In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 12 3 Truth), written, probably, between t677 and t69o, ~ and also in a letter to Varignon dated February 2, 17o2. a Leibniz believed Euclid's Elements to be a model of knowledge, but still open to criticism and perfectible. While Sanches excelled in criticism, Leibniz labored throughout his whole life upon the improvement of the Elements. Contrasting this mathematical model with Cartesian universal doubt, Leibniz invariably held that the latter was a rhetorical device.4 Sanches at least pointed out real faults of Leibniz's model of knowledge.5 This is only one reason we have for explaining Leibniz's strange respect for Sanches. Another could be that, as Borges said, great writers create their own precursors. EZEQUIEL DE OLASO National Council for Scientific Research, Argentina William H. Huffman. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance. London: Routledge, t988. Pp. xii + 252. $49.5 o. Robert Fiudd ought not to be seen as an oddity of the Scientific Revolution, but, argues William Huffman, as the foremost spokesman of an altogether valid world view in the early seventeenth century. Fludd's monumental, yet incomplete, Utriusque cosmi... historica (16 t 7-1621), his Medicina Catholica (1629- t 631), and his later MosaicaU Philosophy (1638) represent the culmination of Renaissance Christian Platonism. Yet, however valuable his writings, Fludd's written works reveal only part of his involvement in the intellectual and social life of the mid-seventeenth century. What has been missing in studies focused on Fludd, Huffman contends, is the personal context of friends, associates , and patrons. Looking here reveals that Fludd was anything but the occult eccentric that subsequent centuries made him out to be. Rather, he was accepted as an important, well-established intellectual figure and medical practitioner during his own time. In establishing the social and intellectual legitimacy of Fludd's ideas, Huffman shows that Fludd was associated with at least three distinct circles. The first, formed around John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester, was a center of alchemical activity. A second circle included several prominent English scholars and antiquaries, and a third was made up of medical colleagues. Beyond these, Fludd also enjoyed royal patronage, writing for James I an unpublished manuscript, the "Declaratio Brevis," which defended his apology of the Rosicrucian brotherhood, and gaining a royal patent for making steel in 162o. It was, Huffman suggests, Fludd's legitimate success in both medicine and chemistry that earned him respect from colleagues and patronage 55- ' Cf. Opusculesetfragments in~ditsde Leibniz, ed. L. Couturat (Paris: Alcan, 19o3), 191. 3 Cf. LeibnizensmathematischeSchriften, ed. C. I. Gerhardt (Berlin/Halle, 1849-63), 4:92-93 9 4 Cf. G. W. Leibniz. DiephilosophischenSchriften, ed. C. I. Gerhardt (Berlin, 1875-9o), 4: 3545 Cf. my study "Francisco Sanches e Leibniz," Analyse4 (Lisbon, 1986): 37-74- 124 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 29:~ JANUARY 1991 from the crown, and it is against this background, not against the hostile assaults of mechanical philosophers, that his written works should be considered. Huffman's survey of the literature of the Platonic Renaissance is sound and well informed. In terms of that literature, Fludd's work amounts to a "grand systematic synthesis" of Neoplatonic, Pythagorean, Gnostic, Stoic, and hermetic thinking. But to these occult views of nature Fludd also added his own ideas, discussing the process of creation as beginning with the appearance of "Hyle" ("an infinite mass or darke fog"), which is formed into a primeval Chaos by divine light, and deciding on the basis of Genesis that earth, air, fire, and water are actually secondary elements having their origins in a primary element, water. Fludd also added to the Neoplatonic tradition by creating images through which occult knowledge, especially the harmonies of the universe and the relation between spirit and matter, could be grasped. Huffman's description of Fludd's thinking, especially in the Mosaicall Philosophy, is instructive. However, it would have been even more helpful if Fludd's ideas had been compared to others that formed the larger arena of hermetic-Paracelsian philosophy. The concept of "Hyle," for instance, a central concept in Fludd's History of the Macrocosm (the first volume of his Utriusque cosmi.., historica) stems from Hermes and is criticized...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 123-125
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.