The Scientific Revolution

For countless years after Da Vinci and the Renaissance, the world was largely without scientific discoveries. By the 17th century however, scientists such as Kepler, Newton, and Galileo, were all making discoveries that still have a lasting impact on today’s world. Along with the scientists also came the philosophers. The philosophers such as Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke were instrumental in the development of new methods of thought and methodology, and also left lasting impact on the world today. Thus, the Scientific Revolution was not just a discovery of science.

Rather, it was a coalition between both science and philosophy that produced the Scientific Revolution. In fields of science, the Scientific Revolution produced men such as Newton, Galileo, and Kepler. Johannes Kepler was the first of these men, and was instrumental in his revision of the Copernican universe. Much like Copernicus, Kepler believed that the sun, not the earth, should be in the center of the universe. However, Kepler also made a few revisions to Copernicus’ model. The first of these changes was in the elimination of epicycles.

Without the epicycles, Kepler introduced an elliptical orbit in the rotation of planets. (Above Kepler: Source 1) However, Kepler did not have an answer to the elliptical orbit, and left many questions unanswered, it would be decades before they were answered by Newton. However, even before Newton, another scientist concluded the Kepler-Copernicus model. His name was Galileo Galilei. Galileo first started his famous discoveries of the galaxy when he first bought a Dutch telescope and looked into the heavens.

Using his telescope to look at the stars (which no astronomer had done before, they merely observed through the naked eye), Galileo discovered that the moon was not gaseous, but in fact was terrestrial, having hills and valleys. Galileo also discovered the five moons of Jupiter, which he consequently named after the children of his most famous patron: the Medici. Thus, with his telescope, Galileo discovered systems in their paths, and was able to defend the Copernican-Kepler universe model with physical evidence. Above Galileo: Source 1) Galileo not only popularized the Copernican-Kepler universe, but also argued that the entire universe was subject to mathematical laws. Galileo believed that mathematics had no mistakes, thus regulating everything (Above Galileo: Source 2). Ironically born the day Galileo died, Newton was instrumental in the development of the Copernican-Kepler universe. Newton stressed the experimentation and mathematics as a way to discover truth (Above Newton: Source 3). Probably the biggest achievement of Newton was his discovery of gravity.

Gravity, Newton argued, was why planets moved in an orderly rather than chaotic manner. Everything was affected by every other object through gravity. Thus, Earth’s gravity pulled on the moon, the moon’s gravity pulled on Earth, Earth pulled on people, and distant planets pulled on other planets (Above Newton: Source 4). Newton was also a mathematical genius, and has been attributed to be the founder of calculus. With calculus, mathematicians no longer had to perform incredibly “intricate geometric constructions” (Above Newton: Source 5).

Thus, with the discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, the knowledge of science, mathematics, and the universe were greatly expanded in less than a century. Along with the scientists, the philosophers of the scientific revolution were also instrumental in the development of not only science, but also in political philosophy. The first of these was French Philosopher Rene` Descartes. Most famous for his phrase “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am), Rene Descartes greatly influenced the scientific world through his theory of deductive reasoning.

Descartes believed that only certainty was the only basis of human knowledge, rather than probability. This new method of thought coupled with Bacon’s method, to create much of modern day’s scientific method. Descartes published the Discourse on Method in 1637, in which he advocated thought based on a mathematical model (Above Descartes: Source 6) Leading the charge in political philosophy was Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes is regarded as one of the truly great political philosophers, due to his book Leviathan.

Leviathan rivaled the works of Aristotle, Plato, and Hobbes’ colleague Locke. Hobbes’ Leviathan provided philosophical reasoning for a strong central government. Hobbes has been known for his somewhat unclear view of human nature, as he portrays humans and society as completely materialistic and mechanical (Above Hobbes: Source 7). Much like his contemporary, John Locke was widely known as a political philosopher, and is widely known for his to works Treatise of Government and The Limits of Human Understanding.

In Locke’s Treatise, his criticism of an absolute government eventually paved the way for American political thought. Locke was also known as a humanistic philosopher. In his Limits of Human Understanding, Locke described the beginning of human mind as a blank slate. As man grew older, the slate was filled with more knowledge, etc. Much like Descartes, Locke’s philosophical thinking aided in the breakdown of the accepted Aristotelian thinking, which in turn produced independent thought. Above Locke: Source 8) Thus, as Galileo and his counterparts were discovering new facets of science, Locke and his fellow colleagues were introducing new thought and political philosophy. Therefore, the Scientific Revolution was in fact, two different revelations. It was a true Scientific Revolution, and it was a Philosophical Revolution. Because of the two, there was yet also the intertwining of both, creating new philosophical thought in science, as demonstrated by Descartes and Newton.

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