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The Philosophy of Kenelm Digby (1603–1665)

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  • © 2022


  • Re-examines Digby’s unique effort to fuse Aristotelianism and mechanism
  • Analyzes his interactions with such thinkers as Galileo, Mersenne, and Fermat
  • The first book-length treatment of Digby’s contributions to early modern science and philosophy

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Table of contents (10 chapters)


About this book

This book examines the philosophical and scientific achievements of Sir Kenelm Digby, a successful English diplomat, privateer and natural philosopher of the mid-1600s. Not widely remembered today, Digby is one of the most intriguing figures in the history of early modern philosophers. Among scholars, he is known for his attempt to reconcile what perhaps seem to be irreconcilable philosophical frameworks: Aristotelianism and early modern mechanism.

This contributed volume offers the first full-length treatment of Digby’s work and of the unique position he occupied in early modern intellectual history. It explores key aspects of Digby’s metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophical method, and offers a new appraisal of his contributions to early modern natural philosophy and mathematics.

A dozen contributors offer their expert insight into such topics as

  • Body, quantity, and measures in Digby's natural philosophy
  • Ecumenism and common notions in Digby
  • Aristotelianism and accidents in Digby's philosophy
  • Digby on body and soul
  • Digby on method and experiments

This book volume will be of benefit to a broad audience of scholars, educators, and students of the history of early modern science and philosophy.


“The Philosophy of Kenelm Digby (1603–1665) is required reading for those working on Digby, and for any reader wishing to know more about an ingenious philosopher whose full historical significance continues to be uncovered.” (Niall Dilucia, History of European Ideas, March 5, 2023)

Editors and Affiliations

  • History of Philosophy, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

    Laura Georgescu, Han Thomas Adriaenssen

About the editors

Laura Georgescu works in the Department of History of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. She works mainly on early modern natural philosophy and its intersections with metaphysics and epistemology, and has additional research interests in history and philosophy of science. She has published articles on non-canonical natural philosophers, such as William Gilbert and Margaret Cavendish. Currently, she is working on a monograph dedicated to showing how Digby framed his natural philosophy in response to the competing Galilean and Cartesian alternatives.

Han Thomas Adriaenssen works on late medieval and early modern philosophy. His first book, Representation and Scepticism from Aquinas to Descartes (Cambridge University Press 2017), looks at theories of cognition and representation in late medieval and early modern thought. It explores the way in which indirect realism was seen as a skeptical threat by late medieval and early modern authors alike. He has published several papers on early modern thinkers such as Kenelm Digby, Thomas White and John Sergeant, who tried to reconcile Aristotelian ideas with the new philosophy of the seventeenth century. He is currently working on theories of individuation and bodily identity over time in late medieval and early modern thought.

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