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Robert Boyle on the laws of nature Hodding, Bruce Alan 1992

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ROBERT BOYLE ON THE LAWS OF NATUREbyBRUCE ALAN HODDINGB.A.(Honours), The University of Victoria, 1989A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIRMENT FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of History)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAApril 1992© Bruce Alan Hodding, 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of HistoryThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate^April 30. 1992DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThis thesis is an extensive investigation of the use and theconcept of the laws of nature in the works of Robert Boyle. Carehas been taken to place Boyle's use in both the general linguisticcontext of his age and the context of each specific text. Thethesis finds two uses of the laws of nature in Boyle's works, theprescriptive and descriptive, and traces these to two differenthistorical origins. It also traces Boyle's concept of the laws ofnature to two different medieval doctrines, voluntarism andconcurrentism. This thesis both challenges the received view ofthe origins of the laws of nature in the seventeenth century andargues that there is more continuity between the discourse of thelate middle ages and the early modern period than is sometimesthought. That is, in developing his concept of the laws of nature,Boyle translates the scholastic discourse of voluntarism andconcurrentism into the mechanical philosophy.iiTABLE OF CONTENTSABSTRACT^ iiACKNOWLEDGEMENT^ ivINTRODUCTION 1CHAPTER ONE^BOYLE'S USE OF THE "LAWS OF NATURE":^9IMPOSED LAW VERSES DESCRIPTIVE LAWCHAPTER TWO^CLOCKS OR PUPPETS: BOYLE'S CONCEPT^71OF THE LAWS OF NATURECONCLUSION 68BIBLIOGRAPHY^ 95iiiACKNOWLEDGEMENTI wish to thank my supervisor, Dr. Stephen M. Straker, for hissupport and comments during the formation of this thesis.iv1.INTRODUCTIONInterest in the emergence of the concept of the laws of naturehas recently been revived by Bas van Fraassen in his book Laws ahaSymmetry where he suggests that only in the seventeenth century didthis concept come "to stand for the central object of scientificinquiry, and for a pre-eminent candidate for explanation of thecharted phenomena."' Some years ago this question was addressedin three important papers. The first two works, by Edgar Zilseland Joseph Needham, offer a sociological account for the rise ofthe concept of the laws of nature in the seventeenth century. e inthe other work, Francis Oakley tries to account for the emergenceof the idea by reference to the long natural law tradition uponwhich one could draw for an analogy.' More recently, Jane E. Ruby1Bas van Fraassen, Laws and Symmetry (Oxford: Clarendon Press,1989) 1.eEdgar Zilsel, "The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law,"Philosophical Review 51 (1942): 245-279; Joseph Needham, "HumanLaws and the Laws of Nature in China and the West," Journai ot theilistory of Ideas 12 (1951): 3-30, 194-230. Although Needhamclaimed that he acted in ignorance of Zilsel's work (Needham lb, in46), the two are in almost complete agreement in arguing thatsociological reasons account for the rise of the concept of thelaws of nature. Needham goes beyond Zilsel, though, in arguingthat the sociological reasons which gave rise to the concept in thewest, although apparently present in China, were actually not fullythere and that any possible development of the concept of the lawsof nature was blocked by other sociological factors.'Francis Uakley, "Christian Theology and The NewtonianScience: The Rise of the Concepts of the Laws of Nature," uhurchIlistoisy . 30 (1961): 433-457. As Oakley notes, the phrase "laws ofnature" was used for both the moral and physical realms in theseventeenth century. For the purpose of this paper, though, inorder to keep the distinction clear, the phrase "natural law" willbe used to refer to the moral order and "laws of nature" to thenatural order.suggests that the origin of the modern descriptive sense of thelaws of nature finds its roots in the scientific tradition reachingback to Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century." However, what noneof these works tries to do is to clarify what was meant by the lawsof nature in the seventeenth century. Since a mere perusal of thevoluminous writings of Robert Boyle (fl. 1651-1691) reveals aconsiderable discussion of the idea of the laws of nature, it seemsthat a more careful reading of his works would permit a closerexamination of the emergence of this idea in the seventeenthcentury. If it could be discovered what Boyle meant by the phraseand its place in natural science, we could see whether theimportance of the laws of nature arises for Boyle from what mightbe called internal grounds, that is, from the very nature of thescience he is promoting, or whether there is a need, or to whatdegree there is a need for further explanation.Both Zilsel and Needham cite Boyle as a prime example in theiraccounting for the rise of the concept of the laws of nature bysociological factors.' They note that in Boyle there is a viewthat the laws of nature were prescribed by God. Zilsel assertsthat the modern concept of physical law finds its origin "in ajuridical metaphor," and in "theological ideas." Later he says"Jane E. Ruby, "The Origin of Scientific 'Law'," Jour.oai oftho Ilitory of Idt2ath3 47 (1966): 341 - 359.'Zilsel 247, 273-274; Needham 27, 29, 30.that "the law-metaphor originates in the Bibie...". 6 Zilsel notesthat the idea of God as the divine lawgiver is central to Judaismand had ramifications in both the physical and moral realms. Hegives the following examples of the idea in the physical realm.'In Job 28:26, God is described as making a law for the rain. TheHebrew word is chok from the verb chokak meaning to engrave. Itwas translated into Latin in the Vulgate as ponehat legem. Zilselstates that in the Vulgate the term "law" (lex) appeared one othertime, in Proverbs 8:29, but that there are several times when Godgives commands or prohibitions to nature. Among the ancientGreeks, the idea of a divine lawgiver for the physical world wasalso known. Most prominent of all the examples Zilsel gives arethose from the Stoics. Zeno's disciple Cleanthes, in a hymn toZeus, speaks three times about the "law according to which theprince of nature steers the universe." a There are also otherexamples from Chrysippus, Ovid, and Seneca.Zilsel accounts for the rise of the idea of God as the divinelawgiver by reference to the presence of strong central monarchieswhich led to the idea of human legislation being projected ontoGod. He also explains the Stoic use of the "law-metaphor" byaZilsel 246, 247, 263.^Needham places the origin of theconcept of a divine lawgiver for non-human natural phenomena inancient Babylon, but otherwise is in agreement with Zilsel; Needham18, 18-30. Oakley merely notes that the concept found its roots"deep in classical and Semitic antiquity"; Oakley, "Laws ofNature," 433.'Zilsel 247-248.6Zilsel 251.4reference to the rising monarchies of the time, the empireestablished by Alexander the Great. 9 The idea that nature issubject to God's commands lay dormant till the seventeenth century,till the return of the rise of absolute monarchies and strongcentral governments."' The concept of the laws of nature with Godas lawgiver arose only from a comparison of nature and state. Thatis, inanimate objects were likened to the citizens of a state:under obligation to obey the central ruler. Zilsel says that it isnot surprising that the Cartesian idea of God as the divinelegislator arose only forty years after Jean Bodin's theorysovereignty. itShortly after their work, a noted medievalist, Francis Oakley,challenged their account. While agreeing that the concept of thelaws of nature found its ultimate origin from the idea of a divinelawgiver, he rejects Zilsel and Needham's sociological explanationfor the emergence of the idea in the seventeenth century. He alsorejects their formulation of the question. Instead of asking whythe concept of the laws of nature came into prominence in theseventeenth century, Oakley asks why the view of the laws of natureas imposed emerged when it did after being suppressed for so longby the view of the laws of nature as immanent. Like the others,though, Oakley notes that the origin of the laws of nature is not9Zilsel 249-251."Zilsel 276-279."Zilsel 278.^Zilsel claims that Descartes was the firstnatural philosopher to use the "law-metaphor" in the strictlyscientific sense.5exactly the same as the origin of modern science and that thequestion is why mechanical regularities became interpreted asdivine laws. 12Oakley suggests that the weakness of the sociologicalexplanation is exposed by its inability to account for thedifferent metaphysics of the Stoic and Semitic ideas of the laws ofnature." in order to do this, Oakley draws on a distinction madeby Alfred North Whitehead in ,t4dventures of ideas between threedifferent concepts of the laws of nature: immanent, imposed, anddescriptive."Whitehead characterizes the immanent view of the laws ofnature as the concept that the order of nature is reflected in theessences or forms of things such that to know the essence ofsomething is to know its relation to other things." The idea ofimmanent law is constructed on the notion of "the essentialinterdependence of things," the metaphysics of "InternalRelations." On the other hand, the imposed view of the laws ofnature has a metaphysics of "External Relations," where independentparticulars are forced into relation with one another. There is noconnection between the laws of these relations and the inner"Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 434."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 434-435."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 436, fn. 23."A. N. Whitehead, /qdventures of Ideas, New York: Mentor Books,1955) 116-120. Note that among those who fall under this rubric,only the Stoics use the term "law."bnatures of the particulars; the order of nature is not reflected intheir essences. This view of the laws of nature involves the ideaof a transcendent divine lawgiver. It is sometimes referred to asthe prescriptive view. Finally, the descriptive view of the lawsof nature is a positivist idea that laws merely describe observedregularity without any attempt to give metaphysical explanation.In this case, laws carry no causal implications. !'Oakley shows that the Stoics had an immanent view of the lawsof nature and that the seventeenth-century natural philosophersheld the imposed law position. By making this distinction, Oakleyis able to question the sociological method of accounting for boththe Stoic and the seventeenth-century concepts of the laws ofnature by recourse to the same factor: the rise of politicalabsolutism. He suggests that because the Stoics had a view ofimmanent law, no idea of divine command could play a part in theirconcept of the laws of nature." He also claims that Descartes,rather than taking the analogy for the laws of nature from thepolitical sphere, took it from the ideas current about the moralorder which reflected a long voluntarist tradition of a God who"D.M. Armstrong says if laws of nature are seen as nothing butthe regularity of the behaviour of things then they can not be usedas an explanation, and to extrapolate from this they can not becausal. He writes: "to say that all F's are G's because of the lawthat all F's are G's is a good explanation unless law is a mereregularity, for it says that all F's are G's because all F's areG's." See his What is a Law of Nature? (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1983) 40."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 437, fn. 28.imposes moral law according to his free choice." He then notesthat Boyle, as well as Descartes and Newton, held the view of thelaws of nature as imposed by God. Oakley concludes that themetaphysical change necessary for the emergence of classicalscience was the Semitic idea of God as the transcendent lawgiverreplacing the Greek idea of an immanent or even pantheistic God."A more recent article by Jane E. Ruby challenges not only thesociological accounting of the emergence of the concept of the lawsof nature in the seventeenth century but also the received notionthat modern scientific law has "its origins in the metaphor ofdivine legislation, with the prescriptive connotations subsequentlydisappearing." 2° Ruby notes that Boyle is often used to supportthis view. She does not dispute that Boyle held the imposed lawposition but tries to show that a merely descriptive view of law inconnection with nature was held before Boyle and the seventeenthcentury, namely in the thirteenth century by Roger Bacon. She alsonotes that this connection between "laws" and nature was done inabsence of those sociological factors that Zilsel and Needham useto support their claim and several centuries before the conditionsthey describe arose. 21In Boyle's works there are many references to the word "law.""Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 438, 441."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 451-452.245Ruby 341.21Inexplicably, as there are so few works on the rise of theconcept of the laws of nature, Ruby does not deal with Uakley'sarticle.tiHe speaks of law relating to rational creatures such as moral andcivil law, and law referring to abstract ideas to mean somethingsimilar to the common use of the word "rule." For example, intalking about his own writing style, Boyle says "I have knowinglyand purposely transgressed the laws of oratory..." (1:J05). Inthis case, "law" denotes some good internal to the thing inquestion. Boyle also refers to laws in connection with non-rational, non-sentient bodies. These instances are noted asphysical laws and are the object of this investigation. This paperwill try to show that there are two sources for Boyle's conceptionof the laws of nature and that the problem is far more complex thanhas heretofore been suggested. Following this, an attempt will bemade to place Boyle's concept of the laws of nature in some sort ofcontext. Finally, this paper will conclude by considering whetherthis project has assisted in furthering the discourse over theemergence of the concept of the laws of nature to its position ofprominence in the seventeenth century.•JCHAPTER IBOYLE'S USE OF "THE LAWS OF NATURE":IMPOSED LAW VERSES DESCRIPTIVE LAWThe earliest use by Boyle of the word "law" in connection withthe physical world appears in^Considerations touching theUsefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy.^This work waspublished in 1663, but internal evidence points to it being writtenmuch earlier. In the "Author's Advertisement," Boyle says that itwas written ten or twelve years before when he was about 21 or 22years old (II:4). 88 That would put the date at either 1651 - 1653or 1648 - 1649. 83 The book was written ostensibly to a friend,whom Boyle called "Pyrophilus" (II:4), but it seems that its realintent was a Baconian attempt to promote the advancement ofknowledge through observation and experimentation and to justifythis through the practical applications of the findings. This wasthe first volume and it contains two parts, each with five essayson various subjects relating to natural philosophy. A secondvolume with the same title was published eight years later.In the first essay of the first part, entitled "Of theUsefulness of Experimental Philosophy, principally as it relates tothe Mind of Man," Boyle twice refers to physical laws. He arguesAll parenthetical references in the text are to the sixvolume collection: Robert Boyle, The Works, ed. Thomas Birch, 2nded. (1772; Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1965). TheRoman numeral refers to the volume number and the Arabic numeralrefers to the page number.23For various reasons, R.S. Westfall puts the date at 1653.See his "Unpublished Boyle Papers relating to Scientific Method,"fInnals of Science 12 (1956) : 65, fn 6.iuthat man, being such a noble creature, should not live "ignorant orunstudious of the laws and constitutions of that great commonwealth(as divers of the antients have not improperly styled theworld)..." (II:9). Early in the same paragraph he was speaking of"nature's mysteries" and undoubtedly would interchange "nature"with "commonwealth" or "world" here, so when he speaks of the lawsof the commonwealth or world he means the same thing as when hespeaks of the laws of nature. It is evident, however, that hefeels no need to explain here what he means by laws, probablybecause the use of the term was common enough. 2*Later, Boyle avers his notion both of the place of the laws ofnature, as the proper study of natural philosophy, and of theinnumerability of them: "But the objects of natural philosophybeing as many as the laws and works of nature, are so various andso numberless..." (II:10). In these first references to the lawsof nature it appears that Boyle is using the phrase to mean therules governing the behaviour of bodies. That is, it is used in acollective fashion to refer to all the specific laws that governnature which, as we will see later, are in some sense descriptivelaws.The second essay of the first part, simply titled "0/ theSame," carries on the discussion of the first essay. Here, whileasserting that the universe was made for man, and using the bibleand ancient authors to build his case, Boyle reveals his knowledge24As will be shown later, many people in seventeenth-centuryEngland used the phrase "laws of nature."11of, and perhaps his debt to, the ancient Stoics. He states that,although Lactantius said the Stoics did believe that the world wasmade for man, Seneca dissented, using these words which Boylequotes:Non causs inundc aUMUS hyemon asstatemque reterendi; suss istages h bent qu i bus dl 3 na ercen t ur. N.L m E.'s U5 ci ri uasi digni nobls videmur, propter quos tants movusntur; 'We arenot the cause of the seasons and returns of summer and winterto the world: these have their own laws, accommodated to theexercise of divine beings. We arrogate too much honour to ourselves, if we esteem our selves worthy, that such vast bodiesshould fulfil such motions for our sakes' (II:18)."Clearly Boyle knew of the Stoic use of the word "law" in connectionwith nature and knew so early on in his career. However, the rolethat the Stoic notion played in Boyle's thought is difficult todetermine. Undoubtedly, he also knew of the Biblical use. Itwould appear in the passage just cited that Seneca's use of law inreference to non-sentient bodies is metaphorical although thismight be presumptuous as the ancients did believe that divinebeings moved the planets and stars. In his sketch of the rise ofthe concept of the laws of nature, Zilsel calls the Stoic usemetaphorical. 