Saturday, 18 February 2017
In Praise of Natural Philosophy
Modern science began as natural philosophy, a synthesis of what we now call science and philosophy. Then Newton, in his Principia, claimed to have derived his law of gravitation from the phenomena without recourse to hypotheses. Those that followed Newton took his word for it, such was their veneration for him. They assumed that science, in developing and assessing theories, had no need of philosophy. All they need attend to was evidence. Science could dispense with philosophy. Thus natural philosophy quietly died - although the name lingered on for some time, and is still used in some Scottish Universities. But the authentic thing, the synthesis of science and philosophy, died after Newton. All a dreadful mistake, as will be apparent to anyone who reads my In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life, March 2017, McGill-Queen's University Press.