Pierre Gassendi

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Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi
after Louis-Édouard Rioult.
Born(1592-01-22)22 January 1592
Died24 October 1655(1655-10-24) (aged 63)
Alma mater University of Aix-en-Provence
Era 17th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Aristotelianism
Epicurean atomism
Nominalism [1]
Materialism [1]
Corpuscularianism [2]
Main interests
Logic, physics, ethics
Notable ideas
Calor vitalis (vital heat)

Pierre Gassendi (French:  [pjɛʁ gasɛ̃di] ; [3] also Pierre Gassend, Petrus Gassendi; 22 January 1592 – 24 October 1655) was a French philosopher, priest, astronomer, and mathematician. [1] [4] [5] While he held a church position in south-east France, he also spent much time in Paris, where he was a leader of a group of free-thinking intellectuals. He was also an active observational scientist, publishing the first data on the transit of Mercury in 1631. The lunar crater Gassendi is named after him.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Astronomer Scientist who studies celestial bodies

An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies – in either observational or theoretical astronomy. Examples of topics or fields astronomers study include planetary science, solar astronomy, the origin or evolution of stars, or the formation of galaxies. Related but distinct subjects like physical cosmology, which studies the Universe as a whole.


He wrote numerous philosophical works, and some of the positions he worked out are considered significant, finding a way between skepticism and dogmatism. Richard Popkin indicates that Gassendi was one of the first thinkers to formulate the modern "scientific outlook", of moderated skepticism and empiricism. He clashed with his contemporary Descartes on the possibility of certain knowledge. His best known intellectual project attempted to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity.

Skepticism or scepticism is generally any questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief. It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality, religion, or knowledge. Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.

Richard Henry Popkin was an academic philosopher who specialized in the history of enlightenment philosophy and early modern anti-dogmatism. His 1960 work The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes introduced one previously unrecognized influence on Western thought in the seventeenth century, the Pyrrhonian Scepticism of Sextus Empiricus. Popkin also was an internationally acclaimed scholar on Jewish and Christian millenarianism and messianism.

Empiricism theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience

In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.


Early life

Gassendi was born at Champtercier, near Digne, in France to Antoine Gassend and Françoise Fabry. [6] His earliest education was entrusted to his maternal uncle, Thomas Fabry, the curé of the church of Champtercier. [7] A youthful prodigy, at a very early age he showed academic potential and attended the collège (the town high school) at Digne, where he displayed a particular aptitude for languages and mathematics. Soon afterwards he entered the University of Aix-en-Provence, to study philosophy under Philibert Fesaye, O.Carm. [8] at the Collège Royale de Bourbon (the Faculty of Arts of the University of Aix). [9] In 1612 the college of Digne called him to lecture on theology. While at Digne, he travelled to Senez, where he received minor orders from Bishop Jacques Martin. Four years later he received the degree of Doctor of Theology at Avignon, and was elected Theologian in the Cathedral Chapter of Digne. On 1 August 1617 he received holy orders from Bishop Jacques Turricella of Marseille. [10] In the same year, at the age of 24, he accepted the chair of philosophy at the University of Aix-en-Provence, and yielded the chair of theology to his old teacher, Fesaye. Gassendi seems gradually to have withdrawn from theology. He maintained his position as Canon Theologial at Digne, however, and in September 1619, when Bishop Raphaël de Bologne took possession of the diocese of Digne, Gassendi participated and made the speech on behalf of the Chapter. [11]

Champtercier Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Champtercier is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France.

Digne-les-Bains Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Digne-les-Bains, or simply and historically Digne, is a commune of France, capital of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, and situated in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The name of its inhabitants is Dignois. It had a population of 17,268 as of 2008.

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space, and change.

He lectured principally on the Aristotelian philosophy, conforming as far as possible to the traditional methods while he also followed with interest the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler. He came into contact with the astronomer Joseph Gaultier de la Vallette (1564–1647), the Grand Vicar of the Archbishopric of Aix. [12]

Aristotelianism tradition in philosophy

Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. This school of thought, in the modern sense of philosophy, covers existence, ethics, mind and related subjects. In Aristotle's time, philosophy included natural philosophy, which preceded the advent of modern science during the Scientific Revolution. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school and later on by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings. In the Islamic Golden Age, Avicenna and Averroes translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic and under them, along with philosophers such as Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi, Aristotelianism became a major part of early Islamic philosophy.

Galileo Galilei Italian polymath (1564-1642)

Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".

Johannes Kepler 17th-century German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer

Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. These works also provided one of the foundations for Newton's theory of universal gravitation.


