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Epicurean Anti-Aristotelianism

  • Barry Brundell
Chapter
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Part of the Synthese Historical Library book series (SYHL, volume 30)

Abstract

Gassendi was one of the many philosophers of his time who struggled to extricate themselves from Aristotelianism so that they might participate in the new scientific movement which was gathering momentum in the early seventeenth century. We have seen that scepticism was the chief weapon that Gassendi used against the Aristotelians, and he used it with the aim of undermining the reputation for infallibility which the Aristotelians supposedly enjoyed. We have seen that Gassendi used Copernican astronomy as another weapon for his anti-Aristotelian campaign, although it lost much of its effectiveness as a weapon when Copernicanism was condemned in 1633. Now in this third chapter, the anti-Aristotelian character of Gassendi’s Epicureanism will be explored, and it will be seen that the adoption of Epicurean philosophy was integral to Gassendi’s anti-Aristotelian polemic.

Keywords

Celestial Body Heavenly Body Christian Doctrine Aristotelian Concept Mechanical Philosophy 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. C-A. Fusil: 1926, “Montaigne et Lucrèce”, in Revue du seizième siècle, 13, pp.256–281.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. C.-A. Fusil: 1928, “La renaissance de Lucrèce au XVIe siècle”, in Revue du seizième siècle, 15, pp.134–150.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gassendi indicated the date of completion of the work in letters to Peiresc written 1.1.1634 and 13.1.1634; cf. Lettres de Peiresc, IV, pp.406, 414–415.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P. Gassendi, De vita et moribus Epicuri libri octo, G. Barbier, Lyon, 1647.Google Scholar
  5. 5a.
    Gassendi’s Epicurean ethics has recently been studied by Louise Sarasohn; cf. L.T. Sarasohn: 1979, The influence of Epicurean philosophy on seventeenth century ethical and political thought: the moral philosophy of Pierre Gassendi (Ph.D. dissertation presented to the University of California);Google Scholar
  6. 5b.
    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
  7. 5c.
    L.T. Sarasohn: 1985, “Motion and morality: Pierre Gassendi, Thomas Hobbes and the mechanical world-view”, in Journal of the history of ideas, 46, pp.363–379.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    “Restituitur Epicurus in philosophorum chorum.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, Bk. VII, ch. 7.)Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    “Cum Epicurus infamis fuisset habitus tota ilia pene saeculorum serie, qua literae bonae sepultae jacuerunt, vix tarnen libros humaniores, pulvere excusso, rediisse in manus ante duo fere saecula, quam omnes pene eruditi symbolum pro eo contulerunt.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, p.224a.) Gassendi’s words here have a remarkably similar ring to the following passage from the writings of Louis Le Roy, professor of Greek at the Collège Royal, Paris, from 1572: “During the reign of Tamberlan the restoration of [ancient] languages and all the disciplines commenced… [Petrarch] opened the closed rooms of the libraries and cleared off the dust and filth that had gathered on the good books of ancient authors.” (“Durant le règne de Tamberlan commença la restitution des langues et de toutes disciplines…[Petrarche] ouvrant les librairies pieca fermées, et ostant la pouldre et ordure de dessus les bons livres des autheurs anciens.” (French version as quoted in D.P. Walker: 1972, The ancient theology: studies in Christian Platonism from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, London, p.77, note 3.)Google Scholar
  10. 8a.
    F. Filelfo: 1480, Epistolae Francisci Philelphi, Venice, Bk. 8, ch. 7.,Google Scholar
  11. 8b.
    and F. Filelfo: 1552, De morali disciplina libri quinque…, Venice, opening paragraph.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Alexander ab Alexandro, 1532, Genialium dierum libri sex…, Paris, Bk. Ill, ch. 11;Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Ludovicus Caelius Richerius, Rhodiginus, Lectionum antiquarum, libri XXX, Basle, Bk. XIII, ch. 25.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Raphael Maffejus of Volterra, R. Volaterrani: 1506, Commentariorum urbanorum, Rome, Bk. XV.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola. G.-F. Pico della Mirandola: 1520, Examen vanitatis doctrinae gentium, et veritatis Christianae disciplinae distinctum in libris sex, quorum tres omnem philosophorum sectam universim, reliqui Aristoteleam et Aristotelis armis particulatim impugnant, ubicumque autem Christiana et asseritur, et celebratur disciplina, Mirandola, 1520, Bk. I, ch. 2.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Andreas Arnaudus: 1609, Ioci (Epistolae, etc.)…, Paris, pp.215ff.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Marcellus Palingenii stellati: 1552, Zodiacus vitae, hoc est de hominis vita, studio ac moribus optime instituendis libri XII…, Basileae; Gassendi quoted from the section of the poem that concerned Gemini.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Letter of 25.4.1626 in Lettres de Peiresc, IV, pp.178–181.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    1563, Titi Lucretii Cari. De rerum natura libri sex. A Dionysio Lambinoloci s innumerabilibus ex auctoritate quinque codicum manu scriptorum emendati, atque in antiquum ac nativum statum fere restitua, et praeterea brevibus, et perquam utilibus commentariis illustrativ Parisiis et Lugduni.Google Scholar
  20. 18a.
