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Introduction

  • Pierre Gassendi
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Part of the Synthese Historical Library book series (SYHL, volume 30)

Abstract

Pierre Gassendi was born in a hill-top village named Champtercier, a few kilometres from Digne in Provence, on the 22nd January, 1592. His father Antoine and mother Françoise were worthy but undistinguished village folk. Gassendi received his early education in the humanities in Digne and Riez, and at the age of twelve years he received tonsure from the Bishop, a rite which signified admission to the clerical state. Thereafter, the rest of his formal education formed part of his training for ordination to the Catholic priesthood and was supervised by the Church authorities. He studied Aristotelian philosophy and Catholic theology for the next eight years (1604–1611) at the college of Aix-en-Provence.

Keywords

Seventeenth Century Catholic Priesthood Catholic Theology Aristotelian Philosophy Church Authority 
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Notes

  1. 1a.
    On the reform of seminaries decreed by the Council of Trent (1543–1563) and the role of the Jesuits in the post-Conciliar reform of Catholic education, cf. R. Mandrou: 1978, From humanism to science 1480–1700, Penguin, Harmondsworth, pp.154–160;Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    also H.O. Evennett: 1968, The spirit of the Counter-Reformation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp.78–79, 114.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    “Les pères Jesuites, s’introduisant dans la ville et s’emparant tout aussitot de Collège, il [Gassendi] fut contraint d’achever son cours… dans le quartier de St Ivan, Monsieur Bergamon son ami, pour lors chanoine d’Aix… lui donna une grande sale [sic] chez lui pour cet effect.” Mémoire touchant la naissance, vie et moeurs de P. Gassendi (revu par un membre de sa famille), conserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Fonds français, MS 12270, and attributed to Antoine de la Potherie with revisions by Gassendi’s nephew in B. Rochot (Ed.): 1944, Lettres familières à François Luillier pendant l’hiver 1632–1633, J. Vrin, Paris, p. xv.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    “Real philosophy has almost slipped from men’s hands and is now lodged in obscurity and silence with very few.” “Germana illa pene elapsa ex hominum manibus in umbra et silentio apud perpaucos hospitatur.” (P. Gassendi: 1658, Opera omnia, 6 vols., Lyon, VI, p.30.)Google Scholar
  5. 4a.
    Cf. Gassendi’s letter to J.-B. Van Helmont of 9.7.1629, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, pp.19b–24a. One should note, however, that Gassendi posed the arguments against the eating of meat in his letter as part of a Pyrrhonnist disputation. Nevertheless, apparently upon the basis of this letter, the tradition has been preserved that Gassendi was a vegetarian. Cf. J. Bougerel: 1737, Vie de Pierre Gassend, J. Vincent, Paris, pp.45–57;Google Scholar
  6. 4b.
    also B. Rochot, “La vie, le caractère et la formation intellectuelle,” in B. Rochot (et al.): 1955, Pierre Gassendi 1692–1655, sa vie et son oeuvre (Centre International de Synthèse), Paris, pp.9–54, espc. p.16.Google Scholar
  7. 5a.
    For a fuller account of Gassendi’s life history, cf. H. Jones: 1981, Pierre Gassendi 1592–1655. An intellectual biography, B. De Graaf, Nieuwkoop;Google Scholar
  8. 5b.
    also the introduction in H. Jones: 1981, Pierre Gassendi’s Institutio logica (1658), Van Gorcum, Assen.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    P. Gassendi: 1624, Exercitationum paradoxicarum adver sus Aristoteleos libri Septem, In quitus praecipua totius peripateticae doctrinae fundamenta excutiuntur: opiniones verae aut novae, aut ex vetustioribus obsoletae stabiliuntur. Authore Petro Gassendo…, P. Verderii, Grenoble.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.149a–210b.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    P. Tamizey de Larroque (Ed.): 1888–1898, Lettres de Peiresc, 7 vols., Paris, IV, pp.178–181.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Cf. ibid., III, p. 133; IV, pp.203–204.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    P. Gassendi: 1649, Animadversiones in decimum librum Biogenis Laertii, qui est de vita, moribus placitisque Epicuri, G. Barbier, Lyon. The translation and notes are published in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, pp. 1–166. Concerning the work of translation itself, cf. Gassendi’s letter to Peiresc of 11.9.1629, given in P. Tamizey de Larroque, Lettres de Peiresc, IV, pp.217–218.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Ibid, IV, pp.250–252.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    P. Gassendi: 1647, De vita et moribus Epicuri libri octo, G. Barbier, Lyon; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, pp. 167–236.Google Scholar
  16. 13a.
