Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science

  • Pietro Daniel Omodeo
  • Rodolfo Garau

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 332)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Stephen Gaukroger
    Pages 1-7
  3. Rodolfo Garau, Pietro Daniel Omodeo
    Pages 9-25

About this book


This volume considers contingency as a historical category resulting from the combination of various intellectual elements – epistemological, philosophical, material, as well as theological and, broadly speaking, intellectual. With contributions ranging from fields as diverse as the histories of physics, astronomy, astrology, medicine, mechanics, physiology, and natural philosophy, it explores the transformation of the notion of contingency across the late-medieval, Renaissance, and the early modern period. Underpinned by a necessitated vision of nature, seventeenth century mechanism widely identified apparent natural irregularities with the epistemological limits of a certain explanatory framework. However, this picture was preceded by, and in fact emerged from, a widespread characterization of contingency as an ontological trait of nature, typical of late-Scholastic and Renaissance science. On these bases, this volume shows how epistemological categories, which are preconditions of knowledge as “historically-situated a priori” and, seemingly, self-evident, are ultimately rooted in time.

Contingency is intrinsic to scientific practice. Whether observing the behaviour of a photon, diagnosing a patient, or calculating the orbit of a distant planet, scientists face the unavoidable challenge of dealing with data that differ from their models and expectations. However, epistemological categories are not fixed in time. Indeed, there is something fundamentally different in the way an Aristotelian natural philosopher defined a wonder or a “monstrous” birth as “contingent”, a modern scientist defines the unexpected result of an experiment, and a quantum physicist the behavior of a photon. Although to each inquirer these instances appeared self-evidently contingent, each also employs the concept differently.


Early Modern Epistemology Epistemology of Contingency Metaphysical Contingency Natural Contingency Principle of Contingency Problems of Contingency

Editors and affiliations

  • Pietro Daniel Omodeo
    • 1
  • Rodolfo Garau
    • 2
  1. 1.ERC Endeavor Early Modern Cosmology (GA n. 725883)Ca’ Foscari University of VeniceVeneziaItaly
  2. 2.ERC Endeavor Early Modern Cosmology (GA n. 725883)Ca’ Foscari University of VeniceVeneziaItaly

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-67376-9
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-67378-3
  • Series Print ISSN 0068-0346
  • Series Online ISSN 2214-7942
  • Buy this book on publisher's site