Pierre Gassendi's Philosophy and Science: Atomism for Empiricists

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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.
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Biographical Note

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

Preface
Notice to the Reader
Foreword: A New, Integrated Picture of Gassendi

Introduction: 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
5. The 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?

Bibliography
General Index

Readership

Those interested in intellectual history, early modern philosophy and science, and history of ideas in France and Europe.

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