« Imaginary Spaces and Cosmological Issues in Gassendi’s Philosophy », in Frederik Bakker, Delphine Bellis et Carla Rita Palmerino (dir.), Space, Imagination, and the Cosmos, from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period, Dordrecht, Springer, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2018, pp. 233-260
Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) is often viewed mostly as an antiquarian because of his interest in reconstructing Epicurean philosophy. Admittedly, Gassendi was one of the main actors in the revival of atomism in the seventeenth century, but he was also a supporter of Copernican cosmology, and he proposed a groundbreaking theory of space: not only did he depart from the Aristotelian notion of place, but he even proposed a new ontological conception of space as neither a substance nor an accident. For Gassendi, space was a homogeneous, infinite, three-dimensional entity which could be filled with bodies but was independent of them and could remain void. This new conception of space was elaborated not only as a revival of Epicureanism, or as a foundation for the new science, but also through a re-elaboration of the scholastic notion of imaginary spaces. The aim of this paper is to unravel some of Gassendi’s unacknowledged scholastic sources and explore how Gassendi, a staunch anti-Aristotelian, relied on a reinterpretation of this scholastic notion for his construction of a cosmological system immune to theological criticisms otherwise directed at the Epicurean and Brunian infinitist worldviews. This reinterpretation directly paved the way for a geometrical conception of space.