26Further on in the same work, in an essay entitled "Containinga requisite Digression concerning those, that would exclude theDeity from intermeddling with Matter," Boyle first connects thelaws of nature with God. He claims that many who wish to deny Godonly inquire as to the immediate cause of the phenomena and stop25Boyle's translation. The marginal note is "Secundo De Ira,cap. 27."e62ilsel 251.12there. If they were to go further, Boyle avers, they would findthat the primary cause of things is either certain "fixt laws ofnature," or the size, shape, motion, primary affections, andarrangements of matter, and that all of these point to an"intelligent author of things," that is, God (11:37). It seemsthat Boyle is using the term "fixt" here as an intransitive verb tomean rigid, just as he later uses the term "settled" in connectionwith the laws of nature. That is, he is not saying in thisinstance that the laws of nature were established by God; he doesthis later.Boyle defines what he means by the laws of nature in anexplanatory bracket where he calls them the "rules of action andpassion among the parcels of the universal matter" (11:37). Thisseems to include the notion of cause and effect since he was justdiscussing the search for the causes of phenomena. If such is thecase, then Boyle is talking about causal law which means they arenot merely descriptive. Note that on the one hand, by calling thelaws of nature the "rules of action and passion," Boyle is reducingthe laws of nature to the laws of motion. All in Boyle'smechanical philosophy is to be ultimately accounted for by matterin motion. On the other hand, Boyle interchanges "rules" for"laws." The significance of this could possibly mean for Boylewhat Ruby has shown it meant for Roger Bacon. e7Bacon interchanged "rule" (regula) for "law" (1c N). Rubyshows that for Bacon lex used interchangeably with roguja merely27Ruby 347-348.stood for a description of the behaviour of entities. In thiscase, Bacon was speaking of optics so the entity was rays of light.Ruby says that early on in its Roman use regula took on the meaningof "rule" in the sense of "guideline or standard." She says thatipx was also used to mean standards or customs developed for thepractice of various disciplines. By Bacon's time, both 1,:), andrseguld, were used in this non-prescriptive manner to indicate notwhat was set down by authorities but what was inherent in thenature of the thing. Ruby notes, though, that in the thirteenthcentury, ieN shifted between a vaguely prescriptive-descriptivemeaning and a clearly descriptive meaning.However, by connecting in the passage the laws of nature withGod, Boyle is showing that he views the laws of nature as evidenceof purposeful design. This is implied by his use of the phrase"the intelligent author of things" although, as mentioned earlier,Boyle does not say here that God established the laws. It seemsthat in this case Boyle is restraining from speaking about laws ina prescriptive fashion.Boyle goes on to make the link between God and the laws ofnature even more explicit when he says that God made, arranged, andset in motion matter so that the phenomena God intended to resultdo in fact result and "must as orderly follow, and be exhibited bythe bodies necessarily acting according to those impressions orlaws" (11:39). Note that Boyle does not say that God establishedthe laws. His use is still descriptive. He connects the idea ofthe laws of nature with the order found in nature; they are14responsible for the order so that the laws of nature are more thanjust descriptive, they are necessary, they are something deeper.The reference here to "impressions," it seems, relates to the ideaof motion rather than to the idea of order. It is not usedinterchangeably with laws.It appears though that Boyle is well aware of the prescriptiveidea of the laws of nature, which he will refer to later, since herejects as metaphorical or figurative the ascription of laws tomatter. He first questions how those who adhere to the idea ofanima munch can claim that brute matter "can act according to laws,and for determinate ends, without any knowledge either of one or ofthe other" (II:38). aa So when Boyle goes on to say that phenomenaresult from God setting matter in motion, he claims that bodies actaccording to the laws of nature "though they understand them not atall" (11:39). He uses the clock analogy of the parts of the clockworking without knowledge or intent yet acting in an orderly andseemingly purposeful fashion and achieving what appears to bedeterminate ends. Note, though, that these laws hold a criterionof necessity; they are not merely descriptive.In the same work, Boyle asserts that bodies act according tothe laws of nature,as if there were diffused through the universe an intelligentbeing, watchful over the publick good of it, and careful toadminister all things wisely for the good of the particular"The idea of anima mundi was an extreme version of theNeoplatonic idea of a Spirit of Nature, which was used by suchseventeenth-century Platonists as Thomas Vaughan. See Robert A.Greene, "Henry More and Robert Boyle on the Spirit of Nature,"Journal or the Hi5tc,r'y of Idea5 23 (1962): 451.13parts of it, but so far as is consistent with the good of thewhole, and the preservation of the primitive and catholicklaws established by the supreme cause (II:39).Boyle denies that God is physically diffused throughout theuniverse, personally guiding matter in a law-like fashion; he onlystates that it appears so. However, this seems to be a concessionto Henry More's idea of the Spirit of Nature. It is interesting,though, that it should come in a work where Boyle is countering theidea of anima mundi. E.A. Burtt says that in this case Boyle hadforgotten "his antagonism to this doctrine of the Cambridge divine[Henry More], "29 but this can not be so. It could be that Boyleuses "as if" to stress the similarity of his and More's accountingfor the phenomena. More, in the Immortality of the 6Oul, says thatthe Spirit of Nature works in a manner like the laws of nature,that is, consistently and inevitably. 3O However, later Boyle willtalk about God's action in the universe in such a fashion thatleads one to believe that he may have more in common with More'sidea of the extended Deity than he admits.In the passage just quoted it is the first time that Boylesays in any way that God established the laws of nature and it isthe first instance of any clearly prescriptive view of the laws ofnature. It is also the first time that Boyle speaks about thepreservation of the laws of nature but it seems in this case thatBurtt,^Nutaphysical Foundations of No/1e1 -T'? Physlai9cionce, 2nd ed. (1932; London: Routledge and Regan Paul Limited,1972) 193.3°Greene 461; More's work was published in 1659, at least sevenor eight years after this work by Boyle.16he does not suggest that there is a providential care of a reifiedset of laws, but rather that the law-like action of bodies is notviolated in any way. It should be mentioned that nowhere doesBoyle ever talk about the immanent view of the laws of nature. Hisuse is always either the imposed view or the descriptive view, orsomething in between. That is, Boyle views nature as a collectionof unconnected particulars that either are forced into arelationship with one another by an external force, God, or aremerely described in such a fashion that they appear connected.Also in this essay, Boyle for the first time refers tospecific physical laws. In the first instance, the context is adiscussion, by way of example, of why gold will sink in mercurywhile other bodies will float on it. Boyle feels that themechanical philosophy can better account for the phenomena than canthe notion of occult sympathies. He asserts that "gold being theonly body heavier than quicksilver of the same bulk, the known lawsof the Hydrostaticks make it necessary, that gold should sink init, and all lighter bodies swim on it" (11:36). Boyle goes on tosay that the cause for this is gravity, but then states that whatgravity is may be considered as mysterious as the notion of occultsympathies. Whatever gravity is then, in such an accounting, thelaws of hydrostatics merely describe the behaviour of the liquidmercury. That is, it is merely a descriptive or a phenomenologicallaw. However, it is only in Boyle's accounting of the phenomenathat such a law could even be described. To see the phenomena asa body sinking in liquid because of gravity means that this17behaviour can be described according to hydrostatical laws. Incontrast, to see the phenomena as the result of occult sympathiesmeans that the behaviour is not subsumed under this pattern oflaws. In other words, if one was to assert the notion of occultsympathies, the order of the phenomena would be different as adifferent cause would be assigned.The other instance of a reference to a physical law occurs inthe next essay, which returns to the original discussion of theusefulness of mechanical philosophy. Here Boyle is speaking of howthe eyeball is evidence of God's design and creation of the world.He says that an optical lens, in this case the eyeball of a whiterabbit, will cause an image to be inverted, "according to theoptical laws" (11:53). Again, the law is descriptive, but thistime not of the motion of matter, but of the behaviour of the raysof light in refraction.The next work of Boyle's to mention physical laws isHydrostatical Paradoxes, made out by New Experiments which waspublished in 1666 but was obviously written in some form earlier asit was presented to the Royal Society in May, 1664 (11:745). init, Boyle sketches several paradoxes and in looking for the causeof one paradox, notes that a certain object must sink in water"according to the known laws of hydrostaticks" (11:756). This useis similar to the other use of the physical law just given. Thediscourse, though, was written ostensibly as a response to a bookby Pascal which contained two treatises: one on the equilibrium ofliquors, and the other on the weight of the mass of the air. Inlbtalking about the book, Boyle says that the conclusions are"consonant to the principles and laws of the Hydrostaticks"(11:745). Boyle interchanges the terms "principles" and "laws"here. This seems to recall Ruby's note of the interchange of"rule" and "law." That is, both "rule" and "principle" mean aguideline that is inherent to the thing in question and notimposed. Furthermore, "principle" also has the association withmathematics that "rule" has.The significance of these usages comes out in the preface tothis work, which was probably written later than the work, probablyin 1666, the year the work was published, since Hoyle notes thatworks presented to the Royal Society are not allowed to have apreface (11:745). In the preface, Boyle twice refers to the "lawsof the Hydrostatick" (11:743, 744), but more often he refers to the"principles" of hydrostatics (11:739). In fact he twice refers tothe "principles and theorems of Hydrostaticks" (11:741, 742), andonce to "hydrostatical theorems" (11:741). Boyle is also explicitabout the connection between hydrostatics and mathematics, althoughhe does not reduce one to the other for he says that hydrostaticsis not "purely mathematical" (11:740). He states, though, thatmost of the work on hydrostatics has been done by mathematicianssince Archimedes set out his propositions but that he will not usemathematics to explain his position since not all men are wellenough versed in mathematics to understand or follow the theorems.It is important to notice that the root of the idea of lawsconnected to hydrostatics is more likely to have come from the19notion of rules or principles associated with mathematics andgeometry than from the idea of divine or human legislation.In Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects, published in1665, Boyle speaks of how the contemplation of nature leads one topraise God's greatness and bounty. He says of animals that "thelaws of their nature" makes them examples of God's glory and wisdom(11:350). Presumably he is talking about the patterns of order intheir behaviour. If so then, this too is a descriptive law.In a letter to Henry Oldenburg, dated March 24, 1665, Boylegives a short account of the "statical baroscope," what is knowntoday as a barometer. 31 In this letter he makes one reference toa specific law:That according to a hydrostatical law (which you know 1 havelately had occasion to make out) if two bodies of equalgravity, but unequal bulk, come to be weighed in anothermedium, they will be no longer equiponderant; but if the newmedium, be heavier, the greater body, as being lighter inspecie, will lose more of its weight, then the lesser and morecompact; but if the new medium be lighter than the first, thenthe bigger body will outweigh the lesser: and this disparityarising from the change of mediums, will be so much thegreater, by how much the greater inequality of bulk there isbetween the bodies formerly equiponderant (V:649).By "make out" here Boyle means discover. It is probable that hediscovered the law by experiment and that this is recorded in hiswork Hydrostatical Paradoxes, made out by New Experiments which, asnoted, was presented to the Royal Society in 1664. It is probablethat it is recorded in this work because if so it meets the31The same letter is recorded a second time in the collectionof Boyle's writings.^This time the reference to "hydrostaticallaw" appears on 111:140.^This other recording was from thePhilosophicaJ Ina .actinE dated July 2, 1666.20criteria of being both recent and undoubtedly known by HenryOldenburg who was the secretary of the Royal Society at this time.However, it was not referred to there as a law -- if recorded there-- or any where else. This, as far as I know, is the only law ofwhich Boyle claims discovery . 3e It shows us what Boyle, in fact,thought a specific law to be. Again, it is merely descriptive ofthe regular behaviour of bodies.According to internal evidence, Boyle's next work, TheExcellency of Theology, Compared with Natural Philosophy, was alsowritten in 1665, although it was not published until 1674. In thepublisher's advertisement, it is noted that the author wrote thework in 1665 when he left London to avoid the plague (IV:1). Thebook was also published anonymously although the publisherindicates that the author feared recognition since he referred tohis known works in the texts. The work is clearly Boyle's. As thetitle indicates, he was trying to raise the standing of the studyof theology from what he thought was a loss of prestige in the faceof the advancing natural studies. Appended to the work is atreatise entitled "About the Excellency and Grounds of theMechanical Philosophy." It was probably written about the same3"3oyle did not refer to what we now call Boyle's Law, that thepressure of gas is inversely proportional to its volume, as a law.For his account of the law, see his P Defense of the Doctrinetouching the Spring and Weight of the air, I:156f. It was firstcalled a law by Mariotte, of the Acadd.mie des Sciences, in Discow-sde .i nature de l'air, which was published in 1672. See MarieBoas, "The Establishment of the Mechanical Philosophy," Osiris 10(1952): 422.21time. 33In keeping with the theme of the work, Boyle declares that thecontemplation of God is far more noble an enterprise than thecontemplation Of "the lawa f according to which the parte of matterhit against, and justle one another, and the effects or results ofsuch motion" (IV:20). In the same place, Boyle says that althoughman has a will of his own, "all material things move only as theyare moved, and have no self-determining power, on whose accountthey can resist the will of God" (IV:20).The majority of references to the laws of nature in this workoccur in the discourse on the "Mechanical Hypothesis." Here wefind an important account by Boyle of the laws of nature. Thecontext is the discussion of how the mechanical philosophy isbetter than Aristotelianism in accounting for the phenomenon of animage of a man cast into the air by a "concave spherical looking-glass." Boyle says that one skilled in "catoptricks" will besatisfied that "the phaenomenon is produced by the beams of lightreflected, and thereby made convergent according to optical, andconsequently mathematical laws" (1V:69). Nowhere else in hiscollected works does Boyle link physical laws with mathematics oreven mention mathematical laws in relation to physical laws. Inone other place, though, he does mention mathematicians in relationto physical laws but only in that they have worked hard to discoverthem.' In this instance, it is not exactly clear what Boyle means33Westfall 64, fn 4.34See Languid and Unheeded Motion V:222by linking mathematical laws to optical laws. Presumably Boylemeans by mathematical laws the mathematical expression of physicallaws since clearly the laws of mathematics, meaning the rules ofmathematics, are not the same as physical laws. Optical laws, asmentioned, are the rules governing the behaviour of rays of lightthrough a lens. Undoubtedly Boyle was aware that the behaviour oflight through a lens could easily be expressed mathematically.Perhaps, though, for Boyle, what counted for a law had to beexpressible mathematically. In Ruby's discussion of the longhistory of connecting "law" and optics, she notes that A.C. Crombiesuggests that Roger Bacon's use of "law" reflects his "program formathematizing physics." 35 So mathematical law here for Boyle meansnothing more than the mathematical expression of a descriptive law.Further on in the same discourse, Boyle claims that the "lawsof motion" hold not only for large bodies but also for smallparticles and so tries to extend such mechanics into the physicalstructure of matter (IV:71). In fact, he extends the reach of thelaws of nature to all objects: big and small bodies fall accordingto the same "laws of acceleration"; cannon balls and small shotobserve the same "rules of motion"; the town clock and the pocketwatch operate according to the same "laws of mechanism"; and theearth and a loadstone exhibit the same "magnetical laws" (IV:71-72). For Boyle, laws are universal in their application; bodieseverywhere and of every size behave the same way. Furthermore, itCrombie, "The Significance of Medieval Discussion ofScientific Method for the Scientific Revolution," Critical Probicmin Hie of. .gcitinc't:: (Madison, 1959) 89; cited in Ruby 343.23can be seen that Boyle freely interchanges the words "laws" and"rules." Perhaps again this signifies the mathematical connection.Elsewhere, Boyle says that the accepted criterion ofhypotheses is that they "solve the phaenomena, for which they weredevised, without crossing any known observation or law of nature"(IV:77). This is interesting because it shows that for Boyle thereis a distinction between laws and hypotheses. Laws are certainwhereas hypotheses are not. It is similar to Newton's distinctionbetween laws and hypotheses. For Newton, the former are deductionsfrom phenomena, which as such are able to be proven, whereas thelatter are speculative.This discourse, The Excellency of Theology, also contains themost succinct description of Boyle's mechanical philosophy found inany of his works. It also shows how his mechanical philosophydiffers from both the mechanical philosophy of the ancient atomistsand, although he does not mention them by name, the more recentCartesians:But when I speak of the corpuscular or mechanical philosophy,I am far from meaning with the Epicureans, that atoms, meetingtogether by chance in an infinite vacuum, are able ofthemselves to produce the world, and all its phaenomena; norwith some modern philosophers, that, supposing God to have putinto the whole mass of matter such an invariable quantity ofmotion he needed do no more to make the world, the materialparts being able by their own unguided motions, to castthemselves into such a system (as we call by that name:) butI plead only for such a philosophy, as reaches but to thingspurely corporeal, and distinguishing between the firstoriginal of things, and the subsequent course of nature,teaches concerning the former, not only that God gave motionto matter, but that in the beginning he so guided the variousmotions of the parts of it, as to contrive them into the worldhe designed they should compose... and established those rulesof motion, and that order among things corporeal, which we arewont to call the laws of nature. And having told this as to24the former, it may be allowed as to the latter to teach, thatthe universe being once framed by God, and the laws of motionbeing settled and all upheld by his incessant concourse andgeneral providence, the phaenomena of the world thusconstituted are physically produced by the mechanicalaffections of the parts of matter, and what they operate uponone another according to mechanical laws (IV:68-69).Besides being the first time Boyle refers to "mechanical laws," thesignificance of which will be discussed later, several things areapparent from this text. First, Boyle differs from the Epicureansin the fact that he ascribes to the idea of imposed laws of nature.For Boyle, the order and regularity of nature are not the result ofchance or the mere motion of matter but are given by God and upheldby his providence. 