    Indications of the progress of Gassendi’s work in writing the manuscripts are found in MS Carpentras 1832, f.205, P. Tamizey de Larroque, Lettres de Peiresc, IV, pp. 172–173, P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, p. 116, MS Tours 709, f. 268v, and elsewhere. Cf. also René Pintard: 1943, La Mothe le Vayer, Gassendi — Guy Patin. Etudes de bibliographie et de critique suivie de textes inédits de Guy Patin, Boivin, Paris, Ch. 3 (“Des manuscrits de Gassendi à l’oeuvre imprimée: la genèse du Syntagma philosophicum”);Google Scholar
  17. 13b.
    also O.R. Bloch: 1971, La philosophie de Gassendi. Nominalisme, matérialisme et métaphysique, Nijhoff, The Hague, pp. xxix–xxx.Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    P. Gassendi, Philosophiae Epicuri syntagma, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp. 1–94. This is the only known published version of this work.Google Scholar
  19. 15.
    To be precise, MS Tours 706 begins with the heading “Syntagmatis philosophici pars logica”. Earlier, Gassendi had described his writings on Epicurean philosophy as “commentaries”, cf. P. Tamizey de Larroque, Lettres de Peiresc, IV, p.402, pp.414–415. For an account of the fortunes of the manuscripts of Gassendi, cf. P. Meyer: 1883, “Les manuscrits du Connetable de Lesdiguieres”, in Romania, 12, pp.336–342.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    P. Gassendi, Commentarii de rebus caelestibus, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, IV, pp.75–498.Google Scholar
  21. 17.
    P. Gassendi: 1630, Epistolica exercitatio, in qua principia philosophiae Roberti Fluddi, medici, reteguntur, et ad recentes illius libros adversus R.P.F. Marinum Mersennum… respondetur…, S. Cramoisy, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.213–267.Google Scholar
  22. 18.
    P. Gassendi: 1630, Parhelia, sive soles quatuor qui circa verum apparuerunt Romae, die xx mensis martii anno 1629, et de eisdem Petri Gassendi ad Henricum Renerium epistola, A. Vitray, Paris; P.Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.651–662.Google Scholar
  23. 19.
    P. Gassendi: 1632, Mercurius in sole visus et Venus inviso Parisiis anno 1631… Epistolae duae, cum observatis quibusdam aliis, S. Cramoisy, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, IV, pp.499–504.Google Scholar
  24. 20a.
    Cf. M.H. Carré (Trans.): 1937, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, De veritate, J.W. Arrowsmith, Bristol, introduction;Google Scholar
  25. 20b.
    Peter Gay: 1968, Deism, an anthology, Van Nostrand, Princeton, p.29.Google Scholar
  26. 21.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.411–419.Google Scholar
  27. 22.
    P. Gassendi: 1642, De apparente magnitudine solis humilis et sublimis epistolae quatuor, in quibus complura physica opticaque problemata proponuntur et explicantur, L. de Heuqueville, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.420–477.Google Scholar
  28. 23.
    P. Gassendi: 1641, Viri illustris Nicolai Claudii Fabricii de Peiresc Senatoris Aquisextiensis vita, S. Cramoisy, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, pp.237–358.Google Scholar
  29. 24.
    Cf. P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, pp.359–360.Google Scholar
  30. 25.
    P. Gassendi: 1642, De motu impresso a motore translato epistolae duae, in quibus aliquot praecipuae, tum de motu universe, tum speciatim de motu terrae attributo, difficultates explicentur, L. de Heuqueville, Paris.Google Scholar
  31. 26.
    P. Gassendi, Epistolae tres de motu impresso a motore translate, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.478–563.Google Scholar
  32. 27.
    P. Gassendi: 1646, De proportione qua gravia accidentia accelerantur epistolae tres, quitus ad totidem e pistol as R.P. Petri Cazraei… respondetur, L. de Heuqueville, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.564–650.Google Scholar
  33. 28.
    “Amicitiae jure” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, p.273a, p.271).Google Scholar
  34. 29.
    P. Gassendi, “Objectiones quintae. Eximio viro Renato Cartesio P. Gassendus S.a, et responsio authoris ad quintas objectiones”, in R. Descartes, Oeuvres de Descartes (1897–1913, C. Adam and P. Tannery (Eds.), 12 vols., L. Cerf, Paris), VII, pp.256–391; P. Gassendi: 1644, Disquisitio metaphysica, seu dubitationes et instantiae adversus Renati Cartesii metaphysicam et responsa, J. Blaeu, Amsterdam; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.269–410.Google Scholar
  35. 30.
