Pierre Gassendi Criticism - Essay

William Rand (essay date 1657)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “To the ingenious and learned Gentleman, the worshipful John Evelyn Esquire,” in The Mirrour of True Nobility & Gentility: Being the Life of the Renowned Nicolaus Claudius Fabricius Lord of Peiresk, Senator of the Parliament at Aix, by Pierre Gassendi, translated by William Rand, J. Streater, 1657, n.p.

[Dr. William Rand translated Gassendi's early Life of Peiresc into English as The Mirrour of True Nobility and Gentility. In this excerpt from the work's dedicatory epistle addressed to the diarist John Evelyn, Rand reveals his admiration for Gassendi's original text and for Gassendi himself.]

To the ingenious and learned Gentleman, the...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

J. S. Spink (essay date 1960)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Gassendi's Account of the Nature of Things,” in French Free-Thought from Gassendi to Voltaire, Athlone Press, 1960, pp. 85-102.

[In the excerpt below, Spink considers Gassendi's adaptations of Epicurus, comparing Gassendi's work with Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. The critic also examines Gassendi's Syntagma philosophicum, finding Gassendi singular among his French contemporaries as a proponent of atomism.]

It is difficult to determine which of several possible reasons attracted Gassendi to Epicurus in the first place in 1626. He had just given up, or was in process of giving up his plan for publishing a series of direct attacks on the old...

(The entire section is 7942 words.)

Olivier René Bloch (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Gassendi and the Transition from the Middle Ages to the Classical Era,” in Yale French Studies, No. 49, 1973, pp. 43-55.

[In the following essay, Bloch discusses Gassendi as a transitional figure in the development of modern thought, focusing on his materialism and his epistemology. Bloch argues for the unrecognized importance of Gassendi both to British materialist thought, from John Locke to Immanuel Kant, and to political philosophy through modern times. This essay was translated by T. J. Reiss.]

“In the English materialists, nominalism is an all-important element and broadly speaking it constitutes the first expression of...

(The entire section is 4753 words.)

Richard H. Popkin (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Libertines Érudits,” in The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza,” University of California Press, 1979, pp. 87-109.

[In this excerpt, Popkin considers the work of Gassendi in the context of the so-called French libertines of the seventeenth century. The critic debunks the myth of the libertine philosopher as a dissolute atheist, finding instead that although Gassendi was a skeptic, his motives were of an anti-Aristotelian and not an anti-Christian bent.]

Gassendi (or perhaps Gassend)1 was one of the prodigies of the early seventeenth century. He was born in 1592 in Provence, went to college at Digne, and by the age of 16 was...

(The entire section is 5073 words.)

Lynn Sumida Joy (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Gassendi's Life of Peiresc: The Humanist's Unattainable Goal of Writing a Universal History,” in Gassendi the Atomist: Advocate of History in an Age of Science, Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp. 41-65.

[In this excerpt, Joy considers Gassendi as a historian, using an examination of his early Life of Peirescto demonstrate the development of his historiography. Finally, Joy proposes, Gassendi's recognition of the futility of Peiresc's “universal history” fueled his later development and expansion of Epicurean philosophy.]

Gassendi's residence in Paris and his Dutch travels in the late 1620s were significant not only because they resulted in...

(The entire section is 13732 words.)

David K. Glidden (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Hellenistic Background for Gassendi's Theory of Ideas,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. XLIX, No. 3, July-Sept., 1988, pp. 405-24.

[In this essay, Glidden demonstrates how Gassendi's reading of Epicurus—transmitted via Thomas Stanley's translation of Philosophiae Epicuri Syntagma—influenced the development of Epicureanism in England. The critic also argues that Gassendi's interpretation of Epicurean philosophy is influenced by his reading of the Stoics.]

Renaissance humanism is characterized by a revival of interest in ancient Greek and Latin writings. At the same time, the uses to which these ancient texts were put were typically...

(The entire section is 9166 words.)

Fred S. and Emily Michael (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Theory of Ideas in Gassendi and Locke,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. LI, No. 3, July-Sept., 1990, pp. 379-99.

[In this essay, the Michaels argue strongly for Gassendi's considerable influence on John Locke, discussing possible sources for Locke's knowledge of Gassendi and comparing passages from Gassendi's Syntagma Philosophicum and Exercitationes Paradoxicae adversus Aristoteleos with Locke's Essays on the Law of Nature and Essay Concerning Human Understanding.]

There has recently been controversy over whether Gassendi should be considered the source of modern empiricism.1 Present day interest in Gassendi's...

(The entire section is 10328 words.)

Richard F. W. Kroll (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “‘Living and Speaking Statues’: Domesticating Epicurus,” in The Material World: Literate Culture in the Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, pp. 140-79.

[In this excerpt from his study of literature and culture in Restoration England, Kroll argues for Gassendi's importance to the importation of Epicureanism into England. Emphasizing motifs of circulation, the critic demonstrates the influence of not only Gassendi's written works, but also the symbolic figure of Gassendi himself.]

If Galilaeus with his new found glass,
Former Invention doth so far surpass,
By bringing distant bodies to our sight,
And make it judge...

(The entire section is 17965 words.)

Thomas M. Lennon (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mind Versus Flesh,” in The Battle of the Gods and Giants: The Legacies of Descartes and Gassendi, 1655-1715, Princeton University Press, 1993, pp. 106-37.

[In this excerpt, Lennon considers in depth Gassendi's Objections to René Descartes' Meditations. Focusing on the problem of representation, Lennon defends Gassendi from the charge, put forth by both Descartes and later critics, that he simply did not understand the nature of Descartes' method. Nevertheless, as Lennon argues throughout his book, the materialism that provided the foundation for Gassendi's critiques eventually could not compete with the dominance of Cartesian philosophy.]


(The entire section is 16417 words.)

Margaret J. Osler (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Providence and Human Freedom in Christian Epicureanism: Gassendi on Fortune, Fate, and Divination,” in Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World, Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 86-101.

[In the following excerpt, Osler explicates the voluntarism that permeates Gassendi's work, placing his development of a mechanical philosophy in the context of seventeenth-century theological controversies. The critic finds that Gassendi's insistence on human free will, in addition to divine free will, distinguishes him from other materialist thinkers, including Thomas Hobbes.]


(The entire section is 8739 words.)

Lisa T. Sarasohn (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Role of Freedom and Pleasure in the State and Society,” in Gassendi's Ethics: Freedom in a Mechanistic Universe, Cornell University Press, 1996, pp. 142-67.

[In this excerpt, Sarasohn discusses the progress from Gassendi's idea of natural man to his construction of the social contracts that buttress a system of government. Frequently contrasting Gassendi's “Ethics” with the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, the critic emphasizes the importance to Gassendi of free will and the primary human drive for pleasure—tempered by prudence—in his notion of a just and moral society.]



(The entire section is 11036 words.)