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Principia Philosophiae + Specimina Philosophiae: seu dissertatio de methodo Rectè regendae rationis, & veritatis in scientiis investigandae: Dioprice, et Meteora. Ex Gallico translata, & ab Auctore perlecta, variisque in locis emendata.
Amsterdam, Elzevier, 1644. 4to. Bound in one contemporary full vellum binding. Inner hinges weak and capitaks a bit worn with small lacks of vellem. Cords at lower capital loosening. But all in all a very nice, completely unsophisticated copy. A very light damp stain to parts of first work. Otherwise just very light soiling and a few small stains. Two leaves with a small lack of paper to the blank margin, far from affecting text. Housed in a later custom-made full cloth box with gilt leather title-label to spine. Contemporary/early annotations throughout, and a diagram to front free end-paper. Blank verso of the final leaf and final blanks with pencil-annotations and early ink-calculations. With the book plate of Franz Sondheimer to inside of front board. Woodcut title-vignettes. Richly illustrated with numerous woodcut illustrations and diagrams in both works, some full-page. (22) pp., 1 f. (blank), 310 pp., 1 f. (blank) + (16), 331 pp.. The uncommon first edition of Descartes' main work of physics, the seminal "Principles of Philosophy", one of the most important works of philosophy and physics since Aristotle. It is in this groundbreaking work that the "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") appears for the first time in the form in which we know it today and here that Descartes elaborates properly on it and puts it into the context that has been formative for philosophy - and modern thought in general - since then. Futhermore, it is in this work that we find the first formulation of what is now known as "Newton's First Law of Motion", which Newton borrowed from Descartes and later included in his own "principia". The "Principles of Philosophy" is in many ways related to the "Discourse on the Method"; Descartes had a translation made into Latin of that work in 1644 and it is likely that he intended this to accompany the first printing of his "Principles". And so, as is often the case, we here have withbound the first printing of the "Specimina Philosophiae", which constitutes the first translation into Latin of the "Discours" - which as opposed to general assumption does not contain the phrase "ego cogito, ergo sum". Nonetheless, this first Latin edition played a seminal role in the spreading of Descartes' ideas, as well into the 19th century, the Latin version reached a far larger audience than the French text.As such, the present volume can arguably be considered the principal source of Cartesian thought and the main influence on contemporary as well as later philosophical and scientific thinking.The "Principles", which was written in Latin, published in 1644, and translated into French in 1647, constitutes Descartes' general system of physics. In 1637, in the "Discourse", Descartes had put forward a limited sample of his new philosophy, accompanied by the essays on optics, meteorology, and geometry, to which he applied his method. This work recounted his own life journey and explained how he had come to the position of doubting his previous knowledge and seeking to begin afresh. It did not, however, contain the actual principles of his physics. Only after having published his "Meditations", could he actually present to the world his entire physics. "Once Descartes had presented his metaphysics, he felt free to proceed with the publication of his entire physics. However, he needed first to teach it to speak Latin, the lingua franca of the seventeenth century. He hatched a scheme to publish a Latin version of his physics (the "Principles") together with a scholastic Aristotelian work on physics, so that the comparative advantages would be manifest. For this purpose, he chose the "Summa philosophiae" of Eustace of St. Paul. That part of his plan never came to fruition. His intent remained the same: he wished to produce a book that could be adopted in the schools, even Jesuit schools such as La Flêche. Ultimately, his physics was taught in the Netherlands, France, England, and parts of Germany...The extant "Principles" offer metaphysics in Part I; the general principles of physics, in the form of his matter theory and laws of motion, are presented in Part II, as following from the metaphysics; Part III concerns astronomical phenomena; and Part IV covers the formation of the earth and seeks to explain the properties of minerals, metals, magnets, fire, and the like, to which are appended discussions of how the senses operate and a final discussion of methodological issues in natural philosophy." (SEP).Setting forth the principles of nature, i.e. the laws of physics, Descartes here presented a work of fundamental significance to the trajectory of modern physics. Most notably, he set forth the principle that in the absence of external forces, an object's motion will be uniform and in a straight line - the principle that is now known as "Newton's First Law of Motion", which Newton borrowed directly from the present work and included in his own "Principia". As to its impact upon modern philosophy, the present work can hardly be over-estimated. It is here that arguably the most famous sentence in the entire history of philosophy - "ego cogito, ergo sum" - appears for the first time in this iconic form, and it is likewise here that Descartes' famous note to it and his full elaboration of the concept appear for the first time. Descartes first wrote the phrase in French in his "Discours de la Méthode". He then referred implicitly to it in "Meditationes de Prima Philosophia", but without explicitly stating the familiar form of the phrase. The earliest written record of the phrase in Latin, in the form in which we know it and refer to it to this day, is in the first printing of the present work, "Principia Philosophiae", where he also provides a clear explanation of his intent in a margin note.The paragraph that has gone down in history as formative for the trajectory of modern philosophy, goes like this (Part 1, article 7):"Sic autem rejicientes illa omnia, de quibus aliquo modo possumus dubitare, ac etiam, falsa esse fingentes, facilè quidem, supponimus nullum esse Deum, nullum coelum, nulla corpora; nosque etiam ipsos, non habere manus, nec pedes, nec denique ullum corpus, non autem ideò nos qui talia cogitamus nihil esse: repugnat enim ut putemus id quod cogitat eo ipso tempore quo cogitat non existere. Ac proinde haec cognitio, "EGO COGITO, ERGO SUM" [in italics in the original], est omnium prima & certissima, quae cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat."And the famous margin note to this paragraph: "Non posse à nobis dubitari, quin existamus dum dubitamus: at que hoc esse primum quod ordine philosophando cognoscimus."(Translation: "While we thus reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves even have neither hands nor feet, nor, finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not while we doubt of the truth of these things; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very time when it thinks. Accordingly, the knowledge, "I think, therefore I am", is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly." Note: "That we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt, and that this is the first knowledge we acquire when we philosophize in order.").- AND THUS, THE BEDROCK OF FUTURE PHILOSOPHICAL AND SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY HAD BEEN FORMULATED. The "Specimina philosophiae" constitutes the first Latin translation of the "Discours de la méthode", with considerable amendments (and without the essay on Geometry). "The "Specimina philosophiae" (Amsterdam: Elzevier, 1644) are preceded by a notice in which Descartes authorizes the text as a faithful translation of his "Discours" and "Essais", and announces that he has made some changes in the original content. This raises questions about the nature, extent and background of these authorial interventions - questions that are all the more important because until well into the 19th century, the Latin version reached a far larger audience than the French text. Nonetheless, the differences between both texts had never been researched systematically..." (review of Corinna Vermeulen's thesis on the "Specimina Philosophiae").There is no doubt that the publication of the "Specimina" was somehow connected to that of the "Principia Philosophiae", which explains why the two works are often found together. Presumably, Descartes saw the "Principia" as the fulfilment of the the thought hinted at or presented in the "Discours" and desired the wider audience to have access to the principal theories of that work also when reading the full development of his physics and philosophy as formulated in the "Principia". Also, the "Specimina" specifies the ways in which the physical principles could be applied, and as such it constitutes a natural appendix to the principal work (i.e. the "Principles"). This might also explain why the Latin translation of the "Discours" (i.e. the "Specimina") has the parts on optics and on meteorology, but not the geometry
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