Robert Greene

(c. 1678—1730) natural philosopher

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Robert Greene was born at Tamworth, Staffordshire and died in Birmingham on 16 August 1730. He was educated at Clare College, Cambridge (BA, 1700; MA, 1703; DD, 1728). He was vicar of Everton, Bedfordshire, and Tetworth, Hampshire, from 1723 until his death in 1730. He had interests in, and pretensions to, being a natural philosopher (i.e. a physicist). In 1711 he published A Demonstration of the Truth and Divinity of the Christian Religion, which was followed in 1712 by The Principles of Natural Philosophy. In this work Greene denied that extension and solidity were essential to matter and attacked the corpuscular theory. Locke's claim that we cannot know the essence of matter is also criticized. Having prepared the way for a non-corpuscular theory of matter, Greene then published a 981-page folio volume on The Principles of the Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces (1727). He openly claimed that his principles give a better account of matter and motion than Newton's, even though Newton also recognized forces operating in matter. Unlike Newton, who was at first reluctant to say that his forces were essential to matter, Greene made his expansive and attractive forces essential, attempting to describe matter only in those terms. In this large book, Greene discusses the views of many scientists, mathematicians and opticians. Among the philosophers discussed are Descartes, Samuel Clarke, William Wollaston and Locke. Locke is given an entire book (bk 5, pp. 599–722) in which the Essay is summarized and criticized. The discussion of Locke is fairly typical of the whole work: disorganized and rambling, confused and sometimes dense. Nevertheless, Greene's work is worth examination, especially his chapters on science.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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