NATS 1730 Oct 31 2011
• Theme: rational, rationalize
o ‘Tradition’ becomes equated with ignorance and other bad stuff – try to modernize things
through planning (a makeover)
o Works at the mint, prosecutes counterfeiters
o Principia Mathematica 1687
o Reduced/simplified natural laws, making 2 into 1 – super and sub-lunary realms into just 1
o Gravity, inertia
The further away an object gets, the weaker the gravitational pull. Gravity used to
explain Keplar’s discovery of elliptical orbits. Newton explains the why this happens.
Gravity rules all objects on and outside the earth, tides, etc. Fusion of mathematics and
o Reductionism: use fewest nuber of causes to explain the most experiences/phenomena
o Exemplifies the principle of Ockham’s Razor – the simplest explanation is often the best one.
o Stable laws that have predictable effects.
o Uses God to explain why orbits don’t collapse – God steps in to interfere so that the planets
don’t slow down and crash, God resets and speeds up the planets.
Later refuted this claim, said that the planets were not actually slowing down. Restated
that God set up the universe and then walked away. Changes Newton’s theist view to a
Theism: continuing interference of God
Deism: ‘absentee landlord’ view
o Halley’s comet 1682 (Edmund Halley), 1758 return gives credence to Newton’s prophecy of the
comet’s return. Higher source of certainty than religion.
o John Desaguliers (1683-1744)
A middleman between ‘high’ scientific culture and ‘low’ artisans
Improve (rationalize) machines and buildings with ?Newtonian principles
• Does his discovery of copper as the best material to hold and use steam lead to
improvements in the steam engine, and consequently the Industrial Revolution? What’s important is the larger mentality of improving society
• Female Newtonians
o Madame du Châtelet 1706-49
Simplifies Newton’s math for the rest of Europe
o Voltaire (1694-1778)
Described as first human rights activist – makes fun of nobles, government figures –
warrant for arrest causes him to flee to Great Britain.
Takes the Newtonian message to Europe science works!)
Appreciates ‘freedom of expression’ apparent in Britain
• As well as celebration of reason, free communication, and Enlightenment
Newtonianism and religion:
o Against his beliefs, Newton’s Theist God becomes a Deist God.
o Major point of Deism: learn about God by studying law of nature
Theism: God constantly interfering in daily life
Deism: God sets life up then walks away
• Religious danger: God becomes interchangeable with laws of nature
o Newton believed deists were one step away from atheism
o Emergence of Unitarians – 1730s
Influence on American Revolution (Thomas Jefferson’s belief: Christ not divine but a
Unitarianism more cerebral, less emotional. Small but powerful group of people.
Felt that they needed to bring about law and order to create a new society, not wait for
God to step in and form an orderly society
o Influence on late 18 century English science Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandfather) – early
evolutionist – 1799 writes ‘Zoonomia’ – early view of evolution
o The Freemasons, em