Historical Time Line of the Material Covered in This Essay
Eastern Antecedents to the Development of Western Science: 599 B.C. (Egyptians, Mesopotamia, etc.)
Greek and Hellenistic Science: 600 B.C. - 529 A.D.
Medieval Science: 530 - 1452 A.D.
Renaissance and Scientific Revolution: 1430 - 1492 A.D.
Newtonian Epoch: 1660 - 1734 A.D.
Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution: 1735 - 1819 A.D.
Nineteenth Century Science: 1820 - 1884 A.D.
Twentieth Century Science: 1895 - 1945 A.D.
Science Since World War II: From Einstein to Anti Science: 1946 - 2002
These two works are guides into the total cultural context of science and its development:
Alexander Hellermans and Bryan Bunch, editors, The Timetables of Science: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Science (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1988)
Bernard Grun (based on Werner Stein’s Kulturfahrplan), The Timetables of History, revised 3rd edition, (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1991).
THEORIES OF SCIENTIFIC METHOD:
FROM RENAISSANCE TO THE POST MODERN DEBATE
ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION AND ANTI-SCIENCE
(Epistemological/Cultural Relativism of The Sociology of Knowledge Thesis)
At the close of the 14th century the intellectual life of Europe was manifesting itself in three basic tendencies, each of these continued to play an important part throughout the 15th century: (1) The followers of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus who interpreted Aristotelian metaphysics and natural science in ways designed to bring it into harmony with the revealed dogmas of Christianity(?). Their followers were mere representatives and defenders of past tradition and expressed hostility to the newer scientific ideas of the period. (2) A second factor of the dogmatic defenders of Latin Averroism, who cared more for the letter of the Aristotelian teaching as interpreted by Averroes, whether in logic, metaphysics, or natural science, than for either orthodox theology or progressive science. (3) A third influence were the Occamists, the keenest and most progressive thinkers of the time, busy with their critical philosophy and forward looking scientific investigation. The famous Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa (1401-1464), who was the chief platonic and Augustan perpetrator of their influences, especially the mathematical studies and the utilization of mathematic methods in the physical sciences (see especially Pierre Duhem’s work, Les precuseurs parisian de Galilee, 3rd edition Etudes sur Leonard de Vinci (Paris: F. De Nobile, 1955; see also the works of Ammeliese Mier, Marshall Clagett, Ernest A. Moody, A.C. Crombie, Wm. Dampier, A.R. Hall, Charles H. Haskins, George Sarton, Lynn Thorndike, A. Wolf, J.H. Randall, Ernst Cassier, especially Edward MacCurdy, edition and translator of The Notebooks of Leonardo de Vinci (2 vols., NY: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1938).
In Italy, however, in the 15th century, there had developed a notable opposition against the new scientific movement. There was a new literary and artistic movement, which characterized most of the Renaissance. This “new learning” was inspired by the newly discovered writings of Plato and his neoplatonic interpreters. They were impressionistic which precipitated an enthusiastic revival of occultism, magic, astrology and all the fantastic extravagances of the “hermetic” sciences. This influence can be known as “Humanists,” Pierre Duhem writes--”Excited by poetry and eloquence, delicate admirers of Roman or attic elegance, the Humanists feel no desire to take part in the decisions which were rife at the Sorbonne, in the noisy Rue de Fouarre, or at the College of Montague: the subjects of their discussion seemed to them too abstract; the methods by which they wee conducted appeared to them too subtle, and over all, their refined Latinism could not endure the “style of Paris.” The rude technical language which these arguments knew not how to dispense with . . . the humility in which these monks and masters of arts had buried their laborious existence offended to the Point of disgust the Italians of the Renaissance, thirsty for fame as they were.” (P. Duhem, Les precuseurs parisian: de Galileo (original publisher, A. Hermann, 1906, pp. 123-124.).
In fact, the Humanists continue to display well on into the 16th century a characteristic hostility toward empirical scientific research itself. Petrarch had already expressed his scorn for the study of natural science. “Even if these things were true, they would be of no assistance in securing us a happy life. For what would be the advantage of knowing the nature of animals, birds, fishes and reptiles, while remaining ignorant of the nature of man, and neither knowing nor caring whence he comes nor whither he goes.” (Francesco Petrarch, Opera (Basil, 1554; line quoted in 1038). Erasmus, too, constantly ridicules the pursuit of science. He catalogs among the fools those plodding virtuosos who plunder the inward recesses of nature for a new invention rake over sea and land trying to turn up some latent mystery (see opcit and Erasmus’ book, Praise of Folly (Princeton, NJ: H.H. Hudson, 1941, pp. 54-55); also R.M. Blake, C.J. Ducasse, and E.H. Madden, Theories of Scientific Method: The Renaissance Through the Nineteenth Century (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Pres, 1960); and Frederick Suppe, editor, The Structure of Scientific Theories, 2nd edition, (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1977).
Such Renaissance Platonists as Marsilio Ficino and Francesco Pico dell a Miran-Sola, also points a dim picture of the significance and even the possibility of science maintaining that a genuine knowledge of the natural world solely through empirical science is altogether impossible (see esp. E. Cassirer, The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (E.T., University of Chicago Press, 1948); and Cassirer’s Das Erkenntnisproblem (2 vols., Berlin: Verlag, 1922, vol. I, p. 85).
The Humanists and Platonists pursued the Parisians (the French intellectuals) with cries of mockery, and they simply ignored them. Yet the Humanists were to produce their more beautiful masterpieces. The ideas of the Parisians were the seeds that proliferated into the fruits of modern mechanical science (op cit. Duhem, pp. 180-181). The Parisians continued their work in spite of the derision of the Humanists, Platonists and Averroists until finally, in 1545 Dominico de Soto brought together the work of Albert of Saxony and Nicholas of Aresame to form the exact law of falling bodies (J.H. Randall, The Making of The Modern Mind, p. 216). The achievement was made possible by the mathematic interpretation of nature that was facilitated by Tartaglia when he published the first Latin edition of Archimedes’ Mathematical Methods of Analysis and Synthesis in 1543. Randall concludes: “The science of dynamics as it reached Galileo was thus the results of the careful reconstruction of the Aristotelian physics in the light of mathematical interpretation of nature.” (Op cit. P. 217). Duhem also speaks in the same vein: “It is the tradition of Paris of which Galileo and his emulators were the heirs. When we see the science of Galileo triumphing over the stubborn Aristotelians of Cremonim [died in 1631], we may think in our ignorance of the history of human thought, that we are witnessing the victory of the youth of modern thought over the philosophy of the Middle Ages grows obstinate in its cynicism; in truth we are viewing the triumph long prepared of the science that was born in Paris in the 14th century, over the doctrine of Aristotle and of Averroes restored to honor by the Italian Renaissance.” (Duhem, p. Vi); see on Leonardo’s place among the Parisian precursors of Galileo (Duhem, p. xii-xiii and J.P. Richter and I.A. Richter, eds, The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci (2 vols, 2nd edition enlarged and revised (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), I 371-372; Edward MacCurdy, editor, translator, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (2 vols. NY: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1938, I, 88-89).
Finally, the isolated statements from his notebooks, unpublished during his lifetime, and buried in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan for over three centuries, that we find any expressly formulated accounts of the nature and methods of science as these appeared to the keenest mind of his age. Leonardo emphasized the necessity of experience and of experiment, the indispensability of mathematics, the cooperation of reason and with experience. He is not a pure Empiricist as were the Occamists (a’ la’ Roger Bacon in the 13th century).
Leonardo regarded as worthless superfluities the literary adornment of the Humanists (Humanist Manifesto I and II). One of Leonardo’s works was directed toward students of painting, and not with reference to scientific investigation in general. All true science of nature presupposes an observation of natural phenomenon as full and complete as possible.
From the Theory of Hypothesis among Renaissance astronomers to Francis Bacon’s Philosophy of Science is a period of enormous scientific development (see especially the magistral and necessary work by Pierre Duhem, Le systeme du monde: Histoire des doctrine commologiques de Platon a’ Copernic (6 volumes, Paris: A Hermann et fils, 1913-1954), esp. III 451-52; and the vial work of Alexander Koyre’, The Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus, Kepler and Borelli (translator R.E.W. Maddeson (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, E.T. 1973).
The Theory of Hypothesis
The use of the method of hypothesis in connection with planetary theory goes back to the Pythagoreans, but it was Plato who set the main problem for astronomers for many centuries to come. His pupils in the academy set the task of working out a system of geometrical hypothesis. In his famous phrase to “save the phenomena” classical Greek astronomers derived three different mathematic solutions of this problem. Eudoxus solved it by a geometric system of homocentric spheres. Heraclides produced a partially heliocentric sphere, taking the sun as the center for the orbits of Mercury and Venus and the earth as the center for the motion of the sun itself and the other planets. Aristarchus “saved the phenomena” by means of a completely heliocentric system. Aristotle adopted the system of Eudoxus with some modifications in detail. He made his astronomy an integral part of a physics in which the central position and immobility of the earth and homocentricity of all the celestial spheres were essential factors. It was only during the course of the 12th century that Western Europe gradually became familiar with the physics and astronomy of Aristotle and with the system of Ptolemy. The non-realists of the period maintained that physics can discover the true nature and cause of the objects with which it deals. Astronomy, however, never succeeds in penetrating to the true nature and cause of the movements of the heavenly bodies. It must content itself with plausible presuppositions which will at any rate “save the appearance” and will be simple enough to be followed and used by our finite human intelligence. Only God can follow and comprehend the true movements of the celestial bodies.
