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The Mechanization of Philosophy Between 1300-1700


Recent research has shown that the development of mechanical philosophy and the origin of modern science in the seventeenth century is much indebted to the late Aristotelian philosophers of the sixteenth century. The proposed research will step further back in history and aims to show the indebtedness of mechanical philosophy to developments initiated by William Ockham (c. 1287-1347) and his influential successor John Buridan (c. 1300-1358).


  • Henrik Lagerlund (Western University; Rotman Institute of Philosophy)


Standard histories of the development of modern science and philosophy have it that mechanical philosophy was driven by changes in physics that then required a re-conceptualization of the metaphysics of substance. We contest that this view is backwards. The revisions of the metaphysics of substance, including new ideas about activity, power, and natural law, occurred in the 14th century and paved the way for the well-known changes in physics in the 15th and 16th centuries. These in turn gave rise to mechanical philosophy in the 17th century. The project will involve close investigation of the relatively unexplored natural philosophy and metaphysics of the 15th and 16th centuries.