    Cf. C.-A. Fusil (1926), p.141; P. de Villey: 1933, Les sources et l’évolution des essais de Montaigne, 2 vols., Fondation Thiers, Paris, I, p. 188;Google Scholar
  21. 18b.
    S.J. Dick: 1982, Plurality of worlds. The origins of the extraterrestrial life debate from Democritus to Kant, Cambridge University Press, p.46.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    “Nosti iam quandam a me collocatam Epicuro operam, illam interdum retexere soleo, dum exploro et alia. Meditor nempe, et comparo celebriora quaedam placita antiquorum philosophorum; ac omneis cum suspiciam, singulorum opiniones sic enitor expendere, ut si in cuiusvis transfunderes genium…” (Letter of Gassendi to Jacob Golius, Professor of Leyden, of 8.3.1630, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.32b).Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    MS Tours 709, Bks XVIII, XVIX; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.338a-457b. Cf. infra pp.58–59.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gassendi may thus be cited in support of an affirmative reply to the question in the title of the article by P. Barker and B.R. Goldstein: 1984, “Is seventeenth-century physics indebted to the Stoics?” in Centaurus, 27, pp.148–164.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    F. Luillier was a public figure, an Administrator of Public Finances (Mitre des Comptes), and a member of the Parlement of Metz. He was a friend and admirer of scholars and a frequenter of scholarly academies in Paris. Gassendi and Luillier became firm friends; cf. B. Rochot (Ed.): 1944, Pierre Gassendi, lettres familières à François Luillier pendant l’hiver 1632–1633, J. Vrin, Paris.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, p. 171.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    “Prisci Patres invicti fuere maxime adversus Aristotelem eiusque philosophiam, sectamque exosam habuerunt; ubi vero etiam philosophi fuere qui dedere nomen sacrae fidei, coepere graviores errores seponi, et quod superest, philosophia ita religioni fuit accommodata, ut illi non amplius suspecta, sed quasi ancillans subserviensque evaserit. Quod dico non modo ob Aristoteleam, quae publice etiam foret praelegi, verum etiam ob caeteras, Stoicam quoque ac Epicuream, quarum nulla est quae frugi plurima non contineat, ac adscisci quoque, seclusis confutatisque erroribus, perinde ac Aristotelea, cuius errores oppido graves reiciuntur, non valeat; ut nos certe in hoc negotio affecti comparatique simus, testatum fecimus abunde cum praefati in vitam moresque Epicuri sumus.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.5a.)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Letter of Gassendi to Galileo of 20.7.1625 (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.5a).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, p. 102.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    “Et stellis fixis et Soli comparatur quies. Terrae, vero, quasi uni ex planetis, conciliate motus.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, p. 102.)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    “You will readily see that I have been dreaming a little on this subject if you would be so good as to read the preface of the book which I am sending you. There is a brief passage there in which I promise to treat of these questions in Book IV.” “Somniasse quippe me aliquid circa hoc argumentum pervidebis facile, si digneris forte legere quod tribus dumtaxat verbis in praefatione libelli ad te missi polliceor me quarto libro tractaturum.” (Letter of Gassendi to Galileo of 20.7.1625, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.4b.)Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    Cf. Gassendi’s letter to Jacob Golius, a scholar who specialised in Arabic astronomy, 8.3.1630 (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.32b). Furthermore, Gassendi sent an outline of his Epicurean project to Gerard Voss of Leyden soon after returning from his journey, evidently as a sequel to Gassendi’s discussions with the scholars of Leyden; cf. the letter of Gassendi to Voss of 14.9.1629 (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.25).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Cf. supra, p.35.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    Cf. J.A. Schuster: 1977, Descartes and the scientific revolution 1618–1634. An interpretation, (Ph.D. dissertation presented to the faculty of Princeton University), pp.23, 572ff.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    Cf. supra, pp.36–37.Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    For evidence of the extraordinary influence of Beeckman on Descartes in the latter’s early philosophical development, cf. C. Adam and P. Tannery (Eds.): 1897–1913, Oeuvres de Descartes, 12 vols., X, pp.162–163.Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    “Quae omnia et probavit et cum gaudio et admiratione visus est audire.” (C. de Waard (Ed.): 1939, Journal tenu par Isaac Beeckman de 1604 à 1634…, 4 vols., La Haye, I, p.123.)Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    “Le meilleur philosophe que j’aye encore recontré.” (Letter of Gassendi to Peiresc of 21.7.1629 (Lettres de Peiresc, IV, p.201). There seems to be insufficient evidence to allow a very precise estimate of the influence of Beeckman on Gassendi. It is certainly not too much to say that Gassendi was greatly encouraged in his project to restore Epicureanism by his visit to Beeckman; cf. B. Rochot: 1952, “Beeckman, Gassendi et le principe d’inertie”, in Archives internationales d’historie des sciences, 5, pp.228–229.Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    Galileo Galilei, Opere, XIX, pp.402–407.Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    Letter of Gassendi to Galileo of 17.11.1636 (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, VI, p.92a).Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    “Ea mihi mens est, ut quoties non modo ad graviora ilia capita pervenero, sed etiam quoties quidpiam occurret quod videri possit vel quam minimum fidei sacrae dissentaneum in Epicuram nervos contendam ac eius sententiam quam maximo semper rationis vigore potero convellam.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, V, p.171.)Google Scholar
  42. 44.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.266a-279b, 280b, 375a, 472a-486b; Cf., p.466.Google Scholar
  43. 45.
