The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude

The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude

The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude

The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude

Excerpt

I have tried in this book to present something in the nature of a character-study, rather than a biographical outline, of the scientific revolution. Natural science may be defined sufficiently for my purpose as the conscious, systematic investigation of the phenomena revealed in the human environment, and in man himself objectively considered. Such investigation always assumes that there is in nature a regular consistency, so that events are not merely vagarious, and therefore an order or pattern also, to which events conform, capable of being apprehended by the human mind. But science in this sense is not simply the product of one attitude to nature, of one set of methods of inquiry, or of the pursuit of one group of aims. Within it there is room for both economic and religious motives, for a greater or less exactitude in observation (though some measure of systematic and repeated observation is essential to science), and for a considerable latitude in theorization.

In many of these respects modern science differs markedly from that of a not very remote past. It demands rigorous standards in observing and experimenting. By insisting that it deals only with material entities in nature, it excludes spirits and occult powers from its province. It distinguishes firmly between theories confirmed by multiple evidence, tentative hypotheses and unsupported speculations. It presents, not a possible or even a plausible picture of nature, but one in which all available facts are given their logical, orderly places. These are the most important characteristics of modern science, which it acquired during the period of transition conveniently known as the scientific revolution, and has since retained. Certainly they were long in gestation, but it is with the period of their coming to fruition and vindication by success that this volume is concerned. Some topics I have chosen to omit: mathematics, because it deals not with the phenomena of nature, but with numbers; medicine, because it was at this time rather an art than a natural science. It has not . . .

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