Copernicus, Epicurus, Galileo, and Gassendi

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ABSTRACT. In his Letters on the motion impressed by a moving mover, Gassendi offers a theory of the motion of composite bodies that closely follows Galileo’s. Elsewhere, he describes the motion of individual atoms in very different terms: individual atoms are always in motion, even when the body that contains them is at rest; atomic motion is discontinuous although the motion of composite bodies is at least apparently continuous; and atomic motion is grounded in an intrinsic vis motrix, motive power, while composite bodies simply persist in their state of motion or rest in the absence of outside intereference. Gassendi does not make much effort to explain how his accounts of atomic and composite motion fit together, and it’s difficult to see how they could possible be integrated. My goal is to explain, given this difficulty, why he accepted both the Galilean theory of the motion of composite bodies and the Epicurean theory of atomic motion.
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Archival date: 2015-09-07
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