    For the doctrines of Aristotle (which are often less than faithfully represented in the Aristotelian manuals), see: Aristotle, Physics 194b.9–10 and Metaphysics 1029a.24–25 (form); On generation and corruption 330a30 – 331b.39 (generation); Categories 8b.25 – 11a.19, and Metaphysics 1020a.33 – 1020b.25 (qualities). Cf. Ivor Leclerc: 1972, The nature of physical existence, Allen and Unwin, London, pp.114–121; A. Mansion: 1946, Introduction à la physique Aristotélicienne, 2me éd., Institut Supérieur de Philosophie, Louvain, pp.240–251. The difference between the doctrines of Aristotle and those of Gassendi on these subjects are discussed in this and the next chapter.Google Scholar
  44. 46.
    “Videri posse atomos pro materiali rerum principio, primave materia admitte.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.279b.)Google Scholar
  45. 47.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.279b.Google Scholar
  46. 48a.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.229a-282b, especially pp.232a-b, 259b. Gassendi’s chief sources for the doctrine of Epicurus were Diogenes Laertius, De clarorum philosophorum vitis, dogmatibus et apothegmatibus libri decern, X (G. Arrighetti (Ed.): 1973, Epicuro opere, G. Einaudi, Turin), 38–39, and Lucretius, De rerum natura, I, 215–264. For Aristotle’s doctrine, cf. especially Aristotle Physics, 189b30 – 191a23. It is to be noted that Gassendi was not attempting to argue that the Aristotelian and Epicurean doctrines of matter were equivalent as such: he was rather preparing the ground for his assertion that Epicureanism was an adequate substitution for Aristotelianism because the former explained in its (better) way what the latter attempted to explain. It would appear, therefore, that Gassendi did not deserve the criticism of R. Dugas:Google Scholar
  47. 48b.
    “Why can [the] existence [of atoms] be asserted? First of all, because only atoms can satisfy the conditions exacted by Aristotle of an incorruptible prime matter — a very poor argument indeed for one who did not admit any authority in philosophy.” (R. Dugas: 1958, Mechanics in the seventeenth century. From the scholastic antecedents to classical thought, (Transi, F. Jacquot), Editions du Griffon, Neuchatel, p. 104. Dugas here accuses Gassendi of feeling obliged to answer a problem posed by Aristotle out of respect for Aristotle’s authority. But it is clear that Gassendi considered that there was a need for prime matter, or a permanent substratum through all change, independently of Aristotle’s teaching.Google Scholar
  48. 49.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.232b-234a; cf. MS Tours 709, f.216r-v. Cf. the doctrine of Epicurus in Diogenes Laertius, De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 38, and in Lucretius, De rerum natura, I, 150.Google Scholar
  49. 50.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.281b; cf. MS Tours 709, f.245v. Epicurus did indeed teach a doctrine of eternal, subsistent matter according to Diogenes Laertius (De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 39) and Lucretius (De rerum natura, I, 215–219). It was less correct to say that Aristotle taught such a doctrine. Gassendi, like seventeenth-century philosophers generally, it seems (cf. Ivor Leclerc, The nature of physical existence, pp.115–117), interpreted Aristotle’s concept of matter as a concept of substance.Google Scholar
  50. 51.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.280a-281b.Google Scholar
  51. 52.
    Ibid., I, pp.279a-280b.Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    “Quatenus ut omnia conservat, ita coagit rebus omnibus.” (Ibid., I, p.280a; cf.III, pp.466a-467b.) One finds very similar doctrine in the Principia philosophica of Descartes; cf. Oeuvres de Descartes, IX, par.83; cf. also Margaret J. Osler: 1979, “Descartes and Charleton on nature and God”, in Journal of the history of ideas, 40, pp.445–456.Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.282b; Gassendi’s allusion was to the third section of the Pars physica, idem., II, pp.193–658.Google Scholar
  54. 55.
