Natural Philosophy

Descartes: Discourse on Method

Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_DescartesThe Discourse on Method (French: Discours de la méthode) by René Descartes was published in French in Leiden in 1637, alongside essays on optics, meteorology and geometry. It offered the an autobiographical of Descartes skeptical method and the positive metaphysical conclusions that he would later develop more fully in the Meditations. Notable among these is the first formulation of the famous 'Cogito', the principle that 'I think therefore I am' and cannot doubt my own existence.

Of the accompanying scientific essays, that on geometry is notable for introducing Cartesian co-ordinates.

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Free online texts

Bartleby: Discourse on Method. English translation. Harvard Classics, Volume 34, Part 1. HTML format.

Gallica: Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences , plus la dioptrique, les météores et la géométrie qui sont des essais de cette méthode. French text. Image file format.

Gutenberg: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats. 

Gutenberg: Discours de la méthode. French text. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: French text and English translation. HTML and other formats.

Zulu Ebooks: Discours de la méthode. French text. PDF format.

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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes3Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647.

The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days.  The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. 

In the later meditations, Descartes arrives at conventional opinions about God and the world, while more subtly introducing the foundations of his own system of physics. It is however, the first two meditations which have more often been seen as a foundational influence on modern philosophy, although the 'Cartesian dualism' which they introduced between mind and matter has been a target of persistent criticism.

Alongside the Meditations, Descartes published seven sets of objections by distinguished scholars along with his replies. These were 1. Johannes Caterus 2. Marin Mersenne 3. Thomas Hobbes 4. Antoine Arnauld 5. Pierre Gassendi 6. Further objections collected by Mersenne. 7. Pierre Bourdin.

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Free online texts

The Classical Library: The Meditations, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

Gallica: Méditations métaphysiques. French text (1690). Image file format. 

Gutenberg: Meditationes de prima philosophia - Latin text. Multiple formats.

Early Modern Texts: Meditations on First Philosophy - adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Meditationes - Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Marxists.org: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham. HTML format.

Philosophy-Index: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

University of Leeds/Internet Archive: Hobbes' Objections to Descartes' Meditations. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text, French and English translations. HTML and other formats.

Wright State University: Descartes' Meditations. English, French and Latin texts. HTML format.

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Aristotle (spurious): on Colors

On Colors or On Colours (Greek Περὶ χρωμάτων, Latin De Coloribus) is a treatise traditionally attributed to Aristotle, but now sometimes thought to be by Theophrastus or Strato, who succeeded him in turn as heads of his philosophical school, the Lyceum. The book's argument, that all colors are derived from the mixture of black and white, was an important influence on subsequent color theories until the time of Newton.

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Free online and downloadable texts

LacusCurtius: On Colors - Greek text and English translation. HTML format.

Loebulus. L307 - Aristotle - Minor Works. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also available at the Internet Archive.

Wikisource: Περί χρωμάτων - Greek text. HTML format.

Other Resources

New Republic: Does Color Even Exist? by Malcolm Harris 22 May 2015.

Open Book - Rare Books Department of Special Collections at the J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah -Book of the Week — De coloribus libellus, 5 December 2016.

Princeton University Press: Why the Sky is Blue: Discovering the Color of Life, by Götz Hoeppe. Chapter Two - Of Philosophers and the Color Blue.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Controversies Surrounding Aristotle's Theory of Perception, by Christopher Shields.

Wikipedia: On Colors

University of Massachussets - Amherst: Greek Color Theory and the Four Elements (2000). Chapter Two - Greek Color Theory by J.L. Benson.

Youtube: On Colours, by Aristotle. audiobook read by Geoffrey Edwards

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Plato: Meno - mentions Empedocles' theory of color.

Plato: Timaeus

Aristotle: Meteorology - discusses the rainbow.

Aristotle: Sense and Sensibilia

Aristotle: De Anima

Theophrastus

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.


Burnet: Early Greek Philosophy

Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise by Fyodor BronnikovEarly Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, first published in 1892, is a survey of Presocratic Greek thinkers. Individuals and schools covered include Thales and the Milesians, Heraclitus, Parmenides and the Eleatics, the Pythagoreans, Anaxagoras, Empedocles and Leucippus.

Burnet was a distinguished scholar of Plato, and many of his editions remain authoritative today. He saw Socratic philosophy as a development from the problems of the earlier cosmologists, despite the protestations of disinterest in natural philosophy recorded in Plato's Apology, believing that Socrates had been a disciple of Archelaus in his youth.

