Mersenne and the Learning of the Schools (Cornell History of by Peter Dear

By Peter Dear

Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) used to be a Jesuit knowledgeable Minim monk remembered by way of historians of technology basically for his prodigious correspondence with such contemporaries as Hobbes, Pascal and Descartes. Mersenne did unique paintings in arithmetic, mechanics astronomy and acoustics.

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John Dee, The Mathematical! Preface to the Elements of Gcometrie of Euclid of Megara (1570), intro. Allen G. Debus (New York, '975), [p. 61. , [pp. 7-121. 93· Gilbert, Renaissance Concepts, p. 84. 94. Francois de Dainville, "Foyers de culture scientifique dans la France meduerraneenne du XVI" au Xv l I l= siecle," Revue d'histoire des sciences 1 (1948),29°. Dialectic, Probabilism, and "Mitigated Scepticism" logicians [? analyticiJ examples of solid demonstrations; teaches politicians truly admirable methods for conducting affairs at home and during war; teaches physicists the manners and diversity of celestial move~ments, of light, of colors, of diaphanous bodies, of sounds; teaches metaphysicians the number of the spheres and intelligences; teaches theologians the principal parts of the divine creation; teaches jurists and canonists calendrical computation, not to speak of the services rendered by the work of mathematicians to the state, to medicine, to navigation, and to agriculture.

The Ideas of mathematics thus have their origin in the senses, as all ideas, according to Aristotle, must. This abstracted, intelligible matter, continues Blancanus, has a "mathematical perfection" not found in sensible matter (the matter of the physicist): a perfect triangle is seldom found "in the nature of things"-which, he says, has led some people to claim that mathematical entities exist only in the intellect. Blancanus is here confronting a version of the argument described earli-er with reference to numbers, and in giving an answer for geometry he also indicates one for arithmetic.

40 This material presents the view found in Suarez and certainly opposes Aquinas and Fonseca-and, on Wells's reading, Suarez himself. A consideration of the entire passage, however, makes it doubtful that Mersenne intended to endorse that view. God, Mersenne has been saying, is free to create anything not involving a contradiction (in itself a standard Thomistic position): "We also add that the divine power therefore by nature considers the possibles, not merely [non tantum] because they are necessary, and eternal, and, as others say, things in themselves independently of whatever cause are possible on account of the necessary connection, or nonrepugnance, of terms that.

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