toward the end of the nineteenth century. The most notable of these occurred in 1883, when the German physicist Ernst Mach published the first edition of his Mechanics (Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwickelung historisch-kritisch dargestellt). 13 Mach's work was essentially a critique of Newtonian dynamics, which he viewed as presenting only one model among many of what our senses can tell us about nature. Reviving the philosophical tradition of Locke, Hume, and Kant in an era when few men of science were interested in philosophy, Mach advanced the "phenomenalist" theory that knowledge is made up of complexes of individual sensations and that science, rather than fixing a material reality, can only provide conceptual models that help us trace our sensations. Mach's phenomenalist approach to a theory of knowledge and its ultimate subjectivity found few adherents in the mainstream scientific community of his period. But it provided an important philosophical alternative that was congenial to the arts and to those who theorized about them and their relationship to science during this period.
Science and the Arts
Throughout much of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, art and science were widely viewed as complementary activities. "The arts have this in common with the sciences," wrote Le Bossu in 1675, "that like the latter they are founded on reason." 14 And in France during its classical seventeenth century and early in the eighteenth century, the faith in reason prompted by the scientific revolution did indeed become a major support for art and poetry as well as for science and philosophy, promoting in both a quest for universal laws and fostering among artists the notion of a normative aesthetic -- the idea that all artists can and should achieve a universal ideal through imitation or idealization.
In England during the first half of the eighteenth century, Sir Isaac Newton's description of the refraction of light into colors and the return of colors to light -- first published in the Opticks in 1704 and then quickly popularized -- became a major source of inspiration for a whole generation of poets, who prided themselves on being "scientific" and "philosophical" and who almost deified Newton in their poetry. 15 As Alexander Pope, leader of the English neoclassical school of poetry, put it in one of his typical couplets:
Nature, and Nature's Laws lay hid in Night.
God said, Let Newton be! and All was Light.
But even among poets and artists who were not programmatically wedded to the classical ideal during this period, empirical and mechancial science could serve as a positive inspiration, providing heightened access to natural phenomena and a new rational support for aesthetic experience. These poets, too, credited Newton and his Science of Colours with restoring color to poetry and praised him, as did Pope, for flooding the world metaphorically with light. Nature poets like the proto-romantic James Thomson, author of The Seasons