Bérigard (in modern French, Beauregard) Claude Guillermet De

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Bérigard (in modern French, Beauregard) Claude Guillermet De

(b. Moulins, France, 1578 [according to Niceron; possibly as late as 1591]; d. Padua, Italy, 1663/1664)

medicine, physics, philosophy.

Bérigard studied both medicine and philosophy at Aix-en-Provence and lived quietly in Avignon, Lyons, and Paris. He could, therefore, have witnessed the condemnation by the parliament and the Sorbonne of Villon and de Claves for their support of atomism in 1624, Summoned to Tuscany in 1625, possibly by Christine de Lorraine, mother of Ferdinand II, grand duke of Tuscany, he taught philosophy at Pisa in1628. Hobbes met him there around 1635. In 1632 Bérigard published the Dubitationes, concerning Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (condemned in 1633). Galileo himself is quoted as saying to Elie Diodati (25 July 1634) that it was more out of obligation than conviction. Bérigard, who must have known Galileo personally, always praised him, but remained firmly convinced of the earth’s immobility.

In 1640 Bérigard went to Padua, where he became well known as a teacher. He later published a synopsis of his courses as Circulus pisanus (1643). Since the preface to the chapter “De generatione et corruptione “named Galileo, Torricelli, Viviani, Cabeo, Bourdin, Boulliau, Mersenne, Descartes, Digby, Kircher, Kaspar Bartholin and his sons, and Borelas some of the contemporaries he admired, he was surely abreast of the intellectual movement of his time and was well disposed toward change. Yet the Scholasticism that he had to teach at times dominated his thought.1

The above list also includes Gassendi, although he is usually cited as following Bérigard in reviving atomism. In fact, the opposite was probably true. At first there was no reciprocal influence. Bérigard left Aix before Gassendi came to teach there, and as far as is known they did not meet in 1624–1625, when Gassendi came to Paris. But in his Exercitationes paradoxicae (1624) Gassendi criticized Aristotle after having taught his doctrines—as Berigard did in the Circulus. Although Gassendi’s great Epicurean works date from 1647 and 1649, he was already working on them in 1630, as Mersenne and Peiresc reveal in their correspondence. Between 1640 and 1643, in published works, Gassendi cited atomistic physics as evidence and corresponded with Liceti, whom Bérigard succeeded in 1653. Finally, the second edition of the Circulus shows the influence of Gassendi’s Syntagma philosophicum (1658). It should be noted that as early as 1633 Mersenne and Peiresc called Gassendi’s attention to the Dubitationes.2

On the other hand, the spirits of the two works are somewhat different. Both admit corpuscula tenuia, a Deo creata, while attributing essential qualities to Them—but with far more caution on Gassendi’s part than on Bérigard’s. Moreover, Bérigard’s corpuscles are not true atoms. As a humanist inclined to archaism, Bérigard went back to the pre-Socratics because Aristotle was against them; Gassendi, a historian above all, thought that Aristotle’s successors had surpassed him. Bérigard was unable to tie the new scientific ideas to his own endeavor, while Gassendi found new arguments in these ideas and tried to prepare the future for rational physics.

Actually, Bérigard found his inspiration less in Democritus, who was quite modern, than in the Ionians, who were still influenced by mythology: Anaximander, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras. In order to explain variations in being, these philosophers divided it into simple elements likely to combine. Because of this, the form of the elements must be that most suitable to movement: round and smooth. These elements achieved cohesion by all moving in the same direction or toward one center.

Around the masses thus formed there circulated an ether that consolidated them and, through the pores of these contiguous but not adherent elements, penetrated the masses and also escaped from them, sweeping particles in and out without leaving a vacuum.3 However, the subject in question was a qualitative atomism, not a mechanical one, for the elements were not homogeneous; each had distinct properties, and the appearances resulting from their composition are infinitely different.4 Only the local predominance of certain more or less similar qualities gave rise to the most common perceptible appearances and accounted for there being lead here, for instance, and gold there. But there was some of all things in each thing—gold in lead, lead in gold, with an infinite possibility of transmutations.

