Peter Anstey


Univeristy of Sydney

Principles in early modern natural philosophy: a provisional taxonomy

The term ‘principle’ is almost ubiquitous in early modern natural philosophy and yet its semantic range is enormously varied. There are principles of nature, principles of matter, chymical principles, seminal principles, laws of nature as principles, foundational principles, explanatory principles, principles of mechanics, principles of hydrostatics, and so on. A measure of the importance of the notion is the fact that the term appears in the titles of many books on natural philosophy from the period, most famously in Descartes’ Principia philosophiae and Newton’s Principia.