `rayling’ against him in the coffee houses at Oxford, in Nicolson: 327.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    See below, and also Henry Oldenburg’s review of the EM in the Philosophical Transactions (vol.VI, 1671): 2182–4.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    In Glanvill, Praefatory Answer (1670): 155–6.Google Scholar
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  67. 67.
    In Glanvill, Praefatory Answer (1670): 156.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    See More’s tactical evasions concerning Sprat’s “smooth and plausible deductions”, in Ibid: 157–8.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    A Reply unto the Letter Written to Mr. Henry Stubbe In Defense of the History of the Royal Society. Wher eunto is added a Preface against Ecobolius Glanvill; and an answer to the Letter of Dr.Henry More… (Oxford, 1671): 63 ff, and see More’s pained reaction to this `scurrilous letter’, in Nicolson: 327–8.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Stubbe lambasts Glanvill as a “Renegado-presbyter turn’d Latitudinarian”, in Ibid: 34.Google Scholar
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    John Fell, DD (1625–1686), Royalist and after the Restoration Dean of Christ Church, and Bishop of Oxford, a learned and vigorous critic of innovation in religion or learning. See DNB. Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Jacob, Henry Stubbe (1983): 105–6.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Letter to Dr. Henry More (1671): 78, and see above.Google Scholar
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    Ibid: 64.Google Scholar
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    Stubbe, Ibid: 65–6.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    More, DD, 23–4. See Greene, “Henry More and Robert Boyle on the Spirit of Nature”, J.H.L, 23 (1967): 468–9, who believed that More had Boyle and the Royal Society’s experimentalists in mind here. The evidence for this is contradicted by More’s consistent praise of Boyle. See below, and EM ixiii. Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Letter to Dr. Hen ry More (1670): 68. The `Zany’ is Glanvill, the real target of Stubbe’s attack. See More’s reference to this `plot’ against Glanvill, in Nicolson: 327–8.Google Scholar
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    On Boyle’s early life, see Michael Hunter, Robert Boyle 1627–1691: Scrupulosity and Science (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2000), chapter 11, and “An Account of Philaretus during his Minority”, in Maddison, Robert Boyle (1969): 2–45, especially 32–6; and on Boyle’s religious attitudes, see Jan Wojcik, “The Theological Context of Things above Reason”, in Michael Hunter (ed), Robert Boyle Reconsidered (Cambridge, CUP, 1994):139–155; and the excellent discussion in Lawrence Principe, The Aspiring Adept Robert Boyle and his Alchemical Quest (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), Chapter 6. See also Boyle’s early Some Motives and Incentives to the Love of God (1659), in Boyle (Vol. I, 1772): 177–8.Google Scholar
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    More, Remarks upon two late ingenious Discourses: the one, an Essay, touching the Gravitation and Non-gravitation of Fluid Bodies; the other, touching the Torricellian Experiment, so far forth as they may concern any passages in his Enchiridion Metaphysicum (1676). On Sir Matthew Hale (16091676) Baron of the Exchequer and at this time Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, see DNB. His tracts of the same names were published in 1673 snf 1674 respectively.Google Scholar
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    AA, II,ii,12.Google Scholar
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    M II,ii,13.Google Scholar
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    M, 11,0,13.Google Scholar
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    As was claimed by Greene, “More and Boyle.” (1962): 461.Google Scholar
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    Versus Greene, “More and Boyle”, Ibid: 465–6.Google Scholar
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    For a valuable discussion of this type of argument, see Stuart Clark, “The scientific status of demonology”, in Vickers (ed), Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance, (1984), chapter 12.Google Scholar
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    Compare More, IS, preface, sect. 12 and Boyle, A Free Enquiry (1686): 141 ff, and Disquisition about the Final Causes of Natural Things (1688): 160–214. See also Principe’s discussion of the More Boyle controversy and its context in Boyle’s thought, Aspiring Adept (1998): 205–212.Google Scholar
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    Boyle, Disquisition: 158–71.Google Scholar
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    As Boyle seems to have thought, Hydrostatical Discourse (1672): 47–8; and Beale also, in Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg (1965–77), Vol.8: 120. See also McGuire, “Boyle’s Concept of Nature”, (1972): 523–42.Google Scholar
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    More, Op.cit, cap.xü-xiii, which had made use of experiments primarily from Boyle’s Hydrostatical Paradoxes (1666). Google Scholar
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    Op.cit,sig.K.3 v.Google Scholar
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    Boyle, Hydrostatical Discourse, sig.K.5.Google Scholar
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    This letter is dated `Dec. 4’, and appears in Boyle (vol.V, 1772): 513–5: “…when I was with you, you seemed not to be concerned for yourself, but for Des Cartes” On Descartes’ influence on Boyle, see L. Laudan, “The Clock Metaphor and Probabilism: The Impact of Descartes on English Methodolgical Thought, 1650–65”, AS., 22 (1966): 73–104.Google Scholar
  107. 107.
    Boyle: 514; the news from Holland was contained in a letter from P. van Limborch, dated March 31, 1669, Amsterdam UL, Mss III.D.16. fol.134. See below, also More’s reply, July 4, 1669, Idem, Mss M.34.b.Google Scholar
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    Boyle, Hydrostatical Discourse (1672): 47–8. See also Hale’s similar reply, Observations touching the Principles of Natural Motions (1677), 28–9.Google Scholar
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    See McGuire, “Boyle’s Concept of Nature”: 534–6; and also Boyle, Free Enquiry (ed. Hunter and Davies): xxi-xxiii.Google Scholar
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    Ibid: 132.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Crocker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AustraliaAustralia

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