In 1623 the Society of Jesus took over the University of Aix. They filled all positions with Jesuits, so Gassendi was required to find another institution. [13] [ disputed ] He left, returning to Digne on 10 February 1623, and then returned to Aix to witness an eclipse of the moon on 14 April and the presence of Mars in Sagittarius on 7 June, from which he returned again to Digne. [14] He travelled to Grenoble on behalf of the Chapter of Digne for a lawsuit, most reluctantly, since he was working on his project on Aristotle's paradoxes. [15] In 1624 he printed the first part of his Exercitationes paradoxicae adversus Aristoteleos. A fragment of the second book later appeared in print at The Hague (1659), but Gassendi never composed the remaining five, apparently thinking that the Discussiones Peripateticae of Francesco Patrizzi left little scope for him.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men founded by Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

Grenoble Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère and is an important European scientific centre. The city advertises itself as the "Capital of the Alps", due to its size and its proximity to the mountains.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

He spent some time with his patron Nicolas Peiresc. After 1628 Gassendi travelled in Flanders and in Holland where he encountered Isaac Beeckman and François Luillier. [15] [16] He returned to France in 1631. In 1634 the Cathedral Chapter of Digne had become disgusted at the wasteful behavior of Provost Blaise Ausset, and they voted to replace him. They obtained an arrêt of the Parliament of Aix, dated 19 December 1334, which consented to his deposition and to the election of Pierre Gassendi as provost of the Cathedral Chapter. Gassendi was formally installed on 24 December 1634. He held the Provostship until his death in 1655. [17]

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Holland Region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands

Holland is a region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The name Holland is also frequently used informally to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. This usage is commonly accepted in other countries, and sometimes employed by the Dutch themselves. However, some in the Netherlands, particularly those from regions outside Holland, may find it undesirable or misrepresentative to use the term for the whole country.

Isaac Beeckman was a Dutch philosopher and scientist, who, through his studies and contact with leading natural philosophers, may have "virtually given birth to modern atomism".

During this time he wrote some works, at the insistence of Marin Mersenne. They included his examination of the mystical philosophy of Robert Fludd, [18] an essay on parhelia, [19] and some observations on the transit of Mercury.

The 1640s

Gassendi then spent some years travelling through Provence with the duke of Angoulême, governor of the region. During this period he wrote only the one literary work, his Life of Peiresc, whose death in 1637 seemed to afflict him deeply; [20] it received frequent reprintings and an English translation. He returned to Paris in 1641, where he met Thomas Hobbes. [21] He gave some informal philosophy classes, gaining pupils or disciples; according to the biographer Grimarest, these included Molière, Cyrano de Bergerac (whose participation in classes is disputed), [22] Jean Hesnault and Claude-Emmanuel Chapelle, son of Lullier. [23] [24]

In 1642 Mersenne engaged him in controversy with René Descartes. His objections to the fundamental propositions of Descartes appeared in print in 1642; they appear as the Fifth Set of Objections in the works of Descartes. [25] Though Descartes is often credited with the discovery of the mind-body problem, Gassendi, reacting to Descartes' mind-body dualism, was the first to state it. [26] Gassendi's tendency towards the empirical school of speculation appears more pronounced here than in any of his other writings. Jean-Baptiste Morin attacked his De motu impresso a motore translato (1642). [20] In 1643 Mersenne also tried to garner support from the German Socinian and advocate of religious tolerance Marcin Ruar. Ruar replied at length that he had already read Gassendi but was in favour of leaving science to science not to the church. [27]

In 1645 he accepted the chair of mathematics in the Collège Royal in Paris, and lectured for several years with great success. In addition to controversial writings on physical questions, there appeared during this period the first of the works for which historians of philosophy remember him. In 1647 he published the well-received treatise De vita, moribus, et doctrina Epicuri libri octo. Two years later appeared his commentary on the tenth book of Diogenes Laërtius. [28] In the same year he had published the more important commentary Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri. [29]

In 1648 ill-health compelled him to give up his lectures at the Collège Royal. Around this time he became reconciled to Descartes, after years of coldness, through the good offices of César d'Estrées. [30]

Death and memorial

He travelled in the south of France, in the company of his protégé, aide and secretary François Bernier, another pupil from Paris. He spent nearly two years at Toulon, where the climate suited him. In 1653 he returned to Paris and resumed his literary work, living in the house of Montmor, publishing in that year lives of Copernicus and of Tycho Brahe. The disease from which he suffered, a lung complaint, had, however, established a firm hold on him. His strength gradually failed, and he died at Paris in 1655. A bronze statue of him (by Joseph Ramus) was erected by subscription at Digne in 1852.

