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Workshop: The Mechanical Philosophy

This workshop is the second meeting of the workshop series The early modern debate on causality: roots and perspectives


14.00-15.15: Maarten van Dyck (Gent): Mechanical nature and Archimedean causality
Short summary: What’s the philosophy of nature implicit in the Archimedean treatment of mechanical instruments such as the lever? That’s the question I will try to answer. This will allow me to trace an alternative mechanical tradition that runs through late sixteenth and seventeenth century thinking, one that is partly overlapping but not coinciding with what is usually understood as mechanical philosophy.
15.30-16.45: Laura Georgescu (Groningen): Spheres of virtue: an alternative account of causation?
Short Summary: Some natural philosophers of the seventeenth century hold the view that bodies (or the interactions between bodies) operate via spheres of virtue (and correlated terms). The concept permeates both allegedly mechanical and non-mechanical philosophies. The focus of this talk is not on how spheres of virtue explain (if indeed they do), but on the underlying commitments about causality informing the accounts in terms of spheres of virtue. I will try to argue that considerations about spheres of virtue led to the specification of (at least) one rather peculiar account of causality.
17.00-18.15: Cees Leijenhorst (Nijmegen): Descartes, Hobbes and the Aristotelians on Causality
Short Summary: This paper centers on Thoma's Hobbes' doctrine of causality. Though Hobbes tries to develop a mechanical system, the main conceptual elements of his notion of causality actually derive from the Aristotelian tradition. We will see that to some extent this combination leads to tensions that Hobbes does not manage to resolve. In order to properly address Hobbes' specific contribution to the mechanical philosophy, we will compare his account with that of Descartes. In this connection, we will concentrate on Hobbes' doctrine of the relation between primary and secondary causes, which substantially differs from that of Descartes.

When & where?

Thursday, 6 April 2017, 2:00-6:00 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega


Attendance is free, but registration is appreciated. To register, please write to

Last modified:31 March 2017 11.09 a.m.