Toward a New World-View
After reading and studying this chapter you should be able to:1. define and describe the scientific revolution.2. explain how the Newtonian world
view differed from the medieval world
view.3. define and describe the Enlightenment and its ideas about society, religion, the economy, and politics.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the educated classes of Europe changed from a world
view that was basically religious to one that was primarily secular. The development of scientific knowledge was the key cause of this intellectual change. Until about 1500, scientific thought reflected the Aristotelian
view, which taught that a motionless earth was at the center of a universe made up of planets and stars inten crystal spheres. These and many other beliefs showed that science was primarily a branch of religion.Beginning with Copernicus, who taught that the earth revolved around the sun, Europeans slowly began toreject Aristotelian
medieval scientific thought. They developed a new conception of a universe based on naturallaws, not on a personal God. Isaac Newton formulated the great scientific synthesis: the law of universal gravitation. This was the high point of the scientific revolution. The scientific revolution was more important for intellectual development than for economic activity oreveryday life, for above all it promoted critical thinking. Nothing was to be accepted on faith; everything was tobe submitted to the rational, scientific way of thinking. This critical examination of everything, from religionand education to war and politics, was the key to the Enlightenment and the work of the
, a group of thinkers who propagandized the new world
view across Europe and the North American colonies. These writers and thinkers, among them Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot, produced books and articles thatinfluenced all classes and whose primary intent was teaching people how to think critically and objectively about all matters. The
were reformers, not revolutionaries. Their
ideas were adopted by a number of monarchs who sought to promote the advancement of knowledge and improve the lives of their subjects. Mostimportant in this group were Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine II of Russia and the Habsburgs, Maria Theresa and Joseph II. Despite some reforms, particularly in the area of law, Frederick and Catherine
s role inthe Enlightenment was in the abstract rather than the practical. The Habsburgs were more successful in legaland tax reform, control of the church, and improvement of the lot of the serfs, although much of Joseph
sspectacular peasant reform was later undone. Yet reform of society from the top down, that is, by the absolutemonarchs through
proved to be impossible because the enlightened monarchs couldnot ignore the demands of their conservative nobilities. In the end, it was revolution, not enlightenedabsolutism, that changed and reformed society.
Use this outline to preview the chapter before you read a particular section in your textbook and then as a self
check to test your reading comprehension after you have read the chapter section.
I. The scientific revolution
A. The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century was the major cause of the change in world
view and one of the key developments in the evolution of Western society.1. Only the West developed modem science; historians disagree as to how important to its rise werethe nonscientific economic, religious, and social factors.B. Scientific thought in the early 1500s