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The Problem of Animate Motion in the Seventeenth Century

Julian Jaynes
In Mary Henle, Julian Jaynes, and John J. Sullivan (eds.), Historical Conceptions of Psychology (New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc., 1973)
Reprinted in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), The Julian Jaynes Collection (Julian Jaynes Society, 2012).

Abstract:

Motion is now so much the domain of physics that it is difficult for us to appreciate that this was not always so. Before the seventeenth century, motion was a far more awesome mystery. Shared by all objects, stars, ships, animals, and men - and, since Copernicus, the very earth itself - it seemed to hide the answer to everything. The Aristotelian writings had made motion or activity the distinctive property of living things, an idea that occurs naturally to children and primitive peoples of all centuries. Because they moved, the stars were thought by no less a scientist than Kepler to be animated. Motion perplexed Gilbert, who became convinced that magnets had souls because of their ability to move and be moved. And Campanella in his Neapolitan prison, when he understood what Copernicus was saying, that the earth really moved, exclaimed, "Mundum esse, totum sentiens!" In a world so sentient and alive, motion is everywhere. And one of the first major intellectual developments of the seventeenth century gathered itself to this theme. I shall try to show in this essay that when this idea of animate motion is clarified, one result is the sorting of the sciences by their subject matter as we know them today.