36 That is, although we describe the laws ofmotion as they exist, they were prescribed by God in the firstplace. Second, the system of nature that now appears originallyneeded God's direct intervention to guide matter into thoseformations which could then proceed according to the laws ofnature. Third, that once these formations and the laws of naturewere established, all phenomena are produced mechanically. inother words, what appears in the world is a result not only of therules of motion but also of the original design of nature just asa clock is not only a result of the motion of its parts but also ofits original design. R.G. Collingwood says that the early modernnatural philosophers had an idea of nature as structure and36Both Plato and Aristotle rejected ancient atomism becausethey could not conceive how it could account for the order andregularity found in nature. See Gary B. Deason, "ReformationTheology and the Mechanistic Conception of Nature," in God andAlattwe, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley"University of California Press, 1986) .178.25function. 37 This characterization certainly fits Boyle's work.Fourth, Boyle makes it clear that by the laws of nature hemeans both the "rules of motion" and the "order among thingscorporeal." That is, both the regularity and the order of natureare included in his definition of the laws of nature. It seemsthat Boyle's admission here might help to explain why there isalready in this paper a conflict between what has been said aboutBoyle's concept of the laws of nature and the received idea aboutBoyle's concept of the laws of nature. That is, Boyle means twothings by the "laws of nature". In the first place, he means therules of motion which connects his discussion to what has beenoutlined as the descriptive view of the laws of nature. These arespecific descriptive laws of the behaviour of bodies which can begiven in mathematical terms. In the second place, Boyle means theorder of things. Later in this paper it will be shown that he alsocalls this the "common course of nature" or the "ordinary course ofnature." This use corresponds to the historical tradition of thenotion of prescriptive laws of nature. 38A discussion similar to the one in the passage just quotedoccurs in The Origin of . Forms and Ouafitics, flccordinp to thcCorpuseudai- Philosophy, published in 1666, but with explicitreference to Descartes. It is in this discourse that Boyle gives37R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of Nature (1945; Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 1981) 16.38Greene says that there is also a long tradition that theregular laws of nature represented God's general providence; Greene466. More will be said on this later.GCSthe most fully developed account of his corpuscular hypothesis. 9While trying to account for forms in the essay "An Examen of theOrigin and Doctrine of Substantial Forms, as it is wont to betaught by the Peripateticks, by reference to the mechanicalphilosophy," Boyle again feels the need to distinguish hiscorpuscular philosophy from those of Epicurus and Descartes:I differ both from Epicurus and Des Cartes, that whereas theformer of them plainly denies that the world was made by anydeity... and the latter of them... thought that God, havingonce put matter into motion, and established the laws of themotion, needed not more particularly interpose for theproduction of things corporeal, nor even of plants andanimals, which, according to him, are but engines: I do not atall believe that either these Cartesian laws of motion, or theEpicurean casual concourse of atoms, could bring mere matterinto so orderly and well contrived a fabrick as this world;and therefore I think, that the wise author of nature did notonly put matter into motion, but, when he resolved to make theworld, did so regulate and guide the motions of the smallparts of the universal matter, as to reduce the greatersystems of them into the order they were to continue in....So that, according to my apprehension, it was at the beginningnecessary that an intelligent and wise agent should contrivethe universal matter... and settle the laws according to whichthe motions and actions of its parts upon one another shouldbe regulated... (111:48).Boyle goes on to talk about how he could envisage some combinationsof bodies happening from the mere motion of matter but not such as"the bodies of perfect animals." These, in his opinion, resultedbecause of God's initial design and organization of matter and nowoccur through reproduction according to the "laws he hadestablished in nature," so there is no need for God's specialintervention with every case of reproduction of plants and animals.Several things are noticeable here. First, Boyle feels, likeeter Alexander, Ideas, Oua ities and Corpuscles (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1985) 34.27Descartes, that both motion and the laws of nature come from God,from outside of nature. That is, nature is not self-sufticient. 4°Second, Boyle alludes to the fact that he disagrees withDescartes's notion of the laws of nature, but as Boyle deals withthis in more depth in a latter discourse, discussion will bereserved until that time." Third, Boyle's God is far moreinvolved in the finer affairs of the first formation of things thanDescartes's God.Boyle's position on this point is also emphasized in anotherpassage. He states that God, "who put matter in motion... andestablished the laws of motion among bodies... also, according tomy opinion, guided it in divers cases at the beginning of things"(111:47). In an earlier section of the work, in "Considerationsand Experiments touching the Origin of Forms and Qualities. TheTheoretical Part," Boyle claims that mere matter in motion couldnot produce this "beautiful and orderly world," and thatthe wise Author of things did, by establishing the laws ofmotion among bodies, and by guiding the first motions of thesmall parts of matter, bring them to convene after the mannerrequisite to compose the world, and especially did contrivethose curious and elaborate engines, the bodies of livingcreatures, endowing most of them with a power of propagatingtheir species" (III:15).As these excerpts show, Boyle consistently differentiates himselffrom both the Epicurean notion that the order of things happened by4°See Collingwood where he says that the early modern naturalphilosophers saw nature as dead and devoid of intelligence so thatboth motion and design had to originate from outside of nature inGod; Collingwood 5."See Hl C!++;^oeraton V :140.26chance, and from the Cartesian notion that God did not have todirectly guide matter at the first formation of things. Boyle'sassertion that God was directly involved in guiding matter at thattime means that the original formation of things cannot be deducedby simply working backward from the present state of thingsaccording to the laws of motion. In a sense, Boyle is guardingagainst a kind of historical reductionism that seeks to find outthe first formation of things from matter in motion alone. ForBoyle, then, the original creation must remain a mystery despitethe mechanical structure of the world.In the essay "An Examen of Substantial Forms," Boyle uses thephrase "laws of nature" three times to denote the orderliness ofnature while explicating the peripatetic position hedifferentiates it from Aristotle's stance -- on substantial forms.Speaking of what came to be known as secondary qualities, he statesthatthese accidents being once introduced into the matter, we neednot seek for a new substantial principle (form) to preservethem there, since by the general law or common course ofnature the matter qualified by them must continue in the statesuch accidents have put it into, till by some agent or otherit be forcibly put out of it, and so divested of thoseaccidents (111:43).Two things are to be noted here. First, Boyle equates the laws ofnature with the "common course of nature." Second, what he has tosay about qualities continuing in such as state as they are foundunless changed by an outside force is what came to be known as theLaw of Inertia, Newton's First Law of Motion. After this, Boylesays that bodies need no substantial forms to "preserve them in29that state as long as the law of nature requires," and that "theaccidents of a body will by the law of nature remain such as theywere" (111:43, 43). It seems that, for Boyle, in the discourse ofmechanical philosophy, the laws of nature take over the role thatsubstantial forms played in the scholastic discourse. In otherwords, what accounts for the preservation of certain qualities inan object in the scholastic discourse is substantial forms, whilein the mechanical discourse it is the laws of nature. Hence, thisis a case of a causal law.'"? The main significance, however, ofthis passage is that it is an instance by Boyle of a law of naturethat refers to order of nature rather than to the rules of motion.In a later essay, "Considerations and Experiments touching theOrigin of Qualities and Forms. The Historical Part," Boyle againequates "laws" with the "course of nature" (111:75). He says that,among other things, those of the "Particularian philosophy" mustknow the "general laws and course of nature" in contradistinctionto the followers of the "lazy Aristotelian way of philosophizing"(111:75). Boyle seems to be aware that the concept of the laws ofnature is integral to the new developing science while it is notintegral to an idea of nature centred on substantial forms.Finally, in the discourse "Free Considerations aboutSubstantial Forms," annexed to the second edition of ftrc Ch'.1qz42:Alexander notes that the schoolmen regarded substantial formsas causes while Aristotle did not. See Alexander 51.Forms and Qualities, which was published in 1667, 43 Boyle uses thephrase "laws of nature" to denote the order or orderliness ofnature. The context is Boyle's discussion of the word "form" whichhe says usually only accounts for a few of the attributes that weassociate with a particular body. He continues:Now the form of a body being really no more than a conventionof accidents, whereby the matter is stamped and denominated,it is very consonant to reason, that oftentimes hostile agentsor causes may deprive the matter of those accidents, whichconstituted the specifick form, and yet leave the rest, which,according to the law of nature, ought to continue there, tillsome competent agent put the body out of that state, wherein,upon the form's decease, it was left (111:123).Again Boyle substitutes the function of the laws of nature for thefunction of forms. It is not apparent here whether Boyle meant toplace the word "law" in the singular or whether this has anysignificance.The next work of Boyle's to follow chronologically, is a Freen (.7 LI •y int t he VU.igar y Rcal ved /V 0t  0 rt Nature. It waspublished in 1686 but Boyle says in the preface that it was writtenin 1666 (V:159). 44 However, in the conclusion he says that thework is a collection of papers written at very different times andin very different circumstances (V:253-254). This factor could beimportant later on in this discussion of Boyle. This discourse isperhaps Boyle's most important philosophical work. In it, he deals43.J.F. Fulton,^Dibliography oft. he Honourable Hobert f'oy4in UNford Pibliography Society Proceedings and Papzu-s, vol. 3, 1931- 1933 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933) 58-59."Boyle also says in the preface that the work was editedcloser to the time of his writing the preface which is datedSeptember 29, 1682. See V:160, 161.with the nature of things, preferring to discuss nature in generalrather than the specific works of nature (V:158). He also saysthat he is writing against atheists who ascribe too much to natureand against Christians who think that nature's only value is asproof of the existence and of the providence of God (V:158-159).The work also contains an excellent study in the semantics ofthe word "nature." Boyle criticizes the "vulgar" idea of nature,the idea that nature is a creature, a semi-deity, as a "notional"thing (V:161, 218, 220), meaning that it is imaginary. The work isdedicated primarily to showing the problems and contradictions ofthe vulgar notion of nature and secondarily to presenting in itsplace the mechanical view. In the course of this project, Boylemakes more references to the laws of nature than in any other work.Boyle begins by outlining his position. Phenomena areproduced by matter in motion, acting according to the "laws oflocal motion" rather than by "an intelligent overseer, such asnature is fancied to be" (V:162). Boyle's assertion, though, doesnot rule out the idea of God's providence. It is more worthy ofGod that he establish a machine-like universe that runs on its own,than that God must interpose for every event. Boyle says that thevulgar notion views nature as a puppet which requires God'scontinuous intervention, while his view is that nature is like aclock, particularly the one at Strasburgh, where statues perform atcertain occasions because of the inner mechanism of the clock(V:163). Boyle notes that contemporary Aristotelians ascribe theregular motion of the planets to the "ordinary course of nature"32rather than to "intelligent and immaterial beings" as did Aristotleand most of his followers and that this is not considered as achallenge to the idea of God's providence (V:163). 45Boyle argues that a place for providence still exists in hismechanical philosophy. First, God "prescribed" (V:177; cf V:170)or "established" the laws of nature (V:170, 189, 197, 199, 220,222, 223, 224, 226, 251, 252), or they were "settled" by him(V:176, 177, 179, 200, 200, 218, 222, 236, 251, 252). Second, Godpreserves the laws of nature. They are "upheld" (V:162) or"maintained" by him (V:179, 199, 200, 218, 223). Boyle also speaksof God's "ordinary and general concourse" (V:162, 179, 189, 222),and in one instance says that if God "but continue his ordinary andgeneral concourse, there will be no necessity of extraordinaryinterpositions" (V:163). The Oxford English Dictionary writes thatin the seventeenth century the word "concourse" was used to denotethe "concurrence in action or causation, cooperation; combinedaction," and indicates that Boyle's use of it was in no wayunique." In one particular instance, Boyle states that the laws451f one takes what Boyle means elsewhere by the "ordinarycourse of nature," he is saying here that contemporaryAristotelians ascribe the regular motion of the planets to the"laws of nature" in the prescriptive sense.46"Concourse," The Cornpaot Editjoo ot thip 0); ford EoL711L.h02cilonor 1971, 775, def. 6. In a different definition of theterm, "3. The running, flowing together, or meeting of things(material or immaterial)," the dictionary notes that the phrase"Fortuitous concourse of atoms," used in the seventeenth century byseveral authors, came from the Latin phrase by Cicero, c, ,r-sur_,u: -r(ertirlttr, meaning the action whereby the universe came into beingaccording to the atomic theory of Leucippus and Democritus. ForBoyle's use of this phrase see 01-1172o ,?od Ou,N;71p , r;111:48.33of nature are "upheld by his [God's] ordinary and general.concourse" (V:162). If we take into consideration the dictionarydefinition of the word "concourse," this passage could be rewrittento say that the laws of nature exist in their own right, but areonly efficacious with God's assistance. This discussion of theconnection between God's concourse and the laws of nature will beextended in the next chapter.Boyle also feels that he has to deal with the problem ofanomalies, not of the mechanical philosophy but apparent anomaliesin the reckoning of God's providence. He cites things such aseclipses which would appear to the average observer to contradictthe idea that the universe is strictly governed by God, orearthquakes and floods which pose a more serious moral problem.If, as Boyle claims, all these events are merely the unfolding ofthe mechanical universe, then God must have planned all theseevents to happen and as such is morally responsible.However, Boyle states that he is not directly addressing thequestion of God's providence, but only indirectly addressing it asfar as it touches natural philosophy (V:196-197). This of coursebrings him into the problem of miracles. It is such cases ofprovidence, Boyle says, that "transcend the power, or at leastover-rule the physical laws of motion in matter" (V:197). He notesthat God is not bound by the laws of nature, for God, "when he madethe world, and established the laws of motion, gave them to matter,not to himself" (V:197).That God is capable of performing miracles is one thing, but:34Boyle argues that it is still for the good of man:God... may exercise as much wisdom, nay, and as muchprovidence (in reference to men, the noblest visible object ofhis providence) in sometimes (as in divine miracles) recedingfrom what men call the laws of nature, as he did at firstestablishing them" (V:197).God's general providence, the upholding of the common course ofnature, and his special providence, miracles, can both bebeneficial to man. However, Boyle notes that the present order ofthe universe is not completely favourable to man because of theCurse, which resulted from the Fall, and that some events whichseem to contradict the idea of God's care for man and nature aresevere in an attempt to drive man back to God. Boyle also saysthat sometimes God "over-rules" the regular motions of matterwithin the present system in order to execute justice (V:198).Furthermore, he states that God's providence is not such that everyman or creature is always free from harm. If this was the case,then in certain circumstances, God would have to alter "the settledframe, or the usual course of things," or "some general law ofmotion" would have to be "hindered from taking place" (V:199).Boyle intimates that such could be done, but that God chooses topreserve the more general and important things such as the ordinarycourse of nature.Later on in the discourse, Boyle briefly returns to thequestion of miracles. Miracles are occasions where the "institutedorder" has been "violated" such as when the sun stood still in thedays of Joshua, or the Red Sea was parted in the days of Moses(V:223). Boyle says that such occasions are rare and done "for35weighty ends and purposes, by the peculiar intervention of theFirst Cause, either guiding or over-ruling the propensities andmotions of secondary agents" (V:223). Note that miracles arecaused not only by over-ruling the motion of matter, whichundoubtedly means over-ruling the laws of nature, but also by over-ruling the propensities of matter by which he seems to mean theaffections of matter. Elsewhere, while accepting that miraclesoccur among men, Boyle states that in the far reaches of theuniverse, away from man, God "does seldom manifestly procure arecession from the settled course of the universe, and especiallyfrom the most catholic laws of motion" (V:215). Here he claimsthat the laws of motion are a subset of the "course of theuniverse" which he elsewhere calls the laws of nature meaning theorderliness of nature. This is important since it indicates thatwhat we have been showing here to be two concepts of the laws ofnature, that is, laws of nature as the order or orderliness of theuniverse and as the rules of motion, are for Boyle the same thing.Clearly by this Boyle reveals that he believes that the orderlinessof the universe is reducible to the descriptive laws of motion.In another scenario, the laws of nature are over-ruled not byGod but rather by other laws of nature:we may sometimes and usefully distinguish between the laws ofnature, more properly so called, and the custom of nature, or,if you please, between the fundamental and generalconstitutions among bodily things, and the municipal laws (ifmay so call them) that belong to this or that particularsort of bodies (V:219).What Boyle is setting up here is a hierarchy of laws.