(Studies in the Scientific Revolution)

Assignment 8: Due Thursday, 10/25/07

Exam Review: Ass8ReviewCartesianLight.pdf [238K]

Read up to p. 33 in the book I asked you to buy: Debus’ Man and Nature in the Renaissance.


Read these snippets by Descartes (1596-1650) DescartesFromBurke.pdf [1.6 MB].


Read pp. 5-7 of this PDF from Descartes_CH13-4OnLight.pdf [330 KB]  Read the first 5 pages if you wish or want to use it for a souped up essay.


Read pp. 46-60 of Sabra_Ch2-Theories_of_Light100.pdf [2.3 MB] Read the other parts if you wish and/or want some souped up materials.


Write an essay on some Cartesian topic.  I put some articles of interest below for a souped up version. 

Ideas: Think about the implications of mechanistic rather than metaphysical nature.  Figure out his theory of light.  Would his light move faster or slower through a dense medium?  Are his parts of matter flexible or are they totally rigid?  How does he construct his arguments?  Is he more like Harvey or more like Galileo?  How important is logic? How important is observation?  How important is rhetoric?  Vortices and the cosmos.  Why are vortices necessary?  Why not just independent collisions and rebounds?  Types of matter… globules again,…




Burke, John G., ed. Sections from Descartes’ Writings. Science & Culture in the Western Tradition: Sources and Interpretations. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Gorsuch Scarisbrick, 1987. 


Debus, Allen G. Man and Nature in the Renaissance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978.


Descartes, Rene. The World, or Treatise on Light. Translated by Michael S. Mahoney. Excerpts extracted for SciRev., Written 1629-33, published later in 17th c.


Sabra, A. I. Theories of Light: From Descartes to Newton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Reprint, 1967 first ed.



Additional sources of interest:  Could be used for a souped-up assignment.


Gorham, Geoffrey. "Mind-Body Dualism and the Harvey-Descartes Controversy." Journal of the History of Ideas 55, no. 2 (1994): 211-234. Gorham_Mind-BodyHarvey-Descartes.pdf [796 KB]

                        Though Descartes agreed with Harvey's theory of circulation, he differed with him on the mechanical explanation of the heart.  Compares and contrasts Descartes's more deductive method of doing science with Harvey's more inductive method.  Descartes does not like Harvey's seemingly mysterious motion of the heart.  Felt animistic or vitalistic to him.  Descartes felt the power source was simply fire (without light) in the heart which propelled the blood and spitits.  But Descartes insists that soul motivated motions are initiated by spirits derived by the pineal gland, a vitalistic explanation.  [229]


Armitage, Angus. "Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and the Early Royal Society." Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 8, no. 1 (1950): 1-19. Armitage_DescartesEtRoyalSociety.pdf [1.8 MB]

                        Nice overview.


Lynes, John W. "Descartes' Theory of Elements: From Le Monde to the Principes." Journal of the History of Ideas 43, no. 1 (1982): 55-72. Lynes_DescartesElements.pdf [2 MB]



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