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