Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Descartes is commonly characterized as the arch-mechanist who rejected the syllogistic demonstrations sought in Scholastic Aristotelian physics, and instead aimed at purely “mechanistic explanations” of natural phenomena. Typical accounts of physical phenomena found in his scientific works, such as that of the properties of salt, are thus interpreted as no more than structural explanations that posit one of many possible arrangements of variously shaped microscopic particles to account for the observed effects. By examining Descartes’s own statements about the different ways in which his physics is “mechanical”, and by placing these in the context of the Renaissance revival of the geometrical demonstrations found in the Aristotelian Questions of Mechanics, this chapter shows that, and in what way, Descartes aimed at mathematical and mechanical, but not mechanistic, demonstrations of physical phenomena like salt.

Keywords: mathematical demonstration, mechanism, Plempius, Renaissance mechanics, scientia

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.