The Scientific Revolution and Early Modern Philosophy (1450-1800)


By combining together beliefs and principles from ancient pagan philosophy and Christian and pagan religious ideas, some European scholars created modern self-sustaining science.  Science is the systematic, experimental, and rational investigation of nature to discover its laws and organizing principles by generalizing about specific facts and observations.  Meanwhile, ironically, modern philosophy, starting out Christian and pro-reason in such thinkers as *Descartes and *Locke became increasingly secular, skeptical, and anti-reason over time into the Enlightenment, as found in such thinkers as *Hume and *Kant.


Nicolas *Copernicus (1473-1543):  Polish scientist, attacks Ptolemy’s old earth-centered theory of universe, replaces it with sun-centered theory.  Wrote Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies; the Church condemns his ideas.


Johannes *Kepler (1571-1630):  Based on Tycho Brahe’s observations, discards entrenched theory of the orbits of planets as circular.  First planetary law:  Orbits of planets are elliptical.  Second and Third laws find precise and simple mathematical ratios can be used to describe motions of planets in orbit around sun.


*Galileo Galilei (1564-1642):  Italian scientist, pointed newly invented telescope at sky.  Found observations didn’t fit views of Aristotle’s, such as a wrinkled-faced moon and a sun with spots.  Argued for Copernicus’s sun-centered theory, condemned by Catholic Church’s inquisition.  Refuted by experiments Aristotle’s view of the speed of falling bodies being determined by their weight, came up with correct mathematical ratio:  Distance fallen is proportional to the square 2 of the time spent falling.


Sir Isaac *Newton (1642-1727):  English scientist, one of the discoverers of calculus.  Figured out mathematically the law of universal gravitation, not just applied to earth.  Splits light into spectrum, light called particles.  His three laws of motion solve main problems of physics for about 250 years.  Universe as clockwork machine idea.


William *Harvey (1578-1657):  English scientist, building upon discoveries of Italian scientists in Padua, described correctly the circulation of blood to and from the heart and lungs via the arteries and veins.


René *Descartes (1596-1650):  French philosopher and mathematician.  Founder of analytical geometry, uses formulas of algebra to describe geometric figures.  (2, 3).  Wrote Discourse on Method and Meditations.  Skeptically distrusted sense data, upheld rationalism.  *“I think therefore I am”:  Doubt leads to certain knowledge.  Dualism of mind/brain.


John *Locke (1632-1704):  English philosopher.  Upheld empiricism and using senses to gain useful knowledge, like Francis Bacon (1561-1626).  Mind starts blank of ideas at birth.  In  *Two Treatises of Government upheld social contract theory of government, a right to revolt versus oppressive kings, denies kings rule by divine right.  Influential on American revolution, helps start (classical) liberalism.


*Voltaire (1694-1778):  French writer, philosoph.  Upheld a version of *Deism, view that God created natural laws, and universe, then left it alone.  Very anti-clerical (anti-Catholic/organized religion), pro-reason.  Constantly argued for tolerance, against bigotry.  Wrote Candide, which uses the problem of evil to attack optimism, this being the best of all possible worlds.


Jean-Jacques *Rousseau (1712-1778):  Advocates “noble savage” idea, people good until society corrupts them.  Wrote The Social Contract:  strongly egalitarian democratic ideals, “the general will” of the people within the political system makes for what is best for all.


David *Hume (1711-76):  Scottish historian, philosopher.  Skeptical empiricist:  Argued against proofs for God’s existence, against miracles.  Denied the law of cause and effect, denied a unified “self” existed.


Immanuel *Kant (1724-1804):  Prussian philosopher.  Attempted to solve problems posed by Hume by turning to rationalism to give certain knowledge.  Wrote Critique of Pure Reason.  Can’t know things in themselves by senses.  Attacks three main arguments for God’s existence.