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Seminar 4.docx

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HST 325
Conor Burns

Seminar 4 Christianity and the Mechanistic Universe By William Ashworth Jr. • In the second half of the seventeenth century  new philosophy: mechanical philosophy • Presented in several distinct forms by the likes of Descartes, Gassendi and Boyle. o All forms treated matter as lifeless and inert, without any properties of its own. o Suggested that all natural phenomena could be explained by the mechanical interactions of matter in motion. o Strong contrast to the picture painted by Aristotelianism and other, newer philosophies of nature constructed during the Late Renaissance such as, natural magic and Paracelsianism. • The acceptance of the mechanical played a major role in the events collectively known as the “Scientific Revolution”. • Concerns: impact of mechanical philosophy on religion  specifically Christian religion as well as the impact of Christian thought on the mechanical philosophy. • Obvious that there should have not been any interaction at all since theology and theory are widely separate domains of inquiry. o Proponents of mechanical philosophy were driven by religious concerns  Specifically adherence to Christian beliefs • Debate on different forms of mechanical philosophy were waged on religious grounds • The success of mechanical philosophy: hailed as a Christian triumph • Religion and mechanical philo\sophy were linked throughout the seventeenth century Descartes (1596 – 1650): • Raised in France in an age of considerable concern over the conflicts between traditional forms of knowledge and the new discoveries of late Renaissance. • Evolution of modern society: o Previously had been one well-established Church, one known world and one picture of the cosmos. o Now, there are variety of churches, a recently discovered new world and several new cosmologies.  Called the skeptical crisis • Descartes decided to react to this “skeptical crisis” by doubting everything he knows and had been taught. • Thought by doing this, he could arrive at certain “clear and distinct” ideas that could not be doubted • Qualities of the matter could not be found – just the stuff of which the object is composed o Beeswax example o Matter, to be matter has to occupy space o Characteristics perceived by the senses: called “secondary qualities” were illusions of the senses.  Represented appearance not reality o Defined matter as extension and extension as matter  Follows that matter has no properties other than the occupancy of space.  Implications of matter redefinition  profound o If matter has no properties  all it can do is collide and move about  Cannot attract seek or sympathize with other matter. o There can be no extension without matter, therefore no empty space • Different levels of matter o First Matter: The tiny spaces between particles of second matter are filled with this. o Second Matter: imperceptible matter that
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