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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the physics of René Descartes. Descartes’ natural philosophy marks a significant moment in the larger history of physics. His system of natural philosophy was a novel, daring, and intricate construction in that field, with two main sets of historical significances for later physics. Before discussing these two significant consequences of Descartes’ natural philosophy for physics, the article provides an overview of the developmental anatomy of Cartesian physics during the period 1618–1644. In particular, it considers the successes, failures, and fate of Descartes’ early physico-mathematics programme, his work on physico-mathematical optics and corpuscular dynamics, and his career inflection between 1628 and 1633. It also explores Descartes’ ideas on vortex celestial mechanics, the explanatory style of mature Cartesian physics, and his work on classical mechanics. Finally, it looks at Descartes’ concerns with realist Copernicanism.

Keywords: physics, René Descartes, natural philosophy, Cartesian physics, optics, corpuscular dynamics, vortex celestial mechanics, classical mechanics, Copernicanism

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