    P. Gassendi: 1645, Oratio inauguralis habita in Regio Parisiensi Collegio die novembris 23, L. de Heuqueville, Paris, 1645; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, IV, pp.66–73.Google Scholar
  36. 31.
    P. Gassendi: 1647, Institutio astronomica iuxta hypotheseis tarn veterum quam Copernici et Tychonis Brahei…, L. de Heuqueville, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, IV, pp. 1–65.Google Scholar
  37. 32.
    “Historia non mala coeptae instauran astronomiae, a Peurbachio ad Tychonem usque.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, p.518.)Google Scholar
  38. 33.
    P. Gassendi: 1654, Tychonis Brahei vita… Accessit Nicolai Copernici, Georgii Peurbachii et Joannis Regiomontani, astronomorum celebrium, vita, M. Dupuis, Paris; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, IV, pp.363–516.Google Scholar
  39. 34.
    T. Gregory: 1961, Scetticismo ed empirismo. Studio su Gassendi, Editori Laterza, Bari.Google Scholar
  40. 35.
    O.R. Bloch: 1971, La philosophie de Gassendi. Nominalismo matérialisme et métaphysique (Archives internationales d’histoire des idees, 38), Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.Google Scholar
  41. 36.
    Idem, p.3.Google Scholar
  42. 37.
    P. Gassendi, Syntagma philosophicum, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I and II.Google Scholar
  43. 38.
    P. Félix Thomas: 1889, La philosophie de Gassendi, F. Alean, Paris.Google Scholar
  44. 39.
    T. Gregory, Scetticismo ed empirismo, p.8.Google Scholar
  45. 40.
    G. Sortais: 1922, La philosophie moderne depuis Bacon jusqu’à Leibniz, P. Lethielleux, Paris.Google Scholar
  46. 41.
    G.S. Brett: 1908, The philosophy of Gassendi, Macmillan and Co., London.Google Scholar
  47. 42.
    P. Pendzig: 1908, Pierre Gassendi s Metaphysik und ihr Verhaltnis zur scholastischen Philosophie, P. Hanstein, Bonn. Cf. the criticism of this study in T. Gregory, Scetticismo ed empirismo, pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  48. 43.
    B. Rochot et al.: 1955, Pierre Gassendi 1592–1655, sa vie et son oeuvre (Centre International de Synthèse), Paris.Google Scholar
  49. 44.
    B. Rochot et al.: 1957, Actes du Congrès du Tricentenaire de Pierre Gassendi (4–7 aoüt, 1955), Digne.Google Scholar
  50. 45.
    F.X. Kiefl: 1893, Pierre Gassendis Erkenntnisstheorie (Dissertation presented at the University of Fulda).Google Scholar
  51. 46.
    H. Berr, An jure inter scepticos Gassendus numeratus fuerit, Paris, 1898. It was Berr who first discussed the “systematic postulate”.Google Scholar
  52. 47.
    G. Hess: 1930, Pierre Gassendi — Der französische Späthumanismus und das Problem von Wissen und Glauben, W. Gronau, Leipzig.Google Scholar
  53. 48.
    R. Pintard: 1943, Le libertinage érudit dans la première moitié du XVIIe siècle, Boivin, Paris; cf. espe. pp.ix–x.Google Scholar
  54. 49.
    R. Pintard: 1948, “Modernisme, humanisme, libertinage — petite suite sur le ‘cas Gassendi’”, in Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France, 48, pp.1–52.Google Scholar
  55. 50a.
    Cf. espe. R.H. Popkin: 1965, “The high road to Pyrrhonism”, in American philosophical quarterly, 2, pp.18–32;Google Scholar
  56. 50b.
    R.H. Popkin: 1968, “Scepticism, theology and the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century”, in I. Lakatos and A.E. Musgrave (Eds.): 1968, Problems in the philosophy of science, North-Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam, pp. 1–28;Google Scholar
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    R.H. Popkin: 1964, The history of scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes, revised edition, Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  58. 51.
    T.K. Rabb: 1975, The struggle for stability in early modern Europe, Oxford University Press, New York, p.vii.Google Scholar
  59. 52.
    Cf. infra Ch. 4.Google Scholar
  60. 53.
    B. Rochot: 1944, Les travaux de Gassendi sur Epicure et sur l’atomisme 1619–1658, J. Vrin, Paris.Google Scholar
  61. 54.
    B. Rochot (Ed.): 1944, Pierre Gassendi. Lettres familiares ç Franèois Lui Hier pendant l’hiver 1632–1633…, J. Vrin, Paris.Google Scholar
  62. 55.
