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history 311

History 311


Part I


Within deeply Christian Europe, a new understanding of nature unfolded—not without opposition, particularly among Scholastics—and it valorized the empirical, the experimental, the mathematical, and the mechanical. Banished were notions of hidden, unknowable forces in nature, spirits, and demons. Mathematics had once been seen as a practical tool, not the province of philosophers. By the late seventeenth century, it had come to be relevant to everything from predicting life expectancy to calibrating machines. These changes coincided with the discovery of new peoples and continents, which in turn suggested that ancient learning, even recent learning, had to be improved. Religious conflict and intolerance also suggested that new sources of knowledge and authority were urgently needed. Gradually, rationalism and empiricism came to displace tradition and religious dogmatism, and, as a result, modern industrial societies emerged. (Jacob, p. 37-38)


Nicholas Copernicus, 1473-1543

Title Page of

De Revolutionibus



Sir Isaac Newton, 1642-1727

Title Page of

Principia, 1687


“When systems of institutional control are working without significant challenge, the authority of the knowledge embodied in the institutions seems similarly potent. When the institutions are attacked and then fragment, however, problems about knowledge and its legitimacy come to the fore. In such circumstances, skepticism about current systems of knowledge may flourish, for little about existing intellectual systems seems self-evidently satisfactory any more.” (Shapin, p. 124)


“The environment for these changes was what might be called a state of permanent crisis affecting European politics, society, and culture from the late medieval period through the seventeenth century.” (Shapin , p. 123)

  • Markers:
  • Breakdown of feudal order and rise of strong nation-states
  • Discovery of New World (cultural and economic shocks emanating from that expansion)
  • Invention of Printing
  • Fragmentation of religion stemming from Protestant Reformation

Natural Philosophy

and Its Evolution in the 17th Century

  • The “Ancients vs Moderns” controversy
  • The Bible and the Classics
  • Arguments from Authority
  • Arguments from reason and experience
  • Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
  • The preoccupation with questions of epistemology. What is epistemology?
  • From teleological to mechanistic explanations.

Jacobus Ussher


Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.


Monday, November 10, 4004 BC

Adam & Eve Driven from Paradise

Wednesday, May 5, 2348 BC

The Ark touched down on Mt. Ararat

december 31
December 31
  • First Humans ~1:30pm
  • Widespread use of stone tools 11:00pm
  • Beginning of most recent glacial period 11:56pm
  • Invention of agriculture 11:59:20pm
  • First dynasties in Sumer, Ebla and Egypt 11:59:50pm
  • Invention of the alphabet 11:59:51pm
  • Euclidean geometry; Ptolemaic astronomy

Roman Empire; Birth of Christ 11:59:56pm

  • Renaissance in Europe 11:59:59pm
  • Widespread development of science and

technology; emergence of global culture Now

Second New Year