Scientific achievements

As part of his promotion of empirical methods and his anti-Aristotelian and anti-Cartesian views, he was responsible for a number of scientific 'firsts':

In addition to this he did work on determining longitude via eclipses of the moon and on improving the Rudolphine Tables. He addressed the issue of free fall in De motu (1642) and De proportione qua gravia decidentia accelerantur (1646). [31]


Romanum calendarium Gassendi - Romanum calendarium compendiose expositum, 1654 - 880721 F.jpeg
Romanum calendarium

Edward Gibbon styled him "Le meilleur philosophe des littérateurs, et le meilleur littérateur des philosophes" (The greatest philosopher among literary men, and the greatest literary man among philosophers).

Henri Louis Habert de Montmor published Gassendi's collected works, most importantly the Syntagma philosophicum (Opera, i. and ii.), in 1658 (6 vols., Lyons). Nicolaus Averanius published another edition, also in 6 folio volumes, in 1727. The first two comprise entirely his Syntagma philosophicum; the third contains his critical writings on Epicurus, Aristotle, Descartes, Robert Fludd and Herbert of Cherbury, with some occasional pieces on certain problems of physics; the fourth, his Institutio astronomica, and his Commentarii de rebus celestibus; the fifth, his commentary on the tenth book of Diogenes Laërtius, the biographies of Epicurus, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Tycho Brahe, Nicolaus Copernicus, Georg von Peuerbach, and Regiomontanus, with some tracts on the value of ancient money, on the Roman calendar, and on the theory of music, with an appended large and prolix piece entitled Notitia ecclesiae Diniensis; the sixth volume contains his correspondence. The Lives, especially those of Copernicus, Tycho and Peiresc, received much praise.

Philosophical writing

The Exercitationes excited much attention, though they contain little or nothing beyond what others had already advanced against Aristotle. The first book expounds clearly, and with much vigour, the evil effects of the blind acceptance of the Aristotelian dicta on physical and philosophical study; but, as occurs with so many of the anti-Aristotelian works of this period, the objections show the usual ignorance of Aristotle's own writings[ citation needed ]. The second book, which contains the review of Aristotle's dialectic or logic, throughout reflects Ramism in tone and method. One of the objections to Descartes became famous through Descartes's statement of it in the appendix of objections in the Meditations.

Animadversiones and Epicurus

His book Animadversiones, published in 1649, contains a translation of Diogenes Laërtius, Book X on Epicurus, and appeared with a commentary, in the form of the Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri. [31] His labors on Epicurus have historical importance, but he has been criticized for holding doctrines arguably irreconcilable with his strong expressions of empiricism.

In the book, he maintains his maxim "that there is nothing in the intellect which has not been in the senses" (nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu), but he contends that the imaginative faculty ( phantasia ) is the counterpart of sense, because it involves material images, and therefore is intrinsically material, and that it is essentially the same both in men and brutes. However, he also admits that the classic qualifier of humanity, intellect, which he affirms as immaterial and immortal, comes to an understanding of notions and truths that no effort of sensation or imagination could have attained (Op. ii. 383). He illustrates the capacity to form "general notions"; the conception of universality (ib. 384), which he says brutes never are able to partake in, though they utilize phantasia as truly as men; the notion of God, whom he says we may imagine as corporeal, but understand as incorporeal; and lastly, the reflex by which the mind makes the phenomena and operations within it the objects of its attention.

The English Epicurean Walter Charleton produced an English free adaptation of this book, Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charletonia, in 1654. [31]

The Syntagma philosophicum

The Syntagma philosophicum sub-divides, according to the usual fashion of the Epicureans, into logic (which, with Gassendi as with Epicurus, is truly canonic), physics and ethics.

The logic contains a sketch of the history of the science De origine et varietate logicae, and is divided into theory of right apprehension (bene imaginari), theory of right judgment (bene proponere), theory of right inference (bene colligere), theory of right method (bene ordinare). The first part contains the specially empirical positions which Gassendi afterwards neglects or leaves out of account. The senses, the sole source of knowledge, supposedly yield us immediate cognition of individual things; phantasy (which Gassendi takes as material in nature) reproduces these ideas; understanding compares these ideas, each particular, and frames general ideas. Nevertheless, he admits that the senses yield knowledge—not of things—but of qualities only, and that we arrive at the idea of thing or substance by inductive reasoning. He holds that the true method of research is the analytic, rising from lower to higher notions; yet he sees and admits that inductive reasoning, as conceived by Francis Bacon, rests on a general proposition not itself proved by induction. The whole doctrine of judgment, syllogism and method mixes Aristotelian and Ramist notions.