    B. Rochot (Ed.): 1959, Pierre Gassendi. Dissertations en forme de paradoxes contre les Aristotéliciens… Livres I et II…, J. Vrin, Paris.Google Scholar
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    B. Rochot (Ed.): 1962, Pierre Gassendi. Disquisitio metaphysica, seu dubitationes et instantiae adversus Renati Cartesii metaphysicam et responsa…, J. Vrin, Paris.Google Scholar
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    B. Rochot: 1955, “Pierre Gassendi. La vie, le caractère et la formation intellectuelle”, in B. Rochot et al.: 1955, Pierre Gassendi, sa vie et son oeuvre, pp.9–58.Google Scholar
  65. 58.
    B. Rochot: 1957, “Gassendi et les mathématiques”, in Revue d’histoire des sciences, 10, pp.69–77.Google Scholar
  66. 59.
    B. Rochot: 1955, “Gassendi et la ‘logique’ de Descartes”, in Revue philosophique de la France et de l’Etranger, 1955, pp.300–308.Google Scholar
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    B. Rochot: 1952, “Beekman, Gassendi et le principe d’inertie”, in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 5, pp.282–289.Google Scholar
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    B. Rochot: 1964, “Gassendi et l’expérience”, in 1964, Mélanges Alexandre Koyré, 2 vols., Paris, II, pp.411–422.Google Scholar
  69. 62.
    B. Rochot: 1956, “Sur les notions de temps et d’espace chez quelques auteurs du XVIIe siècle, notamment Gassendi et Barrow”, in Revue d’histoire des sciences, 9, pp.97–104.Google Scholar
  70. 63.
    Cf. the Proemium to the Pars physica of Gassendi’s Syntagma philosophicum, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.126a-b.Google Scholar
  71. 64a.
    P. Humbert: 1931, “La première carte de la lune”, in Revue des questions scientifiques, 100, pp.193–204;Google Scholar
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    P. Humbert 1934, “Un manuscrit inédit de Gassendi”, in Revue des questions scientifiques, 106, pp.5–11;Google Scholar
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    P. Humbert 1936, L’oeuvre astronomique de Gassendi (Actualités scientifiques et industrielles, No. 378), Paris;Google Scholar
  74. 64d.
    P. Humbert 1940, “Une lettre inédit de Gassendi”, in Ciel et terre, 56, pp.14–17;Google Scholar
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    P. Humbert 1947, “Les observations astronomiques de Gassendi à Digne”, in Sciences, 74, pp.336–349;Google Scholar
  76. 64f.
    P. Humbert 1952, L’astronomie en France au 17e siecle, Paris;Google Scholar
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    P. Humbert 1950, “A propos du passage de Mercure 1631”, in Revue d’histoire des sciences, 3, pp.27–31;Google Scholar
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    P. Humbert 1953, Philosophes et savants, Paris, pp.79–107.Google Scholar
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    A.G. Debus: 1963, “Pierre Gassendi and his ‘scientific expedition’ of 1640”, in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 16, pp. 129–142.Google Scholar
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    P. Ariotti: 1972, “From the top to the foot of a mast on a moving ship”, in Annals of science, 28, pp.191–203;Google Scholar
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    P. Ariotti: 1972, “Aspects of the conception and development of the pendulum in the seventeenth century”, in Archive for history of exact sciences, 8, pp.329–410.Google Scholar
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    P. Pav: 1966, “Gassendi’s statement of the principle of inertia”, in Isis, 57, pp.24–34.Google Scholar
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    J. Clark: 1963, “Pierre Gassendi and the physics of Galileo”, in Isis, 54, pp.352–370.Google Scholar
  84. 69.
    “Chi volesse contraporre queste soluzioni, come se ciascuna dovesse necessariamente escludere l’altra, dimenticherebbe una delle principali caratteristiche dell’autore e dell’epoca, che è nella consapevolezza dei limiti di ogni sapere umano e quindi delia possibilità della coesistenza di soluzioni diverse.” (T. Gregory, Scetticismo ed empirismo, p.249.)Google Scholar
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    O. Bloch, La philosophie de Gassendi, p.xvi.Google Scholar
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    Idem, p.76.Google Scholar
  87. 72.
    Idem, pp. 156–157.Google Scholar
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    H. Jones: 1981, Pierre Gassendi 1592–1655, An intellectual biography B. De Graaf, Nieuwkoop;Google Scholar
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    cf. also, H. Jones: 1981, Pierre Gassendi’s Institutio logica (1658), Van Gorcum, Assen.Google Scholar
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    L.T. Sarasohn: 1982, “The ethical and political philosophy of Pierre Gassendi”, in Journal of the history of philosophy, 20, pp.239–260;Google Scholar
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