What Does it Mean to be an Empiricist?

Empiricisms in Eighteenth Century Sciences

  • Siegfried Bodenmann
  • Anne-Lise Rey

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 331)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Siegfried Bodenmann, Anne-Lise Rey
    Pages 1-11
  3. The Plurality of Empiricisms

  4. Newtonianism and Non-Newtonianism Empiricisms

  5. Empiricism and Rationality

  6. Reevaluation of the Label ‘Empiricism’

  7. Back Matter
    Pages 265-297

About this book


This book begins with an observation: At the time when empiricism arose and slowly established itself, the word itself had not yet been coined. Hence the central question of this volume: What does it mean to conduct empirical science in early modern Europe? How can we catch the elusive figure of the empiricist?

Our answer focuses on the practices established by representative scholars. This approach allows us to demonstrate two things. First, that empiricism is not a monolith but exists in a plurality of forms. Today’s understanding of the empirical sciences was gradually shaped by the exchanges among scholars combining different traditions, world views and experimental settings. Second, the long proclaimed antagonism between empiricism and rationalism is not the whole story. Our case studies show that a very fruitful exchange between both systems of thought occurred. It is a story of integration, appropriation and transformation more than one of mere opposition.

We asked twelve authors to explore these fascinating new facets of empiricisms. The plurality of their voices mirrors the multiple faces of the concept itself. Every contribution can be understood as a piece of a much larger puzzle. Together, they help us better understand the emergence of empiricism and the inventiveness of the scientific enterprise.


Buffon’s Histoire naturelle Construction and Diffusion of a Pluralistic Concept Empiricism and Certainty in Science Empiricism as Rhetoric of Legitimation Empiricist in Medicine Enlightenment Issue of Empiricism Experiments of Willelm ’sGravesande Experimentum crucis Fictious Empiricism Lambert’s Theory of Empirical Science Leibnizian Dynamics Against Newton Rationalism, Empiricism, and the Unobservable The Brain and the Stirrings of Ontology What Does It Mean to Be an 18th Century Empiricist?

Editors and affiliations

  • Siegfried Bodenmann
    • 1
  • Anne-Lise Rey
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of ZurichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.History and Philosophy of ScienceLille University/Marie Curie Individual Fellowship Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselBelgium

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-69858-8
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-69860-1
  • Series Print ISSN 0068-0346
  • Series Online ISSN 2214-7942
  • Buy this book on publisher's site