    Cf. infra, pp.94–95; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, II, pp.437bff.Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, II, pp.840a-847a; cf. L.T. Sarasohn: 1982, “The ethical and political philosophy of Pierre Gassendi”, in Journal of the history of philosophy, 20, pp.239–260, also 1985, “Motion and morality: Pierre Gassendi, Thomas Hobbes and the mechanical world-view”, in Journal of the history of ideas, 1985, 46, pp.363–379.Google Scholar
  56. Cf. also, Leopold Damrosch, Jr.: 1979, “Hobbes as Reformation theologian: implications of the free-will controversy”, in Journal of the history of ideas, 40, pp.339–353.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    P. Gassendi: 1646, De proportione qua gravia accidentia accelerantur epistolae tres, quibus ad totidem epistolas R. P. Petri Cazraeirespondetur, L. de Heuqueville, Paris, republished in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.564–650.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    “Non esse atomorum minus quam Aristoteleae materiae tolerabilem in religione positionem” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, p.636a.)Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    “A quality can be defined generically as a mode of a substance.” “Potest quidem qualitas universe definiri modus sese habendi substantiae.” (Idem, I, p.372b; cf. MS Tours 709, f.335r.) Gassendi’s chief sources for the doctrine of Epicurus on qualities were Diogenes Laertius, (De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 54–56), and Lucretius (De rerum natura, II, 333–477, 730–841).Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    “[A quality is] the condition and state of the commingled principles.” “Sive conditionem ac statum quo principia inter se commista se habent.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.372b.) For the Stoics, physical qualities were generated by the pneuma, the all-pervading substratum, or principle; cf. Plutarch, De Stoicorum repugnantiis (Loeb classical library edition), 1054b; also S. Sambursky: 1959, Physics of the Stoics, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, pp.1,7.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    “[A quality is] that in virtue of which a concrete thing is said to be of such a kind.” “Omne id a quo res concretae denominantur quales.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.372b.) Cf. Aristotle, Categories, 8b25. Gassendi has here given a hybrid definition, part Aristotelian and part Epicurean: note the intrusion of the Epicurean term “res concretae”. Gassendi removed the term when he prepared the Syntagma version.Google Scholar
  62. 62a.
    Cf. Opera omnia, I, p.372b. Gassendi appears to have taken this definition from the scholastic text-book of Eustache de Saint-Paul, a Parisian teacher whom both Gassendi and Descartes used as a reference work for Aristotelian doctrine. The text-book was 1609, Summa philosophiae quadripartita: de rebus dialecticis, moralibus, physicis et metaphysicis, authore Fr Eustachio a Sancto Paulo…, C. Chastellain, Paris. The definition of quality given by Eustache was: “A quality… is described by Aristotle as that by which things are named as to what kind of things they are.” “Qualitas… describitur ab Aristotele, a qua res denominantur quales.” (Idem, p. 117.) Gassendi’s use of Eustache’s text is well documented by Bernard Rochot in his edition of the Exercitationes (Bernard Rochot (Ed.): 1959, Pierre Gassendi. Dissertations en forme de paradoxes contre les Aristotéliciens…, J. Vrin, Paris). Descartes, for his part, wrote a letter to Mersenne praising Eustache’s text for being the best of its kind (letter of Descartes to Mersenne of 11.11.1640,Google Scholar
  63. 62b.
    in F. Alquié (Ed.): 1963–1967, Descartes. Oeuvres philosophiques, 2 vols.).Google Scholar
  64. 63.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.373a. Cf. Aristotle, Categories lb-2a, where ‘quality’ is listed as a category, and Aristotle, Topics 102a-103b, where ‘accident’ is listed as one of the predicables. These two doctrines were not altogether mutually consistent. So, Gassendi had to force Aristotle’s meaning considerably to present accidents and qualities as one and the same in Aristotle.Google Scholar
  65. 64a.
    Idem, I, p.373a-b. Scholars agree that Aristotle implied that there was some flexibility in his theory of categories, such that it was possible to place some items in more than one category. It was the medieval scholastics, it is claimed, who treated Aristotle’s theory as final, exhaustive and inflexible. (See G.E.M. Anscombe and P.T. Geach: 1973, Three philosophers, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, pp.14–19.) Gassendi had declared his preference for the Nominalist interpretation of Aristotelianism in the Exercitationes (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III. p. 165), and this fact seems relevant, for the Nominalists viewed the categories as logical constructs rather than real divisions in the natural world. This I take to be implied in the following description of the theory of William of Ockham: “Only substance and form are real, together constituting actual being; all the other categories are the attributes of individual being neither inhering in being nor standing for independent essences of things or forms, but merely describing the different ways in which individual things can be said to exist…”Google Scholar
  66. 64b.
    (Gordon Leff: 1975, William of Ockham. The metamorphosis of scholastic discourse, Manchester University Press, Manchester, p.562.)Google Scholar
  67. 65.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.373a; cf. MS Tours 709, ff.278v, 335v.Google Scholar
  68. 66.
    Idem, I, pp.374a-375a; MS Tours 709, ff.339v-340v.Google Scholar
  69. 67.
    “Maneat, proinde, quicquid spectatur in corporeis hisce, ac physicis rebus (ipsa anima rationali, quae in homine est, excepta) aut esse substantiam, quae eadem sit materia, et corpus, materialiumve, et corporeorum principiorum aggeries; aut esse qualitatem, quae sit accidens, modusve se habendi eiusdem.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.373b; the passage is not found in MS Tours 709.)Google Scholar
  70. 68.
    “Maneat, inquam, et vel ipso quidem Aristotele non abnuente, cum solam substantiam esse proprie ens censuit, accidens autem voluit non tarn ens esse, quam entis ens, seu modum se habendi ends.” (P. Gassendi, Operas omnia, I, p.373b; MS Tours 709, f.336v.) Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1025a.l4–15, 31–33.Google Scholar
  71. 69.
