Pierre Gassendi (French: [pjɛʁ gasɛ̃di]; also Pierre Gassend, Petrus Gassendi; 22 January 1592 – 24 October 1655) was a French philosopher, priest, astronomer, and mathematician. 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.
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.
after Louis-Édouard Rioult.
|Born||22 January 1592|
|Died||24 October 1655 (aged 63)|
|Alma mater||University of Aix-en-Provence|
|Logic, physics, ethics|
|Calor vitalis (vital heat)|
Gassendi was born at Champtercier, near Digne, in France to Antoine Gassend and Françoise Fabry. His earliest education was entrusted to his maternal uncle, Thomas Fabry, the curé of the church of Champtercier. 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. at the Collège Royale de Bourbon (the Faculty of Arts of the University of Aix). 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. 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 Gassendi seems gradually to have withdrawn from theology.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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
During this time he wrote some works, at the insistence of Marin Mersenne. They included his examination of the mystical philosophy of Robert Fludd, an essay on parhelia, and some observations on the transit of Mercury.
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; it received frequent reprintings and an English translation. He returned to Paris in 1641, where he met Thomas Hobbes. 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), Jean Hesnault and Claude-Emmanuel Chapelle, son of Lullier.
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. 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. 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). 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.
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. In the same year he had published the more important commentary Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. 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.
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. 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 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 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. He wrote against the magical animism of Robert Fludd, and judicial astrology. 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.
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.
Samuel Sorbière, a disciple, 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).
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Events from the year 1592 in France1655 in France
Events from the year 1655 in France1655 in science
The year 1655 in science and technology involved some significant events.17th century in philosophy
This is a timeline of philosophy in the 17th century (17th-century philosophy).Catholic moral theology
Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".Château de Montlhéry
The Château de Montlhéry is a castle in the commune of Montlhéry in the Essonne département of France. Ruins date from various periods, most notably the 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th centuries.The present 13th-century castle, with its prominent keep, succeeded a castle built in the 11th century, and an earlier foundation, built from 991 to 1015. The castle is a rectilinear pentagonal plan, with five surviving towers, one of which is much larger than the rest and serves as the keep, forming the point of the pentagon, at the end of the ridge. A gate tower protected the entrance on the opposite site. Recent evidence suggests that there may have a second court or bailey extending in front of the present gate, as well as a substantial chapel inside the presumed lower court.
Thanks to its position, the keep was notably connected with the scientific experiments of Pierre Gassendi (measurement of the speed of sound), Claude Chappe (experiments with optical telegraphy in 1794) and Alfred Cornu (measurement of the speed of light in 1874).
Visitors today can see the keep, the well, the moat and the remains of the curtain wall. The castle is state property. It has been listed since 1840 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.Corpuscular theory of light
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" (little particles) 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.
Isaac Newton was a pioneer of this theory, in 1672.Corpuscularianism
Corpuscularianism is a physical theory that supposes all matter to be composed of minute particles. The theory became important in the seventeenth century; amongst the leading corpuscularians were Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, and John Locke.François Bernier
François Bernier (25 September 1620 – 22 September 1688) was a French physician and traveller. He was born at Joué-Etiau in Anjou. He was briefly personal physician to Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (28 October 1615 – 30 August 1659), 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 (14 October 1618 – 20 February 1707), for around 12 years during his stay in India.
His 1684 publication Nouvelle division de la terre par les différentes espèces ou races qui l'habitent (A new division of the Earth) is considered the first published post-Classical classification of humans into distinct races. He also wrote Travels in the Mughal Empire, which is mainly about the reigns of Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. It is based on his own extensive journeys and observations, and on information from eminent Mughal courtiers who had witnessed the events at first hand.
Bernier abridged and translated the philosophical writings of his friend Pierre Gassendi from Latin into French. Initial editions of Bernier's Abregé de la Philosophie de Gassendi were published in Paris in 1674 by the family Langlois and in 1675 by Estienne Michallet. A complete edition in eight volumes was published by Anisson and Posuel at Lyon in 1678; Anisson and Posuel joined with Rigaud to publish a second edition in seven volumes in 1684. Bernier objectively and faithfully rendered Gassendi's ideas in his Abregé, without editorial interjection or invention. However, Bernier remained uncomfortable with some of Gassendi's notions: in 1682, Estienne Michallet was again his publisher, putting forth his Doutes de Mr. Bernier sur quelques-uns des principaux Chapitres de son Abregé de la Philosophie de Gassendi.Gassendi (crater)
Gassendi is a large lunar impact crater feature located at the northern edge of Mare Humorum. It was named after French astronomer Pierre Gassendi. The formation has been inundated by lava during the formation of the mare, so only the rim and the multiple central peaks remain above the surface. The outer rim is worn and eroded, although it retains a generally circular form. A smaller crater – Gassendi A – intrudes into the northern rim, and joins a rough uplift at the northwest part of the floor. The crater pair bear a curious resemblance to a diamond ring.
In the southern part of the crater floor is a semi-circular ridge-like formation that is concentric with the outer rim. It is in the southern part where the rim dips down to its lowest portion, and a gap appears at the most southern point. The rim varies in height from as little as 200 meters to as high as 2.5 kilometers above the surface. The floor has numerous hummocks and rough spots. There is also a system of rilles that criss-crosses the floor, named the Rimae Gassendi.