^Later hesays that when God established the laws of nature he subordinated36some laws to other laws (V:251). In the passage just given,"municipal laws" are the lowest or least important and "catholiclaws," "grand laws," or "general laws" are the highest or the mostimportant (V:219-220). In Boyle's example, water falls to theground by virtue of the "custom of nature," but in a pump, suction,by virtue of "a more catholic law of nature," forces the waterupward, contrary to and over-riding the custom of nature (V:219-220). He explains this by saying that "a greater pressure, whichin our case the water suffers from the weight of the incumbent air,should surmount a lesser, such as is here the gravity of water..."(V:220).Boyle then goes on to explain preternatural phenomena,phenomena which are contrary to nature, by this distinction. Aspring that is forcibly bent is said to be in a preternatural statebecause it seeks to return to its former or "natural" state.However, Boyle claims that it is merely one state of the springbeing over-ridden by another state which is equally "natural"because it is "agreeable to the grand laws... that such a springshould remain bent by the degree of force that actually keeps itso..." (V:220).Boyle also objects to the idea that it is nature that makeswater ascend in a tube in order to avoid a vacuum as though naturewere conscious:Sometimes, when it is said that nature does this or that, itis less proper to say, that it is done by nature, than that itis done according to nature: so that nature is not to belooked on as a distinct or separate agent, but as a rule, orrather a system of rules, according to which those agents, andthe bodies they work on, are, by the great Author of things,- 7determined to act and suffer (V:219).Rather than nature making water ascend in a tube it is air pressureacting according to the laws of nature that makes it do so. Also,nature is not a separate entity but only a name given to a systemof rules, or a system of laws. Boyle avers that to say that naturemakes the water rise is only a figure of speech; it is like sayingthat geometry measures land and architecture constructs buildings(V:219).When Boyle does define his notion of nature, he distinguishesbetween the particular and universal nature of things (V:177). Theparticular nature is the complex of mechanical affections, the"bigness, figure, order, situation, contexture, and local motion"of its parts. The notion of the universal nature of things thatBoyle offers is as follows: "that nature is the aggregate of thebodies, that make up the world, framed as it is, considered as aprinciple, by virtue whereof they act and suffer, according to thelaws of motion prescribed by the Author of things" (V:177).In Boyle's mechanical philosophy, nature is not conscious andmatter is brute. He says that matter, acting in accordance withthe "catholic laws of motion," "without any knowledge of what itdoes," can account for what some philosophers ascribe to an animatenature (V:163). It is important to remember that in the mechanicalphilosophy, Boyle was trying to reduce all phenomena to matter inmotion.A little later, while discussing ancient axioms concerningnature, in particular the idea that nature always acts in the38shortest way, Boyle avers that it is not nature as an entitydeciding on the shortest route: "But the truth is, that at leastinanimate bodies, acting without knowledge or design of their own,cannot moderate their own action, but must necessarily move as theyare determined by the catholic laws of motion..." (V:225).Further on in the discourse, Boyle picks up the theme again.Boyle is trying to force those who hold the vulgar notion of natureinto asserting a contradiction. After deciding that most thinkerswould call nature a substance rather than an accident, Boyle askswhether nature is corporeal or immaterial (V:241). If immaterial,he asks then whether it is created or not. If not, then it is Godby another name. But if nature is created, Boyle asks "whether orno she be endowed with understanding, so as to know what she does,and for what ends, and by what laws she ought to act?" (V:241). Ifnow the answer is no, Boyle suggests that the vulgar notion ofnature is unintelligible and of little use in accounting forthings. If the answer is yes, Boyle goes on to explain that thisnotion of a soul for nature again does little to explain thephenomena. But if nature is corporeal, then, following Descartes,Boyle asks how it can think and posses wisdom such as to guide themotions of bodies (V:242). He continues:it may likewise be asked, how the laws of motion come to beobserved or maintained by a corporeal being? which, as merelysuch, is either uncapable of understanding them, or of actingwith respect to them, or at least is not necessarily endowedwith any knowledge of them, or power to conform to them, andto make all the parts of the unquestioned mundane matter to doso too (V:243).Boyle carries on the argument to the final result that his position3'9is the best of all the choices.This leads to perhaps the most revealing discussion on thelaws of nature in the discourse (ho Notion of Nature. Afteroutlining the different uses of the word "nature," and rejectingthe vulgarly received notion of nature, Boyle states that the word"nature" should not be used by philosophers because it is aconfused term (V:170). He then confesses, in so many words, thathe too misuses the phrase "laws of nature":And even I sometimes scruple not to speak of the laws ofmotion and rest, that God has established among other thingscorporeal, and now and then, (for brevity's sake, or out ofcustom) to call them, as men are wont to do, the laws ofnature (V:170).He does not mean to imply here that the laws are supplied by natureas from a rational being. Rather, he reveals firstly that the lawsof nature are a collective term for the laws of motion and secondlythat all laws of nature are ultimately reducible to the laws ofmotion.Boyle goes on to say that his use of the word "law" isfigurative:But to speak strictly, ...to say, that the nature of this orthat body is but the law of God pre5cribed to it, is but animproper and figurative expression: for... I must freelyobserve, that, to speak properly, a law being but a notionalrule of acting according to the declared will of a sopel-io,it is plain, that nothing but an intellectual Being can beproperly capable of receiving and acting by a law.... But Icannot conceive, how a body devoid of understanding and sense,truly so called, can moderate and determinate its own motions,especially so, as to make them conformable to laws, that ithas no knowledge or apprehension of; and that inanimatebodies, how strictly soever called natural, do properly act bylaws, cannot be evinced by their sometimes acting regularly,and, as men think, in order to determinate ends: since inartificial things we see many motions very orderly performed,and with a manifest tendency to particular and pre-designed40ends; as in a watch.... And when a man shoots an arrow at amark, so as to hit it, though the arrow moves toward the mark,as it would if it could and did design to strike it, yet nonewill say, that this arrow moves by a law, but by an external,though well directed, impulse (V:170-171).In this passage, Boyle rejects the idea that the nature of thingsderives from God's law for the use of the word "law" is figurative.He states that matter, being brute, has no intelligence tounderstand a law or will to choose to fulfil it. Furthermore, theidea that bodies act according to laws because they exhibit orderlymotions and seemingly determined ends is false. Boyle countersthat a machine, such as a clock, will act orderly and to determinedends and yet is not alive or conscious in any way, and certainlycould not be said in a literal sense to be following laws orseeking a determined end. In this analogy, and in the analogy ofthe shot arrow, Boyle indicates that the orderliness and apparentpurposefulness of these "artificial things" result from both theoriginal design and the motion imparted. The clock is firstdesigned in a certain way and then set in motion as the arrow isfirst aimed and then set in motion.Besides using the laws of nature as synonymous with the lawsof motion, Boyle uses several other equivalent phrases. The mostcommon is "mechanical laws," which, interestingly, only appears inthe sixth and seventh sections of this eight-sectioned work asthough it was a term he turned to later (V:208, 215, 215, 216, 216,216, 226, 236, 239). This is the second occurrence of the phrase41"mechanical laws" in the works of Boyle; 47 it is also not uncommonin his later works. This term seems to be a conflation of theideas of the mechanical philosophy and the laws of nature. It isperhaps, an unconscious admission of the inherent connectionbetween the two ideas. In some instances, though, it is probablyjust a reference to the laws of mechanics which undoubtedly is fromthe idea of law as a guideline or a rule. Boyle also interchanges"laws" with "rules" (V:179, 199), and he twice uses the term"principles" for "laws." In one instance he simply refers to the"mechanical principles" and in the other he interchanges the two:"physico-mechanical principles and laws" (V:240, 215). This, asmentioned, is probably an extension of the influence of mathematicsinto natural philosophy. That is, it is an instance of the merelydescriptive use of "law" and not an instance of the prescriptiveuse. In a situation similar to an earlier one, Boyle equates"custom" to the subordinate laws of nature (V:200, 226), andfinally, as indicated earlier, Boyle at least once uses the phrase"the ordinary course of nature" for the laws of nature. Whenspeaking of his contemporary Aristotelians, he says that "they nowascribe to the ordinary course of nature those regular motions ofthe planets..." (V:163).In addition to this, Boyle explicitly connects God to physicallaws. Speaking of God, he declares, "by whose laws the grandagents in the universe were impowered and determined to act..."47See The Excellency of Theolopy IV : 68-69.^Due to thedifficulty in dating Boyle's work's, this may well be the firstoccurrence of the phrase.42(V:164). This is a clear case of the prescriptive view of the lawsof nature; these are God's laws.Despite the fact that Boyle said that he was not interested intalking about the works of nature, there are also a few referencesto specific laws of nature in this discourse. Boyle speaks of the"laws of heavy bodies," the "laws of gravity," and twice about the"laws of the aequilibrium of liquors" (V:194, 225, 219, 229). Itis important to note that of these references to specific laws,only the "laws of gravity" cannot be reduced to the laws of motion.Boyle said earlier that gravity is an occult force, meaning that itis an unknown force, and till Newton it was unacceptable for amechanical philosopher to leave the explanation of phenomenawithout reducing an occult force to a mechanical force. Now primafacie it seems, then, that the use of "law" with gravity is simplya case of a descriptive law but, if the argument of this paper iscorrect, the origin of the term "law" in connection with gravitycame not from the descriptive use of law but from the prescriptiveuse. That is, the origin of the descriptive use of the term "law,"as shown by Ruby, is those sciences connected with mathematics suchas optics, mechanics, and astronomy, whereas the origin of theprescriptive use of the term "law" is the idea that the orderlinessof the universe, what Boyle calls the "common course of nature,"results from divine legislation. So, as the law of gravity cannotbe reduced to the laws of motion, and hence to the descriptiveorigins of "law," it can only be explained be recourse to theorderliness of nature and hence to the prescriptive origins of4 3"law."Boyle closes his work on The Notion of Nature by trying toshow that his view of nature is better for religion than any of theother views (V:250-253). He makes several points about God thatjustifies his definition of providence as well as saves thephenomena. He claims that God, as a free agent, "created theworld, not out of necessity, but voluntarily," and establishedamong bodies certain "general and constant laws" which suited God'spurposes, and subordinated some laws to others so that the care ofthe whole is more important than the care of particular creatures(V:251). "aIn the E5SOyS of' tho Strange Subtilit^Great EfficacsyDeterminate Nature of Effluvitmls, there are only two references tothe laws of nature. This work was published in 1673 but in thepublisher's advertisement it is claimed on the one hand that it waswritten just after Boyle's work on qualities, that is, The Originof Forms and Qualities, which was published in 1666, and on theother hand that it was written several years before the year it waspublished, 1673 (111:659-660).^The publisher also says thatseveral parts of it were published anonymously in 1669.^It issafe, then, to date the work from around 1667-1668.^The firstreference in the work to physical laws is to the "laws magnetical"(111:670). This is also a reference to an occult force and socould possibly be explained the way the laws of gravity were. In"Note that Boyle's use of the word "constant" in connectionwith "laws" is the same as his use of the word "fixt" in an earlierpassage. See The 1.1efulne.55 Natu?-al .0120h ,,. - 11:37.44the other reference, Boyle uses laws in a new but perhapscompletely expected way when he says that effluviums may be"promoted by the fabrick and laws of the universe itself..."(III:668). That is, this is the first time Boyle connects "laws"to the "universe" rather than to "nature" or "motion" or somespecific law. The importance of the phrase "laws of the universe"will be discussed more thoroughly in regard to its use in the nextdiscourse.Tracts about The Cosmical Qualities of Things is a loosecollection of six tracts published in 1671. The only two thatconcern us here are "Of the Systematical or Cosmical Qualities ofThings" and "Cosmical Suspicions" which is an appendix to theformer tract. The first discourse, "Cosmical Qualities," seems tobe a sequel. In fact, Boyle says that he touched upon some of thetopics in the discourse "Origin of Forms" (III:307).He begins "Cosmical Qualities" by distinguishing between whatis sometimes called primary and secondary qualities (II1:306). Theformer, such as size, shape, and motion, he calls "primitive modesand catholic affections of matter itself." The latter he callshere simply "qualities" and states that they result from therelations of bodies to other bodies. That is, they consist of thepowers bodies have over other bodies or of the capacity of bodiesto suffer from other bodies such as mercury having the power todissolve gold and silver and the capacity to suffer dissolutionfrom aqua fortis. It is clear that these qualities are chemical.For Boyle they indicate that nature is interconnected; he claims45this is why he uses the name "systematical or cosmical" to describethe qualities. It is not surprising then that in the next coupleof pages he thrice uses the phrase "laws of the universe" (111:307,308, 312). 49 That is, his reference to the universe implies thatlaws reach to the whole of creation, the cosmos, and this in turnimplies its interconnectedness.In the beginning of the discourse, Boyle twice in the sameparagraph refers to the coupled terms, the "laws and customs ofnature" (111:307), which seems to echo the earlier idea of ahierarchy of physical laws. Elsewhere, Boyle addresses the issueof a peculiar quality, that of magnetism. He speaks twice aboutthe "established laws of nature" and once about a specific law, the"laws magnetical" (111:313).In the same essay, while discussing his concept of cosmicalqualities, Boyle says:and to prevent mistakes, I shall add, that under the name ofcatholick and unminded causes or agents, I comprehend not onlydivers invisible portions of matter, but also the establishedlaws of the universe, or that which is commonly called theordinary course of nature (111:307).Three important things can be concluded from this passage. First,the laws of nature here are causal laws. They are, as such,explanatory laws; they explain why certain phenomena appear.Furthermore, as such, they can not be merely descriptive laws for"'Due to the difficulty in dating Boyle's works, thesereferences to the "laws of the universe" may predate the referencesin the previous discourse. Nonetheless, the use of the phraseemerged at approximately the same time. It is also the only timein Boyle's works that the phrase was used, perhaps reinforcing theidea of its special meaning.46reasons already discussed. Second, these laws are prescriptivelaws; they are "established" by God. Third, Boyle equates the"laws of the universe" with the "ordinary course of nature." Theimportance of this will be discussed in the next chapter.In the essay on "Cosmical Suspicions," Boyle refers to theessay "Cosmical Qualities" and states that in it he tried to takethe "laws of the universe" into consideration when giving anaccount of the qualities of things. He confesses, though, thatthere may be many more "laws" and of different kinds that are yetto be discovered (111:318). Furthermore, Boyle claims that theknown "laws of nature" are not well enough distinguished:some of them being general rules that have a very great reach,and are of greater affinity to laws properly so called, andothers seeming not so much to be general rules or laws, as thecustoms of nature in this or that particular part of theworld; of which there may be a greater number... (111:318).Again we see that for Boyle, there seems to be a hierarchy of laws.That is, the order, from highest or farthest reaching to the mostlimited, goes from "laws," to "rules," to "customs." Also, it isclear that in this instance Boyle does not find term "rules" to beequivalent to the term "laws," although elsewhere he does, and thatin order to be a law, a pattern of behaviour must be universal inscope.This distinction between "laws" and "rules" seems to reflecta use indicated by Ruby. Ruby notes that Roger Bacon in thethirteenth century had interchanged the terms "laws" (If')) and"rules" (rp/740,7) but that in his work on perspective, as on logic,there was a subtle difference between the uses. She says:47In the paragraph in which he [Bacon) uses both terms, isfor the more fundamental principle of multiplication; andwhile he uses lex far more often than regula to designate thegeneral principles of both multiplication and perspective, forvariants under specific conditions he never uses butinstead either repula or its naturalized Greek equivalent,c n 5°The second volume of Some Considerations touching theUsefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy came out in 1671,eight years after the first volume. It was written later becauseBoyle felt himself not the master of their content and waspreoccupied with other works (111:394). It contains only tworeferences to the laws of nature, both of which occur in thechapter "Of the Usefulness to the Empire of Man over inferiorCreatures." Both references also merely comment on the usefulnessof the knowledge of the "laws of nature" to the trades (111:403,404).The discourse Tracts- Containing New Ex per i merit a s to?.