Nicolas of Cusa in the 15th century extended this line of thought to physics. He no longer believed in the Aristotelian distinction between celestial and terrestrial matter. Ultimately the question is--are hypotheses invented in order to “save the phenomena” known to us by experience.
In the 16th century, Copernicus published his De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (1543) and it remained unchanged for over 40 years. The new system produced no considerable alternation in the status of the various theories concerning the nature of astronomical hypotheses (see esp. Pierre Duham, “Sozein the phenomena,” Esse sur le notion de theorien physicque de Plato a’ Galilee, Annoiles de Philosophie Christienne,” Ser. 4VI (1908): 360-361; and Dorothy Stimsen, The Gradual Acceptance of The Copernican of The Times (NY: Baker and Taylor Co., 1917).
As the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to Galileo, so were the Reformers opposed to the Copernican hypothesis. Luther and Melanchthon were strongly against the theory from the start. Luther said of Copernicus, “The fool wants to overturn the whole sense of astronomy. But as Holy Writ informers, Joshua bade the sun stand still and not the earth.” And Melanchthon follows the lead of his master, organized against the Copernican system, utilizing both the consideration derived from the Peripatetic physics and texts drawn from the Holy Scriptures. In his view the best way to deal with the new theory is to ignore it. If left alone it will die a natural death. But wise governors ought to repress the excesses of clever wit (Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider, In corpus reformatorum (Halle, C.A. Schwetschieider and Sons (1834-1860) IV, p. 679).
The fifty years that preceded the condemnation of Galileo (1633) witnessed the growth on all sides of a decidedly realistic temper of mind, and the consequent demand that astronomical hypothesis he brought into agreements with the doctrines of physics and with the texts of Scripture. The debate continued regarding the Ptolemaic assumptions as mere mathematical fictions.
Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) manifests a very similar attitude. He is content with no mere mathematical fiction but insists on the contrary that legitimate astronomical hypothesis must state the real physical dispositions and movements of the heavenly bodies. After rejecting both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems on grounds that include both physical and theological considerations, he seeks to work out “another system of hypothesis that should stand at all points in accord with the principle both of mathematics and of physics, and should not make use of subterfuges in order to escape the censures of theology and at the same time should fully satisfy the celestial appearances (Tycho Brahe, Opera ominia, ed. I.E. Dreyer (Copenhagen: Lebraria Gyldend-Aliance 1913).
The increasing tendency to realistic conceptions brought with it an increasing hostility to the Copernicus hypothesis on the part of those who advocate alternative theories. Even Francis Bacon held that the assumptions of Copernicus are merely “the speculations of one who cares not what fictions he introduces into nature provided his calculations answer.” (The Works of Francis Bacon, editor James Spedding, Robert L. Ellis and D. D. Heath, 14 volumes (London: Longman and Co., 1857-1859, IV, p. 373).
Johannes Kepler insisted strongly upon the homogeneity of physics and astronomy, and upon the identity of their methods and produce results which are demonstrably true. What is true for the astronomer must be true also, and in the same sense, for the physicist or for the metaphysicians, and vice versa. As Cassirer declared, “Kepler demanded that the same laws that apply to terrestrial physics must be applicable also to celestial physics--that the latter must not be developed from the independent hypotheses.
In order that a hypothesis should be true it is not enough that it should succeed in expressing in a brief formula simply and solely astronomical phenomena which indeed constitute only a limited section of our total experience: it must represent these in such a way as corresponds to our understanding of all concrete processes of nature in general. The foundations of astronomy can be laid down only in connection with those of scientific physics. All proof in astronomy requires verification and control by reference to a system of principles of mathematical physics. Only by finding its place in the universal interconnectedness of things is a phenomenon truly accredited and “saved.” (Ernst Cassirer, Das Erkentnisproblem (3 vols., Berlin: Verlag Bruno Cassirer, 1922, I, pp. 342-343); see esp. On the essence of hypothesis in science, Carl von Pranti, “Galileo und Kepler als Logiken,” Sitzungeberichte der philosophisch philogesichen und historischen classe, Akkademie des Wissenschaftern zu Munchen II (no. 4, 1875, p. 405). Kepler defines a hypothesis as “whatever for the purpose of any demonstration is taken for certain and demonstrated.” Hypotheses in this sense are to be found in geometry, logic, and astronomy.
Geometric hypotheses may be divided into three classes: (1) Axioms, i.e., principles that are certain and acknowledged by all men; (2) Postulates, i.e., principles not universally admitted, but sufficiently known to the author himself, and which he asks the learners to concede as the basis of a given demonstration; and (3) Either cannot be or are not true; but are assumed in order that it may be shown by demonstration what would follow if they were true. This third kind of principle has a place when leaving geometry behind, we carry over the method of demonstration into cognate sciences.
In astronomy the term hypothesis is used in two senses: (1) It may refer simply to the observation of the phenomena themselves, since this is after all the foundation of all our demonstration; (2) But in a more specific sense the term refers to the whole system of conception employed by an author as premises from which he calculates deductively to the observed motions of the stars whether the proposition utilized be such as he has previously derived inductively from observation of astronomical phenomena or such as he has simply taken over from physics or geometry. A further distinction, however, is necessary--that between astronomical hypothesis strictly speaking and geometrical hypothesis employed by astronomers, a distinction between the physically real and the hypothetical there can be no true conclusion drawn from false promises. Unless one freely allows the disputer to assume an infinite number of further false propositions, and never to be consistent with himself in his arguing up and down. Is it not the case that there is often more than one hypothesis that agrees perfectly with all the observed phenomena? The Ptolemaic hypothesis did not have the same consequences as the Copernican. They did not account, as does the latter, for some of the most important phenomena, e.g. they did not give the causes of the number, magnitude, and time of the retrograde movements of the planets. For example, the hypothesis of Tycho Brahe, although they give the same astronomical predictions as those of Copernicus, do not require that the fixed stars be of such enormous size as they must be according to the Copernican assumptions.
If two hypotheses have the same consequences in astronomy it is because they contain a common part astronomically speaking, then they are not two hypotheses, but one. With the coming of Galileo and the charges of the Roman Church against his orthodoxy, was he convinced or was his silence diplomatic? For Galileo said, “It is not the same thing to show that the supposition that the earth moves and the sun stands still saves the appearances, and to demonstrate that such hypotheses are really true in nature.”
In this brief trek over Renaissance speculation concerning the method of hypothesis, three matters seem to call for emphasis: (1) Both parties stood for a partial truth and both were subject to some measure of illusion. The Anti-Realists were more conscious of the limitations of the scientific method, but tended at times to exaggerate those limitations. The Realists were more conscious of the necessary unity of the sciences and of the legitimacy of the claims of science to establish objectively valid and reliable conclusions, but were prone to overestimate the certitude and finality of such conclusions. (2) Along with the increasing tendency upon which we are chiefly divided to adopt a realistic interpretation of the hypothesis of astronomy, there goes also a growing realization, assisted largely by the breakdown of the traditional distinction between celestial and terrestrial matter, and indeed of the formerly unquestioned authority of Aristotelian physics generally, of the thoroughgoing unity of all the natural sciences. Men are thus being led hitherto chiefly developed in connection with astronomy is also the true method of physics and all natural science whatsoever; the conclusion reached by astronomers must, if they are to be valid, form together with the conclusions of the physical sciences a single and consistent system having one and the same basis and one and the same kind and degree of certitude. (3) There is latent throughout the discussion a problem that occasionally comes more or less to the fore as to the nature of the results that this one method of the natural sciences now sees to be so largely identical with the astronomical method of hypothesis, is capable of attaining. Three questions are involved in this issue: (1) The view of things that we attain through the use of this method, do we ever succeed in rendering with perfect exactitude and finality the objective order of nature, or are our results always and inevitably partial and approximate and therefore at every stage, subject to progressive reason and correction with a view to the achievement of a closer approximation? (2) Does our method suffice to assure us of the absolute certitude of our results, or does it succeed in attaining only some degree, however high, of probability which is always subject to alteration in the light of further evidence from whatever source? (3) If our hypothetical method gives us after all only probability for our results, where are we to look for that entire certitude and finality without which few progressive scientists in our post modern anti science mode are yet ready to rest content? No longer can the appeal be to the superior certitude of physics, if its method and results are simply on all fours with those of astronomy to confer upon conclusions of the latter science the objectivity validity its own proper method is incapable of supplying. We need a metanarrative for a source of certitude for the results of natural science as a whole.
