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

154 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~7: ~ JANUARY ~989 Given his concern with Hobbes's views about science, method and related topics, especially as they are presented in De Corpore, it is strange that Sorell does not refer to the work by Hungerland and Vick, some of which appeared in this journal, and a recent translation and commentary on the first part of De Corpore(New York: Abaris Books, 1981 ). Sorell often quotes a seventeenth-century translation, as if it were Hobbes's own text. Yet, although he approved it, it is not Hobbes's own text, and one can object to certain key passages of that translation. It would have been wiser for Sorell to quote the more recent and readable translation. What is most lacking in Sorell's book is any significant attention to Hobbes's views about religion. This omission is objectionable because Sorrell represents himself as giving a general account of Hobbes's philosophy and putting it into a correct historical context. In fact, the account is distorted by ignoring the importance of religion for both Hobbes and his contemporaries. These criticisms should not obscure the genuine merits of this book. It contains a thoughtful and fresh approach to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. A. P. MARTINICH University of Texas, Austin Gideon Freudenthal, Atom and Individual in the Age of Newton. On the Genesis of the Mechanistic World View. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1986. Pp. xv + ~76. $49.oo. This study of Newtonian natural philosophy is such an exceptionally important contribution to the literature of the history and philosophy of science that it is a shame it is presented in a form virtually guaranteed to limit its readership. Unfortunately, too, the translation of this fine, delicately argued, work is ponderous and often nearly opaque. A price of $49.00 for a relatively modest book (bereft of illustrations, graphs, colors, or equations, but liberally studded with typos and misspellings) is ridiculous, all the more galling in a book conceived within a Marxist framework; only libraries will buy it. Yet this is a work of fundamental importance, for it deftly reframes two of the longest-running and most critical debates in the literature: the first, whether and how the rise of science in the seventeenth century was related to the raging social, religious, political, and economic battles with which it occupied the stage in early modern Europe ; the second, whether a socially defined science becomes relativistic, its substance determined merely by convention. Or, in Leibniz' formulation, "Is there a different logic in London than in Hanover?" Freudenthal wisely rejects the either/or straightjacket of the "internal/external" debate in the history of science. Instead, his analysis of Newton's theory of absolute space reveals its unexamined presupposition: that a system of the world can be explained on the basis of the essential properties of its constituent particles--essential in the sense that, were there only one particle in the world, it would have that property. Thus, inertia is essential, since such an imaginary singly existing particle would necessarily be inert, while gravitation is not, for a lone particle would have nothing to BOOK REVIEWS 155 gravitate to. (While not an essential property, gravitation nonetheless is a universal property, that is, true of every body we know about.) Examining a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century natural philosophers and social theorists (Francis Bacon, Hobbes, the Levellers, Locke, Rousseau, and Adam Smith), Freudenthal shows how Newton's assumption about "essential" properties arose out of the larger social context of seventeenth-century England: "In the controversy with feudal theory, which conceived society as a naturally necessary, hierarchical organism, bourgeois theoreticians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries based their arguments on the analysis of exchange relations, in which individuals appear as independent private proprietors." Decades of such arguments by 1687 had established as a given the "atomistic" relationship of part to whole. Against Newtonian (and other reductionistic) philosophies, Freudenthal contrasts the ontology of Leibniz, whose physics (and social philosophy) were based on different methodological procedures, in which the properties of each particle are defined by the characteristics of the overall physical (or social...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 154-156
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.