Helen Hattab


University of Houston

Aristoteliansm in Service of Atomism? Gorlaeus on Knowledge of Universals

David Gorlaeus (1591-1612), early seventeenth century atomist and notorious novatore, presents an unusual view regarding the role of experience in scientific knowledge. He denies scientific knowledge of essences, as scientia is strictly about accidental being. Accidents are mere co-existences, i.e., relational properties arising from compositions of atoms. However, Gorlaeus does not advocate an observational/experimentalist approach to knowledge of such co-existences. Scientia must proceed from precepts, each of which should be a necessary axiom.

Primary Matter: From Pure Potentiality to Res Extensa and Beyond (Invited Symposium)

In The World, René Descartes claims that the true form or essence of matter is extension and that, in sharp contrast to the obscure prime matter of the philosophers, this clear conception of matter allows for a world “in which there is nothing that the dullest minds are incapable of conceiving.” (CSM I, 92) The atomist and corpuscularean theories of matter advanced by the proponents of the new science are supposed to have rid us of the mysterious pure potentiality that was Aristotelian prime matter and thus made the natural world more intelligible and more amenable to scientific explanation.