HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Formal System, Scientific Method

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28 Nov 2012
The Scientific Revolution
F. Bacon (1561-1626)
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
N. Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus (1543)
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
John Locke (1632-1704)
Tabula rasa
-S.R. was precondition for Enlightenment, which was precondition for Industrial Rev., Post Industrial
Rev., etc.
-had to be earlier moment to allow Enlightenment individuals to establish their ideas: S.R.
-established empirical method for examining phenomena & events
-2 great instigators:
1) Francis Bacon
2) Rene Descartes
what linked them (1620-40) was a question that obsessed many Euro. Thinkers: how do we know
anything? How can we make a true observation & draw truer correct conclusions about qualities of man
& nature?
-revolutions are often just another way of looking at a problem
-during Middle Ages, search for knowledge & true came about by accepting observations & conclusions
of respected authorities that everyone agreed had to be rights, ex. Aristotle, Bible & Scripture
(deductive method: start w/ first principles & move beyond those using structures of formal logic)
-most recognized deductive method: God must exist b/c it is greater to exist than not to exist
(assumptions about definition of God & being) Bacon & Descartes were rev. when suggested that
deductive system was backwards (knowledge should be the product of truth, there should never be any
first premise you’d accept w/o verification) studies should be from particular to general
new method required thinkers & scientists to abandon all authorities, give up all prejudices, not
accept anything as true unless they are convinced it is true (proved by empirical observation)
almost all knowledge had to be re-tested to meet new criteria of truth (much thought of Middle Ages
had to be rejected, which re-enforced humanist rejected & humanists thought humanism had to be re-
evaluated b/c it cast classical knowledge as absolute truths)
-Bacon was a chancellor, didn’t run into much trouble
-Descartes was a philosopher, mathematician (everything could be explained if empirical observation &
reason could be applied, provided you don’t start w/ any assumptions)
to solve mankind’s most pressing problems: subjective & objective truth (“I think therefore I am.”)
2 realities: 1) of mind, thinking 2) everything outside/objective, becomes subject to objective views
(measurement, etc.) if we quantify w/ objective measurements, we can understand that we’re talking
about the same thing
-made contributions to mind of early-modern Europe, most famous: Discourse on Method (1637)
revolutionary: shifted mental processes of Europeans forever, gave platform for scientific method
(way of determining reality & describing it so others could investigate it & determine validity)
how to proceed in acquisition of knowledge (he gave Europeans a new instrument for finding truths)
in book: he only references truth of observation & reason, not truths of church/king, etc.
Western civ. Could stand alone b/c it provided means for determining truth
-had to leave France
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