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Formal Causes And Mechanical Causes: The Analogy Of The Musical Instrument In Late Seventeenth-Century Natural Philosophy

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Chapter Summary

This chapter concerns with the uses that could be made of the idea of ?harmony? and the analogy of the musical instrument in natural philosophy in late seventeenth-century England. It deals in particular with the diversity of those uses, which illustrates a shift between two quite different understandings of the meaning of a musical analogy. The chapter outlines two distinct uses of music in natural philosophy, which the author had labelled with the terms ?formal cause? and ?efficient cause?. It shows how the diversity of uses of ?harmony? can illuminate the mechanical, mathematical, and experimental approaches to sound and music. The concepts of harmony and, in a mechanical context, harmonious vibration, could have very wide application. This chapter displays some illustrative examples. A well-known example of the use of harmony in natural philosophy by Isaac Newton is first discussed followed by the example of Hooke and Boyle, and others.

Keywords: Boyle; concepts of harmony; formal cause; Hooke; Isaac Newton; late seventeenth-century England; mechanical cause; musical analogy; musical instrument; natural philosophy



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