On some older maps the crater Gassendi A was called Clarkson, after the British amateur astronomer and selenographer Roland L. T. Clarkson, but this name is not officially recognized by the IAU and the name has been removed.
Gassendi was considered for a possible landing site during the Apollo program, but was never selected. However, it was imaged at high resolution by Lunar Orbiter 5, for this reason.Jacques Alexandre Le Tenneur
Jacques-Alexandre Le Tenneur (1604 - 1659) was a French mathematician who defended Galileo Galilei’s ideas. He corresponded with fellow mathematicians such as Pierre Gassendi, Pierre Hérigone and Marin Mersenne. It is unclear when or where he died but he probably lived from 1610 to 1660.Jacques Gaffarel
Jacques Gaffarel (Latin: Jacobus Gaffarellus) (1601–1681) was a French scholar and astrologer. He followed the family tradition of studying medicine, and then became a priest, but mainly developed his interests in the fields of natural history and Oriental occultism, gaining fluency in the Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic languages.
His most famous work is Curiositez inouyes sur la sculpture talismanique des Persans, horoscope des Patriarches et lecture des estoiles ("Unheard-of Curiosities concerning Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians, the horoscope of the Patriarchs, and the reading of the Stars), which was published in French in 1629 (and translated into English in 1650, by Edmund Chilmead). Jewish astrology developed independently from the mythology and star-gazing of the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations. Gaffarel included in his work two large folding plates of "the Celestial Constellations expressed by Hebrew characters", and asserted that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet could be interpreted from the constellations and that the heavens could be read as if a book.
The book enjoyed phenomenal success. René Descartes read this work with interest and the French physician and mathematician Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) defended it. Unheard-of Curiosities was one of 1,500 books in the Library of Sir Thomas Browne and one of the varied sources of his encyclopaedia entitled Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Browne alludes to Gaffarel's astrology in The Garden of Cyrus thus:
Could we satisfy our selves in the position of the lights above, or discover the wisdom of that order so invariably maintained in the fixed stars of heaven......we might abate.....the strange Cryptography of Gaffarell in his Starrie Booke of Heaven.Gaffarel contributed to the debate between Marin Mersenne and Robert Fludd.
On the other hand, the Sorbonne rejected Gaffarel's work and ridiculed him; however, he gained the protection of the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, who made him his librarian and sent him off first to Italy, then to Greece and Asia to retrieve rare books (reportedly including manuscripts by Pico della Mirandola).Jørgen Thygesen Brahe
Jørgen Thygesen Brahe (Jørgen Brahe til Tostrup i Skåne) (1515 – June 21, 1565) was a member of the Danish nobility.List of Catholic clergy scientists
This is a list of Catholic churchmen throughout history who have made contributions to science. These churchmen-scientists include Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, Bernard Bolzano, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, Robert Grosseteste, Christopher Clavius, Nicolas Steno, Athanasius Kircher, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, William of Ockham, and others listed below. The Catholic Church has also produced many lay scientists and mathematicians.
The Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science. For example, the Jesuits have dedicated significant study to earthquakes, and seismology has been described as "the Jesuit science." The Jesuits have been described as "the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the seventeenth century." According to Jonathan Wright in his book God's Soldiers, by the eighteenth century the Jesuits had "contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light."List of philosophers of science
This is a chronological list of philosophers of science. For an alphabetical name-list, see Category:Philosophers of science.Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus (; c. 15 October 99 BC – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem De rerum natura, a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system which was formalised from 1834 by C. J. Thomsen.
Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated.De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Eclogues) and Horace. The work virtually disappeared during the Middle Ages, but was rediscovered in 1417 in a monastery in Germany by Poggio Bracciolini and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi) and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism. Lucretius's scientific poem "On the Nature of Things" (c. 60 BC) has a remarkable description of Brownian motion of dust particles in verses 113–140 from Book II. He uses this as a proof of the existence of atoms.Nectarius of Digne
Nectarius of Digne (fl. 439–455) was believed to have been the third Bishop of Digne, the first bishop of Digne having been Saint Domnin and the second Saint Vincent. However, Pierre Gassendi considers it likely that an unknown bishop succeeded Saint Vincent as predecessor to Nectarius, making Nectarius the fourth bishop of Digne.
Nectarius is known to have been present at several Gallic synods, and he is mentioned in letters of pope Leo the Great. Councils he attended include Riez in 439, the Council of Orange in 441, and the Synods of Arles in 451 and in 455. In 449, with other bishops from Arles, he addressed pope Leo on the election of Ravennius as bishop of Arles, and he was one of those that Leo addressed in 450.This same Nectarius is believed to have been a bishop of Avignon, not a bishop of Digne, by Louis Duchesne.Samuel de Sorbiere
Samuel (de) Sorbière (French: [sɔʁbjɛʁ]; 1615–1670) was a French physician and man of letters, a philosopher and translator, who is best known for his promotion of the works of Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Gassendi, in whose view of physics he placed his support, though unable to refute René Descartes, but who developed a reputation in his own day for a truculent and disputatious nature. Sorbière is regarded often by his position on ethics and disclosure about medical mistakes. In 1672 Sorbière considered the idea of being honest and upfront about a mistake having been made in medicine but thought that it might seriously jeopardise medical practice and concluded that it "would not catch on".
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