Nature, Artifice, and Discovery in Descartes’ Mechanical Philosophy

Nature, Artifice, and Discovery in Descartes’ Mechanical Philosophy
Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

Speaker: Deborah Brown

It is often assumed that in the early modern collapse of the Aristotelian distinction between art and nature, the collapse falls on the side of art. That is, all diversity among natures is simply the product of arrangements of matter that result blindly from the operation of laws instituted by the ‘divine artificer’. This paper looks at the collapse from the other angle—what is it that human artificers are doing and what is the status of the artefacts that they produce? Do human artificers make natures? Should a complex machine be thought of as having a distinctive nature aside from the nature of its parts (extension)? This paper considers these questions in the context of Descartes’ philosophy and aims to demystify the relationship between art and nature in the new mechanical philosophy.

Please note that these seminars are open to the public and in person only.

Date & time

Thu 21 Sep 2023, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Auditorium, Level 1, RSSS building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Deborah Brown (University of Queensland)


Sean Denahue


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