Term Paper: Scientific Revolution

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¶ … Scientific Revolution

In order to answer on the question about the existence of scientific revolution between 1500 and 1700 it's important to study this problem from different angles and different perspectives, because we should also know the situation that happened between those two centuries in other fields of social life with no direct reference to science. As we know this period in culture and history of western civilization is characterized by so called "renaissance" or revival of antique humanistic common values that put man in the center of the world as well as put human mind above everything. Renaissance was a period when people began to refer to material values, rationalism and changing life for the good of society, by expanding moral, social and cultural outlook. This period is characterized by changes in culture, as renaissance genuine introduced new principle of humanism; there were changes in such stationary formation as religion (Protestant movement was expanding all over Europe); this was an epoch of Great Geographic Discoveries and expansion of European civilization westward and eastward, there were visible changes in society as a new class, a class of bourgeoisie, was developing and gaining its power as the most dynamic and financially influential class of society. That's why to talk about phenomenon, as "scientific revolution" would be linguistically incorrect as the process that occurred during these two centuries can be characterized as a "scientific progress" and victory of rationalism over scholastic way of thinking.

The work of Steve Shapin contributes to this point as he had made a serious research of the premises that led to the changes in general knowledge by the eighteenth century. In his work "The Scientific revolution" Shapin has presented a paradox: "There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it"(Shapin p.1). To his point-of-view all discoveries that happened during this epoch starting from Copernicus heliocentric system and ending with Newton's law of universal gravity where the results of the scientific principles of general knowledge that were introduced by Ancient Greek philosophers and just contributed to their realization. He writes: "...past is not transformed into the 'modern world' at any single moment: we should never be surprised to find that seventeenth-century scientific practitioners often had about them as much of the ancient as the modern; their notions had to be successively transformed and redefined by generations of thinkers to become 'ours'" (7)

To support his ideas he shows the example of Galileo's discovery of sun sports as rendering the concept of Ancient Greeks about stationary celestial sphere: "Galileo was claiming that there existed not two sorts of natural knowledge, each appropriate to its proper physical domain, [earthly or celestial], but only one universal knowledge" (18). Shapin insists that "scientific revolution" was a continuing progress of human thought and human domination over nature powers that started in Ancient times and could not be simply limited to the fruitful achievements of two centuries period. That's why many historians argue about clear frames of scientific revolution, as there existed a series of previous discoveries and theories that led to such a remarkable progress. The background for scientific renaissance was prepared nit just by Ancient Greek philosophers, but by the achievements of Arabs in mathematics, medicine, astronomy and natural science in general.

Giving a characteristic of scientific revolution Shapin wanted to show that there took place a change in the historical perception and understanding of nature, he showed the way of how people's view on the world changed as they understood that it could be cognized and investigated and starting from that time they stood apart from nature as they could "see" it. Opposite to Shapin, Peter Dear describes "scientific revolution" as a series of changes that took place between sixteenth and seventeenth century, yet "...superstitious and credulous Europe in 1500 giving way, by 1700, to a cool, rationalistic, scientific Europe continues to have a strong hold on our views of the past," but in his research to show the origins of scientific revolution he insisted that it was the result of previous achievements of philosophical thought, but not an integral part of the changes, according to other authors, that took place in the history of western civilization during the epoch of 1500-1700. Justifying his thesis he shows that the epoch of scientific progress was theoretically based on rationalist and empiric approach (mathematics and experiment) to the research and science. But he lacks to explain other aspects of scientific revolution, as it was caused by general need in facilities, methods and instruments for further development of civilization (machine tools to improve mode of production, knowledge essential for the development of technology, navigation and military, which guaranteed social prosperity, confidence, stability and independence).

The beginning of the scientific revolution according to Kuhn also had started with Copernicus discovery. In book "Copernican revolution" he describes the effects of heliocentric system on the whole system of people's values, not just scientific, but philosophical and religious as well. To give the evaluation of Copernicus's theory Kuhn show's it's universal meaning: " the Copernican Revolution was a revolution in ideas, a transformation in man's conception of the universe and of his own relation to it." (Kuhn p.1). Kuhn shows that scientific progress, starting from Nicholas Copernicus defined the further development of humanity. Copernican revolution was a revolution because it proclaimed the independence of science, from theology and medieval scholastics. His teaching was based on experimental practice and mathematician proof of theories, method of scientific research, inductive and deductive reasoning which are fundamental in nowadays practices. Identifying the role of the scientific revolution Kuhn writes: "Contemporary Western civilization is more dependent, both for its everyday philosophy and for its bread and butter, upon scientific concepts than any past civilization has been."(Kuhn p.4)

Here it's important to highlight that "Copernican revolution" and scientific revolution are quite different terms, even though there exists a firm relation between, as the discovery of Copernicus only contributed to the development of "natural philosophy" (science) but was not the only instrument which promoted its development because there were other achievements in mathematics, mechanics (Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz), which were made independently from the fundamentals of Copernicus. Describing the nature of scientific revolution Kuhn marks that the scientific revolution takes place when new scientific paradigms, which are correct and proved, reject previous achievements of science, explaining their unsoundness. Scientific revolution had introduced new paradigm: independence of nature from human's views on it, objectivism and failure of major theological theories.

One of the greatest achievements of practical scientific revolution was Galileo's reinvention of telescope. A routine astronomic instrument today, in the seventeenth century it was the only one that widened human's sensual abilities for world's cognition. The revolution of this invention probably lies in the fact that it proved imperfection of Aristotle's logics, defined its limitations to the concept that the world can be cognized without senses using logics and reasoning. The discoveries he made using telescope showed as well that theological model of universe was unsound, that universe was independent from our views about it and from Bible dogmas.

Scientific revolution with its human-centered approach to the world in general and objectivism has created new standards and stereotypes of thinking: rationalism and pragmatism. it's materialistic basics still could not be only the result of change in scientific concepts and reasoning, but results of all changes that happened in European society during that epoch and laid into the concept of modernism, concept that laid into the fundamentals of modern civilization, stating that the development has to be direct on "creating new and better society." And it refers not just to development of philosophy, natural science and natural knowledge but to changes in social institutions, establishment of better and just society through the realization of democracy principles. And… [END OF PREVIEW]

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