For the solution of this problem the 17th century evoked prevailingly in the direction typified by the efforts of Descartes. He maintained that conclusions that fall short of absolute certitude, or are in any way merely probable, have no place in any genuine science. He fully recognized that merely empirical procedure by the hypothetical method is inadequate to guarantee any such result, the inductive, dialectical hypothetical method is open ended and scarcely suffices to establish that in any truly scientific manner they must receive a completely cogent demonstration before they can properly be admitted as scientifically valid conclusions. It is consequently to the method of the mathematical disciplines that we must look. There we find rigorous deductions from the evident and first principle (or Judaeo/Christian Metanarrative). The nature sciences can only attain results of similar cogency by adopting the same procedure. Only this way can we become genuinely scientific. However, even in the hands of its founder (a mathematician) the Cartesian method was doomed to failure.
By the 18th century it was widely and freely confessed that natural science must once and for all renounce the attempt to discover by source of certitude independent of the application of empiricist-hypothetical method, or any kind of certitude other than that of reasonably high probability that can alone result from the use of this method (see my “Narrative Displacement in Mathematics From Euclid to Goedel’s Theorem”; and “Thomas Kuhn’s Concept of Paradigm in Post Modern Debate and The Nature of Science”).
Francis Bacon’s 17th Century Philosophy of Science
All of Bacon’s philosophical writings are closely connected with the mission of serving humanity by providing it with a scientific method in order to restore to its proper place of servant to the will of man, rather than merely delight to his intellect. His attempt to accomplish this end was entitled The Great Instauration was never completed (the indispensible tool for Bacon’s research is John Spedding, R. L. Ellis and D. Heath, editors, The Works of Francis Bacon (14 volumes, op.cit.). The Great Instauration was to have consisted of six parts, but only the first two wee finally written out. The plan of work of this book is as follows: (1) Division of The Sciences: This is a summary of the general description of knowledge which the human race at present possesses. (2) The New Organum, or directions concerning the experimental history for the foundation of philosophy. The design is “to command nature in action.” This consists of “a form of induction which shall analyze experience and to beat it to pieces, and by a due process of exclusion and rejection, lead it to an inevitable conclusion.” (3) The Phenomena of The Universe, or a natural and experimental history for the foundation of philosophy. The facts searched for must be of such “as to give light to the discovery of causes,” rather than selected on the basis of their practical immediate utility. The observed details may be sufficient as to enable others to check its results. (4) The Ladder of The Intellect: This consists of examples of inquiry and invention according to the Baconian method. He provided very little written data concerning this category of his method. (5) The Forerunners or Anticipations of the New Philosophy: (see Spedding, et.al., editor, Words of Bacon and the entire article of H.W. Blunt, “Bacon’s Method of Science” Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society, NS IV (1904). According to Spedding, such works as the De flerxu et refluxu naris and De principus probably belong in this division. (6) The New Philosophy for Active Science: This data will consist of the results eventually attained by humanity, when it avails itself of the method that Bacon advocates. The Novum Organum contains the central ideas of Bacon’s system, of which the whole of the Instauraton is only the development (see R. L. Ellis, op.cit., Preface to The Novum-Organum).
Bacon’s Methodological Precepts in Book One of The Novum Organum
The first book of the Novum Organum is primarily devoted to the presentation of the doctrine of “The Idols”, which is to the interpretation of nature what the doctrine of the refutation of sophisms is to common logic.” (Novum Organum, I, p. 40). “The Idols” are a discussion concerning the many weaknesses, errors and prejudices by which the human mind is hampered in its investigation of nature. Bacon’s analysis of “The Idols” are preparation for his method of the mind’s reception and proper use of that method. Bacon’s desire was to set forth a method of science which--”broke with classical science.”
In the first aphorism of Book I, Bacon declares emphatically that the real test of knowledge, as distinguished from “classical theories” is ultimately a pragmatic one. Thus he says, “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known, the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.” (NO I, p. 40) “Truth, therefore, and utility are here ipsissimao res and works themselves are of greater value as pledges of truth than as contributing to the comforts of life.” (Novum Organum, I, 9; also I. 67, 162, p. 40). (Bacon’s “pragmatism” reaches its apogee in Dewey’s epistemologic pragmatism)
No adequate method, according to Bacon, has up to his time been formulated for the investigation of nature. The syllogism, which merely “commands assent. . . to the proposition, but does not take hold of the things, is useless, and induction by simple enumeration is of no avail either, for it is childish: . . .its conclusions are precarious, and exposed to peril from a contradictory instance; and it generally decides on too small a number of facts, and on those only which are at hand.” (NO I, 105; compare with Plan of the Instauration, Part II).
Another form of induction is needed which will not fly from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms and considering the truth of these as settled and immovable, proceed from them deductively; but will, on the contrary, rise from the senses and particulars by a gradual and unbroken ascent and arrive at the most general axioms last of all. (NO.1.19; Whewell lays great stress on the merit of Bacon’s insistence on the necessity of a graduated and successive induction (Philosophy of Discovery (London: Parker and Son, 1860, chps. 14; see p. 6; his Discourse on The Study of Natural Philosophy (London: Longman, Brown, Green, 1830, 96; see especially the article on “Bacon” in The Encyclopedia Britannica 9th edition. Adamson asserts that “Inductive formation of axioms by a gradually ascending scale is a route which no science has ever followed, and by which no science could ever make progress.”)
Hypothesis as a sort of induction must be tested by comparison with facts. This entails experimentation. This in essence is the method set forth in the first book of The Novum Organum, The Doctrine of The Second Book entails our observations of nature. Observations must be “arranged in a suitable order” (Novum Organum I, p. 88). Bacon suggests that observation must be arranged in tables and suggests three different sorts of tables will be necessary: (1) Essence and Presence; this means that, a nature being given, we must first of all have a master of presentation before the understanding of all known instances that agree in the same nature, though in substance the most unlike (Novum Organum II, 12). (2) Deviation or of Absence in Proximity. Such a list could be endless. Bacon does not distinguish between “cause” and “jointly sufficient conditions” e.g., water may be present in clouds, but we do not necessarily experience rain, but without the presence of water, there would be no rain. The same holds for heat analysis. If the sun were only a Micro-second farther away from the earth, we would freeze to death; if it were a micro-second closer we would burn up (e.g., this phenomenon appears to come from a meticulous design. The human body has over a trillion cells, but only one cell can cause cancer). (3) To be of Degree or Comparison: This means that “We must make a presentation to the understanding of instances in which the nature under inquiry is found in different degrees, more or less.” (Novum Organum II, 13). In Bacon’s investigation of induction, only the “Prerogative Instances” however, are discussed by Bacon; the other eight of these helps of the understanding were never set forth and in all probability never in any detail thought out by him. The analogies from which he takes the names of his various instances are for the most part too fanciful to lead to the conclusion of a logically tight argument (op.cit., Herschel, Discourse on The Study of Natural Philosophy, section 191.
Bacon’s discussion of the “Instances of the Lamp” are crucial, but for our purpose they shall not receive consideration. In his further discussion of Instances that are of value for operation, Bacon expounds on three factors: (1) Instance of Power excite and raise the understanding to the discovery of forms; but they do so more effectively than singular instances “because the method of creating and constructing such a “miracle” of art is in most cases plain,” and we thus know which way we should begin our new investigations (NO II, 31). (2) Repeating Instances: We must point to the data that is “useful man” (NO. II 49). (3) Instances of Measure Practice--These are mathematical instances of which there are four categories: (a) Instances of the Rod measuring equipment that reveal; (b) Instances of the Course, which “measures nature by periods of time (II. 46); © Instances of Quality which measure virtue “. . . the mode of the virtue depends upon the quantity of the body” (II, 47). (d) Instances of Strife, which indicates which virtues are stronger and prevail (II, 48). Instances that facilitate practices.