    “De motu et mutatione rerum” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.338a-371b).Google Scholar
  72. 70.
    “Quia mutationes omnes terminantur ad qualitates, et insequens liber instituendum est de ipsis qualitatibus.” (Idem, I, p.371b; MS Tours 709, f.334v.)Google Scholar
  73. 71.
    Idem, I, 338b; MS Tours 709, ff.298v, 300r. Gassendi here gave an incorrect account of Aristotle’s doctrine: Aristotle attributed a preferential status to local motion (cf. Aristotle, Physics 208a32, 260b22), but he did not reduce all change to local motion as Gassendi claimed. Cf. Leclerc, The nature of physical existence, p.112.Google Scholar
  74. 72.
    Cf. Aristotle, Physics 225a34; Metaphysics 1069b 9–13.Google Scholar
  75. 73.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I. pp.362b-364a, a re-written version of MS Tours 709, ff.289v0301v.Google Scholar
  76. 75.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.375a-457b.Google Scholar
  77. 76.
    Aristotle, Meteorologica 378b10 – 390b21.Google Scholar
  78. 77.
    Cf. e.g., P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.375a. It should be noted that Gassendi was not consistent in his terminology, or in his explanation of qualities. He consistently treated a number of qualities or accidents as though they were substances, while still referring to them as qualities. (This was particularly the case with the Aristotelian primary qualities, hot and cold, wet and dry.) Thus Gassendi spoke of atoms of heat, cold, fire, light, and also of visible species atoms as being qualities (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, 401b, etc.). He spoke of “real and positive” qualities, by which he meant active qualities, as when he asked whether cold is such a quality or whether it is a mere privation of heat, and concluded that it is a real and positive quality, just like heat and “the others” are (idem, I, 401b; MS Tours 709, f.376v). For Aristotle, to be active was a prerogative of a substance, the source of action being attributed to the substantial form. What is noteworthy about such terminological inconsistency on Gassendi’s part is not so much that he should explain cold and heat in atomist terms, but that he should show no concern about continuing to refer to them as qualities or modes of substances when he understood them as substances in their own right.Google Scholar
  79. 78.
    Cf. supra, p.55. Aristotle could at most be said to have upheld a theory of eternal matter in the sense that pure potentiality can be eternal: the question of the existence of eternal, substantial, corporeal matter would seem not to have been a concern for Aristotle.Google Scholar
  80. 79.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.l62aff. The work of Christianising Aristotelian philosophy in the Middle Ages had required correction of this doctrine; cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae (Blackfriars edition), la, q.46, a. 1,2,3. Cf. Anton Herman Chroust: 1978, “Aristotle’s doctrine of the uncreatedness and indestructibility of the universe”, in New scholasticism, 52, pp.268–279, for a discussion of the influence of Aristotle’s On philosophy, a work which now exists only as a fragment but which reinforces the view of Aristotle as the principal and most influential advocate among the ancient philosophers of the eternity of the universe or world.Google Scholar
  81. 80.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 162b; MS Tours 709, ff.456rff. Gassendi referred to Aristotle, Physics 251aff., also to a place in the Metaphysics which is at least difficult to identify, to the first chapters of Aristotle, De mundo and De caelo, and to the second chapter of Aristotle, De generatione et corruptione. Since Aristotle’s “world” encompassed both the heavens and the earth (cf. Aristotle, De mundo 391b.9–19); Gassendi’s use of the term was equivocal in this whole discussion. He found the Epicurean doctrine especially in Lucretius, Opera omnia, V, 65ff.Google Scholar
  82. 81.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 163a.Google Scholar
  83. 82.
    Idem, I, p.l70b. Cf. Chroust (1978), p.268.Google Scholar
  84. 83.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 171b; MS Tours 709, f.492r. Lucretius, De rerum natura, V, 65ff.Google Scholar
  85. 84.
    “Docent igitur potius probatiores interpretes non interiturum in nihilum mundum, sed renovatum solum iri, idque non secundum substantiam, sed secundum qualitates. Hoc est, eandem et caelorum et elementorum remansuram substantiam, sed repurgatam ab omni sorde, et proprietatibus illustriorem factam. Videlicet, cum lunae splendor futurus sit qualis iam est solis, et qui nunc est solis turn futurus sit septuplo praeclarior.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 178b; MS Tours 709, f.500v.) L’abbé Cotin, also an Epicurean, may have been one of these “more approved authors”. In 1646, in his work, he linked the question of the non-annihilation of matter with the question of the existence of an All-Wise Providence. Cf. Henri Busson: 1933, La pensée religieuse française de Charron à Pascal, J. Vrin, Paris, p.77. Gassendi explained that he linked the Christian doctrine as interpreted by the more approved authors with the Epicurean doctrine of indestructible atoms eternally capable of recombining.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.139a-162a; cf. MS Tours 709, ff.443r-456v.Google Scholar
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    Aristotle, Physics 212a.20; cf. P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.217a 180a.Google Scholar
  89. 88.
