Revolutionizing the Sciences
Questions to consider (and answer in-class – though if that isn’t working out well, I will ask students to turn in written answers for each chapter.
1. Explain and discuss Dear’s statement that “the historian has no stake in adjudicating the truth of past convictions.”
1. Explain the difference between Aristotle’s “experience” and Francis Bacon’s “experiment.”
1. How does Dear divide the chronology of the “Scientific Revolution?” What was the character of each?
1. Describe the 4 kinds of cause (not to be confused with modes) as defined by Aristotle, and give an example of each.
1. What was the major purpose of European universities around 1500? What were three major areas of “natural knowledge: taught there?
1. What were the “seven liberal arts” in medieval European universities, and how were they divided into 2 categories? What was the “quadrivium” and how did it differ from the “natural sciences” or “natural philosophy”?
1. Why was the introduction and dominance of Aristotelian philosophy in medieval European universities sometimes favorable rather than unfavorable to science?
1. Identify the following figures and briefly describe their importance in the history of science: Ptolemy, Peurbach, Ficino.
1. How did Peurbach’s work represent a philosophical change in the nature of science?
1. The printing press revolutionized the way knowledge was transmitted. What were some of the implications of this invention to the development of science?
1. In the early 16th century, science included many things we wouldn’t call science today. What were some of these?
1. What do you think of Dear’s consideration of the contributions of the Church and its history to the development of science?
1. What does humanism mean? What did it mean to the study of science and mathematics?
1. How did Copernicus frame his discussion of the solar system? Did he do it to remain safe, or because he was reflecting the way people thought then?
1. Do you think humanist studies helped the sciences develop? Or do you think humanist studies were obstructive to scientific development? Or both. Explain why and give an example.
1. What do you think Dear means when he says: Vesalius designated anatomy as a “‘branch of natural philosophy ,” because that characterization emphasizes the contemplative aspect of the subject rather than its practical significance” – What’s wrong with the practical?
1. Comment on Dear’s comparison of Vesalius and Copernicus. How were there studies/work alike? How were they different?
1. What role was played by the Protestant Reformation in the changes in the sciences?
1. End of chapter 2 question: Did the printing press revolutionize the way people thought about the natural world from the outset?
1. What does Dear mean when he uses the term “philosopher-engineers?”
1. Why does Dear, at the end of chapter 2, write an obituary for the “scientific renaissance?”
1. How did Paracelsus change the paradigm of natural philosophy/science/magic? Was Paracelsus a scientist? How might magic change the basic assumptions of natural philosophy as they were inherited in the 16th century.
1. Do you find it strange that fields such as magic and astrology might lead to developments in medicine? Why or why not? What does your answer depend on?
1. Identify: Kepler, Clavius, Brahe
1. We tend to think of the scientific revolution as a period in which conflicts between religion and science (e.g. the career of Galileo) obstruct some kinds of research and progress. Does Dear follow this paradigm? How does Dear integrate belief systems and the development of science?
1. What was wrong with mathematics? Why did people denigrate its study as a means of proving theories?
1. What role did Jesuits play in mathematics? Who were the Jesuits?
1. Why did Copernicanism appeal to Galileo, according to Dear?
1. How did Galileo prove that “sun spots” are actually blemishes on the Sun’s surface, not separate bodies that move around the Sun? (Use a diagram.) How does this conclusion undermine Aristotelian philosophy?
1. Dear uses the metaphor of the cuckoo’s egg to describe the relation between mathematics and physics (or natural philosophy). Explain this metaphor and how it works to make his point.
1. Was Galileo a philosopher as well as a scientist? Was he a “natural philosopher” as well as a mathematician? Discuss the view of Dear, and defend your own view, using specific examples.
1. Discuss the views of Dear on the external factors that encouraged the development of science in Europe in the 16th century.
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