Nature, Forms and The Task of Science
What is the task of science? Bacon unpacks this phenomena under the first nine aphorisms in Book II where Bacon discusses “the mark of knowledge.” The nature of science is to identify “natures,” i.e., know the forms are either simple or complex—e.g. of simple are colorness, opacity, fixity, fluidity, and malleability. Examples of complex are--matter, heavy, light, hot, cold, fixed, moist, dry, fat, crude, hard, soft, etc.. “There is no soundness in our notions, whether logical or physical. Substance, quality, action, passion, essence, itself are not sound notions much less are heavy, light, dense, rare, moist, dry, generation, corruption, attraction, repulsion, element, matter, form, and the like; but all are fanatical and all defined.” (NO, I, 105, see also p. 60)
How Bacon, through the Novum Organum is able to speak of the forms of a thing both as a law of action and as a nature which is “the very thing itself “has been shown by Robert L. Ellis in his work, General Preface to The Philosophical Works, section 8. The three essential points of his interpretation are as follows: (1) For Bacon a “substance,” not in the sense of complex nature, but in the sense of substratum of attributes, is the form cause, the “causa immanence”, of the attributes that are referred to it. (2) Ellis believes that, although Bacon had not brought to full consciousness the distinction between the so-called “primary” and “secondary” qualities of bodies, he had nevertheless made it; and that he regarded the essential attributes of substance the attributes of substances viewed in relation to the universe as consisting only of primary qualities. (3) The primary qualities, in terms of which the form of a thing is to be defined, are considered by Bacon the “causes” of the secondary qualities--that is, of what the thing is in relation to our sensations. Thus the laws that Bacon thinks of are laws of the causation of our sensations by certain states or motions of matter, while the laws that really have the practical value that Bacon thought of are laws of the causation of states or changes of matter by other states or changes of it. (Novum Organum, II, 4)--for criticism of Bacon’s view of science compare Valesius Terminus and Novum Organum; Herschel’s Discourse on The Study of The Natural Philosophy, section 75ff; and Blunt, op.cit. “Bacon’s Method of Science”, p. 22; W.S. Jevon’s Principles of Science (2nd edition, London: MacMillan & Co., 1877), p. 506)
Bacon’s View of Scientific Method
According to Whewell, Bacon’s greatest merit is his insistence upon the gradual passage from concrete facts to broader and broader generalities. Whewell presents a corollary of any practical method that makes observable fact both the starting point and the test of scientific knowledge. Bacon emphasizes careful experimentation versus mere observation of particulars. He clearly exposes the thesis that there can be no experimentation without some hypothesis, however vague (cf. See especially Christoph von Sigwart, Logic (NY: MacMillan, 1895; see my syllabus on “Theories of Logic: From Two Valued Logic to Pluralism of Logic” (Lincoln Christian College/Seminary Library, Lincoln, IL)
Sigwart’s formal analysis of Bacon’s use of the principles, however, does show that Bacon was mistaken concerning the “infallibility” and the quasi-automatic character he believed the method to insure, since this character would be present only if the disjunctive major of the deduction were strictly established and it never is. But to say that it never is strictly established is only to say that the results of induction are never more than probable, and this is universally admitted of the conclusions reached by the application of the principles of agreement and of difference. This probable character, moreover, is present no less in the results of their experimental than of their statistical application, the latter being the only one that might claim although only in a very restricted sense indeed, to “places all units and understanding nearly on a level.” (Novum Organum, I, p. 61).
Bacon’s formulation of the method of hypothesis is found in the first book of the Novum Organum to make it clear that the method of hypothesis is beyond question to be found in Bacon’s work, because the tables are too incomplete and the terms of observations were too ill defined. He knew of no way to induce well defined notions except in Platonic, and for that also more abundant and diverse facts wee required (e.g., Bacon’s concept of gathering Histories) without which the sharpest understanding and the best method avail nothing. (i.e., W.S. Jevon’s Principles of Science 2nd edition, London: MacMillan, 1877, p. 507 on Bacon’s famous “crucial experiment.”). This is an important passage at the end of The New Atlantis where he described the employment and offices of the workers in Salomon’s house. The passage also illustrates Bacon’s ideal of scientific collaboration.
The New Atlantis was written several years after The Novum Organum. Spedding assigns it to the year 1624 while the Novum Organum was published in 1620. This may be taken as Bacon’s naturalist view, representing his opinion on the subject of the relation between Method of Tables and exclusion and that of hypothesis and verification. These issues continue to haunt Bacon scholars, but it is clear enough for our excursion through Narrative Displacement in the rise of the scientific method.
Experience in Descartes’ Theory of Method
Bacon and Descartes set the intellectual agendas for over a century, while technology was radically developing in Western culture during the 18th century (cf. The indispensable tools for serious encounters with Descartes are the following works: C. Adam and P. Tannery, eds., Euvre de Descartes (12 columes, Paris: Leopold Cerf 1897-1910); E. Gilson, Rene’ Descartes Discourse de la methode: Texte et commentaire (Paris: J. Vrui, 1925, E.T.); E.S. Haldane and G.T.R. Ross, The Philosophical Works of Descartes (2 vols, Cambridge University Press, 1911); J.L. Mursell, “The Function of Intuition in Descartes’ Philosophy of Science,” Philosophical Review, xxviii (1919): 391-409.) What Descartes means by “Intuition” is when an expert investigator possesses powers of immediate perception the essential factors of a complex situation.”
Descartes tells of the profound dissatisfaction which he experiences when “in the year 1616, having come to the end of his formal education, he looked back upon the whole course of instruction that he had undergone and attempted to take stock of the results.” (Discourse on Method, Tannery and Adams, editors, vol. Vii, 4ff.)
Most of Descartes’ scholastic preceptors fully recognized the limitation and defects of their physical science; and Descartes, when he so pointedly contrasts the mere probabilities of the current teaching in natural science with the absolute certitude of mathematical demonstrations, is no more than following their example (see E. Gilson, “Rene Descartes’ Discours de la methode” Texte et Commentaire (Paris: J. Vrin, 1925) p. 128); see my section “Narrative Displacements and Mathematical Theories” in this paper).
But they were accustomed to maintain, following Aristotle, that in matters of physics absolute demonstrative proofs were impossible, and that we must therefore here content ourselves with no more than probable conclusions. Descartes refused to put his confidence in merely probable conclusions: a “science” that did not possess the demonstration certitude which he admired in mathematics he thought unworthy of the name (Discourse on Method, VI, pp. 12, 13) E.T. I pp. 106-107). He maintained that science was capable of absolute certitude through man’s innate principles in human reason (Descartes, Le monde, XI, p. 47). He clearly acknowledged that a priori demonstrative nature of the whole of physics are relatively few in number.
What is the empirical basis of physics according to Descartes? Despite the potential contradictory claims, he ultimately asserts that the physical sciences rest on empirical basis. In spite of his attention to “the fluctuating testimony of the senses,” (Haldane and Ross, Descartes, I, pp. 4,5) Bacon speaks of the uncertain length of the sense “that sometimes shines and sometimes hides its head” or of “collections of experiments and particular facts, in which no guides can be trusted, as wanting direction themselves and adding to the errors of the rest.” (The Great Instauration, author’s preface). Neither Bacon nor Descartes had any confidence in opinions founded upon the uncritisized experience of the senses, but seek an alliance of experience and reason. Bacon declares: “. . . the true labor of philosophy. . . neither relies entirely . . . on the powers of the mind, nor yet lays up In the memory the matter afforded by the experimentation of natured history and mechanics in its raw state, but changes and work it in the understanding.” (Novum Organum, Bk I, aphorism 95). Descartes maintains that an empirical formation is essential for physical science (Discourse on Method, VI, pp. 21-23). “First, I have tried actual construction of his new system of physics on the basis of principles or first causes of everything that is or can be in the world, without considering anything that might accomplish this end but God Himself who has created the world, or depriving men from any source excepting from certain germs of truths which are nationally existent in our souls.” (Discourse de la methode, Part V, VI, 50, Haldane and Ross, I, p. 112, also Descartes, I, 47).
Descartes insists that the physical science is not mathematical/geometrical in any unqualified sense. The geometry of the mathematicians is an abstract geometry; physical science can on the contrary employ only a concrete geometry (Tannery, Letters to Mersenne, July 27, 1638, III, p. 268; The Great Instauration, Plan of The Work, see esp. Le recherche de la verite; Haldane/Ross, Descartes, I, pp. 309-310). In the Principia itself, Descartes refers to the “laws of mechanics, confirmed as they are by certain and daily experience.” (Op.cit., I p. 296)
Descartes on Hypothesis
Descartes admits the utility and the necessity of crucial experiments in physical inquiries, it is already evident that he is at least tacitly admitted the existence of an element of hypothesis in the situation. How would we ever “know” that we have discovered the true cause? How can we ever be sure that we have excluded all even of the mechanically possible alternatives? If this problem cannot be resolved, the “absolute certainty” which Descartes desires for the whole of physics will after all extend only so far as the general principles themselves, and not the details of the explanation offered in particular phenomena. In response to the charge of circularity, Descartes explains—“. . .in explaining effects by a cause and then proving the cause by then; for there is a great difference between proving and explaining. To which I add that one may use the word demonstrate to signify both the one and the other, at least if one takes it according to common usage and not in the special signification which philosophers give it.” (“Letters to Morin”, July 13, 1638, II 198, Tannery’s 14 volume Descartes data)
A single system of nature (a’ la’ Cartesian physics) the fact that no natural phenomenon is anywhere empirically discoverable which is not fully explicable in accordance with these principles demonstrates their truth in a particular fashion (E. Gilson, Textes et commentaire, p. 454 sums up Descartes’ doctrine concerning the a posteriori proof of true causes, cf. Newton’s conception of true causes).
Morals versus Absolute Certainty
Descartes recognizes that a posteriori proofs, however high probability they may establish that our hypotheses embody “true causes” . . .which “seem incredible” that any other causes are true and give a “moral certainty” (Descartes, Les principles de la philosophie, Part IV, chp. cc ix, p. 318). Descartes desires to conclude that the hypotheses that he has been led to assume as to the causes of natural phenomena, whether in astronomy or in physics, represent not only de facto physical actuality, but also metaphysical and mathematical necessity; not merely probable truth or “moral certainty,” but absolute certainty, conferred upon them by rigorous demonstration from self-evident first principles of reason. In the concluding chapter of The Principia, we find Descartes wrestling with the problem that the comparison of the Latin and French versions are highly instructive (in his work Principiorum philosophiae Part IV, chapter ccvi, ix, pp. 324-325; also consult E. Gilson’s Text et commentaire (Paris: J. Vrin, 1925).