In the second part of the Syntagma, the physics, appears the most glaring contradiction between Gassendi's fundamental principles. While approving of the Epicurean physics, he rejects the Epicurean negation of God and particular providence. He states the various proofs for the existence of an immaterial, infinite, supreme Being, asserts that this Being is the author of the visible universe, and strongly defends the doctrine of the foreknowledge and particular providence of God. At the same time he holds, in opposition to Epicureanism, the doctrine of an immaterial rational soul, endowed with immortality and capable of free determination. Friedrich Albert Lange [32] claimed that all this portion of Gassendi's system contains nothing of his own opinions, but is introduced solely from motives of self-defence.

The positive exposition of atomism has much that is attractive, but the hypothesis of the calor vitalis (vital heat), a species of anima mundi (world-soul) which he introduces as a physical explanation of physical phenomena, does not seem to throw much light on the special problems which he invokes it to solve. Nor is his theory of the weight essential to atoms as being due to an inner force impelling them to motion in any way reconcilable with his general doctrine of mechanical causes.

In the third part, the ethics, over and above the discussion on freedom, which on the whole is indefinite, there is little beyond a milder statement of the Epicurean moral code. The final end of life is happiness, and happiness is harmony of soul and body (tranquillitas animi et indolentia corporis). Probably, Gassendi thinks, perfect happiness is not attainable in this life, but it may be in the life to come.


According to Gabriel Daniel, Gassendi was a little Pyrrhonian in matters of science; but that was no bad thing. [33] He wrote against the magical animism of Robert Fludd, and judicial astrology. [34] [35] He became dissatisfied with the Peripatetic system, the orthodox approach to natural philosophy based on the writings of Aristotle. Gassendi shared the empirical tendencies of the age. He contributed to the objections against Aristotelian philosophy, but waited to publish his own thoughts.

There remains some controversy as to the extent to which Gassendi subscribed to the so-called libertinage érudit , the learned free-thinking that characterised the Tétrade, the Parisian circle to which he belonged, along with Gabriel Naudé and two others (Élie Diodati and François de La Mothe Le Vayer). Gassendi, at least, belonged to the fideist wing of the sceptics, arguing that the absence of certain knowledge implied the room for faith. [36]

In his dispute with Descartes he did apparently hold that the evidence of the senses remains the only convincing evidence; yet he maintains, as is natural from his mathematical training, that the evidence of reason is absolutely satisfactory.

Early commentary

Samuel Sorbière, a disciple, [37] recounts Gassendi's life in the first collected edition of the works, by Joseph Bougerel, Vie de Gassendi (1737; 2nd ed., 1770); as does Damiron, Mémoire sur Gassendi (1839). An abridgment of his philosophy was given by his friend, the celebrated traveller, François Bernier (Abrégé de la philosophie de Gassendi, 8 vols., 1678; 2nd ed., 7 vols., 1684).