Early Greek Philosophy at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Evansville.edu: John Burnet's Early Greek Philosophy. HTML format.

Hathi Trust: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet. PDF format. 

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1892 edition). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1908 edition). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Early Greek Philosophy,by John Burnet (1920 edition). Multiple formats.

Peithô's Web: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1920 edition). HTML format.

Plato.spbu.ru: Early Greek Philosophy, by John Burnet (1920 edition). PDF format.

Other Resources

Wikipedia: John Burnet (classicist).

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Pliny the Elder: Natural History

The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis Historia) by Pliny the Elder, was dedicated to the Emperor Titus in 77 CE, and published posthumously, following Pliny's death while observing the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. It is an encyclopedic work, designed to illustrate a philosophical belief in a benign providence, and to assimilate Greek knowledge for the Roman World. Despite a reputation for credulity, the sheer breadth of Pliny's interests make the Natural History a work of lasting value.

Book I provides a summary of contents and list of Roman and foreign authorities cited. Book II focuses on cosmology and physics, while books III-VI cover the geography of the known world. Book VII deals with the human body, Books VIII-XI with animals, Books XII-XIX with botany. The medicinal properties of plants are covered in Books XX-XXVII and of animals in Books XXVIII-XXXII. Books XXXIII-XXXVII examine minerology, with the aesthetic properties of stones providing the occasion for an excursus on art.

The Natural History at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive:  The Natural History of PlinyVol I - Vol II - Vol III - Vol IV - Vol V - Vol VI. Translated by John Bostock and Henry T. Riley (1855-57). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Pliny's Natural History - Vol I - Vol II. Translated by Philemon Holland (1601, printed 1847-48). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Elder Pliny's Chapters on the History of Art, translated by K. Jex-Blake. Multiple formats.

LacusCurtius. Natural History. Latin text, HTML format.

Latin Library: Naturalis Historiae. Latin text, HTML format.

Loebulus. L330 - Pliny -- Natural History I: Books 1-2. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L352 - Pliny -- Natural History II: Books 3-7. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L353 - Pliny -- Natural History III: Books 8-11. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L370 - Pliny -- Natural History IV: Books 12-16. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L371 - Pliny -- Natural History V: Books 17-19. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L392 - Pliny -- Natural History VI: Books 20-23. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

LoebulusL393 - Pliny -- Natural History VII: Books 24-27. Index of Plants. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L418 - Pliny -- Natural History VIII: Books 28-32. Index of Fishes. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L394 - Pliny -- Natural History IX: Books 33-35. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Perseus: Latin text, edited by K.F.T. Mayhoff (1906). English text, translated by John Bostock (1855).

University of Chicago: The Historie of the World, translated by Philemon Holland (1601). HTML format.

Other Resources

BBC In Our Time: Pliny's Natural History - Radio programme presented by Melvyn Bragg, with Serafina Cuomo, Aude Doody and Liba Taub.

Librivox: The Natural History -  public domain audiobook.

Livius: Pliny the Elder, Natural History.

Roger Pearse: The manuscripts of Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History.

Wikipedia: Natural History (Pliny).

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Pliny's sources

Pliny is unusual among ancient writers in explicitly citing a copious range of sources. The extant authors mentioned in the summary of the work in Book I include:

Aeschylus - Anacreon - Aristotle - Callimachus - Cato the Elder - Cicero - Columella - Cornelius Nepos - Herodotus - Hesiod - Hippocrates - Homer - Horace - Livy - Menander - Ovid - Pindar - Plautus - Polybius - Pomponius Mela - Seneca - Sophocles - Theophrastus - Thucydides - Varro - Virgil - Vitruvius.

Pliny's contemporaries

Pliny the Younger: Letters.

Tacitus: The Germania - thought to be strongly influenced by Pliny's lost work on the German Wars.

Pliny's influence

Isidore of Seville: Etymologies - An encyclopedic work from late antiquity that relies heavily on Pliny. 


Theophrastus: Enquiry Into Plants

The Enquiry into Plants (Greek: ,Περὶ φυτῶν ἱστορία)  by Theophrastus is the earliest major work on botany in the classical tradition. Theophrastus seems to have specialised in applying the methods of the peripatetic school in this area, while his teacher focused on animals.