Place of Induction in Descartes’ Theory of Method
Descartes assigns a vital part of method to “Induction.” (Cf. The classical conflict between mathematical foundations up to Goedel’s theories and inductive accumulation of data (see my chapter in this paper on “Narrative Displacement in The History of Science”) Descartes’ purely a priori physics fails to come off. Self-evident truths of rational intuition also entails multiplication of empirical instances. The fact remains nevertheless, as for Aristotle, the process by which these “innate ideas,” are actually brought into explicit consciousness in one which, as a matter of fact, begins with experience of particulars. Descartes characterizes it as an “error” to suppose that “the knowledge of particular propositions must always be deduced from universals” on who really understands how we ought to seek truth will see that “in order to find it we must always begin with particular ideas in order to arrive at those that are general, although one can also reciprocally, once having found those that are general deduce from the others that are particular.” (Haldene and Ross, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, I, (Cambridge University Press, E.T., 1911, p. 43) Descartes declares that “our mind is so constituted by nature that general propositions are formed out of knowledge of the particular” (Tannery, ed., Responsio and secundas objectiones, VII, pp. 140-141) and his simple proposition may thus be said to contain practically his whole theory of inductive generalization
Descartes believes like Aristotle, that the human mind possesses a further inexplicable power, although the exercise of a rational intuition of distinguishing, within the contingent complications of particular phenomena as revealed to us in experience, those relations that are truly universal and necessary precisely because they hold between the ultimate and simple universal natures into which the complicated particulars can be analytically resolved. “The mental vision extends both to all those simple natures and to the knowledge of the necessary connections between them.” (Haldene/Ross, Descartes I, 45; Henz Heimsoeth, Die Methode des Erkenntnis bei Descartes und Leibniz (Biessen Topelmann, 1912-1914), p. 71; also J. Berthet, “La Methode des Descartes avant de Discourse,” Revue de Metaphysique et de Morales, IV (1896), pp. 399-415; J.J. Mursell, “The Function of Intuition in Descartes’ Philosophy of Science,” Philosophical Review, xxviii (1919), pp. 391-409). “When Descartes speaks of intuition, he is dealing with the actual practice and procedure of the expert investigation. The expert will develop and possess a power of immediately perceiving the essential facts of a complex situation.” (Op.cit., Mursell)
The deduction “is perceived by intuition when it is simple and clear, but not when it is complex and involved. Then we give it a name of enumeration and induction, because it cannot be comprehended in one whole at a glance of the mind, but it certainly depends in some measure on the memory.” (Haldene/Ross, “Regulae ad directionem ingenii, regulae” Descartes, p. 408)
We must not forget that many of Descartes’ illustrations derive from mathematics (as he was a mathematition)--see Descartes section of this work, “Narrative Displacement in Mathematics”
Descartes might use intuition ambiguously but hear him once more--”But if we arrange all the particulars in the best order, they will be reduced, for the most part, to determinate classes of which it will be sufficient to take one only for exact inspection, or some item of each, or some rather than others.” (Ibid, p. 391) That Descartes’ “enumeration” or “induction” is not our induction is also evident from his use of terms. Thus induction is used synonymously with “deduction” and to “induce” (inducere) or to “deduce” or to “infer.” (Berthet, op.cit. p. 404, n.1) Berthet declares that the two sole methods of arriving at certain knowledge are “intuition” and “deduction” (Haldene/Ross, Descartes I, regula-IIIX 366,368, 369), and in this passage “deduction” and “induction” seem plainly to be regarded as synonymous.
This excursion into the brilliant mind of Descartes must be excused, but we must never forget that Descartes did not contribute to the development of the scientific enterprise.
Thomas Hobbes and The Rationalistic Ideal
Thomas Hobbes was the author of one of the most celebrated political treatise in European literature (see esp. W. Molesworth, editor, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, 11 volumes (London 1839-1845) From 1629 until 1631 Hobbes was again in France, this time as tutor to the son of Sir Gervace Clifton and it was on the journey that he became acquainted with the Elements of Euclid. Hobbes was never the mathematician that Descartes was, but it was his encounter with geometry which supplied him with his lasting ideal of scientific method. While in Paris he became concerned with the problem of sense perception, the relation of sensations to the motions of bodies and the status of secondary qualities. He met Galileo at Florence, and at Paris he was introduced by Mersenne into philosophical and scientific circles. He thus came to know the Cartesian philosophy, and at Mersenne’s invitation he submitted to Descartes his objections against the experience we call “seeing the seen,” but nobody would say that such knowledge is scientific astronomical knowledge. Similarly, that human action takes place is known by all, but all do not possess a scientific or philosophical knowledge of human action. The philosopher is not concerned with simply stating empirical facts, that this or that is or was a fact, but with the consequences of propositions, which are discovered by reasoning and not by observation. Hobbes’ philosophy is concerned with causal explanation. Therefore, God and all spiritual reality is excluded from philosophy and therefore philosophy excludes theology, (e.g., long before Kant’s first critique placed God knowledge in an unknowable realism, thus enters Deism, Atheism and the Sociology of Knowledge Thesis).
Hobbes’ philosophy, therefore, is mathematics in that it takes no account of anything but bodies. His materialism excludes all theological Christian categories. His methodological materialism removes God talk, but he does not deny that God exists (see his Concerning the Body, volume I, chp. I,8, Leviathan I, 9 EW; III, p. 71). For him it follows that theology is irrational. We can have no idea of the infinite or the immaterial! Whatever we image is finite; therefore, there can be no idea or conception of anything we call infinite (Leviathan, I, 3; EW; III, p. 17).
Yet, Hobbes would deny that he is an atheist, yet his god is too small and cannot be made known through human reason, history, language, etc. His empiricist analysis of the meaning of names that all talk about God is nonsense (much gibberish) and merely a matter of emotion (ibid., 4 EW. P. 27) e.g. natural bodies “and the other is called a commonwealth, i.e., mode of the wills and components of men, i.e., Concerning Body I, I, 9 EW; I p. 11); F. Brandt, Thomas Hobbes’ Mechanical Conception of Nature (London, 1928); J.W. Gogh, The Social Contract, A Critical Study of The Development (Oxford 1936, revised edition, 1956); F.J. Powicke, The Cambridge Platonist: A Study (London, 1926).
Hobbes was a nominalist, thus experience cannot yield any universals! On a nominalistic basis constructed theories and causal explanations would be, as Hobbes says, they are “hypothetical and conditionals.” It would be possible to verify, or at last to test, scientific conclusions in experience, though Hobbes, who had no great esteem for experimental methods in science, does not in fact talk about verification or proof. What he emphasizes when speaking of philosophy and science is deduction of consequences from first principles. He explicitly recognizes the use of the principles which are deductive, i.e., states are definitions, and that definitions are nothing but the explication of the meaning of words. Definitions are nothing but the explications of the meaning of words. Definitions are the “settling of significations” or “settled significations of words” (Leviathan I. 4 and 5). Definitions are the sole principles of demonstrations, and they are truths constituted arbitrarily by the inventor of speech and therefore not to be demonstrated (his Concerning Body I, 3.9). If the meanings of words are arbitrary, then conclusions must be arbitrary; more exactly, a definition is a proposition whose predicate removes the subject, when it may, and when it may not, it exemplifies the same concerning the body (II.6.14) (see my “Narrative Displacement Theories of Language” and “Tagmemics in Nida and Pike”)
Hobbes emphasizes deduction (not empiricism) in his view of science. Definitions are the sole principles of demonstration, and they are “truths constituted arbitrarily by the invention of speech, and therefore not to be demonstrated (Concerning The Body, I, 3,9; this is pure Wittgenstenian “Language Games”!). If the words of definitions are arbitrary then the conclusions must partake of their arbitrariness. This represents a radical break between Scientific Propositions and Reality. There is no guarantee that scientific propositions are applicable to reality. In Hobbes’ objections against the meditation of Descartes we find the following remarkable passage. “But what shall we say now if reasoning is perhaps nothing else but the forming and stringing together of names or appellations by the word “is”? In this case reason gives no conclusions about the nature of things, but only about their names; whether indeed or not we join the names of things according to meanings. If this is the case, . . . reasoning will depend on names, names on imagination and imagination. . . on the motion of the bodily organs (Objections IV OL, pp. 257-258). Hobbes’ philosophy and science is inevitably affected by subjectivism and nominalistic scepticism. Hobbes insists that truth and falsity are predictable by propositions, never of things. Truth “is not any affection of the things, but of the proposition concerning it.” (Concerning The Body, I, 3)
Hobbes made efforts to escape the implications of a form of speech used by Aristotle, though Hobbes does not mean by “mere name” that the idea signified by the word is without any relation to reality (e.g. Aristotle’s “First Matter”) He failed to distinguish conflicting strands of thought--clearly. For Hobbes’ scientific theories can attain only a degree of probability which may represent one strand of his thought. The idea that in mathematics we start with definition and develop their implications, so that in pure mathematics we are concerned only with formal implications and not with the “real world,” represents another strand. Both of these ideas appear in modern empiricism. But Hobbes was also influenced by the Rationalist ideal of a deductive philosophical system. For him, the first principles of mathematics are postulates and not true first principles because he considered them to be demonstrable. These are ultimate first principles, antecedent to mathematics and to physics.
