The concepts of time and space just before the emergence of modern science

Luka Boršić
Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb

Francesco Patrizi (1591) Nova de universis philosophia

Abstract Francesco Patrizi (1529–1597) was one of the most important pre-modern scientific thinker whose overall criticism and rebuttal of contemporary dominant Aristotelian philosophy prepared the ground for the emergence of modern science. In this respect his ideas about space and time are of a special interest, as he developed them in the section “Pancosmia” of his opus magnum, Nova de universis philosophia (1591). The most important and influential point of Patrizi's approach to space is his distinction between physical and mathematical space. Mathematical space presents a sort of a Platonic pure reality, more prior and ontologically higher than physical space; physical space, besides residing in three dimensions, possesses also resistance, which can be understood in a relation to Leibniz's notion of force and Descartes' concept of bodies as geomentrically definable (Kristeller). On the other hand, Patrizi's concept of time, which is argued for less systematically than space and contained primarily in the “Panarchia” part of his Nova de universis philosophia, is based on the notion that the highest genus, under which time falls, is duration (manentia). The implications of this notion of time are far-reaching: e. g. not only that it questions the traditional relationship between time and eternity, but also when applied to physical bodies, duration implies a certain relationship of bodies to the space they occupy.