This look at Gassendi’s philosophy and science illuminates his contributions to early modern thought and to the broader history of philosophy of science.
Two keys to his thought are his novel picture of acquiring and judging empirical belief, and his liberal account of criteria for counting empirical beliefs as parts of warranted physical theories. By viewing his philosophical and scientific pursuits as part of one and the same project, Gassendi’s arguments on behalf of atomism can be fruitfully explained as licensed by his empiricism.
Saul Fisher Ph.D. (1997) in Philosophy, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, is Director of Fellowship Programs at the American Council of Learned Societies. His work on early modern philosophy and science focuses on hypotheses, explanation, the mechanical philosophy, and biological thought.
Table of contents
Notice to the Reader
Foreword: A New, Integrated Picture of Gassendi
Basses-Alpes Priest, Provençal Scientist, and Parisian Philosopher
PART I. A CONSTRUCTIVE SKEPTICIST THEORY OF EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE
1. The Skeptical Challenge, an Empiricist Response, and a Physicalist Theory of Perceptual Belief
2. The Theory of Signs: Cautious License for Truth-Like Empirical Belief
3. Empiricist Epistemic Warrant, and Probabilist and Anti-Essentialist Consequences
PART II. SCIENTIFIC METHOD: THE REGRESSUS DEMONSTRATIVUS AND HYPOTHETICAL REASONING
4. Methodological Pursuits: The
Regressus Recast, Induction, and Probability
Institutio Method in Practice: Gassendi’s Report of the Pascalian Experiment
6. A Method of Hypotheses and Hypothetical Reasoning
PART III. THE ATOMIST HYPOTHESIS
7. Smallest Particles: From Ancient Atomist and
Minima Theories to
Minima Naturae and Physical Corpuscularianism
8. The Mechanical Philosophy
9. Ultimate Particles and Essential Features
10. Atomic Motion, Causal Role, and Internal Impetus
11. Explanatory Uses of the Atomist Hypothesis
12. Atomism, the Mechanical Philosophy, and Empirical Viability
PART IV. ATOMISM AS HYPOTHESIS AND AS EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE
13. Atomism and Scientific Method
14. Is There a Circle in Gassendi’s Reasoning?
Those interested in intellectual history, early modern philosophy and science, and history of ideas in France and Europe.