The Epic History of Biology

By Anthony Serafini | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
The Age of Linnaeus and the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment denoted a significant break from the mythology and superstition of the past -- a movement away from theologically based science and from the dominance of men like Galen and Aristotle. Philosophy, for instance, spawned considerable further progress during the Enlightenment by scrapping the tattered doctrine of rationalism -- the theory that all genuine learning comes through reason, the five senses playing no role. Proponents of rationalism include men like Descartes, Leibnitz, and Spinoza. Instead empiricism, the idea that all knowledge comes via the five senses, took its place, with the advent of the skepticism and materialism of empiricists like Hume. Hume's renown in the annals of science and philosophy cannot be overemphasized. As noted earlier, he became known for his severe assaults on the "teleological" argument for the existence of the Creator. Hume's mighty arguments in favor of skepticism, the conviction that absolutely irrefutable knowledge does not exist, coaxed many scientists into following a similar track in their scientific thinking.

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