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The early modern era produced the Scientific Revolution, which originated our present understanding of the natural world. Concurrently, philosophers established the conceptual foundations of modernity. This rich and comprehensive volume surveys and illuminates the numerous and complicated interconnections between philosophical and scientific thought as both were radically transformed from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. The chapters explore reciprocal influences between philosophy and physics, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and other disciplines, and show how thinkers responded to an immense range of intellectual, material, and institutional influences. The volume offers a unique perspicuity, viewing the entire landscape of early modern philosophy and science, and also marks an epoch in contemporary scholarship, surveying recent contributions and suggesting future investigations for the next generation of scholars and students.
The novel understanding of the physical world that characterized the Scientific Revolution depended on a fundamental shift in the way its protagonists understood and described space. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, spatial phenomena were described in relation to a presupposed central point; by its end, space had become a centerless void in which phenomena could only be described by reference to arbitrary orientations. David Marshall Miller examines both the historical and philosophical aspects of this far-reaching development, including the rejection of the idea of heavenly spheres, the advent of rectilinear inertia, and the theoretical contributions of Copernicus, Gilbert, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. His rich study shows clearly how the centered Aristotelian cosmos became the oriented Newtonian universe, and will be of great interest to students and scholars of the history and philosophy of science.
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