Mr. G's AP World History

Chapter 16

Why then do we hesitate to grant [the Earth] the motion which accords naturally with its form, rather than attribute a movement to the entire universe whose limit we do not and cannot know? And why should we not admit, with regard to the daily rotation, that the appearance belongs to the heavens, but the reality is in the Earth?

–Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies (1543)

One of the most important developments in the western intellectual tradition was the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution was nothing less than a revolution in the way the individual perceives the world. As such, this revolution was primarily an epistemological revolution — it changed man’s thought process. It was an intellectual revolution — a revolution in human knowledge. Even more than Renaissance scholars who discovered man and Nature (see Lecture 1), the scientific revolutionaries attempted to understand and explain man and the natural world. Thinkers such as the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), the French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) and the British mathematician Isaac Newton (1642-1727) overturned the authority of the Middle Ages and the classical world. And by authority I am not referring specifically to that of the Church — the demise of its authority was already well under way even before the Lutheran Reformation had begun. The authority I am speaking of is intellectual in nature and consisted of the triad of Aristotle (384-322), Ptolemy (c.90-168) and Galen (c.130-201). The revolutionaries of the new science had to escape their intellectual heritage. With this in mind, the revolution in science which emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries has appeared as a watershed in world history. The long term effects of both the Scientific Revolution and the modern acceptance and dependence upon science can be felt today in our daily lives. And notwithstanding some major calamity — science and the scientific spirit will be around for centuries to come.

– source: http://www.historyguide.org

*** Click HERE for an in-depth summary of the Scientific Revolution


The scientific revolution was not marked by any single change. The following new ideas contributed to what is called the scientific revolution:

  • The replacement of the Earth by the Sun as the center of the solar system.
  • The replacement of the Aristotelian theory that matter was continuous and made up of the elements Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Aether by rival ideas that matter was atomistic or corpuscular or that its chemical composition was even more complex
  • The replacement of the Aristotelian idea that heavy bodies, by their nature, moved straight down toward their natural places; that light bodies, by their nature, moved straight up toward their natural place; and that ethereal bodies, by their nature, moved in unchanging circular motions with the idea that all bodies are heavy and move according to the same physical laws
  • The replacement of the Aristotelian concept that all motions require the continued action of a cause by the inertial concept that motion is a state that, once started, continues indefinitely without further cause
  • The replacement of Galen‘s treatment of the venous and arterial systems as two separate systems with William Harvey‘s concept that blood circulated from the arteries to the veins “impelled in a circle, and is in a state of ceaseless motion”
– source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_revolution

The Path to The Enlightenment

Watch contemporary philosopher Stephen Hicks explain the European transition from the Middle Ages (ie. Pre-Modern Era) to the Enlightenment (ie. Modernism). Hicks does well to capture the transformation of the prevailing European worldview. The humanist values of the Renaissance–curiosity, skepticism, and the belief in human potential–were the beginning of this European “reformatting.” While vestiges of “old Europe” remained, nevertheless, by the 1700s Europe had been endowed with a new ideological framework.

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