Causation in Descartes’ Les Météores and Late Renaissance Aristotelian Meteorology
Over 70 years ago, Étienne Gilson showed the parallels between Descartes’ Les météores and the Coimbrans’ textbook that was based on Aristotle’s Meteorology. The topics treated in Descartes’ work follow those found in the frequently-taught Jesuit textbook. They both discussed the formation of clouds, rain, rainbows and other lights in the sky, minerals and salts, and the cause of winds and earthquakes. The similarities do not end at the structure and topics treated that Gilson pointed out but extend to large portions of the treatises’ content. To be sure, differences appear, but many Aristotelian meteorological concepts are found throughout Descartes’ treatise without being changed at all or only in a minor way. Descartes’ Les météores was neither revolutionary, nor was it intended to be revolutionary.