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The Medieval Tradition of Alchemical Corpuscular Theory

The Medieval Tradition of Alchemical Corpuscular Theory

Chapter:
(p.23) 1 The Medieval Tradition of Alchemical Corpuscular Theory
Source:
Atoms and Alchemy
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226577036.003.0002

To understand Sennert's approach to atomism and the significance of his work, this chapter begins with the tradition of experimental and corpuscular alchemy that formed his most important source. Like Sennert himself, this tradition was highly Aristotelian in character, and yet it reflected a type of Aristotelianism that finds little or no representation in modern histories of philosophy. As this book shows, the alchemists of the High Middle Ages established an experimentally based corpuscular theory that would develop over the course of several centuries and eventually supply important components to the mechanical philosophy of the scientific revolution. The very movement that devoted itself single-mindedly to the destruction of Aristotelian natural philosophy was itself indebted in highly significant ways to the Aristotelianism of the Latin alchemists. To understand Sennert and other authors, the chapter presents an overview of the Summa's immensely influential theory and its experimental basis.

Keywords:   medieval tradition, corpuscular theory, Daniel Sennert, alchemy, Aristotelianism, Latin alchemists, scientific revolution

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