In the early seventeenth century, there existed a myriad of theories to account for color phenomena. The status, goal, and content of such accounts differed as well as the range of phenomena they explained. Starting with the journal of Isaac Beeckman (1588–1637), this essay inquires into the features and functions of conceptual reflections upon color experiences. Beeckman played a crucial role in the intellectual development of René Descartes (1596–1650), while at the same time their ideas differed crucially. Early corpuscular conceptions of colors cannot be reduced to the mechanistic variety of Descartes. Moreover, the optical rather than corpuscular features of Descartes’s understanding of colors were essential. A stratification of conceptualizations is proposed that is grounded in various problem contexts rather than philosophical doctrines, thus opening a way to interpret the philosophical parts of color worlds in a more diverse way.
Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis, “Labour on Lenses. Isaac Beeckman’s Notes on Lens Making,” in The Origins of the Telescope, ed. Albert van Helden, Sven Dupré, Rob van Gent and Huib Zuidervaart (Amsterdam, 2010), 257–70.
John Schuster, Descartes-Agonistes. Physico-mathematics, Method & Corpuscular-Mechanism 1618–33 (Dordrecht, 2013). See also John Schuster, “Descartes and the Scientific Revolution 1618–1634: an Interpretation” (PhD diss., Princeton, 1977). The main conclusion about Beeckman’s significance is shared by Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: an Intellectual Biography (Oxford, 1995).
Beeckman, Journal, 2: 251; 317; 329. According to the editor, Cornelis de Waard, the reference is to page 224 in original edition of Francis Bacon’s Instauratio Magna (London, 1620). Beeckman also refers to Ficino later on.
David Lindberg, ‘‘Kepler and the Incorporeality of Light,’’ in Physics, Cosmology and Astronomy, 1300–1700, ed. S. Unguru (Dordrecht, 1991), 229–50; David Lindberg, ‘‘The Genesis of Kepler’s Theory of Light: Light Metaphysics from Plotinus to Kepler’’ Osiris,2 (1986), 5–42.
Beeckman, Journal, 3: 123–214; 4: 149–51: “Parhelia sive soles iv apparentes circa solem verum, Romae observati Anno 1629 die 20 Martij ab horâ astronomicâ pomeridianâ 2a ad 3am, seu Italicâ 20a ad 21am et paulò plus.” For the exact date, see Sassen, Reis, 39.
Neil Ribe and Friedrich Steinle, “Exploratory Experimentation: Goethe, Land, and Color Theory,”Physics Today, 55 (7) (2002), 43–9; Sarah Lowengard, The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe (New York, 2006).
Fokko Jan Dijksterhuis, ““Will the Eye Be the Sole Judge?” ‘Science’ and ‘Art’ in the Optical Inquiries of Lambert ten Kate and Hendrik van Limborch around 1710,”Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art,61 (2011), 308–31.