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David Gorlaeus (1591-1612)

David Gorlaeus (1591-1612): An Enigmatic Figure in the History of Philosophy and Science

Christoph Lüthy
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    David Gorlaeus (1591-1612)
    Book Description:

    When David Gorlaeus (1591-1612) passed away at 21 years of age, he left behind two highly innovative manuscripts. Once they were published, his work had a remarkable impact on the evolution of seventeenth-century thought. However, as his identity was unknown, divergent interpretations of their meaning quickly sprang up. Seventeenth-century readers understood him as an anti-Aristotelian thinker and as a precursor of Descartes. Twentieth-century historians depicted him as an atomist, natural scientist and even as a chemist. And yet, when Gorlaeus died, he was a beginning student in theology. His thought must in fact be placed at the intersection between philosophy, the nascent natural sciences, and theology. The aim of this book is to shed light on Gorlaeus' family circumstances, his education at Franeker and Leiden, and on the virulent Arminian crisis which provided the context within which his work was written. It also attempts to define Gorlaeus' place in the history of Dutch philosophy and to assess the influence that it exercised in the evolution of philosophy and science, and notably in early Cartesian circles. Christoph Lüthy is professor of the history of philosophy and science at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1680-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
  4. Chapter 1 Introducing Gorlæus
    (pp. 11-24)

    Human history presents itself in stories about the past. Wherever these stories are not records of first-hand experience, they are based on the examination of archival materials, old books, archeological digs, paintings or material objects. History books present smaller or larger segments of this past in an organized narrative and inevitably from a certain perspective. Taken together, these books provide something like a large map of everything of which we know or believe, on the basis of a rational reconstruction, that it has been the case or has happened.

    The resulting composite map of the past might be compared to...

  5. Chapter 2 Gorlæus’ Two Treatises
    (pp. 25-60)

    In order to be able to appreciate Gorlaeus’ place in the intellectual landscape of the opening years of the seventeenth century, and to assess his possible contribution to the history of philosophy and science, we must first acquaint ourselves with his ideas. Since his works are in Latin, and no one has ever provided a detailed synthesis of their contents, it is inevitable that we ignore the traditional order of presentation and begin with a synopsis of his thought before reconstructing his life.

    There are different ways in which one can expound the ideas of a philosopher. The most obvious...

  6. Chapter 3 Gorlæus’ Life
    (pp. 61-132)

    We recall from chapter 1 that Kurd Lasswitz, whose detailed analysis of Gorlaeus’ natural philosophy of 1890 has provided the basis for all subsequent discussions, did not hide his perplexity at this author’s idiosyncratic road to atomism. On the one hand, Gorlaeus’Exercitationes philosophicae(1620) were published in roughly the same years as the first edition of Daniel Sennert’sDe chymicorum cum Aristotelicis consensu ac dissensu(1619); the second edition of Nicholas Hill’sPhilosophia epicurea(1619); Francis Bacon’sInstauratio magna(1620); Sébastien Basson’sPhilosophia naturalis(1621); Jean d’Espagnet’sEnchyridion physicae(1623); and Galileo Galilei’sSaggiatore(1623) – all works that contained...

  7. Chapter 4 Gorlæus’ Place in the History of Seventeenth-Century Thought
    (pp. 133-162)

    Gorlaeus died in the spring of 1612. We do not know where and why he died, nor whether he had been ill for some time before passing away; perhaps he had contracted malaria, as presumably did his father, who also died in 1612.¹ All we have is his tomb and his two posthumous publications, theExercitationes philosophicae(published in 1620) and theIdea physicae(published in 1651). From the unfinished state of the concluding part of theExercitationes, we may conclude that Gorlaeus was still working on his longer treatise when he died. One in fact senses that his decision...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 163-194)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-216)
  10. Index
    (pp. 217-226)