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Divine MachinesLeibniz and the Sciences of Life$
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Justin E. H. Smith

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691141787

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691141787.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Divine Machines
Author(s):

Justin E. H. Smith

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691141787.003.0001

This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the place of biology in early modern natural philosophy. “Biology,” though it did not yet exist in name, or even as a discrete domain of scientific inquiry, was at the very heart of many of the most important debates in seventeenth-century philosophy. Yet while in recent decades much important scholarly work has emerged on the early modern life sciences, the perception persists in the broader scholarly community that the seventeenth century was principally a period in which physics was of central importance. The chapter considers the role of the phenomena of life in the systems of Aristotle, Descartes, and Hobbes in the background of Leibniz's philosophy. It then summarizes the main points on which Leibniz distinguishes his theory from those of his predecessors in the history of philosophical reflection on the nature, structure, and generation of living entities.

Keywords:   G. W. Leibniz, biology, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, philosophy

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