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Pierre Gassendi (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. Vere Claiborne Chappell (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Locke, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 56.
  3. Léon Warnant (1987). Dictionnaire de la prononciation française dans sa norme actuelle (in French) (3rd ed.). Gembloux: J. Duculot, S. A. ISBN   978-2-8011-0581-8.
  4. Brundell, B., Pierre Gassendi from Aristotelianism to a New Natural Philosophy, Springer, 1987
  5. Brundell, B., Pierre Gassendi from Aristotelianism to a New Natural Philosophy, D. Reidel Publishing, 1987
  6. Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN   978-0-387-31022-0 . Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  7. Fisquet, p. 249.
  8. Bougerel (1737), p. 6.
  9. Ferdinand Belin (1896). Histoire de l'ancienne université de Provence, ou Histoire de la fameuse université d'Aix: période. 1409-1679 (in French). Paris: A. Picard et fils. pp. 183, 340–341.
  10. Fisquet, p. 249.
  11. Fisquet, p. 250.
  12. Bougerel (1737), pp. 8-9. Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Gassendi (Gassend), Pierre, retrieved: 2017-08-02.
  13. J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, Pierre Gassendi, retrieved: 2017-08-02 [ self-published source? ]
  14. Bougerel, p. 15.
  15. 1 2 Galileo Project page. Bougerel, p. 15.
  16. The Archimedes Project, Gassendi, Pierre (actually Pierre Gassend), retrieved: 2017-08-02.
  17. Fisquet, pp. 248, 252, 256.
  18. Epistolica Exercitatio, in qua precipua principia philosophiae Roberti Fluddi deteguntur, 1631.
  19. Epistola de parheliis.
  20. 1 2 "Gassendi - Pierre Gassendi - Biography - Information - Links - Dr Robert A. Hatch".
  21. Patricia Springborg (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes's Leviathan (2007), p. 422.
  22. http://www.paulvates.com/cyranohistory.html
  23. "LoveToKnow: Advice you can trust". Archived from the original on 2009-01-25. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  24. "Encyclop�die de l'Agora |".replacement character in |title= at position 9 (help)
  25. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes' Ontological Argument
  26. Cottinghm, Stoothof, Murdoch, Vol. II, CUP 1984, pp. 234-237
  27. Murr, Sylvia, ed. (1997) (in French), Gassendi et l'Europe, Paris: Vrin, ISBN   978-2-7116-1306-9.
  28. De vita, moribus, et placitis Epicuri, seu Animadversiones in X. librum Diog. Laër. Lyons, 1649; last edition, 1675.
  29. Lyons, 1649; Amsterdam, 1684.
  30. Desmond M. Clarke, Descartes: A Biography (2006), p. 377.
  31. 1 2 3 Fisher, Saul (2009). "Pierre Gassendi". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  32. Geschichte des Materialismus, 3rd ed., i. 233.
  33. Richard Popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza (1979), p. 104.
  34. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (1973), p. 418 and p. 770.
  35. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2009-01-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  36. Amesbury, Richard Fideism Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 26 September 2012
  37. http://www.webspawner.com/users/alanbailey/scept7z.html

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Étienne Émile Marie Boutroux was an eminent 19th century French philosopher of science and religion, and an historian of philosophy. He was a firm opponent of materialism in science. He was a spiritual philosopher who defended the idea that religion and science are compatible at a time when the power of science was rising inexorably. His work is overshadowed in the English-speaking world by that of the more celebrated Henri Bergson. He was elected membership of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1898 and in 1912 to the Académie française.

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc French astronomer

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, often known simply as Peiresc, or by the Latin form of his name Peirescius, was a French astronomer, antiquary and savant, who maintained a wide correspondence with scientists, and was a successful organizer of scientific inquiry. His research included a determination of the difference in longitude of various locations in Europe, around the Mediterranean, and in North Africa.

Léon Brunschvicg was a French Idealist philosopher. He co-founded the Revue de métaphysique et de morale with Xavier Leon and Élie Halévy in 1893.

François Bernier French physician and traveller

François Bernier was a French physician and traveller. He was born at Joué-Etiau in Anjou. He was briefly personal physician to Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and after Dara Shikoh's demise, was attached to the court of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, for around 12 years during his stay in India.

In optics, the corpuscular theory of light, arguably set forward by Descartes (1637) states that light is made up of small discrete particles called "corpuscles" which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess impetus. This was based on an alternate description of atomism of the time period. This theory cannot explain refraction, diffraction and interference.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Digne diocese of the Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Digne is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Erected in the 4th century as the Diocese of Digne, the diocese has been known as the Diocese of Digne (–Riez–Sisteron) since 1922. The diocese comprises the entire department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in the Region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The diocese used to be a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Aix-en-Provence and Arles until 2002, but is now a suffragan of Marseille. The bishops have their throne in Digne Cathedral at Digne-les-Bains.

Atomism is a natural philosophy that developed in several ancient traditions.

Sébastien Basson, Latinized as Sebastianus Basso, was a French physician and natural philosopher of the beginning of the seventeenth century. He was an early theorist of a matter theory based on both atoms and compounds. His natural philosophy draws on several currents of thought, including Italian Renaissance naturalism, alchemy and Calvinist theology. Basson was an atomist, who, independently from Isaac Beeckman, formed the concept of "molecule".

Jean-Charles Darmon is a French literary critic born in 1961.

Victor Goldschmidt was a French philosopher and historian of philosophy.

This is a timeline of philosophy in the 17th century.

Minima naturalia were theorized by Aristotle as the smallest parts into which a homogeneous natural substance could be divided and still retain its essential character. In this context, "nature" means formal nature. Thus, "natural minimum" may be taken to mean "formal minimum": the minimum amount of matter necessary to instantiate a certain form.


Seventeenth to nineteenth-century commentary
Twentieth- and twenty-first-century commentary
Tertiary sources