Notes on Early Modern Philosophy (used to be History of Philosophy II) -- Phil A212

William Jamison - Instructor

Lecture 2a

Some of the questions I ask regarding the beginning of the Modern Period in Philosophy:

Whose authority were the elite revolting against?

The educate elite are going through what Thomas Kuhn described in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as a paradigm shift. Many point out that this seems to be a revolt against the authority of the Church but those revolting were members of that elite Church authority or close associates. There were others who were trying to come up with new ideas that were not so close - Mirandola for example might be one. But Copernicus and Kepler were educated monks. Galileo was a close friend of the Pope. The real authority they were in disagreement with was Aristotle. They had better data than Aristotle had and so were coming up with an improved paradigm. Since the Church accepted Aristotle - the Philosopher - as authority in physical science, the revolt against Aristotle also appeared to be a revolt against the Church authority. But this was a revolt within the Church elite with some members developing new tools and improving knowledge, with other members of the elite stuck in the old paradigm. They thought Aristotle and the ancient science was complete. But advances in logic and new tools like the telescope led the brightest among them to recognize that in many things Aristotle was in error. By thinking Church dogma included all of science the resulting break led to a seperation of Church and Science.

Was it only regarding astronomy that the paradigm shift changed?

I think the answer is certainly no. Another intersting example of this break was in medicine. There were physicians that moved into physical causes of health and illness that were totally contrary to the more magical - ritual based practices of those that thought illness was a spritual matter. For example: there was Sir Theodore de Mayerne and Paracelsus.

How was this paradigm shift tied into the Protestant Reformation?

While it certainly seems associated it is clearly complex. Martin Luther seems to be primarily revolting against the complexity and corruption of the Church and so in some ways seems to hark back to a pre- Aquinas, pre Aristotelian point of view. At the same time he seems to have been the first to accidentally reap the benefits of the printing press to spread his views. So in some ways his influence seems progressive and in other ways regressive.



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