For the continental type of Rationalist, the truth of first principles must be known intuitively and all the proposition which can be deduced from them will be certainly true. But Hobbes cannot have it both ways; first principles or definition were arbitrary--next he claims that they are certainly true. If his view of science is nothing but reasoning about names, then the consequences of definitions or meaning has been arbitrarily established. The great divorce between science and philosophy and the world appears with great regularity in Hobbes. Yet there is a strange idea of science according to which there is a progressive development from first principles in a deductive manner, and which, if consistently maintained, would neglect the important differences between pure mathematics and empirical science.
Yet, Hobbes proposed a relative independence of ethics and politics, on the ground that their principles can be known experimentally without reference to the part of philosophy which logically precede. The charge that Hobbes is a “skeptical nominalist” is not without support in his philosophical writings as a whole world forms the impression that “sceptic” is the most appropriate label to give to Hobbes. Nominalism inevitably leads to scepticism! Yet Hobbes was preoccupied with “discovering causes,” but a skeptical nominalist could not rationally have such an agenda. How can Hobbes transition from “atomic individualism” to the construction of that artificial body, the State? Hobbes’ deduction of the State from a consideration of the passions of men is fundamental for his authoritarianism and his insistence on the power of the sovereign. His link with the Renaissance writer, Machiavelli becomes clearer (see J.W. Gogh, The Social Contract: A Critical Study of Its Development (Oxford, 1936, revised edition 1956); R. Honegswald, Hobbes und die Staatsphilosophie (Munich, 1924); J. Vialatoux, La cite de Hobbes--Theorie de l’ Eat Totalitaire: Essai sur la conception naturalistic de la civilisation (Paris: 1935).
Hobbes’ view of the role of power in human affairs is of lasting significance. Hobbes’ nominalistic view of human nature precludes his lasting analysis, but undoubtedly he helped to determine the course of human history into the 20th century.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and The Hypothetico-Deductive Method
In the cultural, intellectual context of Newton was Locke’s center of friends including Robert Boyle (1627-1691). As a chemist and physicist, Boyle was interested in the particular analysis of sensible data rather than framing a wide, far-reaching hypothesis about nature. He thus carried on the work of Gilbert and Harvey. In the emphasis which he laid in experiment he shows an affinity to Bacon, Descartes and Gassendi in order to escape premature indoctrination with theories and hypothesis. His experiments on air and the vacuum by means of an air pump, an account he provides in his New Experiments Physico-Mechanical (1660) disposed of Hobbes’ a priori theorizing and dealt a fatal blow to opponents of the experimental method (e.g. also his Skeptical Chymist, 1661). In 1662 he achieved the generalization known as Boyle’s law, namely, the statement that the pressure and volume of a gas are universally proportional (also his belief in alchemy). Although he was not a mathematician, he agreed with Galileo and Descartes when views about the mathematical structure of nature was considered as a system of bodies in motion along with Descartes, Boyle believed in the necessity of the Christian faith, which enlarges our knowledge. In Boyle we see a combination of experimentation and method in science, i.e., the hypothetical character of scientific theories with a Cartesian view of the relationship of soul to body and with theological conviction.
Another friend of Boyle and Locke was Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). It was Newton’s genius that achieved the completion of the worldview prepared by men such as Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, Renaissance scientists). In 1687 (new editions in 1713 and 1726) he published his book Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica commonly known as Newton’s Principia. Newton’s genius as a mathematical physicist and his power of co-ordination, unification and simplification are unquestioned. Newton was able to use Kepler’s laws to show that the motion of the planets round the sun can be explained if it is supposed that the sun exerts a force on each planet which varies in inverse proportion to the square of the distance of that planet from the sun. He eventually was able to enunciate a universal law of gravitation, determining the mutual attraction of masses (equation Bmn/d2 when d is the distance between the bodies and G is a universal constant). Newton was thus able to bring under a single mathematical law such major phenomena as the motion of the planets, the comets, the moon and the sea. He showed that the movements of terrestrial bodies follow the same laws of motion as celestial ones; and he thus completed the destruction of the Aristotelian theory that terrestrial and celestial bodies obey essentially different laws. Thus a narrative displacement in science. He maintained that mathematically nature is mechanically structured. For instance, in his work Optics (1704) he maintained that given the relevant theorem relating to the refraction and composition of light, the phenomena of colors could be explained in mathematical-mechanical terms.
Newton’s greatest scientific contribution was surely the powerful impetus to the development of empirical science, as distinct from a priori theorizing, and by developing the scientific interpretation of the world he helped to provide subsequent philosophical thought with one of the most important data for its reflections.
An essential element in this long and profound conflict concerning the nature of “matter” (vs. classical substance). “It would be difficult to find a greater distance between any two terms than that which separate matter in the Greek-medical tradition and the technical significance suitably expressed in mathematical symbols, than the word Being in science today.” (JL Dewey, “Anti naturalism in Extremes” Naturalism and The Human Spirit (NY, Craters, 1944, p. 3)
“The concept (matter) has hardly changed from the times of Leucappus to the beginning of the 20th century: An impenetrable something which fills completely certain regions of space and which persists through time even when it changed in location” (Malic Capek in The Philosophical Impact of Modern Physics (NY, 1964, p. 54) and Ernon McMullen, editor, The Concept of Matter (University of Notre Dame Press, 1963; see especially N.R. Hanson, “The Dematerialization of Matter” pp. 549-561
From the Newtonian revolution to Whitehead’s “subjectivistic reductionism” he attempts to blend hard headed atomistic materialism with the elegance of Platonic logicism has fired the imagination of philosophers ever since the rise of Mathematical Physics, and especially fused with Symbolic Logic. This intellectual movement abandons all hope of an approachment with Aristotetlean realism. Whitehead’s Process and Reality is a polemic against the quest for a substratum, his assertion that creatively “should replace Aristotle’s category of ‘primary’ substance” (Process and Reality, p. 32) as well as many of his historical allusions and judgment, against what Whitehead viewed his system as climaxing the revolt against the Aristotelian world view which Descartes, Newton and Lock had begun. Further, the affinities of Whitehead’s atomism of actual entities with the logical atomism of Russell and the nominalistic Aufhauten of Carnap and Goodman seem obvious. (Wm. Christian, An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics (New Haven, 1959); Ivor Leclere, editor, The Relevance of Whitehead (London, 1961).
These works listed above spotlight some of the anti reductionist features of Whitehead’s cosmology, in order to show how Whitehead’s critique of Newtonian world view, and the philosophical systems which presuppose this world view, resembles the critique offered by Aristotelians. After Einstein and Whitehead the scientific enterprise took “Time” seriously for the discussions of the concept of matter. Ultimately, we enter the panentheistic Eastern metaphysics (Capra, et.al.) Which is dominated by the Reductionism and Realism debate in the post modern anti science (see section of this work on “The Discontent Anti Science of Post Modern Developments”)
The Newtonian Revolution in Scientific Ideas
The “principle of natural philosophy” that Isaac Newton displayed and elaborated in his Principia are mathematical principles. His exploration of the properties of various motions under given conditions of force is based on mathematics and not on experiment and induction. In pure mathematics (analytic geometry and calculus) often tend to be couched in the language of dynamics and pure mathematics is also a characteristic feature of the science of the Principia. Newton shows himself to be a mathematical empiricist to the extent that he believed that he believed that both basic postulates and the final results of mathematical analysis based on those postulates could be consonant with the real or external world as revealed by experiment and critical or precise observation.
Newton’s achievement in the Principia was probably due to his extraordinary ability to mathematicize empirical or physical science. It was Newton’s intellectual powers by mathematics and not merely some kind of physical or philosophical insight that enabled him to find the meaning of each of Kepler’s laws and to show the relationship between the space law and the law of inertia. The terms “synthesis” and “revolution” are of epidemic proportions in the literature concerning the formation of modern science. The Newtonian achievement, however, is often categorized as a “synthesis” rather than a “revolution” as in phrases such as “The Newtonian Synthesis” or “the Great Synthesis” (see Charles Gillespi, The Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in The History of Scientific Ideas (Princeton University Press, 1960); Alexander Koyre’ “La gravitation universelle de Kepler a Newton,” Actes du Vie congres Internationales d’ Historie des Sciences vol. 4, 1950, reprinted in Koyre, 1968; and his “The Significance of The Newtonian Synthesis” Archives Internationales d’ Histoire des Sciences, vol. 3 : 291-31).
Even Koyre’ essay does not define the meaning of “synthesis.” The Newtonian system of the world put together the contributions, or incomplete contributions of such predecessors and contemporaries as Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes, Galileo, Huygens, Hooke, Wallis and Wren. No one doubts Newtonian indebtedness to these great scientific minds. “Newton’s synthesis” has at least two senses: (1) One is the unification within a single scientific structure of subjects previously held to be separate or previously not seen to be closely related. This Newton showed that the falling bodies on earth, the phenomena of tides, the motion of the moon, and the motions of the planets and their satellites are all a part of a single system of physics and are all effects of the same force of universal gravity. Newton attempted to make a synthesis, though unsuccessfully, of the physics of large bodies and the physics of the particles of which they are composed. (2) The other sense of “Newton’s synthesis” is the production of a system of physics by synthesizing concepts, laws, and principles of Galileo and Kepler and possibly of Descartes, et.al. It is in this process that “transformation” is of such importance that it would be more strictly accurate to refer to Newton’s synthesis of concepts, laws and principles “originating” with Galileo and Kepler rather than concepts, laws, and principles of Galileo and Kepler. (E.g. Keplerian “inertia” or Kepler’s transformation of Aristotle’s force of inertia physics of local motion of applying Aristotelian terrestrial physics to the heavenly bodies, from which there was supposed to be a wholly different set of Aristotelian principles of motion. (A. Koyre’, The Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus, Kepler, Borelli (Translation R.E. Maddison, (Paris: Cornell University Press, 1973; Newton, Leibniz and Clarke, Correspondence with Newton (Archives Internationales d’ Histoires des Sciences, Vol. 5, 1962, pp. 63-126).
Ultimately, “Newton’s synthesis” would seem to be limited to a part of rational mechanics rather than be included of all of statistics and dynamics. Newton’s synthesis consisted in mathematizing physics and the relating principles to natural philosophy. He also contributed to the concepts of mass and the concept and law of universal gravitation plus its exemplification in the solar system.
Newton exhibited the falsity of certain basic principles of his predecessors: (1) Copernicus: the solar system does not have its center in the true sun, but in fictitious or “man” sun with respect to which all planetary orbits are reckoned; the planetary orbits are composed of circles on circles, i.e., epicycles. (2) Kepler: the three planets are “true” descriptions of the motion of the planets; . . .because of its “natural” inertia, a moving body will come to rest whenever the motive force ceases to act (see Koyre, 1973 for details or Kepler’s ideas. (3) Descartes: the planets are carried around by a sea of “ether” moving in huge vortices; atoms do not exist and here is no vacuum or void space. (4) Galileo: the acceleration of bodies falling toward earth is constant at all distances, even as far as the moon; the moon cannot possibly have any influence on the tides in the sea. (5) Hooke: the centripetal inverse square force acting on a body produces orbital motion with a speed inversely proportional to the distance from the center of force: this speed law is consistent with Kepler’s area law (data from I. Bernard Cohen, The Newtonian Revolution (Cambridge University Pres, 1980): see also his Revolution in Science: History, Analysis, and Significance of A Name and A Concept (Cambridge, 1977); Isaac Newton, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 10, pg. 42-103; his “The 18th Century Origins of the Concept of the Mathematical Scientific Revolution” Journal of The History of Ideas, Vol. 37, pp. 275-288; and Charles Domson, An Essay in The Historical Interaction of Natural Philosophy and Millennial Belief in The Age of Newton (New Haven, NJ: Doctoral Dissertation, Yale University, 1977); and James Strauss, “Post Modern Science and Eschatology” (LCC Library).
Newton’s hypothetical deductive method does not merely emulate Descartes. In a passage from the third book of the Principia he writes: “Upon this subject I had, indeed, composed the third Book in a popular method, and it might be read by many; but afterwards, considering that such as had not sufficiently entered into the principles could not easily discern the strength of the consequences, nor lay aside the prejudices in which they had been many years accounts, I chose to reduce the substance of this book into forms of Propositions (e.g. Mathematical way), which should be read by those only who had first made themselves masters of the principles established in the preceding Books.” Principia, Book III, translated by Motte, p. 383)
Newton had found by bitter experience that to present his conclusions merely as a result of experimental investigation did not suffice to produce conviction of their truth. As Block sums up the matter, the geometrical mode of exposition is not for Newton a definitive form insuring a grasp of absolute fact. It is neither a means of persuading those whom dogmatic prejudice renders incredulous by use of a language which they find clearer, than that of facts themselves (see E. Block, La philosophie de Newton (Paris, 1980, p. 129); also E. H. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (NY: Harcourt, Brace Co., 1925, p. 212).
In order to avoid “hypothesis” being transformed into mere dogma, Newton’s conviction perhaps is expressed in the following passage:
I design to give only a mathematical notion of these forces without considering their physical causes and sets. (Principia, Book I, definition section 11, translated by Motte, 526). I likewise call attractions and impulsions, in the same sense, accelerative and motive; and use the words attraction, impulse or propensity of any sort towards a center, promiscuously and indifferently, one for another, considering these forces not physically, but mathematically: wherefore, the reader is not to imagine that, by those words, I anywhere take upon me to define the kind or the manner of any action, the causes or the physical reasons, therefore, or that I attribute forces in a true and physical sense, to certain centers, which are only mathematical points, when at any time I happen to speak of centers as attracting or as endued with attractive powers. (Ibid., p. 6)
I shall, therefore, at present, go on to treat of the motion of bodies mutually attracting each other; considering the centripetal forces as attraction; though perhaps in a physical strictness they may more truly be called impulses. But these propositions are to be considered as purely mathematical; and therefore, laying aside all physical consideration, I make use of a familiar way of speaking, to make myself the more easily understood by a mathematic reader. (Principia, Book I, section 11, trans. Motte I, p. 133; also Principia, The System of The Worlds, trans. Motte, p. 526) W.E. Strong, “Newtonian Explications of Natural Philosophy” Journal of The History of Ideas xviii (1957): 49-83. For comparison with occult practices and Newton’s revolution see I.F.W. Herschel, A Preliminary Discourse on The Study of Natural Philosophy (London: Longman, 1842, sec. 138); Wm. Whewell, Philosophy of Discovery, 3rd edition (London: John W. Parker & Son, 1860, p. 186); J.S. Mill, System of Logic, 8th edition (NY: Harper, 1900, Bk III, chp xix, par. 4, p. 353); We must always keep before the reader the famous passage on hypothesis in the General Scholium at the end of Book III of the Principia)
(For a contrast between Newton and Descartes, see Principles, Roles of Reasoning in Philosophy, rule III trans. P. 384); also G. Buchdahl, “The Relevance of Descartes’ Philosophy for Modern British Philosophy of Science”British Journal of The History of Science (1962) 227-249). “ We have no other way to know the extension of bodies than on senses. That all bodies are impenetrable we gather not from reason, but from sensation.” There is no evidence that Newton owed any of this theory to Bacon’s Novum Organum. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations, p. 209. It is at least odd that Newton never mentioned Bacon’s name or his system, even though Newton was born and educated after Bacon had published his Novum Organum (see esp. David Brewster, Memoirs of The Life of Newton).
Newton’s discoveries were independent of Bacon’s work. Lecky goes so far as to say--”The whole method and mental character of Newton was opposed to that of Bacon, and as his biographer. . .very forcibly contends there is not the slightest reason to suppose that Newton owed anything to his predecessors.” (W.E.H. Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of The Spirit of Rationalism in Europe (2 vols: rev. ed., NY: D. Appleton & Co., 1884, I, p. 292n); Black, La philosophie de Newton makes a similar mistake when he claims that Newton never referred to Descartes.) Yet this is a very strong thesis, that Newton would not have been acquainted with Descartes or Bacon (cf. Newton was in frequent correspondence with Hook and Boyl). Bacon’s works in England of that day were regarded as the fundamental treatise on the logic of science; and it would seem that Newton, during his long years of residence at Trinity College (1661-1696), can hardly have failed to learn something of their teachings (Block, La philosophie de Newton, p. 423).
We find that Newton gives to “experimentum crucis” the same somewhat extended interpretation as had Bacon. It is the experiment that verifies this novel hypothesis that Newton, like Bacon, calls “experimentum crucis” (Letters to Aldenburg, opere IV, p. 370). For Bacon, observation and experiment, together with the consequent inductions, form practically the whole of scientific method; whereas in Newton’s view this forms but one phase of the full analytic/synthetic method. There is a very significant difference between induction of Newton and that of Bacon, the Newtonian induction proceeds throughout in quantitative terms; it employs exact measures and its propositions are cast in numerical and mathematical forms. Wherever the virtue of Bacon’s precepts concerning the employment of definite measurements and numerical computations. (Novum Organum, Book II, aphorism 8) and inquiries into nature have the best results when they begin with physics and end with mathematics. Again, let no one be afraid of high numbers or minute fractions.”
There is another great difference between the two men in the fact that Bacon is still under the illusion that the right method will give us scientific result of absolute and final certainty, an illusion from which Newton is completely free (compare Bacon’s The Great Instauration, Plan of The Work, The Works of Bacon viii, 42 with Newton’s, although the arguing for experiments and observation by inductions is not a demonstration of general conclusions.” Opticks query 31, p. 380, chp. 3).
Newton’s Rules for Reasoning in Philosophy
The first and last of the famous four “Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy which Newton introduces in the Third Book of The Principia are of the foundations of his view of the scientific method.
Rule II: Therefore to the same natural effects, we must as far as possible, assign the same causes as to respiration in a man and in a heart, the descent of stones in Europe and in America; the light of our culinary fire and of the sun; the reflection of light in the earth and in the planets. (Burtt, Metaphysical Foundations, p. 214; also, Block’s, La philosophie de Newton, p. 456)
Rule III: The qualities of bodies which admit neither intention near remission of degree, and which are found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever. For since the qualities of bodies are only known to us by experiments, we are to hold for universal all such as universally agree with experiments; and such as are not liable to dimension can never be quite taken away (Block, op.cit., pp. 462-63).
