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522 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 33:3 JULY 199 5 Michael Hunter, editor. Robert Boyle Reconsidered. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. xviii + 231. Cloth, $49.95. At Robert Boyle's funeral on January 7, 1692, Bishop Gilbert Burnet, who had known Boyle personally, spoke at length about his friend's character and accomplishments. He eulogized Boyle's pious life as one exemplified by humility, temperance, and charity . Applauding his wide-ranging knowledge, Burnet listed Boyle's familiarity with the abstruse mathematical sciences, geography, navigation, the scriptures, as well as Hebrew and oriental languages. Rather than receiving special mention, Boyle's experimental works and study of nature were listed only as evidence of his extensive knowledge and scholarship. Characterized as a "Christian Philosopher," Boyle's scientific endeavors were mentioned by Burnet as only an offshoot of his deeply religious and moral sentiments. Three hundred years later this general view of Boyle has been replaced by one emphasizing his contributions to developments in modern science, particularly chemistry , and an experimental methodology. He has been heralded as the one who opened the door to modern chemistry by releasing it from the secretive and smoky confines of the alchemist's furnace. More recent works by J. R. Jacob, Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer have examined Boyle's work in chemistry and scientific method in terms of the social and political context of late seventeenth-century England. This trend to contextualize Boyle is continued and extended with this new volume of eleven essays edited by Michael Hunter. Boyle is truly "reconsidered" here as a complex and sophisticated thinker, reflecting in part the recent availability of scholarly resources such as Boyle's manuscript papers and letters which have only recently been catalogued and published. Rather than focusing exclusively on political or ideological aspects of Boyle's work, however, a wider range of factors are examined in the essays comprising this volume, including his theological, ethical, philosophical, and alchemical interests. Hunter's introductory chapter clearly outlines the history of Boyle scholarship from early internalist interpretations to more recent socio-political examinations. Acknowledging the shift in perspective that sociological studies provided, Hunter presents this volume as a contribution to Boyle scholarship that expands even further our view of this important figure in seventeenth-century thought by drawing on the full extent of Boyle's intellectual interests. Malcolm Oster (Chap. 2) examines Boyle's political views during the upheavals of civil war by drawing on Boyle's ethical works, which have never previously been accorded such importance in influencing political attitudes. Oster presents a picture of Boyle that incorporates his upbringing and early writings to show that he sought to transcend political partisanship. Another underexamined aspect of Boyle, namely, his aptitude for philosophical studies, is examined by J. J. Macintosh (Chap. 12). Also drawing on unpublished manuscript material, Macintosh examines Boyle's views on God's existence and the occurrence of miracles by comparing them to I_x~ke's views and finding them sophisticated and even superior to Locke's. Boyle's philosophical sophistication is echoed by Antonio Clericuzio (Chap. 5) who reconsiders one of BOOK REVIEWS 523 Boyle's most well-known books, the ScepticalChymist, and argues that Boyle sought to place chemical study within a more philosophical context. John Harwood (Chap. 3) illustrates how Boyle self-consciously used rhetoric to create an influential and persuasive public image, thereby promoting his position in natural philosophy as well as theology and philosophy. Boyle's experimental work is also reconsidered in this volume. Always acknowledged as being one of the foundation-stones of traditional Boyle studies, his experimentalism is given a more sophisticated consideration by Rose-Mary Sargent (Chap. 4), who shows how Boyle's experimentalism was influenced not only by the contemporary context of the practical works of artisans and craftsmen around him but also by Baconian and Cartesian intellectual traditions. Several chapters deal with Boyle's alchemical pursuits, ignored completely or merely scoffed at by early histories of science. B.J.T. Dobbs's pioneering study of the importance of alchemy in Newton's science has led scholars to investigate the important role alchemy played for other natural philosophers of the time. William Newman (Chap...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 522-523
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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