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Book chapter

Puzzle, Polemic and Simplification: Uses of Citation in a 17th Century Dissertation on Nothing in the Philosophical Disciplines

The article provides a close reading of passages from an early modern dissertation on the concept of nothing by Rudolph Goclenius and Cornelius Götz, defended in 1608 at the University of Marburg. The dissertation is interesting for two reasons. It provides an insight into how early modern school philosophers thought about the role of the concept of nothing across philosophical disciplines (metaphysics, natural philosophy, ethics). And it allows us to understand more fully strategies of citation in this period. The paper demonstrates not only that the concept of nothing was relevant for an analysis of creation or a more precise understanding of non-virtuous action. It also shows that citations could be used to resolve a seeming contradiction, to simplify a complex argument, or to argue against an opponent of one's own view. These practices are quite different from contemporary standards of scholarly practice - a difference that should be kept in mind when trying to unlock the philosophical content of texts from this genre.