We are certainly not to relinquish the evidence of experiments for the sake of dreams and fiction of our own deriving; nor are we to recede from the analogy of nature which used to be simple and always consonant with itself, an argument frequently repeated in Newton’s Opticks, Book I, Part I, prop. pp. 65,66, query 31, pp. 351-372.
The first rule concerns “verae causae”; the second rule states the principle of uniformity of nature. Newton nowhere provides precise meaning of these rules or the grounds upon which we are justified in assuming their truth (see esp. Burtt, op.cit., p. 215). “It is impossible to answer this question with absolute confidence. At those times when the theological basis of Newton’s science was uppermost in his mind, it is probable that he would have answered substantially as Galileo and Descartes did. But in his strictly scientific paragraphs the emphasis is overwhelmingly in favor of their tentative, positivistic character, hence the fourth rule of reasoning in philosophy. . .must be regarded as imposing definite limits on all of the other three.”
(Burtt’s comments on the Fourth Rule, op.cit.)
David Hume on Causation
Hume is the heir to the Lockian tradition of the theory of ideas; particularianism, suspicion and eventual rejection of the “external object,” and of the essence of things; rejection of substance qua substratum; criticizing of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities; of innate ideas as well as abstract general ideas. The dominate influences on him are Locke and to some extent, Berkeley, Malebranche and Hutcheson. But there is also an emphasis on experience and experiment; on generalization and the importance of the laws of nature obtained by induction from the phenomena; and here the influences is Newton. From Newton also comes the suspicion of the employment of hypothesis. The conception of the uniformity of nature supported either by God’s activity or, as in the case of the postulated acceptance of the principle of causality, as a deliverance of reason. Hume’s skepticism is more subtle in his development of the enterprise of epistemology. His entire interest is in the justification which philosophers present together with those operative concepts, i.e., external object, inductive inference and causation (see R.B. Braithwaite, Scientific Explanation (Cambridge University Press, 4th printing 1957, esp. Chp. 8, “Induction is not a demonstrative form of inference like deduction” Justification of Induction). Inductive conclusions are always inferred. But, he holds, we cannot question for a moment “whether there be body or not? This is something we must take for granted.” (Hume’s use of experimental and experiential are often synonymous; Treatise On Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) edited by Selby-Biggs (Oxford, 1951, p. 34; see also op cit, p. 182).
For our purpose of Hume’s view of science, we take note of the term necessity. He states that it is a word that only refers to the experience of his propensity in ourselves under such circumstances; it “exists in the mind, not in objects” (Hume, A Treatise on Human Understanding, p. 165). Hume’s phenomenalism deprived him of the right to the distinction between “perceptions” or “the mind” and “objects” (opcit, p. 211) after demonstrating the invalidity of the distinction, he declares that he will go on using it none the less (opcit., p. 218) because he cannot possibly do without it, for without it his conclusions concerning “causality” could not even be stated! He cannot deny the objective validity of the relation of necessity. He declares--”Wherever ideas are adequate representations of objects, the relations, contradictions and agreements of the ideas are all applicable to the objects.” (opcit., p. 29) A third feature is crucial for Hume’s theory of causality. “The internal impressions from which the idea of necessity is derived--that propensity which custom produces to pass from an object to the idea of its usual attendant.” (Opcit., p. 165) Nowhere does Hume contend that the ideas between which the relation of “necessity” exists are not as adequate representations of objects as our ideas of space and time. Hume also declares to us “that propensity, which custom produces, to pass from an object to the idea of its usual attendant. . .can only be perceptions, i.e., experiences, feelings, things that are, but do not do.” Hume states that “we may attain the knowledge of a particular cause merely by one experience, provided it be made with judgment and after a careful removal of all foreign and superfluous circumstances” (opcit., p. 104,105). Hume lists the rules by which to judge Cause and Effects (opcit., p. 173ff, 8 rules). The first two rules are concerned primarily with the subjective aspects of causation. This belief is no mere belief, but knowledge. He seems to imply that the knowledge is true (opcit., pp. 90,91, for Hume’s own objections). His empirical probablism cannot obtain for both cause and effect of another (opcit., p. 90).
The proposition concerning the uniformity of nature that can be obtained from experience is radically different from the proposition that Hume needs for the purpose of his rules and states at the beginning of Hume’s discussion of uniformity of nature derives from “common sense,” (opcit, p. 105) not from his doctrine of causation--”that constant conjunction, on which the relationship of cause and effect totally depends.” (Opcit, p. 173) He contributes nothing to the history of the term induction, since he does not use it. With regard to inductive method, in his rules he gives the clearest statement up to his time. For decades after Hume, the methods of agreement and difference and concomitant variations were unchallenged. Hume raised many important issues bound up for “inductive theory and uniformity of nature.” The problem remains--how can Hume’s subjective account of the theory of probability solve the scientific methods’ impasse regarding inductive justification of universal laws of nature so essential for the philosophy of science?
Influences From Leibniz and Hume
Kant: The Shift from Metaphysics to Transcendental Logic and to Methodology
None of these men were practicing scientists but the influence on philosophy and Western culture is undeniable. The Kantian opus is vast and complex. His interests are enormous. This statement can only acknowledge the most elementary analysis. Kant’s breadth of view can only be limited to the close connection in his thinking between science and religion. Yet, science provides the basic stimulus for the direction of Kant’s thought. Even his opus-posthumum was greatly occupied with this field. Kant was not a scientist but a philosopher of science. The question of the relationship between mathematics and physics gained new impetus and significance in Kant’s eyes with its seeming realization in Newton’s Principia. Or take the Leibnizian influence--the problem of the relationship between the Leibnizian physics of forces and the metaphysics of the “Monadology”; Leibniz’s two-pronged approach to scientific knowledge via the paths of efficient and final causation; his discovery of the distinction between necessary and contingent; propositions, as well and the general metaphysical standpoints supporting the distinctions; indeed the basic puzzle of the nature of the subject/predicate tie; all this makes the deepest impact on Kant, during the progress of his early intellectual development. Kant did not come into direct influence of the classical sources of these problems. Thus, the thought of Leibniz, apart from Euler, was mediated via the teaching of Christian Wolff, which contained vital modification of the former. Only gradually did Kant come into contact with the main works themselves. Kant’s “transcendental frame work” is his concept for “presuppositions.”
The two dominate schools of Rationalism and Empiricism were transcended/fused in Kant. Kant’s main problem becomes the elucidation of the propositional connection of the transcendental framework of experience and in particular, the categorical concept (eg. Substance and causation principle interaction) which this come to be explicated with equal generality, as conditions of the possibility of something being an object, or of being objective, part of a public language (Hume’s impressions). In his introduction to The First Critique, his transcendental method supplies the framework for the possibility of “a pure national science.”
Kant talks of empirical judgment which is synthetic a posteriori posed no problems, contained no “necessary connection;” or though only the synthetic a priori judgments required special defense. Kant’s explanation is no less difficult; let us state it in summary fashion, anticipating the results by supplying the foundations for the possibility of “pure natural science.” He means, supplying proofs of certain general principles, e.g. causality, substance, intersection, as presuppositions of public language, of verifiable observation reports; by scientific constructions of the objects of dynamics, viz. “Matter, and its primary predicates, viz. extension and motion, ensuring the application of mathematics (e.g. Geometry) to material nature; by further construing matter as the seat of repulsive and attractive forces, and as exerting motive force, and by the applying to this concept the aforementioned principle of substance, causality and interaction, demonstrating the possibility of the primary laws of Newtonian dynamics. This process is distinct from the case of “empirical science”, which involves reference to the result of particular observational matters of fact.
If we accept the concerns of Kant’s earliest work, which deals with issues arising out of Cartesian and Leibnizian dynamics, it was undoubtedly the Principia of Newton that was the first great scientific initiator of Kant’s thought. For this was the work which exhibited a system of laws formulated geometrically rather than algebraically, managing to include appropriately all the phenomena of dynamics and mechanics as well as observational astronomy in a vast edifice , and in the old Euclidean axiomatic form. The effect produced by the work shows in Kant’s second major writing whose full title eminently testifies to the direction it gave to Kant’s philosophy of science. Kant sets out to discover the systematic element, which links the great members of creation within the whole extent of infinity. His objective is an extension of Newtonian systematics to the evolutionary history of the whole cosmos. By system, Kant does not simply mean the spatial relations of the stellar orbits, as represented by the Copernican theory, but rather the more specific relations, i.e., laws--which produce their mutual bond in regular and uniform manner. Kant’s general idea is to postulate an initial material chaos, subject from the start to the general laws of motion as well as the accepted laws of attraction. These claims were, for Kant, the origin of the orderly development of the universe as we now know it. This broad worldview rules Kant’s thinking throughout his life. This paradigm is expressed in the First Critique. Kant consistently appeals to “Regulative Employment” of the ideas of reason’s search for unity. Kant totally rejects the possibility that more than one universe can exist in space. (First Critique, p. 233)