William Gilbert’s 1600 book, De magnete, greatly influenced early modern natural philosophy. The book describes an impressive array of physical experiments, but it also advances a metaphysical view at odds with the soon to emerge mechanical philosophy. That view was animism. I distinguish two kinds of animism – Aristotelian and Platonic – and argue that Gilbert was an Aristotelian animist. Taking Robert Boyle as an example, I then show that early modern arguments against animism were often effective only against Platonic animism. In fact, unacknowledged traces of Aristotelian animism can be found in Boyle’s mechanical account of nature. This was Gilbert’s legacy.
© 2021 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology