You are on page 1of 5

The Scientific Revolution From the Age of Faith to the Age of Reason

Thinkers of the seventeenth century vigorously rejected religious dogma and superstition and applied a new emphasis on empiricism and rationality to their thought; the emergence of modern science (the ‘scientific method’) created the foundation for a new approach to human experience and understanding → science and religion conflicted but they were not mutually exclusive They abandoned the medieval assumption that human nature was inherently imperfect and therefore in need of divine direction. Instead, the emphasis was laid on the observation of Nature and deducing from it certain precepts which would make possible a new advance towards knowledge and perfection in human beings. This progression was achieved not through divine revelation but through human Reasoning.

René Descartes (cogito ergo sum – ‘I think therefore I exist)
Discourse on the Method - attempted to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt. To achieve this, he adopts skepticism = doubt. Cogito ergo sum - if I doubt, then something or someone must be doing the doubting, therefore the very fact that I doubt proves my existence (in other words, Descartes arrives at only a single principle: thought exists. Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist) - Reason reveals that man is unique beneath the heavens: he alone, under God, has a conscious mind, he alone can know himself and so understand the meaning of things. Everything else, the animal kingdom included is nothing but inert matter in motion governed by the laws of mathematics.

The Royal Society (nullius in verba – ‘take nobody’s word for it’) 1660 – the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II; the Royal Society was founded in the same year by royal charter; its precursor was the ‘Invisible College’ whose main objective was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation; illustrious members: Robert Boyle (gas law – the inversely proportion relationship

knighted in 1603 • faced with accusations of corruption he lost all his offices and his seat in Parliament. • a lawyer and member of Parliament (he did not embrace an academic career but a political one). when English scientists of the Boyle circle (Invisible College) took up his idea of a cooperative research institution in their plans and preparations for establishing the Royal Society. Robert Hooke (law of elasticity). emphasis on the application of science for the benefit of mankind.between pressure and volume). Bacon devoted the last five years of his life entirely to his philosophical work. measurement and experimentation. St. • famous for his criticism of the method (organum) of Aristotle.built after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) . .the façade was designed by Inigo Jones (the first to bring elements of Italian Renaissance to English architecture) Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) • one of the leading figures in natural philosophy and in the field of scientific methodology in the period of transition from the Renaissance to the early modern era. Paul’s Cathedral in London) officially constituted at Gresham College in November 1660. and crucially on the use of observation. • Bacon's international fame and influence spread during his last years. when he was able to focus his energies exclusively on his philosophical work. and even more so after his death. Christopher Wren (architect of St. but retained his titles and his personal property. Paul Cathedral .

the psychological make-up (Rom.e. especially the system of speculation established by theologians. leading man’s mind astray from the truth. preferences. Bacon’s Idols of the Mind An idol is an image (a deceptive image). • Idols of the Cave = arise within the mind of the individual (the things we have read. but rather as fallacies (falsities) and errors imprinted on the human mind. dislikes i. earlier philosophers often started from unproven generalisations and deduced particulars. carefully analyzing particulars and collecting thorough data. and the qualities that make us individuals) = individual prejudices. as an obstacle to the progress of science according to Bacon. or else they made hasty generalisations from very few experiments → Novum Organum (New Method): understanding of nature's laws should arise from sufficient experience = the inductive method (the basis of scientific thought) – starting from sensible experience. . and in this classification Bacon anticipated the modern science of semantics. which receives veneration but is without substance in itself. the experiences we have had.• • criticizes prejudices and false opinions. structura psihologica) → fixations. in this respect he anticipated modern psychology. one may step up the ladder of the intellect and reach the truth. • Idols of the Tribe = deceptive beliefs (social / ethic / racial preconceptions) inherent in the mind of man and therefore belonging to the whole of the human race. • Idols of the Market-Place = errors arising from the false significance bestowed upon words. in this case held in the mind. Bacon did not regard idols as symbols.

• Idols of the Theatre = errors arising from previous dogmas and faulty laws. a coplesi) by what others thought before him. and therefore he is the appointed heir to all past dogmas and philosophies. a strica) reason and falsify the truth: RATIONALISM New method: INDUCTION True knowledge is the knowledge of causes. it can be achieved through observation and experimentation → pure knowledge untainted / unspoiled by preconceptions and false beliefs: “the understanding must be completely cleared and freed of prejudices” Is it possible to purge the mind of all preconceptions so that we can observe the world with the innocent eye / mind of a child? The New Atlantis (1626) – a scientific utopia Bacon portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge. a corupe. there is no thinking in a vacuum.e. expressing his aspirations and ideals for humankind. . man is beset (Rom. Bacon’s solution to the ‘idols’ which subvert (Rom. a asalta. scientific axioms (nullius in verba) → our minds are not blank tablets (tabula rasa) waiting to be inscribed i.

we know well most part of the habitable world. which we have for our travellers. and are ourselves unknown. and secret motions of things” . for the entertainment of the time. and of the laws of secrecy. than that I ask you.” • Salomon’s House = a (state-sponsored) scientific institution. that ye ask me questions.• Bensalem – a remote paradisiacal island: “We of this island of Bensalem (for so they called it in their language) have this: that by means of our solitary situation. looks like a modern university in both applied and pure sciences: “The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes. Therefore because he that knoweth least is fittest to ask questions it is more reason. and our rare admission of strangers.