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Biology and the limits of mechanisation

In this video, we explore how biology, and animal generation in particular, presented a special test case for the mechanistic worldview.

Many of the scientists and philosophers of the seventeenth century found it hard to see how animals could be generated from the mere sticking together of particles as guided by the laws of motion. Perhaps stones could be formed in this way, but organic structures were just way too complex to result from the mechanical interplay of minute parts of matter.

In this video, we see how thinkers such as the English biologist, William Harvey (1578-1657), and the French philosopher, Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), dealt with this problem. As we will see, Harvey in his account of animal generation harkened back to the toolkit of Aristotelian natural philosophy. Malebranche, on the contrary, argued that God had created the first female member of each animal species as a kind of Russian doll, in which miniature versions of all future generation were already somehow contained.

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The Scientific Revolution: Understanding the Roots of Modern Science

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