Week 3-1 - Sci Rev

Week 3-1 - Sci Rev - HWC205: Western Civilization II Week...

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Week 3, Lecture 1: The Scientific Revolution What is called “the Scientific Revolution” refers to “a diverse array of cultural practices aimed at understanding, explaining, and controlling the natural world, each with different characteristics and each experiencing different modes of change” (Shapin, The Scientific Revolution , p. 3) developments during the 16 th and 17 th centuries –it was first named as a coherent period in 1939 (by Alexandre Koyré) –the retrospective character of this naming is important: it allowed modern scholars to posit a dramatic break in European history –the people involved in this “revolution” never employed the term –nevertheless, the development of science and technology played an important role in the formation of European states as well as the emerging self-image of Europe (and the Western world) as a cultural totality –in many respects it also paved the way for the application of scientific thinking to society Crisis and Stability in Europe Many historians agree that the Scientific Revolution was attractive because it provided one way of stabilizing a long period of disorder in European politics and society --a series of developments helped to erode the authority of institutions that had governed human conduct for centuries 1) the decline of the feudal order and the concomitant rise of strong centralized states beginning around 1200 2) the discovery of the New World and the associated cultural dislocations caused by a dramatic expanding of European horizons 3) the expansion of printing and the widening of the boundaries of intellectual and cultural participation --see Agostina Ramelli’s 16 th -century plans for a reading machine that was reproduced in the 18 th century (and which the scientist Leibniz may have used) 4) the fragmentation of a unified religious order epitomized in the Protestant Reformation and which came to a head in the wars of religion and the Thirty Years War (1618-48 How did developments in “natural philosophy” help to resolve these problems? --one result of these crises, especially the latter, was a crisis of legitimacy and shared belief in the main institutions of society --during periods of social instability competing knowledge systems vie for supremacy --if skepticism is useful, what are its limits? --whereas medieval thinkers were ensconced in the institutions of the Church, early modern “natural philosophers” were more closely connected with princely courts that sought to rule without religious interference --it was believed that the development of a new “method” of arriving at knowledge would provide a new basis for an evolving social and political situation Although often associated with the 17 th century, the Scientific Revolution proceeded by way of three broad stages: Stage One: The Scientific Renaissance, c. 1500-1600 1) marked by the recovery of the scientific, mathematical, and philosophical heritage of the Greek and Roman past
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Week 3-1 - Sci Rev - HWC205: Western Civilization II Week...

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