(ching t:h raRelation Petwixt Flame and fir was published in 1672. It is acollection of four essays. The content of the tract that firstmentions physical laws is revealed in its title: "An HydrostaticalDiscourse, occasioned by the Objections of the learned Dr. HenryMore, against some Explications of New Experiments made by Mr.Boyle" (111:596). In this essay, Boyle twice refers to specificlaws: "hydrostatical laws" and "statical laws" (III: 610, 612). Ofgreater interest, though, are the other two references to physicallaws.Early on in the essay, while trying to defend himself against5°Ruby 349-350.48More, Boyle states:yet all that I have endeavoured to do in the explication ofwhat happens among inanimate bodies, is to shew, thatsupposing the world to have been at first made, and to becontinually preserved by God's divine power and wisdom; andsupposing his general concourse to the maintenance of the lawshe has established in it, the phenomena, I strive toexplicate, may be solved mechanically, that is, by themechanical affections of matter, without recourse to nature'sabhorrence of a vacuum, to substantial forms, or to otherincorporeal creatures (111:608).Here Boyle uses every term possible to speak of God's providentialcare of matter and the laws of nature. In addition, he seems to besuggesting that belief in physical laws is antithetical to thenotion of substantial forms which for him are just the names ofsensible qualities. This may be reversed to say that belief insubstantial forms is antithetical to the concept of the laws ofnature. He is also suggesting that in the broader context therecan be more than one accounting for the phenomena. 51At the end of the same essay, Boyle tries to show thathydrostatics needs no principium hylarchicum as suggested by More.In arguing against this principle, he says:the generality of the heathen philosophers were convinced ofthe being of a divine architect of the world, by thecontemplation of so vast and admirably contrived a fabrick,wherein, yet taking no notice of an immaterial principiumhylarchicum, they believed things to be managed in a merephysical way, according to the general laws, settled amongthings corporeal, acting upon one another (111:628).Boyle does not state who these heathen philosophers are or what hemeans by speaking of their supposed belief in physical laws. It isknown, as he elsewhere states, that the ancient Greek precursors to5'Cf.^ .0F:co,49the mechanical philosophy were such like Epicurus and Democritus,but these had no belief in physical laws nor in any God who"established" them. The only sect of the ancient Greeks who had abelief in the "laws of nature" were the Stoics, but their laws werenot mechanical laws and they were not atomists.In the next essay, "New experiments of the Positive orRelative Levity of Bodies under Water," there are only tworeferences to physical laws. Both of these are to the samespecific law, the "hydrostatical law" (111:636, 638).Tracts, consisting of Observations about the Saltness of thoSea, published in 1674, is another collection of essays. The firsttract, "Of the Positive or Private Nature of Cold," is a dialoguebetween four characters. All references in it to physical laws areby Carneades, who, as he states early on, has just read Boyle's"History of Cold" (III:733). What ensues can be taken as Carneadesspeaking for Boyle. 58In the first instance of the mention of a physical law,Carneades is trying to explain why the hand feels cold when plungedinto cold water. He argues that the hand, finding the corpusclesof the cold water moving more slowly than before, transfers itsmotion to the water according to the "laws of motion" (111:741).The unspoken premise is that coldness is the deprivation of themotion of particles. Carneades, in a parenthesis, gives an'?Alexander notes that in Tho Sceptical C/T4-mist Carneades isthe corpuscularian, in other words, he is Boyle. See Alexander 21.Carneades is also the name of an ancient sceptic and the allusionwould not have been lost on Boyle's contemporaries.50explanation of a law of motion: "according to which, a body, thatmeets another much more slowly moved than itself, communicates toit more of its motion, than if it were less slowly moved"(111:741). Later on in the same paragraph, he says that he musttake into account that the blood in the hand, "according to thelaws of its circulation" (111:741), is circulated throughout therest of the body. Further on in the discourse, he talks about "aworld so framed as ours is, and governed by such laws, respectingmotion and rest, as are observed among bodies..." (111:744). Theidea of laws regarding rest, has been, since Boyle's time, subsumedunder the notion of the general laws of motion.In the next essay, "Observations and Experiments about theSaltness of the Sea," which is not a dialogue, there is only onereference to physical laws, and this a specific law, "the laws ofthe true hydrostaticks" (111:768). Boyle again indicates that thisis the law that he discovered, only this time he says that anotherperson discovered it as well."Finally, in the discourse "A Paradox of the Natural andPreternatural State of Bodies, Especially of the Air," there arethree references to physical laws. Here Boyle is trying to argueagainst the distinction between natural and violent, orpreternatural, states. In so doing, he articulates the law ofinertia without calling it that: "For when I consider that whateverstate a body be put into, or kept in, it obtains or retains that"For the other reference to this event, see Me GcnecolHi 4^Df^Oir V:649.state, according to the catholic laws of nature..." (111:782).Note that the laws of nature here are the prescriptive sense; it isthe idea of orderliness, the "common course of nature," as Boylesays elsewhere. After this, he says that those bodies thought tobe in a violent state are really in a natural state because theygot into their violent state "no otherwise than according to theestablished laws of universal nature" (111:782-783). Again, thisis a prescriptive sense of law. Boyle goes on to say that thepeople who adhere to this doctrine consider those bodies to be ina preternatural state becausethey do not consider the condition of the body, as it resultsfrom the catholic laws settled among things corporeal, andrelates to the universe, but estimate it with reference towhat they suppose is convenient, or inconvenient, for theparticular body itself (111:783).It appears from these references that Boyle is trying to argue thatall phenomena must come under one set of laws as his use of"catholic" and "universal" as adjectives to describe these lawsindicates, and that in this sense the world is trulyinterconnected, truly a universe.Following this work, Boyle published another set of essays in1674, Tracts, Containing Suspicions about some Hidden Qualities ofthis' Pi r. In the essay "Of the Cause of Attraction by Suction," heargues that this example of attraction may be accounted for bymechanical means. He concludes that "it appears, that thesephaenomena, without recourse to attraction Cas an occult quality],may be explicated barely [solely] by the laws of aequilibrium ofliquors" (1V:144). Again, it can be said that there seems to be an52antithetical relations between the concept of substantial forms andthe concept of the laws of nature and that Boyle's use of the lawsof nature here is both causal and explanatory.Experiment, Notes, Etcy about the mechanical Origin orProduction of divers particular Qualities, was ready for printingin the same year as the former work but was published in 1675(IV:230). It contains three references to physical laws, each ina different essay. In the "Advertisement" to the essay "Of theMechanical Origin of Heat and Cold," Boyle avers that the use ofhypothesis is "to render an intelligible account of the causes ofeffects, or phaenomena proposed, without crossing the laws ofnature, or other phaenomena" (IV:234). This is the second time hesays that hypotheses must not cross the laws of nature. 54In another treatise, "Reflections upon the Hypothesis ofAlcali and Acidum," Boyle argues for the superiority of themechanical hypothesis. Be finishes the seventh chapter of thistract by way of a reminder, set off in quotation marks foremphasis, or so it would appear: "'Those hypotheses do not a littlehinder the progress of human knowledge, that introduce morals andpoliticks into the explication of corporeal nature, where allthings are indeed transacted according to lawsmechanical'"(IV:291). Boyle seems to be directing his criticismhere against the "Duellists," those who try to derive "both thequalities of bodies, and the rest of the phaenomena of nature from54For the other reference, see The Excellency of Theology1V:77.53what they call acidum and alcali" (IV:284), because they areinvolved in anthropomorphizing nature.The final reference, in the tract "Experimental Notes aboutthe Mechanical Production of Magnetism," states that "according tothe magnetical laws," magnetic north repels magnetic north andattracts magnetic south (IV:342). Once again, this law isdescriptive of the behaviour of bodies; it explains nothing andcannot be reduced to the laws of motion.The next work, Some Physico-lheological Considerations aboutthe Possibility of the Resurrection, also published in 1675, wasannexed by the publisher to a discourse by another author titled"Reconcileableness of Reason and Religion." Boyle was aware ofthis and approved of the action (IV:191). As the title pageindicates, the other work was written by "T.E. a Lay-man" (IV:151),but the identity of this person today is unknown. 63 "Reason andReligion" contains six references to physical laws and twodiscussions on miracles (IV:161, 161, 161, 169, 177, 179; IV :161.162, 163). However, as it was not written by Boyle, it will not bediscussed here except to note that its use of the concept of thelaws of nature is comparable to Boyle's. 56Boyle's work is an attempt to argue that the corpuscularphilosophy does not preclude the possibility of the resurrection of"Vulton, 84.560ne recent writer, Timothy Shanahan, has mistakenly quotedfrom this text as though it were Boyle's, perhaps because it is inhis collected works. See Timothy Shanahan, "God and Nature in theThought of Robert Boyle," Journal of the History- of Philosophy 26(1988): 565.54the body. He notes that resurrection does not happen by the"common course of nature," that is, by the laws of nature, and somust be miraculous by definition (IV:192). It is understandablethen that the only reference in this discourse to the laws ofnature has to do with a violation of the laws of nature. Intalking about glorified bodies, the bodies of those raised from thedead, Boyle states:we may observe, that the power of God has already extendeditself to the performance of such things... sometimes bysuspending the natural acting of bodies upon one another, andsometimes by endowing human and other bodies withpreternatural qualities. And... it cannot be incredible, thatthe most free and powerful author of those laws of nature,according to which, all the phaenomena of qualities areregulated, may... introduce, establish, or change them in anyassigned portion of matter, and consequently in that, whereofa human body consists (IV:201).He goes on to say that when Elisha's helve floated on the water"its native gravity was rendered ineffectual"; that when Peterwalked on water "the gravitation of St. Peter's body wassuspended"; and that when Daniel and his three companions survivedNebuchadnezzer's furnace "the operation of the activist body innature, flame, was suspended..." (IV:201-202).What amounts to a miracle in Boyle's accounts, then, are thesuspension of the common affections of bodies, or as Boyle says,"the natural activity of bodies." In the three examples given ofmiraculous events, gravity is suspended or rendered ineffectual,and the operation of the flame is suspended. It seems that,because the "natural acting" of bodies is suspended, the laws whichgovern these affections, or as Boyle says, "according to which, allthe phaenomena of qualities are regulated," are also suspended. In55this, Boyle seems to be recognizing a close link between theaffections of bodies and the laws of nature, but he does not saythat laws automatically flow from the affections of bodies butinstead that laws regulate them. It seems that Boyle is claimingthat the properties and affections of matter result from the lawsGod has established rather than laws resulting from the propertiesinherent in matter as would be thought today.If? Disquisition about the Final Causes of Natural TNings, waspublished in 1688. In the preface, though, Boyle reveals that itwas written before the death of Henry Oldenburg (V:393), theSecretary to the Royal Society, which occurred in 1677. It appearsthen that the discourse was either written in 1677 or just before.In this work on final causes, Boyle finds himself arguingagainst two modern sects, both mechanical philosophers (V:392-393,395). One sect is the followers of Epicurus -- except Gassendi -who deny ends because the world is the result of chance. The othersect is the Cartesians who say that final causes cannot hediscovered through natural reason because they are too high forman. When arguing against the former, Boyle says that things thatare done in the corporeal world result from matter "acting andsuffering according to the laws of motion established by the Authorof nature," and that chance is a creation of man's intellect whenunknown causes produce results different from those we would expect(V:409). Against Descartes, Boyle's argument is more complex,ultimately resting on the greater weight he gives to providencethan does Descartes (V:395-402). Nonetheless, Boyle does not feel56that final causes are the domain of the natural philosopher whomust "discourse merely upon physical grounds" and seek efficientcauses (V:411).Turning to the aid of revelation, Boyle claims that it isknown that things were created for certain purposes and one ofthese purposes was the benefit of mankind; the sun gives light andwarmth to the earth so man can survive and to plants and animals sothey can grow for the advantage of man (V:411). Boyle continues:And it is not incredible, that God should have intended, thatmany of his other works should be serviceable to man; since bymiraculous operations He hath sometimes suspended the laws ofnature, and sometimes over-ruled them, upon the account ofman... (V:412).Boyle then addresses the question of how bodies withoutknowledge or rational faculties can attain to certain ends. Heasserts that it is because an intelligent agent, God, actingthrough intermediary causes, intended such ends to be met. Godframed things and "settled among them such laws of motion" not onlythat the present state of things was arranged but also that bodies"acting according to the laws of motion by Him established," shouldreach certain goals that God intended (V:412). Boyle goes on tosay that it is not easy to believe that the phenomena of the worldresult from bodies obeying the "laws of nature" rather than frombodies acting to their own ends (V:414). However, he reminds hisreaders of God's omniscience and omnipotence. It seems then thatthe purposeless of nature often associated with mechanicalphilosophy cannot really be attributed to Boyle's version with hisprovidential God.57Having set up this machine-like picture of bodies obeying thelaws of motion as, to use Boyle's metaphor, in the mechanisms of aclock blindly achieving ends established by the creator, Boyle isthen concerned with defending his position against the denial ofmiracles:Nor is this doctrine inconsistent with the belief of any truemiracle; for it supposes the ordinary and settled course ofnature to be maintained, without at all denying, that the mostfree and powerful Author of nature is able, whenever He thinksfit, to suspend, alter, or contradict those laws of motion,which He alone at first established, and which need hisperpetual concourse to be upheld (V:414).From this account of miracles, as well as from former accounts,several points can be drawn. The first is that the laws of naturewere established and settled by God. This has been mentionedelsewhere but it should be explained that this meant that God bothdesigned and implemented the laws of nature. Second, the laws ofnature cannot exist without God's continuous support, his"concourse." This idea will be addressed further in the nextchapter. Third, following from the two former points, God both hasthe right and the ability to suspend, alter, or contradict the lawsof nature.Finally, after musing about God's designed ends for the world,Boyle ponders the question of whether or not the existence of somethings and of some phenomena might be the result not of God'sprimary intention but only of the consequences of his otherchoices. Boyle could then use this to account for some anomaliesand some seemingly useless things and phenomena in nature. He saysthat some things might be made only "as productions, that will58naturally follow upon the establishment and preservation of thosegrand laws and rules of motion, that were most fit to be settledamong things corporeal" (V:423), and that "some phaenomena may notbelong to the primary intention of nature, but are only thenecessary consequences and effects of the primitive constitution ofthe world, and the catholic laws of motion" (V:424).Pn Essay of the' Great Effects of over Languid and UnheededMotion was published in 1685, but, being intended as part of anearlier work, was actually already printed in 1677 or 1678 (V:1).It has only two references to the laws of nature, both of whichcome on the first page of the discourse. Boyle says that it is formechanical philosophy to "resolve the phaenomena of nature intomatter and local motion" and then in a parenthesis goes on toexplain that matter was "guided, at the beginning of things,immediately, and since regulated, according to settled laws, by thegreat and wise author of the universe" (V:2). Note that Boylereturns to the idea that in the first formation of things God wasdirectly involved in guiding matter. That is, after creatingmatter, God designed the pattern it should have before setting itin motion according to the laws established by him. Moreimportantly, though, note that for Boyle there is an ultimatemeeting of the descriptive and prescriptive senses of the laws ofnature. On the one hand, in the descriptive sense, Boyle says thatthe phenomena are to be reduced to "matter and local motion" or, inother words, to the laws of motion, which in the