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Home Boyle, Spinoza and the Hartlib Circle: The Correspondence which Never Took Place

 BOYLE, SPINOZA AND THE HARTLIB CIRCLE: THE CORRESPONDENCE WHICH NEVER TOOK PLACE 

Filip BUYSE

Abstract.

There is a bundle of texts that have become known as the Boyle/Spinoza correspondence, yet Boyle and Spinoza never directly communicated. How did this so-called correspondence start? Why did Boyle invite the philosopher Spinoza to comment on his scientific experiments? How can we interpret the central experiment of the controversy in a modern way? Is there any real controversy between the two philosophers? An analysis of the context, the letters and De Nitro reveals that, according to Boyle at least, Spinoza never really understood what was really at stake in Boyle’s important book. Furthermore, I argue, contrary to most commentators, that the philosophers actually had a kind of correspondence based on an implicit agreement regarding their doctrines of the qualities of bodies. And finally, I show that the international network which was important for the understanding of the context as well as for the content of the Boyle/Spinoza correspondence was the Hartlib circle rather than the Royal Society.

Keywords: Boyle, Spinoza, Glauber, redintegration, Mechanical Philosophy, Hartlib Circle, Royal Society

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