    This was a common (Aristotelian) view, Gassendi observed; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 182a.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.l98ff. Such machines, however, were widely discussed throughout the middle ages, so it is not necessarily a sign of dependence on Hero that Gassendi should also discuss them. Cf. Edward Grant: 1981, Much ado about nothing. Theories of space and vacuum from the middle ages to the scientific revolution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp.80–86.Google Scholar
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    MS Tours 709, Bk. XIV, ch. 2; cf. Lucretius, De rerum natura, I, 329 – 397.Google Scholar
  99. 99.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, pp.l96b-203a.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
    MS Tours 709, ff.200r-v. Galileo had accepted the same prinple in the Discorsi (G. Galileo: 1638, Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche intorno a due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica e i movimenti locali, Elseviri, Leiden, pp.16–20), which was published in the year following Gassendi’s writing of the MS Tours 709 version of his treatise on space.Google Scholar
  101. 101.
    MS Tours 709, f.200r.Google Scholar
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    Idem, f.200v.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.l97a-b.Google Scholar
  104. 104.
    MS Tours 709, f. 199v.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.l97b-202b.Google Scholar
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    MS Tours 709, ff.209vff. Cf. also P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.220a-228b, III, pp.13lb, 140a, 144b. For Aristotle, place was an accident of bodies (cf. supra, p. 11 of Ch 3); time also was ultimately dependent on bodies, being the measure of change (Aristotle, Physics 218b21–220a26). Gassendi proclaimed place and space to be identical and to be an independent reality with its own incorporeal dimensions (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.216b-220a; cf. MS Tours 709, f.204r), while time became likewise an independent reality measureable in itself.Google Scholar
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    “κενòν και χώραν και αναφη φύσιν”, “Void or place or intactile nature”. (Diogenes Laertius, De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 40.1); cf. also Sextus Empiricus, Adversus physicos (Loeb classical library edition), II.2; MS Tours 709, f.l93v; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.221bff.Google Scholar
  110. 110.
    Sextus Empiricus, Adversus physicos, II.219; Diogenes Laertius, De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 72.1 – 73.6; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.221b.Google Scholar
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    Cf. N.R. Hanson: 1958, Patterns of discovery, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp.31–49.Google Scholar
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    The date attributed to the treatise by Pintard (R. 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).Google Scholar
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  114. 114.
    “Atque ex his tandem non videtur tempus esse aliquid a motu dependens, aut illi posterius; sed motu solum indicari, ut mensuratum a mensura.” (MS Tours 709, f.211r; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.225a.)Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi: 1642, De motu impresso a motore translato epistolae duae, in quibus aliquot praecipuae, tum de motu universe, tum speciatim de motu terrae attribute, difficultates explicantur, L. de Heuqueville, Paris, in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.478–563.Google Scholar
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    Cf. J.T. Clark: 1963, “Pierre Gassendi and the physics of Galileo”, in Isis, 54, pp.352–370.Google Scholar
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    Aristotle, De caelo 279al2–13; cf. P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.l41b-142a, 186a.Google Scholar
  119. 119.
    Aristotle, De caelo 276al8 – 276b22. Cf. Edward Grant: 1969, “Medieval and seventeenth-century conceptions of an infinite void space beyond the cosmos”, in Isis, 60, pp.39–60, especially p.39; also Edward Grant, Much ado about nothing, pp.l05ff.Google Scholar
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    Diogenes Laertius, De clarorum philosophorum vitis, 41.10ff; Lucretius, De rerum natura, I, 951ff; II, 1052–1066. Cf. G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven: 1957, The Presocratic philosophers. A critical history with a selection of texts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp.409–412;Google Scholar
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    F. Patrizi: 1591, Nova de universis philosophia in qua aristotelica methodo, non per motum, sed per lucem et lumina, ad primam causam ascenditur, deinde propria Patricii methodo, tota in contemplationem venit divinitas; postremo methodo platonica, rerum universitas, a conditore Deo deducitur…, Ferrara. Cf. also, E. Grant, Much ado about nothing, pp.199–206.Google Scholar
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    Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle: 1686, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, Paris; cf. J.S. Dick, Plurality of worlds, Ch. 5.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.14la-144b; MS Tours 709, ff.461r-463v; cf. S.J. Dick, Plurality of worlds, pp.53–59.Google Scholar
  126. 124.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.139b, 189ff; cf. MS Tours 709, ff.202v-203r. For the medieval discussions, cf. Edward Grant (Ed.): 1974, A source book of medieval science, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., pp.547–554.Google Scholar
  127. 125.
    Cf. article 34 of the condemnation by Bishop Tempier in H. Denifle and E. Chatelain (Eds.): 1889–1897, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Delalain, Paris, 4 vols., I, pp.543–555.Google Scholar
  128. 126.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.l89ff; cf. idem, I, p. 139b. In Ms Tours 709, f.l56v, Gassendi made passing reference only to the doctrine of imaginary space.Google Scholar
  129. 127.
    “This space is… nothing other than the imaginary spaces that most of the Doctors talk about and accept as real.” “Hoc sane… nihil aliud est quam quae pars maxima Doctorum vocat, admittitque spatia imaginaria.” (Idem, I, p. 189b.) Gassendi referred to St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, XI, 5 (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 189b). See also Edward Grant (Ed.), A source book of medieval science, p.562.Google Scholar
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    See, for example: Conimbricenses: 1602, Commentariorum Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Jesu: In octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis Stagiritae, Bk. VIII, ch. 10, quaestio 2, article IV.Google Scholar
  131. 129.