collective sensehe elsewhere calls the laws of nature. On the other hand, in the59prescriptive sense, these laws were imposed by God, who must thenfor Boyle be the great mechanical philosopher just as God was forPlato the great geometer.Following this discussion, Boyle goes on to say that a greatmany mathematicians and philosophers have worked hard to study the"nature and general laws of this motion" and that in this discoursehe is going to examine the issue of local motion even further(V:2). Here Boyle acknowledges that the formulation of specificlaws are to be expressed in mathematical terms.The next work of Boyle's to refer to the laws of nature comesafter an interval of several years during which many other workswere published. Of the High Venera;•ic° Man's Intellect Uwoc::: tot2.3,*(•,e• published in 1685, is a collection of loose sheets of paper,written at different times and places, and hastily tacked together,or so the publisher claims (V:130). This work suggests that ofGod's attributes which we are able to know, we have only animperfect knowledge. Building on two imperfectly known attributesof God, wisdom and power, Boyle attempts to show that God is farbeyond the grasp of man's intellect. The discourse is really adevotional. It contains at the same time, though, severalreferences to the laws of nature, only one of which is a specificlaw, the "law of opticks" (V:141).Early on, Boyle discusses what would result if God had madeother worlds besides the one we know:Now in these other worlds... we may conceive, that there maybe a vast difference betwixt the subsequent phaenomena, andproductions observable in one of those systems, from whatregularly happens in ours, though we should suppose no more,60than that two or three laws of local motion may be differingin those unknown worlds from the laws, that obtain in ours(V:139).It seems that Boyle is saying that there are not many logicalpossibilities for different laws of motion, only two or three lawsmay be different. He suggests that the ability of some bodies tomove restlessly while not loosing power to still bodies might bemore extensive in another world: "And the laws of this propagationof motion among bodies may be not the same with those, that areestablished in our world" (V:140).So Boyle can imagine a world where the "laws of motion" aredifferent, that is, another logically possible world. He statesthat this is not preposterous "for in the common philosophy,besides that the notion and theory of local motion are but veryimperfectly proposed, there are laws or rules of it well, not tosay at all, established" (V:140). In other words, althoughmechanical philosophy does not understand all that there is to knowabout local motion, certain laws are well known, or are establishedfacts, and it is possible to speculate that these might bedifferent in another world. This argument seems in part to be anattempt to establish God's freewill and omnipotence in settling thelaws of nature.Next Boyle turns to a topic that appears to reinforce this; heattacks the "Cartesian law of motion" (V:140). Boyle states thatthe proof for the conservation of motion that Descartes offers,being drawn from the immutability of God, seem verymetaphysical, and not very cogent to me, who fear, that theproperties and extent of the divine immutability are not sowell known to us mortals, as to allow Crtiu5 to make it, in61our present case, an argument, a priori (V:140).So while arguing against Descartes on the one hand that we shouldbe able to know more of God's ends for the natural world, on theother hand, Boyle argues the opposite way against him in that wecan not know God's attributes well enough to make them an A prioriargument. Boyle also rejects Descartes's Law of the Conservationof Motion on a po ster.ior.i grounds because the universe is too vastand unknown to test the hypothesis. Boyle continues:So that the truth of the Cartesian rules being evinced neitherA priori, nor ,J posteriori, it appears not, why it should bethought unreasonable to imagine, that other systems may havesome peculiar laws of motion; only because they differ fromthose Cartesian rules, whereof the greatest part are, atleast, undemonstrated (V:140).Clearly Boyle is suggesting that Descartes's account of the laws ofmotion would restrict God's freedom in choosing the form of theselaws both for this world and for other worlds. That is, Descartesis trying to explicate laws that are rationally necessary such thatGod would have to establish them in any world he created. ForBoyle, though, we can not know what is necessary to God or nature;we can only come closer to knowing what is in the world. It isinteresting to note that Boyle, although he does not say itexplicitly, would consider Descartes's Law of the Conservation ofMotion as an hypothesis and not as a law since it cannot beascertained solely from the known facts of the universe.Carrying on, Boyle claims that a God who can care for thisvast universe, with its complex and mundane bodies "every momentsustained, guided and governed, according to their respectivenatures, and with exact regard to the catholic laws of the62universe," is worthy of great praise (V:140).^Furthermore, thegovernance of angels and demons might be more difficult than thegovernance of matter according to the "primordial laws of motion,"since bodies "have no wills of their own to make them swerve [fromtheir commanded course]," and consequently display more of God'swisdom and power (V:142).Later in the same discourse, Boyle speaks of the vast distancebetween the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man, who, alongwith the other creatures, is "but the limited and arbitraryproduction of his (God's') power and will..." (V:148). As a resultof this, man may know only some of the "laws of motion,"but God knows particularly, both why and how universal matterwas first contrived into this admirable universe, rather thana world of any other of the numberless constructions he couldhave given it; and both why those laws of motion, rather thanothers were established; and how senseless matter, to whosenature motion does not at all belong, comes to be both putinto motion, and qualified to transfer it according todeterminate rules, which itself cannot understand (V:149-150).Here again Boyle is claiming that God was free to establish thestructure of the world and the laws of nature found in it; butBoyle goes further in claiming that he does not understand howmatter obeys the laws of motion.Following chronologically, the next work of Boyle's is meChristian Virtuoso. The first volume was published in 1690. Thesecond volume was published much later, in 1744, as part of ThomasBirch's first edition of Boyle's collected works." It came outlater than the first volume because while Boyle was working on it"Fulton, 120.63he was called off to London where sickness, business, and visitorskept him busy (V:541). Presumably, he was unable to see it throughto publication before he died in 1691, although he had already sentit to the publisher. 3e It is not clear whether or not the Pppendixto the First Part of the Christian Virtuoso was first published in1744 as well. In both the 1744 edition of Birch and in the secondexpanded edition of 1772, it appears next to the second part of TheChristian Virtuoso,. Nonetheless, the intent of all the works thatcome under this title is to show that being a virtuoso, a naturalphilosopher, is neither against Christianity nor a hinderance tobeing a good Christian." These works also show Boyle's maturethought, especially on the concept of the laws of nature.In the preface of part one of The Christian Virt-4 Boyleclaims that although he is not writing as a natural philosopher,some will think that he is wasting his time as only "the laws andphaenomena of nature" are worthy for philosophers to write about(V:510). In the work, he only mentions one specific law, the "lawof optics" (V:517). Later he also mentions that there are far more"laws" in the universe than man with his dim and limited mind canreach (V:538).Perhaps though, the most important discussion of the laws ofnature occurs in an argument in favour of God's providence. Boylehad just argued for the existence of God and the immortality of thesoul (V:515, 517). That is, he averred that these religious5eSee Thc, Chrj5t1,In V:i.t.rc^Part II, VI:716.59See V:508.64beliefs are not contrary to natural philosophy, but ratherconducive to its furtherance. He then argues for belief inprovidence:Nor will the force of all that has been said for God's specialprovidence, be eluded, by saying, with some deists, that afterthe first formation of the universe, all things are brought topass by the settled laws of nature. For though this beconfidently, and not without colour pretended; yet 1confess, it does not satisfy me. For, besides the insuperabledifficulty there is, to give an account of the first formationof things, which any (especially Aristotelian) deists will notascribe to God; and besides that the laws of motion, withoutwhich the present state and course of things could not bemaintained, did not necessarily spring from the nature ofmatter, but depended upon the will of the divine author ofthings: besides this, I say, I look upon a law as a moral, nota physical cause, as being indeed but a notional thing,according to which, an intelligent and free agent is bound toregulate its actions. But inanimate bodies are utterlyincapable of understanding what a law is, or what it enjoins,or when they act conformably to it; and therefore the actionsof inanimate bodies, which cannot incite or moderate their ownactions, are produced by real power, not by laws; though theagents, if intelligent, may regulate the exertions of theirpower by settled rules (V:520-521).Several things are evident from this passage. First, Boyle assertsthat there is a God who created the universe. Second, the laws ofnature do not "necessarily spring from the nature of matter."Boyle is aware that this is an option open to those who deny whathe asserts, that the laws of nature were freely and arbitrarilyestablished by God. Third, Boyle implies that the "course ofthings," elsewhere called the common course of nature, existsbecause of the laws of motion. Fourth, Boyle suggests that forthose Deists who claim that the first formation of things happenedwithout God guiding and directing matter and that the laws ofnature follow from the inherent properties of matter, there is aneven greater problem: the idea that there are "laws" for motion is65notional. Boyle avers that obedience to laws can only properly beattributed to a rational creature and matter, being brute, cannotknow or obey laws or commands. Therefore, the Deists, who say thatGod is not continuously involved with nature, cannot account forthe law-like behaviour of matter. Boyle states that the actions ofinanimate bodies are not produced by "laws" but by "real power."This "real power" is none other than God acting directly in natureregulating the actions of bodies. Perhaps Boyle is closer toMore's position, elucidated earlier, than he admits, or perhapsthis assertion can be understood within the context of Boyle'sthoughts on God's "concourse" which will be discussed in the nextchapter.In the ,PppendiN - to the FIrt Part c the Christian VirtutBoyle returns to the problem of miracles. The work is a dialoguebetween four characters. Eleutherius, whose role seems to be thatof expanding on the arguments of Justinus, the main figure, whosays that the phenomena of nature are the production of matter inmotion, acting "according to settled laws" (VI:679). 6° He goes onto say that it isunreasonable to deny, that the grand author of nature, whofreely and arbitrarily established those laws, may, either bysuspending, or altering them, or by a more immediate guidanceof the motions of the minute parts, or greater portions ofmatter, or by way unknowable to us, as those by which he,being an incorporeal substance, can give motion to matter: avirtuoso, I say, that knows and considers these things, willeasily grant, that this divine agent may, by divers ways...bring such things to pass, as the ordinary course of nature6cAlexander says that in The Sceptical CY /f;ist Eleutheriusrepresents the common man. There is no Justinus in this dialogue.See Alexander 21.6 2would never produce... (VI:679-660).Boyle here goes beyond earlier accounts of miracles and assertsthat they may be produced by God's direct action in movingcorporeal bodies or by ways unknown to us. This echoes Boyle'sreference to God as a "real power," but it must be noted that inthis case, God's actions only result in miracles which operateoutside of the laws of nature and are not the reason for the lawsof nature. For this reason, it is unlikely that Boyle's earlierreference to "real power" means that he sees the laws of nature asmerely the human description of God's direct and continuousactivity in nature. Rather, it seems that for Boyle the laws ofnature do really exist as such.Boyle carries on in the mouth of Justinus to reply to thosewho say that belief in Christianity forces one, as a naturalphilosopher, to hold to mysteries that are incomprehensible. Hesays that some natural phenomena are unable to be comprehended byanyone, and that even in the mechanical philosophy "the generalexplications supposed such a fabrick of the world, and such anorigin, and such laws of motion, as involve difficulties thatconfound our weak understanding" (VI:693).Finally, in the same discourse, but after the dialogue, Boylesays that belief in miracles is warranted for the following reason:It is one thing to contradict a catholic or metaphysicalprinciple, or dictate of reason, and another to contradict aphysical one; since the laws of nature, as they were at firstarbitrarily instituted by God, so, in reference to him, theyare but arbitrary still (VI:714).Boyle states that religion is not contrary to reason or logic; it67is only contrary to the laws of nature when it asserts the beliefin miracles, but as physical laws were freely and arbitrarilyestablished by God, he can without contradiction or difficultychange or suspend them. However, Boyle seems to be implying thatGod is bound by reason and logic as these were not freely andarbitrarily instituted by God. They are necessary while the lawsof nature are not.In the second part of The Christian Virtuoso, Boyle hasseveral references to the laws of nature. He refers to threespecific laws: the "laws of opticks" and the "laws of therefractions, and reflexions of light" (VI:736, 737). He also callsplants and animals "living machines," and talks about how they arereproduced by a few simple "laws of local motion" (VI:725-726), andhow from a simple egg, "by virtue of the general laws of motion"and the fabrick of the egg, the beauty of a peacock's feathersshould appear (VI:730). He goes on to speak about how thephenomena of the world are produced by matter and "the guidance ofthe local motions of the greater and smaller fragments of itaccording to a few laws which they are not disposed to disobey..."(VI:731). Boyle asserts that, as matter is brute, it cannotarrange itself into such a wonderful fabrick as the world andcannot disobey laws as can creatures who possess intelligence andwill. A little later on, Boyle mentions matter's "regularconformity to laws" (VI:764).Boyle also discusses the relationship between the separatesubstances of mind and the body and speaks of the "laws" of their68union (VI:754). He goes on to mention "laws" three more times inthis context (VI:754, 754, 755). He then claims that all thephenomena in nature are explicable in terms of "mechanical laws"except for the workings of man who has a rational soul and freewill (VI:754). That is, the motions of man's limbs and other partsare not derivable from "the general laws of motion," or the "merelymechanical laws of motion," and do not follow from the "laws ofmotion established among things corporeal" (VI:756). Instead, theyresult from man's free will. Presumably, there is a mechanical lawfor matter and man's body in as much as it is part of the materialworld, and a law for the relation between mind and body, but theiris no law for the mind, being immaterial, and for the workings ofthe mind in as much as it is evidence of the workings of man's freewill.Earlier, in another discourse, Boyle had turned to thequestion of whether or not there were other logically possibleworlds, existing at the same time as our world, with different lawsof nature. 61 In this discourse, Boyle asks whether or not anotherworld, separated from our world by time, might have differentphysical laws:And who knows, but that in that new heaven, and new earth...that God will substitute for Cour world], the primordialframes of things, and the laws of motion, and consequently,the nature of things corporeal, may be very differing fromthose that obtain in the present worlds Csicl" (VI:788-789).Again Boyle is affirming that the laws of motion found in thisworld were freely and arbitrarily chosen by God and that other61 S ee^Rh Yon f1.3^V 1 39.69logically possible worlds, with other laws of motion, could exist.It is not clear whether Boyle meant for "worlds" to be plural orwhether this has any significance.From this survey of Boyle's works, several things are evidentregarding his concept of the laws of nature and his use of thephrase. First, in this regard, Boyle is for the most partconsistent throughout his life. Second, for Boyle, the phrase"laws of nature" is figurative since matter is brute and hasneither the intelligence to obey laws nor the will to disobey them.Third, Boyle uses the phrase "laws of nature" in two differentways. On the one hand, for Boyle, laws were imposed by God; theywere established freely and arbitrarily by an omnipotent God. Assuch, there could have been other logically possible worlds. Also,these laws imposed by God were arranged hierarchically. On theother hand, laws are descriptive of the regular behaviour ofbodies. However, for Boyle, laws are rarely merely descriptivesince he usually holds that they are causal and explanatory and assuch they have metaphysical implications. Laws for Boyle reallyexist; they are not constructs of the human mind.Furthermore, it seems that Boyle's two uses have two differentorigins and these correspond to his coupling of both the "orderamong corporeal" and the "rules of motion" as the laws of nature. 6That is, on the one hand, the idea that the laws of nature meansthe "order among things corporeal" has its origins in the idea ofdivine legislation reflecting the ancient Greek and Biblical uses6''See^1 eny of . ThEloy IV:68-69.70of the phrase. It is God who establishes and maintains the commoncourse of nature. On the other hand, the idea that the laws ofnature means the "rules of motion" has its origins in the idea fromthe thirteenth century of the mathematical description of thebehaviour of bodies without any prescriptive connotations. Thisuse of law derived from the notion of a rule or guideline inherentin the nature of the object. Both traditions influenced Boyle butboth seem to come together as he feels that all laws describe thelaws God has prescribed and that the order in the universe willeventually be reducible to the rules of motion, to mathematicallaws. All laws are then explained by the laws of motion. Boylehoped that even the laws of gravity would be reduced to the laws ofmotion. Nonetheless, the laws of motion themselves are onlyexplanatory on one level since they find their ultimate source inthe will of God.However, when Boyle articulates his concept of the laws ofnature, he draws on some other traditions. That is, although thereare two origins to Boyle's use of the word "law" in connection withnature, there are other sources upon which he draws for his conceptof the laws of nature that are necessary to consider in order tohave a better grasp of what Boyle meant. The next chapter willturn to this discussion.71CHAPTER IICLOCKS OR PUPPETS:BOYLE'S CONCEPT OF THE LAWS OF NATUREIn order to better understand Boyle's concept of the laws ofnature, it is important to place his thought in its properintellectual context. That is, in articulating his concept, Boyledraws upon two intellectual traditions that reach back to the latemiddle ages but that were current in his day. The first traditionis the medieval doctrine of voluntarism. Francis Oakley, Eugene M.Klaaren, and J.E. McGuire have placed Boyle's thought on nature inthis context. As Oakley says, the idea of divine omnipotence,which is the crux of voluntarism, is not only the religioustradition in which Boyle stood, it is also the philosophical andscientific tradition in which he stood." The other intellectualtradition necessary to understand Boyle's thought is known asconcurrentism. The exponent of this position is Timothy Shanahan.The first tradition developed out of the theological debatesin the thirteenth century. The crucial date and event usuallygiven in any account of the development of voluntarism is theCondemnation of 1277 when the Bishop of Paris and the Archbishop ofCanterbury published a list of 219 propositions that were condemnedas contrary to the Christian faith. This event was brought on bythe recovery of Aristotelian texts from the Arab world coupled withthe introduction of Aristotle's Arabic commentators into Europe."Francis Oakley, OranipLtenc:, e, Covenant and Cldor- ( Ithaca,N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984) 85.72Foremost among these Aristotelian and Arabic ideas that werecondemned were the teachings of "metaphysical necessitarianism"which threatened the freedom and omnipotence of God."Metaphysical necessitarianism taught that the world necessarilyexists, and exists necessarily the way it is. There could be noother logically possible world, and, following this, all the rulesgoverning phenomena must of necessity exist the way they are.The Church reacted to the challenge of the freedom andomnipotence of God. In contrast to the Aristotelian-Arab position,Christian theologians asserted that God's powers were unlimited andas such God could freely choose to create the world and to createit such as it is. God was under no constraint or compulsion ineither case, neither in regard to his power nor his will. However,God was not capricious, they taught, and would not just randomlychange the order of the world he established. Rather, it could betrusted that the natural order would remain constant, not becauseit is so necessarily, but because God had promised in the Bible tokeep the present order.What was to eventually occur from this voluntarist position,and especially from the teachings of William of Ockham, was therejection of the idea that the natural order rested on the notionof divine ideas as Plato had taught. Instead the natural order wasseen to be the result of an autonomous divine will. 65 Although"Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 438.650akley, "Laws of Nature," 439.73this was a rejection of the ultimate intelligibility theworld, 66 it helped to give rise to empiricism since in rejectingthe notion of divine ideas it rejected the notion of necessaryconnections between distinct things and hence there is no way todeduce the order of the world a priori; the order of things canonly be discovered from what de facto is. 67The two phrases that in the medieval period came to signifythis voluntarist doctrine were potentia absolute and potentieordinate. Potentia absolute, God's absolute power, stressed thatGod was not restricted or limited in any fashion in creating theworld save logical contradiction. God could have created any worldwith any natural order; he could have created one different fromthe one that exists and he could have created separate worlds withdifferent natural orders, and God could in the future create adifferent world with a different natural order. The only thing Godcould not do is change logic.Potentia ordinate, God's ordained power or ordinary power,stressed that God would not change the world randomly, that he hadpromised in the Bible to keep the present order till the end of the66(3akley, Omiiipc. ,tence 55.670akley, "Laws of Nature," 442. Ernst A. Moody says: "Butif the world is out-and-out contingent, there can be no a priorireasons for its existence or for its de facto order; empiricism isthus a logical consequence of belief in the Christian doctrine ofdivine freedom."; Moody, "Empiricism and Metaphysics in MedievalPhilosophy," Studies in Medieval Philosophy., Science and Lopic:Collected Papers, 1=-1969 (Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 1975) 229.74world." Potontia ord.inata came to be seen as the idea of acovenant since, as Oakley says, "The only force... capable ofbinding omnipotence without thereby denying it is the omnipotentwill itself."" Because of God's covenant in the Bible whereby hebinds himself, the order of the world could be trusted to remainconstant. God normally condescends to act within the ordainedorder but still has the freedom to over-ride this order and suchconstitutes a miracle.In speaking about God's absolute power and his ordained power,Eugene M. Klaaren interprets this as crucial to the development ofmodern science and especially of the concept of the laws of nature.It is important to note, though, that he is speaking about theconceptual origins of the laws of nature here and not about theorigins of the phrase "laws of nature" although the latter wouldseem to naturally follow. Klaaren says:Within this dialectical orientation tpotentia absoluta andpotentia ordinata], the order of creation was conceived interms of law, and entities subject to law, rather than interms of symbols with varying degrees of mind and soul whichparticipated in the divine Logos. Fully developed, this shiftfrom logos to law acquired epoch-forming proportions, for lawin this tradition had its own character. In principle, lawwas dependent chiefly upon God's will rather then His reason,"It is interesting to note what The Compact - Edition of theOxford English Dictionary lists for the use of the terms "ordain"and "ordinary" in Boyle's time, both words coming from the Latinroots ordina-re and ordinarius respectively. Definition 13 for"ordain" states: "Of the Deity, fate, or supernatural power: Toappoint as part of the order of the universe or of nature; todecree, predestine, destine" (180), and definition 9 for "ordinary"writes: "A formula or rule prescribing a certain order or course ofaction" (187). So when Boyle is speaking about the "ordinarycourse of nature" he is speaking about the order of nature."Oakley,^.75although the latter was not neglected. Since there was noeasy or natural transition from God's power to the createdorder, obedience reinforced the sense of a transcendentLawgiver. Like the ancient Jewish understanding of law, thevoluntarist view presupposed God distinct from His creation,which he orders by law."Elsewhere, Klaaren says that with voluntarism, the "order ofcreation became the law imposed by God." 71 Furthermore, he equatesthe idea of potentia ordinate with the notion of the common courseof nature. 7e Klaaren suggests, then, that the seventeenth centuryshift from the search for substantial forms to the search for lawsoriginated from the voluntarist rejection of the Greek notion ofdivine ideas and of the natural order as the reflection of thegreat chain of being. Instead, the natural order came to be seenas the result of God's command, his will, and that this order, thepotentia ordinate, is the common course of nature. So God'simposed law, the laws of nature, is the common course of nature.Such terminology was actually common among the earlyvoluntarist theologians and continued through till Boyle's time.Ockham never uses the equivalent Latin phrase "laws of nature" or"natural laws" in a scientific sense but he does use "law" toindicate the fixed order of God's ordained power: he uses theexpression "by the common law" as synonymous with "in the present"Eugene M. Klaaren,^Oripin^ModcPn Scife ( GrandRapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977) 36."Klaaren 33.72Klaaren 37.76order" or "given the divine order."" Pierre d'Ailly in thefourteenth century uses phrases such as "by the common course ofnature," "by the common laws and naturally," and "naturally or byordained law." He even speaks of God having ordained "a naturallaw" in the physical world. 74In the seventeenth century, Walter Charleton, who broughtGassendi's atomism to England, and who was a major source of ideasfor Boyle," speaks of the "rules prescribed by his (God's] will"which he called the "laws of Nature";" and the English Federaltheologian, William Ames, talks about the "order in natural things"as being "the laws of nature common to all things."" EvenFrancisco Suarez, the Spanish Jesuit author of the late sixteenthand early seventeenth centuries, describes God's ordinary power asthat power by which "he operates in accordance with the common lawswhich he has established in the universe," and as "the ordinary lawwhich he has imposed upon himself."'"So both Oakley and Klaaren argue for an enduring intellectualtradition that not only supplied in part the concepts for Boyle's"Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 444. Unfortunately, Oakley doesnot give the original Latin for these passages.74Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 444.-"Robert Kargon, "Walter Charleton, Robert Boyle, and theAcceptance of Epicurean Atomism in England," Isis 55 (1964): 184-192."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 445."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 446."Oakley, "Laws of Nature," 446.77definition of the laws of nature, but also was one possible sourcefor the phrase "laws of nature." That is, Boyle knew and couldeasily have drawn upon the long Biblical tradition of the notion ofGod as the divine lawgiver. This tradition, though, becameespecially articulated in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuriesbecause of the perceived threat to the ideas of God's freedom andomnipotence from Aristotelianism. The developed voluntaristdoctrine, then, not only became a possible source of the phrase"laws of nature," it also became a source of Boyle's conception ofGod's relation to the natural order and of the laws of nature.As has been discussed, Boyle asserts that God freely andarbitrarily established the laws of nature, and that these couldhave been different; in other words, he avers that there are otherlogically possible worlds. Boyle's thinking, however, most clearlyexemplifies the voluntarist tradition if we consider the case ofmiracles. For Boyle, the laws of nature, the natural order, arenot absolute but can be over-ruled by God in the case of miracles.Boyle says that as God created the laws of nature, he is free tochange, over-ride, or suspend them. To further support Oakley andKlaaren's claims regarding Boyle, it can be seen that Boyle alsoclearly articulates the voluntarist position in regard to the moralorder:But when I find any thing enjoined in the scripture, myconsciousness to its being imposed by that father of spiit5,(who has both right to enact laws, which must be thereforejust, because he enacts them, and power to punish thetrangression [sic] of them, with no less than eternal death;)I then leave roving, and see where to cast anchor (11:289).Oakley says that the doctrine of voluntarism fits the idea of78imposed law,"and it seems to fit both Boyle's moral teachings andhis concept of the laws of nature.The other writer who placed Boyle's thought in the context ofvoluntarism is J.E. McGuire. He tries to counter what he sees asthe "received" tradition regarding Boyle's concept of God'srelation to nature which of course includes Boyle's concept of thelaws of nature." McGuire outlines the received view as that whichholds God to be only the first efficient cause so that nature isindependent of God, is self-contained. Timothy Shanahan, incriticizing McGuire's account, calls this "metaphysical deism" andexplains it asthe technical philosophical view according to which God, or aFirst Cause, created the matter of the universe, institutedimmutable and universal laws of nature that precludealteration, and thereafter does not interact with the naturalworld. This view is primarily concerned to deny God'scontinued causal activity in nature. alWhat McGuire attacks is the view that the rise of the mechanicalphilosophy was coupled with the rise of secularization and hencewith the decline in the belief in providence. a2 Some of the peoplehe is countering are Richard S. Westfall, David Kubrin, and MarieBoas Hall. One person who clearly held this view in regard to"bakley, "Laws of Nature," 440."J.E. McGuire, "Boyle's Conception of Nature," Journal ot theHistory . of Ideay5 33 (1972): 524. McGuire also notes that the termspotentio absoluta and potentia ordinata were usually expressed byseventeenth-century writers as God's "extraordinary and ordinaryconcourse" but does nothing to explain what. Boyle meant be God'sconcourse; McGuire 526, fn 8."'Shanahan 551."McGuire 524.79Boyle was E.A. Burtt. Burtt says that Boyle argues for just theidea of secondary causes but then finds difficulty reconciling thiswith Boyle's position on God's concourse, which Burtt recognizes isa form of the doctrine of providence, and so blames Boyle for notbeing consistent.'McGuire lists four themes that he is trying to argue in hispaper. First, he suggests that the mechanical philosophy was notjust the revival of atomism but also ff a reformulation of anominalist ontology arising mainly from the reformed theology ofthe Calvinists. “ 84 He later explains this "nominalist ontology"as the idea that there is no inherent connection between contingentparticulars and that this results from an omnipotent voluntaristGod. 35 We have already seen this point argued by Oakley.Following this, McGuire claims that "physical laws are categoriesimposed upon nature by the human mind in light of the observedregularities of experience, or of those experimentally produced."' 6In other words, he is arguing that Boyle had a descriptive view ofthe laws of nature. Third, he suggests that "God's is theonly causally efficacious agency in nature,"" but is hard pressedto explain how this is not occasionalism. Fourth, McGuire saysthat the intellectual context in which to see this interpretation"Burtt 191, 192."McGuire 525."McGuire 527."McGuire 525."McGuire 525.60of the mechanical philosophy is the theological doctrine ofvoluntarism. Following from this, he suggests that nature isdependent on God's providence "such that it is the mereexemplification of rules or laws continually imposed by the latterCGod]."" The important thing here to note is that the impositionof laws by God in McGuire's accounting is continual. Laws are notestablished at creation and left to operate on their own; they mustbe continually re-created.It seems, though, that in arguing for a voluntarist positionfor Boyle, McGuire has gone too far. That is, McGuire sets up afalse dilemma between two conceptions of providence: "there are nosecondary causes in nature which are miraculously dispensed with byProvidence; rather, Providence is God's continual action innature." a9 He is arguing that either secondary causes account forthe actions produced in the world or God does. Later, we will seethat there is another option.McGuire is right in not attributing the position ofmetaphysical deism to Boyle. As we have seen, Boyle avers that Goddoes not leave the laws of nature to operate on their own onceestablished but that God preserves or upholds them. Furthermore,Boyle's God is active in the universe through special providence ormiracles. McGuire is also right in arguing that Boyle rejects the"bloated ontologies" which postulate substantial forms, plastic"McGuire 525."McGuire 525-526.81natures, or a world sou1. 90In addition to this, McGuire says correctly that Boyle doesnot consider the laws of nature to be an inherent part of nature,if he means by inherent that the laws of nature were established byGod, but he concludes from this that Boyle did not "substantializelaws," 9I meaning that laws do not exist as such. In other words,McGuire claims that both the laws of nature and causality are thecreation of the mind of man observing the regular patterns orbehaviour of bodies. He says that "Boyle implicitly expressed theview that causation is something imposed upon observed regularityin nature by the conceptualizing power of the human mind. 1' 9'McGuire goes on to say that "a law of nature is theconceptualization of similarity observed between phenomena, arisingfrom the fact that the human mind observes phenomena as similar." 93So McGuire asserts that, for Boyle, the laws of nature are merelydescriptive laws with no actual causal implications since causesare also conceptualization.McGuire's interpretation of Boyle is for the most partmistaken. First, Boyle speaks of the laws of nature as thingswhich exist in and of themselves. He says that God establishedthem, that God preserves them, and that in the case of miracles,God over-rules, alters, or suspends them. It does not seem thatnicGuire 534.glMcGuire 535."McGuire 536."McGuire 536.82for Boyle these are figurative expressions. Second, Boyle manytimes uses the clock analogy which cannot be associated with theposition that McGuire is describing. The clock analogy wascontrasted by Boyle with the position, similar to the one McGuireis ascribing to Boyle, that nature is like a puppet with Godinterposing for every action:And methinks the difference betwixt their (the school-philosophers] opinion of God's agency in the world, and that,which I would propose, may be somewhat adumbrated by saying,that they seem to imagine the world to be after the nature ofa puppet, whose contrivance indeed may be very artificial, butyet is such, that almost every particular motion the artificeris fain (by drawing sometimes one wire or string, sometimesanother) to guide and sometimes over-rule the actions of theengine; whereas, according to us, it is like a rare clock,such as may be that at St•dE:bm-qh, where all things are soskilfully contrived, that the engine being once set a moving,all things proceed, according to the artificer's first design,and the motion of the little statues, that at such hoursperform these or those things, do not require, like those ofpuppets, the peculiar interposing of the artificer, or anyintelligent agent employed by him, but perform their functionsupon particular occasions, by virtue of the general andprimative contrivance of the whole engine (V:163).On McGuire's behalf, though, Boyle does say that idea of "law"applied to nature is "notional" (V:170-171), and McGuire uses thisfact to support his claim, 94 but it seems that Boyle here isrejecting the use of the word "law" which ascribes the obedience ofa free will to an inanimate object. Boyle is not, contra McGuire,rejecting the notion that certain rules have been laid down by God,rules that convention calls the laws of nature. Therefore, we haveseen that neither the position of metaphysical deism nor theposition of occasionalism, which McGuire has articulated, fits"McGuire 534.83Boyle's concept of God's relation to nature and consequentlyBoyle's thinking on causes and the laws of nature. Boyle'sseemingly contradictory position, that laws of nature operate ontheir own yet God is needed for the laws of nature to operate, canbe exemplified nicely in a passage from Boyle where he says that ifGod "but continue his ordinary and general concourse, there will beno necessity of extraordinary interposition" (V:163). In otherwords, the laws of nature operate without interposition of God aslong as God maintains his concourse. It remains to be seen, then,what Boyle meant by "ordinary and general concourse."Another author who finds problems with McGuire's position isTimothy Shanahan. Shanahan likewise feels that despite McGuire'sclaims to the contrary, 95 in outlining his interpretation of BoyleMcGuire is attributing an occasionalist position to Boyle."Shanahan rejects both the deist and occasionalist interpretationsof Boyle. In place of them both, he suggests a middle positionwhich he terms "concurrentism": "Concurrentism in any of itsversions can be understood as an attempt to cut a middle waybetween the extremes of deism and occasionalism by recognizing thecausal contributions made to natural phenomena by both God and"McGuire 525."Shanahan 556 -557. Edwin McCann also feels that McGuire iswrong in ascribing an occasionalist position to Boyle. See EdwinMcCann, "Lochean Mechanism. Appendix: Was Boyle an Occasionalist?"in Philc,E ItG ../120;c70•y and i.kistoricai: ed. A. J. Holland(Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985): 209 - 231.84natural entities." 