However, this vague relationship between a quantitative determination in the external cause and a qualitative appearance in the conscious effect is insufficient for making reality rational. The explanatory power of atomism is related to the supposition of perfect homogeneity in the components of bodies. Only the number, distance, and density of atoms in a given volume—that is, only the quantity measurable and expressible by mathematical means—enters into the action that the composites exert on each other and on those composites which are our sense organs. Atoms, then, are units capable of being combined, and these combinations can be calculated. Bérigard’s qualified corpuscles end only in Heraclitus’ perpetual flux, in which the same entities are never reproduced; thus no law can be formulated or imagined.

From the very beginning Bérigard and Gassendi held opposing views on the ontology of space and time. For Gassendi space (the Epicurean void) and time (which passes outside events) were “neither Substance nor Roccigents.”5 Thus time and space escape in parallel ways from the Aristotelian categories and need not have been created in order to exist, because they make creation possible. Against this opinion, Bérigard absolutely refused to recognize that space and time are uncreated things, nor did he admit that they are neither substance nor mere accident (Circulus, 1661 ed., p. 51). But Bérigard here drew back, in spite of the fact that he renounced the Scholastic definition of Space as “limite du corps environnant” (ibid., p. 47).

Gassendi’s view leads directly to the law of inertia, to the conservation of straight and uniform movement as long as nothing in inert space stops it. Newton found in Gassendi the ontological categories that made universal attraction conceivable. Yet Gassendi had not completely renounced qualitative atomism, and lacked the mathematical ability to found a mechanistic physics. Bérigard, even after having read Gassendi’s works, remained deeply involved with qualitative physics. He was a great scholar; if, however, he did see the scientific promised land from afar, he did not move toward it. He was not aware of the implications of his own corpuscular philosophy or the importance of universal mechanism.


1. For instance, although recognizing that sunspots prove that the sun is not incorruptible, he did not dare go so far as to say the same of the “heavens.” (The list was taken from the 2nd ed., 1661.)

2. See Correspondance de Mersenne, III, 355 (5 January 1633, Mersenne to Gassendi) and 380 (2 March 1633, Gassendi to Peiresc).

3. Up to this point, the parallel with Descartes’s physics could be easily noted, for Descartes would not be called an atomist and denied the void, although he admitted vortexes of subtle matter.

4. Here it is legitimate to speak of either points-qualités oréléments-qualités, as is done by Jean Zafiropoulo in his Anaxagore de Clazomène (Paris, 1948), pp. 313–315.

5. See Animadversiones in X. librum D. Laertii (Lyons, 1649), p. 614, and Syntagma philosophicum (Lyons, 1658), I 182a, 183b, 220b. In his controversy over the void with P. Noël in 1648, Pascal was led to use the same anti-Scolastic formulas as Gassendi; however, he may have found them only in Noé’swritings (see Oeuvres de Pascal, Pleïade ed., pp. 383, 1450).


I. Original Works. Bérigard’s major works are Dubitationes in dialogum Galilaei Lyncei… (Florence, 1632); and Circulus Claudii Berigardi, de veteri et peripatetica philosophia… (Udine, 1643); 2nd ed., Circulus pisanus Claudii Berigardi, de veteri et peripatetica philosophia… (Padua, 1661), in 1 vol., with considerable modification.

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Béngardare E. Brehier, Histoire de la philosophie, II (Paris, 1960), 13; J. Brücker. Historia critica philosophiae (Leipzig, 1742): David Clement. Bibliothèque curieuse (Götungen, 1750), III, 182–185; Kurt Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik (Leipzig, 1890; 1926), 1, 488–498: D. G. Morhof, Polyhistor (1732); J. P. Niceron. Memoires pour servir à I’hisroire des hommes illustres dans la republique des lettres (Paris, 1727–1745). XXXI, 123–127; G. Sortais, Philosophie moderne depuis Bacon jusqu’à Leibniz (Paris, 1922), II, 71–75; and W. G. Tennemann, Histoire de la philosophie (Leipzig, 1798–1819). There is also a note on Bérigard in the Edizione Nazionale of Galileo (new ed., Florence, 1964), XX, 90. Franck’s Dictionnaire des sciences philosophiques (1885) includes an article on Bérigard in which there is a serious error: Galileus Lynceus is not a pseudonym, but refers to Galileo Galilei in the full title of Dubitationes.

Bernard Rochat

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Bérigard (in modern French, Beauregard) Claude Guillermet De

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