Robert Boyle
The Sceptical Chymist and The Christian Virtuoso
London, 1661
and 1690

In The Sceptical Chymist (1661), Boyle attacks the Aristotelian theory of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and also the three principles (salt, sulfur, and mercury) proposed by Paracelsus. Instead, he developed the concept of primary particles which by coalition produce corpuscles. According to this concept, different substances result from the number, position, and motion of the primary matter-- conceptually the simplest of all possible accounts. According to this view, all natural phenomena were explained not by Aristotelian elements and qualities (the remnants of a biological mode of construal), but by the motion and organization of primary particles.

In The Christian Virtuoso (1690), he presents the view that nature is a clocklike mechanism that had been made and set in motion by the Creator at the beginning and now functions according to secondary laws, which could be studied by science--a wholeheartedly mechanistic viewpoint. However, he maintains a dualistic perspective on the human soul, which he sees as incorporeal and nobler than the moving corpuscles of which the body is composed.

See also his article "The Excellence and Grounds of the Mechanical Philosophy", published in his Philosophical Works (London, 1725), I.187.








Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles