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Review article

Scientific and Technological Outreach of Boscovich’s Metaphysical Natural Philosophy

Marito Mihovil Letica ; Lopatinečka 15, HR–10000 Zagreb

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In this paper it is highlighted and argued that Boscovich’s natural sciences theory is so deeply rooted in metaphysics and pervaded by it, we can maintain that it is a distinctive example of sharp-­witted, clever and far­-reaching metaphysical natural philosophy. Critically engaging with the unsubstantiated denial of metaphysics and several centuries long attempts to overcome it, I demonstrate that by metaphysical thinking Boscovich arrived at his unique notion of attractive­repulsive force and gained insight into the structure of things, by which he anticipated, among other things, the theory of relativity and quantum physics. Although Boscovich greatly and successfully used quantitative methods while solving problems from geodesy, astronomy, optics, civil engineering statistics, hydraulic engineering and other fields – the most important parts of his natural sciences legacy, which made him transpose several centuries, are supported by geometric intuition and carried out mainly by qualitative methods, that is, metaphysical speculation. Also, I explain how for the creation and development of electromagnetism it was crucial to describe electromagnetic phenomena using Boscovich’s unique law of force and his theory of the structure of matter, what was explicitly stated by the ‘father of electromagnetism’ James Clerk Maxwell. Boscovich would have never reached these ideas by the exact scientific method, only by metaphysically founded and guided ‘proper thinking’.


Roger Joseph Boscovich; metaphysics; science; force; matter; theory of relativity; quantum physics

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