    “Non quod non revera seclusaque imaginatione non sint, sed quod eas, quae in ipsis dimensiones spatiales sunt, instar corporearum, quae in corporibus familiare est observare, imaginemur.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 189b.)Google Scholar
  132. 130.
    “Quare eius dimensiones non iccirco imaginariae dici consueverunt quod fictitiae sint, aut a sola mentis notione pendeant, nec extra intellectum dentur; sed quia imaginamur illas in spatio proportione quadam respondentes realibus ac positivis corporum dimensionibus.” (Conimbricenses, Commentariorum in libros physicorum Aristotelis, Bk. VII, ch 10, quaestio 2, article IV, col. 519.) Evidence that the doctrine was to be specially identified with the teaching of the Jesuits is to be seen in the following extract from a seventeenth-century Jesuit school note-book: “Is God also present in the imaginary spaces? I reply, “Affirmative”. Following which the first among the authors cited in support of the thesis were the Jesuits of Coimbra. (Note-book conserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds latin, MS 11139, f.209r.)Google Scholar
  133. 131.
    The Jesuits, and Gassendi following them, presumably, interpreted Augustine as accepting the theory of imaginary space, whereas even the most casual reading of the passage in the De civitate Dei reveals that Augustine was expressing non-acceptance of the theory. (Cf. S. Aurelii Augustine, De civitate Dei, XI.5.)Google Scholar
  134. 132.
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  135. 133.
    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.190b-191b. Thomas Bradwardine: 1618, De causa Dei contra Pelagium et de vir tute causarum…, J. Billium, London, Bk. I, ch. 5, pp.177–180 (as translated in Edward Grant, A source book of medieval science, pp.556–560). Gassendi was careful to stress that God was not really extended: he referred to God’s “infinity of quasi-extension” (“infinitatem quasi extensionis”) (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 191a).Google Scholar
  136. 134.
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  137. 135.
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  140. 138.
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  141. 139.
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  142. 140.
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    Frances Yates has argued that Bruno’s view of space was Hermetic (cf. Frances Yates: 1964, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic tradition, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, pp.238ff.),Google Scholar
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  146. 142.
    “Cognoscimus praeterea hunc mundum, sive substantiae corporeae universitatem, nullos extensionis suae fines habere. Ubicunque enim fines illos esse fingamus, semper ultra ipsos aliqua spatia indefinite extensa non modo imaginamur, sed etiam vere imaginabilia, hoc est, realia esse percipimus; ac proinde, etiam substantiam corpoream indefinite extensam in iis contineri. Quia, ut jam fuse ostensum est, idea ejus extensionis quam in spatio qualicunque concipimus, eadem plane est cum idea substantiae corporeae.” (R. Descartes: 1644, Principia philosophiae, par. 21, in Oeuvres de Descartes, VIII, p.52.)Google Scholar
  147. 143.
    Descartes’ Principia was published in 1644, after Gassendi had written his MS Tours version of the treatise on space in 1637, and before he commenced the Syntagma version soon after 1649.Google Scholar
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    Cf. P. Gassendi: 1644, Disquisitio, seu dubitationes et instantiae adversus Renati Cartesii metaphysicam et responsa in P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, pp.269–410, cf. pp.300bff; cf. also idem, I, pp.92aff.Google Scholar
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    Supra, note 130.Google Scholar
  150. 146.
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  151. 147.
    Idem, I, p.274a; MS Tours 709, f.248r.Google Scholar
  152. 148.
    “It seems evident that the efficient cause and cause as such are one and the same thing.” “Perspicuum videtur efficiens et caussam synonyma esse.” (Idem, I, p.283a; MS Tours 709, f.247r.)Google Scholar
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  156. 152.
