Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0337


Ariew, Roger. Leibniz and the Petrifying Virtue of the Place. (2016).

Name(s) Ariew, Roger
Title Leibniz and the Petrifying Virtue of the Place
Place of printing
Year 2016
Language(s) eng
Contained in Boundaries, Extents and Circulations. Space and Spatiality in Early Modern Natural Philosophy, Springer, 2016, 33-54
Bibliographic level Book chapter
Catalogue description
Key Concept(s)
Cited in
Digitization downloaddocument/9783319410746-c2.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1588690-p180039376


The medieval account of fossils is that animals are sometimes changed into stones because of the petrifying virtue of certain places. This doctrine continues well into the second half of the seventeenth century. The standard account, then, is that fossils are the remains of animals; it inherits the difficulty of explaining how the remains are petrified, or are constituted by some matter different from that of the original animals. It is easy to see how this doctrine could evolve to become the view of Athanasius Kircher and others that fossils are the creation of the power of the place mimicking animals, without there being any actual remains of animals. Kircher and the others provide a ready answer for the obvious differences between fossils and living creatures, including the problem of the stony matter of the fossils, but they achieve this status at the cost of severing links between creatures and fossils. This is the background for Leibniz’s writings on fossils. I trace Leibniz’s development from a follower of Kircher to one of his critics (having been influenced by Nicolaus Steno among others). I also show the resilience of the original doctrine; ultimately Leibniz’s rejection is only partial.


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