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Descartes on Forms and Mechanisms


  • Date Published: July 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107405158

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About the Authors
  • The modern view of causation can be traced back to the mechanistic science of Descartes, whose rejection of Aristotelian physics, with its concept of substantial forms, in favor of mechanical explanations was a turning-point in the history of philosophy. However the reasoning which led Descartes and other early moderns in this direction is not well understood. This book traces Descartes' groundbreaking theory of scientific explanation back to the mathematical demonstrations of Aristotelian mechanics and interprets these advances in light of the available arguments for and against substantial forms. It also examines how Descartes' new theory led him to develop a metaphysical foundation for his science that could avoid skeptical objections. It will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in the philosophy and science of the early modern period.

    • Discussions within the book provide invaluable access to texts which have never been translated from Latin into English
    • Hattab's focus on Descartes' early works fills a big gap and allows new interpretations of his overall project to emerge
    • Summaries at the beginning of each part and chapter enable readers to easily identify areas of interest
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a subtle and learned book, and sheds light on a narrow but, Hattab argues, central slice of the debates around substantial forms in the early seventeenth century and the rise of the mechanical philosophy. Hattab provides important context for Descartes's arguments against Scholastic forms and adds detail to our understanding of both the object and motivation of his attack. She offers a stimulating reading not only of Descartes's relationship to contemporary Scholasticism, but also of his scientific method and metaphysical commitments at various stages in his career.' Journal of the History of Philosophy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107405158
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.34kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Resurrecting the Substantial Form:
    1. Descartes' arguments against the substantial form
    2. Aquinas' introduction of the substantial form
    3. Suarez's defense of the substantial form
    Part II. Challenging the Substantial Form:
    4. Sanchez's skeptical humanist attack
    5. The mechanical alternative to substantial forms
    6. Cartesian science and the principles of mechanics
    Part III. Eliminating Substantial Forms:
    7. Atoms, modes and other heresies
    8. Descartes' metaphysical alternative to substantial forms

  • Author

    Helen Hattab, University of Houston

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