Experiment and Speculation in Seventeenth-Century Italy: The Case of Geminiano Montanari

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This paper reconstructs the natural philosophical method of Geminiano Montanari, one of the most prominent Italian natural philosophers of the late seventeenth century. Montanari’s views are used as a case study to assess recent claims concerning early modern experimental philosophy. Having presented the distinctive tenets of seventeenth-century experimental philosophers, I argue that Montanari adheres to them explicitly, thoroughly, and consistently. The study of Montanari’s views supports three claims. First, experimental philosophy was not an exclusively British phenomenon. Second, in spite of some portrayals of experimental philosophy as an ‘atheoretical’ or ‘purely descriptive’ enterprise, experimental philosophers could consistently endorse a variety of natural philosophical explanations and postulate theoretical entities. Third, experimental philosophy and mechanical philosophy were not, as such, antagonistic. They could be consistently combined in a single philosophical enterprise.
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