Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment in Europe
With the emergence of the scientific revolution in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, modern sciences like physics, mathematics, astronomy, biology and chemistry transformed the view of the society and its nature. Advances in scientific thought brought about changes in the way man perceived and made sense of his surroundings, thereby fostering immense changes in traditional beliefs and thought systems, and more so in religion. From the advent of classical science through Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, to groundbreaking thought in the evolution of man through Charles Darwin, the period of the Enlightenment marked new discoveries and perspectives (Clark, Golinski & Schaffer 14). The Enlightenment spawned a new era of pursuing reason and logic in scientific inquiry, and in the methods that transformed the sciences from philosophical musings to means of studying and understanding the world (Clark, Golinski & Schaffer 15). The Enlightenment marked a period between the 16th and 17th centuries during which major advances in scientific thought were fostered through study of the natural world and development of the scientific method as the dominant system of inquiry (Burns 94). The scientific method was developed by Enlightenment philosophers as the natural antithesis to Scholastic metaphysics that had dominated previous inquiries – they hoped to make philosophy scientific (Burns 94). Thence began a period where the experimental method of reasoning – the scientific method – was infused in all manners of scientific inquiry, including in the social sciences and even moral issues (Burns 94). Burns points out that Kantian ethics evolved out of such reasoning and scientific inquiry, as did David Hume’s “Treatise on Human Nature” (94). The dominant thought during this period was that knowledge could only be gained through logic, reasoning, and scientific inquiry. There is a connection between the scientific revolution and the enlightenment. Within the sprawling landscape that forms the historiography of the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment marks an era where logic and reason began to overtake religion and superstition as the methods of making sense of the world (Burns 93). A rejection of religiosity and religious dogma formed a central pillar in the arguments of Enlightenment thinkers, and groundbreaking discoveries such as the Newtonian theory of relativity buoyed their arguments against the centrality of religion in intellectual life (Burns 94). Another aspect of the Enlightenment period was the emphasis on the scientific method as a means of making any form of natural inquiry, including in the social sciences and even in the study of history (Burns 94). Some of the major thinkers during the Enlightenment were as follows: Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), great philosopher, presented his thoughts on logic and ethics in science and his ideas on the corporation and interaction of the various fields of science (Burns 16). Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608 – 1679) was the foremost thinker and recognized his work on the Motion of Animals as the greatest early triumph of the application of the mechanisms to the human organism. Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691) was a physicist at Oxford College and worked with Robert Hooke for experiments with air pressure and the composition of the atmosphere. He found that only a part of air is used in respiration and combustion and contributed the study of matter on the atomic scale. Otto Brunfels (1488 – 1534) contributes the work on plants and strived to compare his findings with the findings of Romans and Greeks. He could find the differences in plant life produced by the variation in geography meant that comparison was futile and confusion resulted in the field of botany. Nicolas Copernicus (1473 – 1543), avid student of astronomy, published the book De Revolutionibus Oribum Coelestium presenting the heliocentric theory in 1543. Galileo...
Cited: Burns, Williams E. Science in the Enlightenment: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print.
Clark, William, Jan Golinski, and Simon Schaffer. “Introduction.” Sciences in Enlightened Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 4-22. Print.
Fernandez, Annesto. The World: A History – From 1700 to the Present (Vol. C). New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.
Kidner, Frank, Maria Bucur and Ralph Mathisen. Making Europe: People, Politics, and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Romano, Michael J. European History. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2010. Print.
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