An Aristotelian Defense of Newton: The Jesuit Theory of Matter in France


Researcher: Marco Storni

The subproject aims at a global reassessment of the Jesuits’ standing in the French reception of Newton’s natural philosophy during the first half of the eighteenth century. The research will focus, first and foremost, on the Jesuits’ versions of "Newtonianism": did they endeavor to conciliate Newton’s natural philosophy with Aristotle’s? Did the acceptance of Newtonian ideas, especially on the structure of matter and on the forces operating in nature (viz. gravitation), entail the elaboration of new philosophical models of the natural world?

Questions will also be raised on the place of Descartes in the Jesuits’ appropriation of the Newtonian paradigm: was Cartesian thought used as a positive reference, or was it rather criticized? In the latter case, did the reference to Newton, and the integration of Newtonian ideas in an Aristotelian framework, play a relevant role in opposing Descartes?