By Rose-Mary Sargent
Sargent examines the philosophical, criminal, experimental, and spiritual traditions—among them English universal legislations, alchemy, medication, and Christianity—that performed an element in shaping Boyle's experimental idea and perform. The roots of his philosophy in his formative years and schooling, in his non secular beliefs, and within the paintings of his predecessors—particularly Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo—are absolutely explored, as are the potential affects of his social and highbrow circle. Drawing at the complete variety of Boyle's released works, in addition to on his unpublished notebooks and manuscripts, Sargent exhibits how those varied affects have been reworked and integrated into Boyle's perspectives on and perform of experiment.
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Additional resources for The Diffident Naturalist: Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment
Boyle " a c t e d experimentally, in contrast to those of his contemporaries who simply performed experiments, and his activity included three components: observing, experimenting, and writing. These elements were all combined in the complex process of experimental reasoning by which the factual foundation was t o be established, yet as activities they remained distinct. Thus I discuss them separately. Chapter 6, "Observing," begins with a discussion of what Boyle meant by matters offact and how observing and experimenting could contribute t o the discovery of facts.
43The author of The Sceptical Chymist was not himself a skeptic. "44 To avoid the barrenness of the school learning, Boyle advocated a return to the earlier corpuscular philosophy. The occult forms and qualities of the Aristotelians would be replaced by hypotheses concerning the motions of the least parts of matter that make up bodies. "45Because his experimental approach is often linked with the "empirical" Baconian program while his hypothetical approach is more akin to Cartesian "rationalism," Boyle's advocacy of these two aspects of the new philosophy has sometimes been taken to betray an inconsistency, or at least an unresolved tension, in his A better way to proceed would be to question the too-simple dichotomy that has been constructed by the rigid application of nineteenthcentury philosophical categories to discussions about these historical methods.
From the start of his public career, however, Boyle met with strong opposition t o this program, not only from Aristotelians but also from systematic theorists working within the new philosophy, such as Hobbes and Spinoza. "'06These critics were opposed not to the performance of experiments but to the idea that natural philosophy could be constructed upon the basis of experimental proof. Boyle's refusal to start from rational and mathematical first principles, even though he styled himself as an advocate of the mechanical philosophy, clearly confused his two antagonists.
The Diffident Naturalist: Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment by Rose-Mary Sargent