The Philosophical Revolution of the 17th century has a close link with the Scientific Revolution. It provided the foundation for the latter by stimulating it in different ways. The two were therefore intimately tied together such that the Scientific Revolution could not be described without making reference to the Philosophical Revolution.
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“Although philosophy was influenced by both religion and science during the classical era, it defined the world view of the literate culture.” (Tarnas 273).However, this role became a reserve of religion with the arrival of the medieval period while philosophy took a lesser role in linking faith to reason.
The advent of the modern era marked a turning point where philosophy remarkably shifted its allegiance from religion to science. Two philosophers namely Francis Bacon and Descartes were instrumental in shaping and fostering the Scientific Revolution during the Philosophical Revolution of the 17th century.
In the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon pioneered the birth of a new era in natural science. He claimed that man required material redemption that was supposed to accompany his spiritual progress towards the Christian millenium, something that was to be done through natural science.
Since the global explorers had discovered a new world, Bacon believed that it was important to discover a corresponding new mental world in which verbal confusions, subjective distortions, traditional prejudices and old thinking patterns were replaced by new methods of acquiring knowledge.
He argued that for science to succeed there was need to replace verbiage and preconceptions with direct attention to things and their observed orderings. The true order of nature could only be discovered after the mind had been purified of all internal obstacles that emanated from the fictitious forms of traditional philosophers.
Bacon fostered the Scientific Revolution by expressing the spirit of Reformation and Ockham. This was inspired by his belief that recognition of the difference between God and his creation and his mind and that of man was the only way through which man could succeed in science. He elaborated the distinction between science and theology by pointing out that each realm was governed by unique laws and methods.
He therefore advocated for the separation of science and theology since theology belonged to the realm of faith while science belonged to the realm of nature. He promoted the Scientific Revolution to a great extent since he believed that experiments were instrumental in correcting the evidence of the senses and revealing truths obscured by nature.
“Through the astute use of experiments, the evidence of the senses could be progressively corrected and enhanced to reveal the truths hidden in nature.’’(Tarnas 275).
The other philosopher who made remarkable contribution in the Scientific Revolution during the seventeenth century philosophical revolution was Descartes. As Bacon inspired the distinctive character, direction and vigor of the new science, Descartes was instrumental in establishing its philosophical foundation.
He noted the contradictions between different philosophical perspectives and the fact that religious revelation could not lead to adequate understanding of the empirical world. These factors combined with the residual confusions of his education compelled him to find out irrefutable basis for certain knowledge.
His important contribution in the Scientific Revolution began by the first step of doubting everything. His intention was to eliminate all the past presumptions that confused human knowledge and pick out only the truths he himself could not doubt.
Descartes used mathematical principles to accept only ideas that were devoid of internal contradiction, clear and distinct to him. By doing this, he discovered a new science that ushered man into a new era of practical knowledge, well-being and wisdom.
“Skepticism and mathematics thus combined to produce the Cartesian revolution in philosophy. The third term in that revolution, that which was both the impulse behind and the outcome of systematic doubt and self-evident reasoning, was to be the bedrock of all human knowledge: the certainty of individual self awareness.” (Tarnas 278).
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Descartes asserted the essential dichotomy between extended substance and thinking substance and by doing so, he played an important role in “emancipating the world from its long association with religious belief, freeing science to develop its analysis of that world in terms uncontaminated by spiritual or human qualities and unconstrained by theological dogma.” (Tarnas 280).
The natural world and the human mind gained autonomy they had never experienced before, as they were separated from God and from each other. Descartes and Bacon were the prophets of scientific civilisation and rebelled against ignorant past. These qualities enabled them to proclaim ‘the twin epistemological bases of the modern mind.” (Tarnas 280).
Astronomy falls in the realm of physical sciences and is the oldest in this category. In most of the earliest civilisations, the regular movements of celestial motions were documented through astronomy and the records used in the prediction of future events. Both the ancient and modern astronomy played an important role in the Philosophical Revolution.
The most remarkable astronomical developments in ancient times were associated with the Greeks who employed methods that were different from the ones employed earlier.
Ancient astronomy is believed to have made important contribution in the Philosophical Revolution through the introduction of geometrical ideas. In his quest for absolute certainty, Descartes, who played a great role in the Philosophical Revolution employed mathematics and geometry to find absolute truth.
He realized that geometry and arithmetic were characterised by rigorous methodology and this guaranteed him the certainty he was looking for with regard to philosophical matters. Geometry started with the statement of simple self-evident first principles, foundational axioms from which further and complex facts could be deduced through strict rational method.
This method therefore helped Descartes to eventually establish absolute certainty. In this sense, ancient astronomy made an important contribution in the development of the Philosophical Revolution.
In addition to ancient astronomy, modern astronomy also played an important role in the growth of Philosophical Revolution. Galileo was an instrumental philosopher whose astronomical knowledge made remarkable contributions in the revolution.
He was a mathematician and an astronomer who conducted many astronomical discoveries. Astronomy was a technical discpline and most of the content was descriptive in nature. As a result, it was viewed that the statements philosophers made with regard to the nature could have been erroneous. This prompted philosophers to conduct more research hence the Philosophical Revolution was enhanced.
Since he was interested in mechanical experimentation, Galileo came up with new traditions of natural philosophy whose focus was experimentation. This played an important role in the development of Philosophical Revolution.
Many other philosophical reformists like William Gilbert expanded on his astronomical experiments even after his death. As a pioneer of modern astronomy, he significantly took part in the development of Philosophical Revolution hence modern astronomy played a crucial role in its growth.
Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View, New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.Print