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    Gassendi employed the term “Royal Way” (“regia via”) in his critique of Descartes’ Meditations, when complaining that the latter had abandoned the Royal Way in his third meditation: “It is not right that you should abandon the Royal Way in which the existence of God is proven from his manifest effects in the universe, in order to prove it by the so-called objective reality of the idea.” “Haud jure relinqui regiam viam, qua Dei existentia probatur ex effectibus in Universo manifestis, ut per vocatam objectivam ideae realitatem probetur.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, III, p.239b.) Gassendi’s “Royal Way” was the argument from design, a way of ‘proving’ the existence of God from the evidence of ‘manifest design’ in nature. Gassendi’s “Way” differed from the “Fifth Way” of Thomas Aquinas. Gassendi cited the design of the end product as evidence of purposive (teleological) action in the universe: since one finds things without intelligence directed to ends, one infers a directing intelligence outside them. (Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae (Blackfriars edition), la, q.2, a.3, together with commentary in Appendix 1 (p.173) and Appendix 10 (pp.206–208).)Google Scholar
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    “Vigore quoque ingenito, seu interna illa energia… quaque illas cieri per inane (sic voluit) ut, cum inane sit infinitum et centro omni careat, nunquam cessaturae ab illo suo motu, ut sibi naturali sint, sed in omne aevum in eo perstiturae, nisi aliae aut atomi, aut concretiones occurrerint, a quibus aliorsim flectantur.” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.276b; cf. MS Tours 709, f.l92v.)Google Scholar
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    Cf. the comments of A. Koyré on this aspect of Gassendi’s expression of the principle of inertia. (A. Koyré: 1939, Etudes Galiléennes, 3 vols. (Actualités scientifiques et industrielles 852–854), Paris, III, pp.144–157.) Koyré was impressed by the fact that Gassendi appeared to eliminate the concept of impetus, but he was mistaken. Gassendi did not refer to his Epicurean theory in his letters De motu impresso a motore translato; had he done so he would have referred to the theory as we have described it.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.274a-276a; cf. MS Tours 709, ff.l89r-191v. Gassendi was echoing the teaching of Epicurus as presented by Lucretius (cf. Lucretius, De rerum natura, II, 217ff), maintaining that, since Lucretius did not leave room for a theory of a natural centre of the world, he did not accept such a theory.Google Scholar
  204. 201.
    “De rebus naturae universe” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, pp.125–494). In the version of MS Tours 709 this heading is not given, and as a consequence the link between micro-level and macro-level theory is not made so clear.Google Scholar
  205. 202.
    “Ut motum atomorum… ita in rebus concretis…” (Idem, I, p.344b).Google Scholar
  206. 203.
    “Quod spectat vero ad motus rectos… sive elementa sint, sive mista…” (Idem, p.345a). This extrapolation has been called “the analogy of nature” (cf. J.E. McGuire: 1970, “Atoms and the ‘analogy of nature’; Newton’s third rule of philosophising”, in Studies in history and philosophy of science, I, pp.3–58). It was an elaboration of Epicurean atomism that was original in Gassendi’s exposition.Google Scholar
  207. 204.
    “Nativam formam, contexturamve, et constitutionem” (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.638b).Google Scholar
  208. 205.
    Idem, I, p.638a.Google Scholar
  209. 206.
    “Exinde nempe esse potuit non modo circularis motus, sed etiam tenor eius perennis, ob perseverantem compactionem, et texturam globi, perseveranteisque proinde interius circumpulsationis, et circumductionis causas.” (Idem, I, p.638b.) It is highly probable that Gassendi was indebted to Isaac Beeckman for this explanation of the circularity of the motion of the heavenly bodies; cf. I. Beeckman, Journal tenu par Isaac Beeckman de 1604 à 1634 (1939, C. de Waard (Ed.)), 4 vols., La Haye, I, p.253, entry dating between 23rd November and 26th December, 1618; cf. A. Gabbey: 1980, “Force and inertia in the seventeenth century: Descartes and Newton”, in S. Gaukroger (Ed.): 1980, Descartes. Philosophy, mathematics and physics, Harvester Press, Brighton, pp.230–320, espc. p.243.Google Scholar
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    P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p.638a.Google Scholar
  211. 211.
    E.g. MS Tours 710, ff.624v-653v; P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, pp.615b-630b. The Syntagma version in this instance is made to accord with the decision of the Roman authorities especially by the addition of the following sentence on p.630a: “Consequently, for those whose religion bars the Copernican hypothesis, the hypothesis of Tycho Brahe comes to the rescue, and this is the most plausible of all the hypotheses.” “Adeo proinde, ut quibus tueri Coperniceam hypothesis religio est, Braheana praesto occurrat, quae verisimillima omnium sit.” Cf. supra, pp.37–47.Google Scholar
  212. 212.
    Copernicanism was condemned by the Roman authorities on June 22nd, 1633; cf. Galileo Galilei, Opere, XIX, pp.402–407.Google Scholar
  213. 213.
    “De rebus terrenis”, idem, II, pp.9a-658b; the passage referred to is found in idem, II, p.9a.Google Scholar
  214. 214.
    That is the date attributed to MS Tours 707, the only version we have of this section; cf. R. Pintard: 1943, La Mothe le Vayer, Gassendi -Guy Patin. Etudes de bibliographie et de critique suivie de textes inédits de Guy Patin, Boivin, Paris, pp.39–40.Google Scholar
  215. 215.
    Lucretius, De rerum natura, V, 449–451. Lucretius referred to the formation of the world by an agglomeration of heavy Earth particles; lighter particles were squeezed out to form sea, stars, sun, moon and the walls of the world. According to Epicurus and Lucretius, however, there was an infinite number of these “worlds” in the universe, a doctrine which Gassendi rejected in favour of the Stoic cosmology. Gassendi did not insist, and in fact he would have realised that he would have found it difficult to sustain this interpretation of the doctrine of Epicurus in the light of the seemingly conflicting Epicurean doctrine of an infinity of worlds. Gassendi had himself declared that the doctrine of Epicurus of a plurality of worlds was against faith and reason (P. Gassendi, Opera omnia, I, p. 140a-141b).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Brundell
    • 1
  1. 1.Saint Paul’s National SeminarySydneyAustralia

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