97 Although Shanahan takes issue mainly withMcGuire's and others' interpretations of Boyle in regard to theissue of causality, what he has to say is relevant to ourdiscussion of the laws of nature.The position of concurrentism was held among others by ThomasAquinas (1225-1274), and Luis de Molina (1535-1600). 98 Aquinasarticulates his position as such: "God is the cause of everything'saction inasmuch as he gives everything the power to act, andpreserves it in being and applies it to action, and inasmuch as byhis power every other power acts." 99 For Aquinas, God and naturalobjects do not each offer part of the cause but the cause isoffered wholly by both. In this definition, each is a sufficientcause.For Molina, God and the natural agent both act simultaneouslyto produce the effect but in such a fashion that "the action ofeach is a necessary condition for the production of the effect, andtogether they are sufficient. " 1" Molina says thatIt follows that God's general concurrence is not an action ofGod's on the secondary cause, as though the secondary causea'Shanahan 560. This term is Shanahan's. It does not appearto have been a distinctly articulated doctrine at the time althoughShanahan does take the term from the Latin word cocursu.c .,,; whoseliteral meaning is "running together." The English equivalent,"concourse," we have already discussed in relation to Boyle."Shanahan 560. Shanahan says that Francisco Suarez, whom wehave mentioned earlier, held this position and notes that Boylequotes extensively from his works Disputatione 1$ ,taptysice whichcontains this position; Shanahan 560, fn 41.991_ , Potntia q.3, a.7; cited in Shanahan 561."'Shanahan 563.85acted and produced its effect after having been moved; rather,it is an action immediately with the cause on its action andeffect. 1°1In the case of miracles, God has only to withhold hisconcourse, his cooperation, from either causes, or from the laws ofnature. This fits Boyle's position on miracles where his generalview of the laws of nature are evidenced. In one instance Boylesays that "we may observe, that the power of God has alreadyextended itself to the performance of such things... sometimes bysuspending the natural acting of bodies upon one another..."(IV:201). This is clearly a case were causes are suspended, andthe language Boyle uses lends itself to the interpretation that thecauses need God's assistance to be efficacious, but nonethelessthey are real. In regard to the laws of nature, Boyle says thatthe universe being once framed by God, and the laws of motionbeing settled and all upheld by his incessant concourse andgeneral providence, the phaenomena of the world thusconstituted are physically produced by the mechanicalaffections of the parts of matter, and what they operate uponone another according to mechanical laws (IV:68-69).Here Boyle is saying that the laws of nature need God's concourse,his cooperation, in order to be efficacious. It is clear fromthese passages that both causes and the laws of nature would not beefficacious without God's "concourse," without his cooperation.Boyle is articulating in regard to both causes and laws theconcurrentist position described by Shanahan. Shanahan concludesthat for Boyle, God, after creating the world,continues to sustain the order of the universe by maintainingthe laws of motion which govern the mechanical interactions of1O'(:Aw-ri^part II, q.14, disp. 26; cited in Shanahan 563.86the part of matter. God's "incessant concourse and generalprovidence" consists in conserving these laws of motion, andconsequently the effects associated with natural bodies.Natural bodies can be said to possess causal powers in virtueof the motion they can impart to one another through impact,but they are incapable of sustaining the lawful order of theuniverse without the continued assistance of God."In Boyle's concept of the laws of nature, the doctrines ofvoluntarism and concurrentism blend to make a whole. The idea ofvoluntarism stresses God's absolute and ordinary powers and has todo with the distinction between God's power and potential and theexisting natural order.^In other words, it makes room for theteaching on miracles, God's special providence.^The idea ofconcurrentism has to do with God's involvement with the naturalorder. It maintains the teaching of the internal integrity of thenatural order while it makes room for the doctrine of God's generalprovidence. In other words, it allows for the idea that God iscontinuously and intimately involved in the affairs of the naturalworld without attributing so much to God that natural causes wouldnot be sought, and hence that science would not be performed.Both these doctrines can be seen in a passage from Boyle aboutthe mechanical philosophy:Nor is this doctrine [mechanical philosophy) inconsistent withthe belief of any true miracle; for it supposes the ordinaryand settled course of nature to be maintained without at alldenying, that the most free and powerful Author of nature isable, whenever He thinks fit, to suspend, alter, or contradictthose laws of motion, which He alone at first established, andwhich need his perpetual concourse to be upheld (V:414).What Boyle has done, then, is translate the scholastic discourseregarding voluntarism and concurrentism into the context of the1 8hanahan 567.mechanical philosophy.8788CONCLUSIONIt has been argued in this paper that Boyle had two conceptsof the laws of nature and that for each of these concepts there wasa different origin for the use of the word "law" in connection withnature. The first concept of the laws of nature is that of thenatural order. This concept includes the notion of a divinelegislator imposing laws on nature which constitutes the common orordinary course of nature. This use has a long tradition reachingback to the Bible and the ancient Greeks. In the Biblicaltradition, it was expanded by the development of the doctrine ofvoluntarism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The ideaof the natural order as the laws of nature was well known inseventeenth-century England. In this instance, Boyle views the useof the word "law" as figurative since matter is brute.The second concept of the laws of nature is that of thecollective laws of motion. These laws are descriptive of thebehaviour of bodies and are expressed in mathematical terms. AsRuby has shown, there is a long tradition of the use of "law" withsuch description, reaching back to the thirteenth century. In thiscase "law" meant a rule as in a standard or guideline, somethinginherent to the nature of the thing. It had no connotation ofcommand or divine legislation. This use developed in connectionwith the mathematizing of physics and mathematics itself isprobably the ultimate source of the descriptive view of the word "law. "It has also been argued in this paper that Boyle brought thesetwo concepts together; both are referred to as the laws of nature.89That is, Boyle makes no formal distinction between the two conceptsbut the two concepts can be deduced from his writings. Boyle feelsthat laws which are prescriptive, that is, by which God hasestablished the natural order, will be all ultimately reducible todescriptive laws, that is, specific laws which describe thebehaviour of bodies and expresses these in mathematical terms.However, Boyle rarely considers these specific laws as merelydescriptive. That is, Boyle does not feel that laws are just thesummary of the behaviour of bodies: laws are deeper than this.Rather, they imply causality and contingent necessity, and henceare also explanatory and predictive. As mentioned earlier, themedieval idea of substantial forms had a notion of causality; theywere what caused certain behaviour in bodies. Boyle exchanges forthis the idea of the laws of nature. For him, laws are what causethe behaviour in bodies which had been ascribed to substantialforms.This thinking, though, was not specific to Boyle but reflecteda larger trend in regard to the conception of the natural order.Up till the seventeenth century, the idea of natural order was forthe most part accounted for by substantial forms."" After this,in the seventeenth century, the idea of natural order was accountedfor by laws, nature was subject to law; these laws of nature didnot merely describe the behaviour of bodies, they were thought toGerd Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969) 49.90be the cause of the order.Laws were also seen in the seventeenth century to denote aninner necessity to nature; nature has an immanent structure. 1°5This inner structure can be described by laws but it was prescribedby God and so it carries a deeper metaphysical weight than a merelypositivist descriptive law. That is, this inner necessity ofnature is the order established by God, the potepitza ordiatR orthe common course of nature. Laws are descriptive of a deeperorder to nature.Because these laws are causal, they are also explanatory.That is, actions and events in nature can be explained by recourseto the laws of nature as things with ontological reality; they arenot mere conceptualizations of the human mind. Furthermore, sincelaws are explanatory they have a predictive quality. That is, theycan be used to tell how things must unfold. Gerd Buchdahl, saysthat laws in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not justsummary laws but were predictive so that "many would hold that theproper logical form of such a law is best expressed through thehypothetical-conditional 'if-then', rather then the categoricalall ... are'. "106These general trends parallel movements within Boyle's ownconcept of the laws of nature. From what has been said then, it isclear that Boyle was a realist in regard to physical laws: the laws1°4Buchdahl 44."'5Fraassen, 5, 6; Buchdahl 34.1°6Buchdahl 27.91of nature really exist and can be known by man. If thischaracterization of Boyle and the seventeenth century is correct,then perhaps Keith Hutchison is also right when he says thatBoyle's natural philosophy is a blend of naturalism andsupernaturalism: "it involved naturalistic explantions inside thesupernaturalistic ontology. "107The question remains, though, as to why the use of the phrasethe "laws of nature" rose to such prominence in the seventeenthcentury. In the introduction to this paper, it was mentioned thatFrancis Oakley says that the phrase came from a transfer ofconcepts from the moral realm to the physical realm. However, henever really explains why the concept rose to such prominence inthe seventeenth century; he only explains a possible source for thephrase. Likewise, it was mentioned that Edgar Zilsel and JosephNeedham say that the use of this phrase arose becausesociological reasons, because of the existence of a strong centralgovernment and a comparison made between the state and nature.However, their view is unlikely since it does nothing to accountfor the use of "law" in connection with nature by Roger Bacon inthe thirteenth century.Like Zilsel and Needham, in more recent articles, James andMargaret Jacob and Stevin Shapin argue in favour of sociologicalfactors in accounting for the rise of the new conception of naturein Boyle, and by implication, the rise of the concept of the laws1°7Keith Hutchison,^"Supernaturalism and the MechanicalPhilosophy," flistoy^g(:‘jecr, 21 (1983): 325.92of nature. James and Margaret Jacob state that conservativereformers in England at the time of the Restoration, such as Boyle,developed a metaphysics of God and matter that authorized aconservative interpretation of the social hierarchy andanswered the radicals by rendering their social views untruein terms of the conservative metaphysics. In other words, aconservative mutter theory was constructed which 'outlawed'radicalism from the universe. 1°8Likewise, Stevin Shapin suggests:To the social group for whom Boyle spoke the radical sectarianthreat had to be opposed, and one way of opposing it was toproduce and disseminate a philosophy of nature and God whichinsisted that material entities were 'brute and stupid,' thatGod was not immanent in nature, and that, therefore, naturelike a congregation and civil society generally, required forits activity the superintendence of external ordering andanimating agencies.... The natural philosophy of Boyle andthe early Royal Society was generated with a view to thesesocial and moral uses; it was evaluated pertly on the basis ofhow well it could be used in those contexts."'9From this it can be concluded that they would account for Boyle'suse of the laws of nature, an integral part of a conservativematter theory, by sociological factors. They would probably notsay that Boyle invented the notion of the laws of nature out ofthin air, but that in articulating his position for sociologicalreasons, he drew on certain medieval traditions, one of which wasthe idea of the imposed laws of nature.However, the Jacobs and Shapin view is unlikely becausealthough it might be able to partially account for why Boyleaccepted the new philosophy it does not explain the existence of afi"J.R. and M. Jacob, "The Anglican Origins of Modern Science:The Metaphysical Foundations of the Whig Constitution," Isi 71(1980): 253-254.1°9Stevin Shapin, "History of Science and its SociologicalReconstructions," Hito?-y^gCiPne 20 (1982): 182.93"conservative matter theory" elsewhere in Europe in the seventeenthcentury and in England before Boyle. A recent article by Gary B.Deason has suggested that such a conservative matter theory existedduring the Reformation, and in part it developed because of theReformers theory of God's radical sovereignty."'" Furthermore,even such a noted social contextualist historian as Charles Websterhas doubts about such a thesis as the Jacobs and Shapin assertwhich he says "transforms the mechanical philosophy into apolitical weapon, self-consciously forged with a view to sweepingaway the republic and restoring a stable monarchy."'" Webstergoes on to say that this view is based on supposition rather thandirect evidence.Finally, it is unlikely that sociological factors alone canaccount for the rise of the use of the phrase "laws of nature" inBoyle and generally in the seventeenth century because a moreplausible explanation exists. If one considers the second conceptof the laws of nature in Boyle's thought, one can see that it isassociated with mathematics and has a history of being associatedwith the mathematizing of physics. In Aristotelianism, mathematicshad been relegated to a peripheral position. However, in the newphysics which emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,mathematics came to the centre of natural philosophy, and as it didso, it is likely that it brought phrases and terminology associated"°Deason 167-191."'Charles Webster, "Puritanism, Separatism, and Science," c, (1and Natui-e, eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1986) 212.94with it also to the centre of natural philosophy. So if thedescriptive use of the word "law" was part of the mathematicaltradition of science, when this mathematical tradition came tocentre stage, it brought to prominence the descriptive use of theword "law." It was easy, then, to join this use of law with thelong tradition of law as prescribed by a divine legislator.However, why the new science itself arose may ultimately have to beaccounted for by sociological reasons.Zilsel and Oakley had long ago said that the question of therise of the use of the phrase was not synonymous with the rise oimodern science. Instead, they said that the question was whymechanical regularities were articulated in terms of imposed laws.If the arguments of this paper are correct, then there is a clearanswer to this question: there was a long tradition of the use of"law" with the idea of descriptive regularities, and this use iswhat lead to the easy blending of the notion of mechanicalregularities with the idea of imposed laws. If this accounting iscorrect, then a new question needs to be asked: is it indeed firstwith Boyle that the notion of laws as the mathematical, non-prescriptive, description of the behaviour of bodies, merges withthe prescriptive use of laws as the order of the world imposed byGod? That is, is Boyle's extended analysis of the mechanicalphilosophy the place in which the scholastic discourse ofvoluntarism and concurrentism are translated for the first timeinto a discourse of the mechanical philosophy and the laws ofnature?95BIBLIOGRAPHYAlexander, Peter. Ideas, Pualities and Corpuscles LoJk andBoyle on the External Wcwid. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1985.Armstrong, D. M. What is a Law of Nature? Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1983.Boas, Marie. Robert Boyle and Seventeenth Century Chemistry.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1958.---. "The Establishment of the Mechanical Philosophy." Osif-ls 10(1952): 412-541.Boyle, Robert. The Works. 6 Vol. Ed. Thomas Birch. 2nd Ed. 1772.Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1965.Buchdahl, Gerd. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science.Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969.Burtt, E. A. The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern PhysicalScience. 2nd Ed. 1932. London: Routledge and Kegan PaulLimited, 1972.Cassirer, Ernst. Ihe indix , zdual and the^sri?Os in RonalancePhzlosophv. Trans. Mario Domandi. Philadelphia: University ofPensylvania Press, 1963.Collingwood, R.G. The Idea of Nature. 1945. London, Oxford, NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1981.Deason, Gary B. 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"Puritanism, Separatism, and Science." In fociand Nature. Eds. David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers.Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986: 192-217.Westfall, Richard S. "Unpublished Boyle's Papers Relating toScientific Method." flnnals of Science 12 (1956): 63-73, 103-117.Whitehead, A. N. Pdventures of ides. New York, 1937.Zilsel, Edgar. "The Genesis of the Concept of Physical Law."Philosophical Review 51 (1942): 245-279.


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