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Boyle, Robert (1627–91)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q006-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Boyle is often remembered for the contributions that he made to the sciences of chemistry and pneumatics. Like other natural philosophers in seventeenth-century England, however, he was a synthetic thinker who sought to advance knowledge in all areas of human concern. An early advocate of experimental methods, he argued that experimentation would not only reveal the hidden processes operative in the world but would also advance the cause of religion. Through the study of nature, experimentalists would come to understand that the intricacy of design manifest in the world must be the result of an omniscient and omnipotent creator.

Boyle’s experimental investigations and theological beliefs led him to a conception of the world as a ’cosmic mechanism’ comprised of a harmonious set of interrelated processes. He agreed with the leading mechanical philosophers of his day that the corpuscular hypothesis, which explains the causal powers of bodies by reference to the motions of the least parts (corpuscles) of matter, provided the best means for understanding nature. He insisted, however, that these motions and powers could not be known by reasoning alone, but would have to be discovered experimentally.

Citing this article:
Sargent, Rose-Mary. Boyle, Robert (1627–91), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q006-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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