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date: 22 January 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the debate among natural philosophers during the early modern period which concerned whether living beings could be understood as biological machines that did not require a distinct principle of life or soul to explain their complex functioning. It suggests that these innovations can be seen collectively as a gradual substitution of the categorial framework of Aristotle by one derived from the experimental and mathematical sciences. The traditional epistemic relationship between natural philosophy and metaphysics thereby began a long-term reversal. This article also discusses the sources of the early modern machine concept, animal spirits, and the problem of intermediate principles.

Keywords: living beings, natural philosophers, early modern period, biological machines, Aristotle, mathematical sciences, metaphysics, machine concept

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