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A Seventeenth-Century Physician on God and Atoms: Sebastian Basso

  • Lauge Olaf Nielsen
Part of the Synthese Historical Library book series (SYHL, volume 32)

Abstract

When in 1621 a French physician by the name of Sebastian Basso published a book entitled Philosophiae Naturalis adversus Aristotelem libri XII In quibus abstrusa Veterum Physiologia restauratur et Aristotelis errores solidis rationibus refelluntur, he cherished the ambitious hope of accomplishing a revolution in natural philosophy. Through the overthrow of Aristotelian physics Basso aimed at reinstating the ancient natural philosophy elaborated by Plato and his predecessors who, in the eyes of Basso, had been firm adherents of atomism. As the prime enemy of atomism was, of course, Aristotle, whose authority had managed to keep atomism well suppressed for close to two millennia, Basso realized that a necessary prerequisite for persuading his contemporaries of the truth of atomism would be a convincing demonstration of the ineptitude of Aristotelian physics. To Basso it was equally evident that, if his coup d’état was to succeed, he also had to show how easily and truthfully natural phenomena could be explained by way of the atomic theory. This he did most thoroughly inasmuch as he not only presented an elaborate refutation of Peripatetic physics but also constructed a whole system of natural and atomistic philosophy accounting for the major, and several minor, phenomena of the natural world stretching from the stars to the depths of the sea.

Keywords

Natural Agent Substantial Form Elementary Atom Aristotelian Conception Efficient Causality 
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Notes

  1. Philosophia Epicurea, Democritiana, Theophrastica proposita simpliciter, non edocta (Paris, 1601). A second edition appeared in Geneva in 1619. For Hill and his book see Grant McColley, “Nicholas Hill and the Philosophia Epicurea”, Annals of Science, 4 (1939–40), pp. 390–405;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

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  • Lauge Olaf Nielsen

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