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Unit IV Lecture V – March 13.docx

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Philosophy 2006
Sean Coughlin

Unit IV Lecture V – March 13, 2012 Boyle & Mechanism Nature As A Machine  17 c. – new approach to understanding natural objects and processes emerged  Nature was conceived as a great machine  This means that, when we give an explanation of something in nature, we would explain how it works the same way we would explain how a machine of our own making would work Distinctions Between Mechanism & What Came Before  Principles o Aristotle – many different kinds of principles (forms, qualities, souls, natures); many different kinds of motion (substantial change, quantitative, qualitative, etc.) o Mechanists – only two things: matter & motion  The Natural & The Artificial o Aristotle – distinction between the natural and the artificial; natural things have an internal principle of motion and rest; artificial things are made by human contrivance o Mechanists – no difference; we are simply machines, operating according to natural, mechanical laws that govern all behaviour The Clock  According to Boyle, the world “is, as it were, a great piece of clockwork” o Meaning nature is a machine, can be fully understood just like a machine o Do not need to think of living things as organisms, and no longer need to think of the cosmos as a living thing  Clock’s behaviour is regular, just like natural phenomena  In many cases, the mechanisms in a clock are hidden from plain view—just as in nature, those mechanisms are hidden  Clocks and machines can appear to be alive and to act purposively, but we know that they are not—we can explain all the movements of a machine just with reference to its parts Boyle  1627-1691  Coined the phrase “mechanical philosophy” in the 1660’s – consists of two “grand principles”  matter and motion  All physical objects, properties, processes, etc will be ultimately explained by appeal to matter and its motion  ALL changes will ultimately be the result of change of place—called “local motion” Characterization Of Matter  For Boyle, the only (mechanical) characteristics of matter are: o For Individual bits of matter:  Size  Shape  Orientation o For Collections of bits of matter:  Order  Texture  Boyle considers all matter to be “altogether inactive” (completely passive and inert)  A body in motion can… 1) break up bodies, and 2) impart its motion to other bodies  Certain types of matter, all by themselves, do not tend to go up or down Occam’s Razor  “Do not posit a plurality unnecessaril
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