Augustine to Galileo: The History of Science, A.D. 400- 1650

By A. C. Crombie | Go to book overview

V
CRITICISM OF ARISTOTLE IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES

(1) THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD OF THE LATER SCHOLASTICS

THE ACTIVITY OF MIND AND hand that showed itself in the additions of scientific fact and in the development of technology made in the 13th and 14th centuries is to be seen also in the purely theoretical criticisms of Aristotle's theory of science and fundamental principles that took place at the same time and were to lead later to the overthrow of his whole system. Much of this criticism developed from within the Aristotelian system of scientific thought itself and, indeed, Aristotle can be seen as a sort of tragic hero striding through medieval science. From Grosseteste to Galileo he occupied the centre of the stage, seducing men's minds by the magical promise of his concepts, exciting their passions and dividing them, and, in the end, forcing them to turn against him as the real consequences of his undertaking gradually became clear; and yet, from the depths of his own system, providing many of the weapons with which he was attacked.

The most important of these weapons were the result of the development of ideas on scientific method and, in particular, on induction and experiment and on the role of mathematics in explaining physical phenomena, for they gradually led to an entirely different conception of the kind of question that should be asked in natural science, the kind of question, in fact, to which the experimental and mathematical methods could give an answer. The field in which the new kind of question was to produce its greatest effects from the middle of the 16th century was in dynamics, and it

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