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Free online texts

Loebulus. L070 - Theophrastus -- Enquiry into Plants I: Books 1-5. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also available via the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L079 - Theophrastus -- Enquiry into Plants II: Books 6-9. Treatise on Odours. Concerning Weather Signs. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also available via the Internet Archive.

ToposText: Enquiry into Plants, translated by Arthur Fenton Hort (1916). HTML text with linked Google Maps.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: The Next Generation: the Followers of Plato and Aristotle - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Edward Worth Library: Theophrastus of Eresus.

Simon Fraser University: Theophrastus Project.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy: Theophrastus, by Katerina Ierodiakonou

Wikipedia: Theophrastus - Historia Plantarum (Theophrastus).

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Theophrastus: Characters

Aristotle: On the Soul (De Anima).

Aristotle: History of Animals.

Pliny: Natural History.

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.


Aristotle: Parva Naturalia

The Parva Naturalia or short treatises on nature are a collection of seven works by Aristotle. In the Bekker numbering of the Aristotelian corpus they follow On the Soul, and each concerns problems which touch on the relationship between body and soul.

The seven works are:

The Parva Naturalia at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online  texts

Internet Archive: The Works of Aristotle, Vol III, translated under the editorship of W.D. Ross (1910). Parva Naturalia translated by J.I. Beare and G.R.T. Ross. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Aristotle's Psychology: A Treatise on the Principle of Life (De Anima and Parva Naturalia), translated by W.A. Hammond (1902). Multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Classified Information: Aristotle's Biology - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Aristotle's Biology, by James Lennox.

 The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Aristotle: On the Soul


Aristotle: The Generation of Animals

The Generation of Animals or (Greek: Περὶ ζῴων γενέσεως, Latin: De Generatione Animalium) is a treatise by Aristotle.

The Generation of Animals at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive: The works of Aristotle translated into English, Volume V. De Partibus Animalium, translated by William Ogle. De Motu and De Incessu Animalium, translated by A.S.L. Farquharson. De Generatione Animalium, translated by Arthur Platt. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide: On the Generation of Animals, translated by Arthur Platt, multiple formats.

Wikisource: On the Generation of Animals, translated by Arthur Platt, multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Classified Information: Aristotle's Biology - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Aristotle's Biology, by James Lennox.

Wikipedia: The Generation of Animals.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.


Aristotle: The Progression of Animals

The Progression of Animals (or On the Gait of Animals; Greek: Περὶ πορείας ζῴων; Latin: De incessu animalium) is a treatise by Aristotle on the motion of different kinds of animals. 

The Progression of at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive: The works of Aristotle translated into English, Volume V. De Partibus Animalium, translated by William Ogle. De Motu and De Incessu Animalium, translated by A.S.L. Farquharson. De Generatione Animalium, translated by Arthur Platt. Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: On the Gait of Animals, translated by A. S. L. Farquharson. HTML and TXT formats.

Loebulus. L323 - Aristotle -- Parts of Animals. Movement of Animals. Progression of Animals. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

University of Adelaide: On the Gait of Animals, translated by A. S. L. Farquharson. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: On the Progression of Animals - translated by A. S. L. Farquharson. Multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Classified Information: Aristotle's Biology - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Aristotle's Biology, by James Lennox.

Wikipedia: Progression of Animals.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Aristotle: History of Animals.

Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.


Aristotle: Movement of Animals

The Movement of Animals (or On the Motion of Animals; Greek Περὶ ζῴων κινήσεως; Latin De Motu Animalium) is a treatise by Aristotle. 

The Movement of Animals at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive: The works of Aristotle translated into English, Volume V. De Partibus Animalium, translated by William Ogle. De Motu and De Incessu Animalium, translated by A.S.L. Farquharson. De Generatione Animalium, translated by Arthur Platt. Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: On the Motion of Animals, translated by A. S. L. Farquharson. HTML and TXT formats.

Loebulus. L323 - Aristotle -- Parts of Animals. Movement of Animals. Progression of Animals. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

University of Adelaide: On the Motion of Animals, translated by A.S.L. Farquharson. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: On the Movement of Animals, translated by A. S. L. Farquharson. Multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Classified Information: Aristotle's Biology - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Aristotle's Biology, by James Lennox.

Wikipedia: Movement of Animals.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Aristotle: History of Animals.

Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.