1st Edition

Pierre Gassendi Humanism, Science, and the Birth of Modern Philosophy

    426 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) was a major figure in seventeenth-century philosophy and science and his works contributed to shaping Western intellectual identity. Among “new philosophers,” he was considered Descartes’s main rival, and he belonged to the first rank of those attempting to carve out an alternative to Aristotelian philosophy. In his writings, he promoted a revival of atomism and Epicureanism within a Christian framework, and advocated an empiricist and probabilistic epistemology which was to have a major impact on later thinkers such as Locke and Newton. He is moreover important for his astronomical work, for his defense of Galileo’s mechanics and cosmology, and for his activity as a biographer.

    Given the importance of Gassendi for the history of science and philosophy, it is surprising to see that he has been largely ignored in the Anglophone world. This collection of essays constitutes the first book on Gassendi in the English language that covers his biography, bibliography, and all aspects of his work. The book is divided into three parts. Part I offers a reconstruction of the genesis of Gassendi’s Epicurean project, an overview of his biography, and analyses of Gassendi’s early attacks on Aristotle, of his advocacy of Epicurean philosophy, and his relation to the skeptical tradition and to Cicero’s thought. Part II addresses Gassendi as a participant in seventeenth-century philosophical and scientific debates, focusing especially on his controversies with Descartes and Fludd. Part III explores Gassendi’s contributions to logic, theories of space and time, mechanics, astronomy, cosmology, and the study of living beings, and presents the reception of Gassendi’s thought in England.

    This book is an essential resource for scholars and upper-level students of early modern philosophy, intellectual history, and the history of science who want to get acquainted with Pierre Gassendi as a major philosopher and intellectual figure of the early modern period.

    Part 1: Gassendi’s Epicurean Project, its Genesis and its Sources

    1.  The Life and Work of Pierre Gassendi Sylvie Taussig

    2. Gassendi’s Exercitationes Paradoxicae adversus Aristoteleos: An Intellectual Biography Daniel Garber

    3. Gassendi’s Interplay between Skepticism and Empiricism Gianni Paganini

    4. Gassendi and Epicureanism Saul Fisher

    5. Tranquility as the Highest Good: Gassendi Between Epicurus and Cicero Donald Rutherford

    Part 2: Gassendi the Polemist

    6. Gassendi in the Philosophical Debate: Stakes of the Essay concerning the principles of Robert Fludd’s Philosophy (1630) Édouard Mehl

    7. Gassendi’s Critique of Descartes Antonia LoLordo

    Part 3: Gassendi’s Science and Philosophy in Context

    8. Gassendi’s Logic Rodolfo Garau

    9. Gassendi’s Theory of Space and Time Delphine Bellis

    10. Pierre Gassendi and the New Science of Motion Carla Rita Palmerino

    11. Astronomy, Cosmology, and the Limit of Empiricism in Gassendi’s Thought Kuni Sakamoto

    12. Gassendi’s Theory of Living Beings François Duchesneau

    13. “The best philosopher in France”: The Reception of Gassendi’s Natural Philosophy in England Antonio Clericuzio


    Delphine Bellis is Assistant Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at Paul Valéry University, Montpellier, France. She edited, together with Frederik A. Bakker and Carla Rita Palmerino, Space, Imagination and the Cosmos from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period (2018).

    Daniel Garber is the A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University (USA), with additional appointments in History of Science and Politics. Garber is the author of Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics (1992) and Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad (2009), as well as numerous articles.

    Carla Rita Palmerino is Professor in the History of Modern Philosophy, and Director of the Center for the History of Philosophy and Science, at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In 1998, she discovered the last missing piece of Gassendi’s manuscript De vita et doctrina Epicuri in the library of the British Museum.