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On Purpose$
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Michael Ruse

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691195957

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691195957.001.0001

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Aristotle Redivivus

Aristotle Redivivus

(p.129) Chapter Eight Aristotle Redivivus
On Purpose

Michael Ruse

Princeton University Press

This chapter explains occurrences during and after the Scientific Revolution, in which the personification of nature that is at the heart of the Aristotelian philosophy had a nasty way of reappearing in the most orthodox of machine-metaphor- influenced places. Even more than mechanics, optics was riddled with final-cause thinking. Pierrre de Fermat's “principle of least time” explains Snell's law of refraction, the connection between the angle of incidence and the angle of refraction. Since light going from a less dense to a denser medium is bent toward the normal, it is not going from beginning to end by the shortest distance. But assuming that light travels less quickly in a more dense than less dense medium, one can show that it does travel in the shortest time.

Keywords:   Scientific Revolution, Aristotelian philosophy, final-cause thinking, Pierrre de Fermat, refraction

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