Journal of the History of Philosophy 26 (4):547-569 (1988)

Timothy Shanahan
Loyola Marymount University
THERE IS WIDESPREAD AGREEMENT among historians that the writings of Robert Boyle (1697-1691) constitute a valuable archive for understanding the concerns of seventeenth-century British natural philosophers. His writings have often been seen as representing, in one fashion or another, all of the leading intellectual currents of his day. ~ There is somewhat less consensus, however, on the proper historiographic method for interpreting these writings, as well as on the specific details of the beliefs expressed in them. Studies seeking to explicate Boyle's thought have been, roughly speaking, of two general sorts. On the one hand there are those studies of a broadly "intellectualist" orientation which situate his natural philosophy within the intellectual context provided by metaphysics, religion, and early modern science. In this connection his corpuscularianism has been shown to be motivated by specific epistemological, theological, as well as empirical concerns. One of the central aims of such studies has been to show that apparently discordant elements in his scientific thought are rendered coherent by referring them to such "non-scientific" commitments. Among studies of this sort might be mentioned the works of John Hedley Brooke, E. A. Burtt, Gary B. Deason, J. E. McGuire, R. Hooykaas, Robert H. Kargon, Eugene M. Klaaren, P. M. Rattansi, and Richard S. Westfall.
Keywords Robert Boyle  17th c. natural philosophy  science and religion
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DOI 10.1353/hph.1988.0088
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