1st Edition

The Idea of Principles in Early Modern Thought
Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited By

Peter R. Anstey

ISBN 9780367884253
Published December 10, 2019 by Routledge
320 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

This collection presents the first sustained examination of the nature and status of the idea of principles in early modern thought. Principles are almost ubiquitous in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the term appears in famous book titles, such as Newton’s Principia; the notion plays a central role in the thought of many leading philosophers, such as Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason; and many of the great discoveries of the period, such as the Law of Gravitational Attraction, were described as principles.

Ranging from mathematics and law to chemistry, from natural and moral philosophy to natural theology, and covering some of the leading thinkers of the period, this volume presents ten compelling new essays that illustrate the centrality and importance of the idea of principles in early modern thought. It contains chapters by leading scholars in the field, including the Leibniz scholar Daniel Garber and the historian of chemistry William R. Newman, as well as exciting, emerging scholars, such as the Newton scholar Kirsten Walsh and a leading expert on experimental philosophy, Alberto Vanzo. The Idea of Principles in Early Modern Thought: Interdisciplinary Perspectives charts the terrain of one of the period’s central concepts for the first time, and opens up new lines for further research.

Table of Contents


Peter R. Anstey

1. Early Modern Mathematical Principles and Symmetry Arguments

James Franklin

2. The Development of Principles in Equity in the Seventeenth Century

Joe Campbell

3. Alchemical and Chymical Principles: Four Different Traditions

William R. Newman

4. The Two Comets of 1664–1665: A Dispersive Prism for French Natural Philosophical Principles

Sophie Roux

5. Corpuscularism and Experimental Philosophy in Domenico Guglielmini’s Reflections on Salts

Alberto Vanzo

6. The Principles of Spinoza’s Philosophy

Michael LeBuffe

7. Principles in Newton’s Natural Philosophy

Kirsten Walsh

8. Leibniz on Principles in Natural Philosophy: The Principle of the Equality of Cause and Effect

Daniel Garber

9. Experimental Philosophy and the Principles of Natural Religion in England, 1667–1720

Peter R. Anstey

10. A Conflict of Principles: Grotius’ Justice versus Hume’s Utility

Kiyoshi Shimokawa

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Peter R. Anstey is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He specializes in early modern philosophy with a particular focus on the philosophy of John Locke, experimental philosophy, and the philosophy of principles. He is the author of John Locke and Natural Philosophy (2011) and editor of The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century (2013).


"This fascinating collection provides case studies allowing the reader to appreciate how many and how varied are the ways in which the concept of a principle has been deployed and to what effect in the early modern period."Margaret Atherton, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA