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Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
''philosophia naturalis'') is the
philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such quest ...
study of
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...
, that is,
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the physics, physical world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomenon, phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. ...
and the physical
universe The universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmology, cosmological description of the development of ...
. It was dominant before the development of
modern science The history of science covers the development of science from ancient history, ancient times to the present. It encompasses all three major branches of science: natural science, natural, social science, social, and formal science, formal. Sc ...
. From the ancient world (at least since
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatet ...
) until the 19th century, ''natural philosophy'' was the common term for the study of physics (nature), a broad term that included botany, zoology, anthropology, and chemistry as well as what we now call physics. It was in the 19th century that the concept of science received its modern shape, with different subjects within science emerging, such as
astronomy Astronomy () is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and chronology of the Universe, evolution. Objects of interest ...
,
biology Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For instance, all organisms are made up of Cell (biology), cells that proce ...
, and
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...
. Institutions and communities devoted to science were founded.
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, Theology, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosophy, natural philosopher"), widely ...
's book '' Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica'' (1687) (English: ''Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy'') reflects the use of the term ''natural philosophy'' in the 17th century. Even in the 19th century, the work that helped define much of modern physics bore the title '' Treatise on Natural Philosophy'' (1867). In the German tradition, '' Naturphilosophie'' (philosophy of nature) persisted into the 18th and 19th centuries as an attempt to achieve a speculative unity of
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the physics, physical world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomenon, phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. ...
and spirit, after rejecting the scholastic tradition and replacing Aristotelian
metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
, along with those of the dogmatic churchmen, with Kantian
rationalism In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemology, epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification".Lacey, A.R. (1996), ''A Dictionary o ...
. Some of the greatest names in German philosophy are associated with this movement, including
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German people, German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, politician, statesman, theatre director, and critic. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe bibliography, His works include pla ...
,
Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German philosopher. He is one of the most important figures in German idealism and one of the founding figures of 19th century philosophy, modern Western philosophy. ...
, and Schelling. ''Naturphilosophie'' was associated with
Romanticism Romanticism (also known as the Romantic movement or Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate ...
and a view that regarded the natural world as a kind of giant organism, as opposed to the philosophical approach of figures such as
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "father of liberalism ...
and others espousing a more
mechanical philosophy The mechanical philosophy is a form of natural philosophy which compares the universe to a large-scale mechanism (i.e. a machine). The mechanical philosophy is associated with the scientific revolution of early modern Europe. One of the first expos ...
of the world, regarding it as being like a machine.


Origin and evolution of the term

The term ''natural philosophy'' preceded current usage of ''
natural science Natural science is one of the branches of science concerned with the description, understanding and prediction of Nature, natural Phenomenon, phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer re ...
'' (i.e. empirical science). Empirical science historically developed out of
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some ...
or, more specifically, natural philosophy. Natural philosophy was distinguished from the other precursor of modern science, natural history, in that natural philosophy involved reasoning and explanations about nature (and after
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
, quantitative reasoning), whereas natural history was essentially qualitative and descriptive. In the 14th and 15th centuries, natural philosophy was one of many branches of philosophy, but was not a specialized field of study. The first person appointed as a specialist in Natural Philosophy ''per se'' was
Jacopo Zabarella Giacomo (or Jacopo) Zabarella (5 September 1533 – 15 October 1589) was an Italian Aristotle, Aristotelian philosopher and logician. Life Zabarella was born into a noble Paduan family. He received a Renaissance Humanism, humanist education and ...
, at the
University of Padua The University of Padua ( it, Università degli Studi di Padova, UNIPD) is an Italian university located in the city of Padua, region of Veneto, northern Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 by a group of students and teachers from B ...
in 1577. Modern meanings of the terms ''science'' and ''scientists'' date only to the 19th century. Before that, ''science'' was a synonym for ''knowledge'' or ''study'', in keeping with its Latin origin. The term gained its modern meaning when
experiment An experiment is a procedure carried out to support or refute a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy or likelihood of something previously untried. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs wh ...
al science and the
scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method for acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century (with notable practitioners in previous centuries; see the article hist ...
became a specialized branch of study apart from natural philosophy. From the mid-19th century, when it became increasingly unusual for scientists to contribute to both
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...
and
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds made of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties ...
, "natural philosophy" came to mean just ''physics'', and the word is still used in that sense in degree titles at the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
and University of Aberdeen. In general, chairs of Natural Philosophy established long ago at the oldest universities are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors.
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, Theology, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosophy, natural philosopher"), widely ...
's book ''
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such quest ...
'' (1687), whose title translates to "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", reflects the then-current use of the words "natural philosophy", akin to "systematic study of nature". Even in the 19th century, a treatise by
Lord Kelvin William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, (26 June 182417 December 1907) was a British mathematician, Mathematical physics, mathematical physicist and engineer born in Belfast. Professor of Natural Philosophy (Glasgow), Professor of Natural Philoso ...
and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled '' Treatise on Natural Philosophy'' (1867). Greek philosophers defined it as the combination of beings living in the universe, ignoring things made by humans. The other definition refers to
human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental dispositions and characteristics—including ways of Thought, thinking, feeling, and agency (philosophy), acting—that Homo sapiens, humans are said to have nature (philosophy), naturally. Th ...
.


Scope

In
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
's earliest known dialogue, '' Charmides'' distinguishes between ''science'' or bodies of knowledge that produce a physical result, and those that do not. Natural philosophy has been categorized as a theoretical rather than a practical branch of philosophy (like ethics). Sciences that guide arts and draw on the philosophical knowledge of nature may produce practical results, but these subsidiary sciences (e.g., architecture or medicine) go beyond natural philosophy. The study of natural philosophy seeks to explore the cosmos by any means necessary to understand the universe. Some ideas presuppose that change is a reality. Although this may seem obvious, there have been some philosophers who have denied the concept of metamorphosis, such as Plato's predecessor
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia. Parmenides was born in the Greek colony of Elea, from a wealthy and illustrious family. His date ...
and later Greek philosopher
Sextus Empiricus Sextus Empiricus ( grc-gre, Σέξτος Ἐμπειρικός, ; ) was a Greek Pyrrhonist philosopher and Empiric school physician A physician (American English), medical practitioner (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Comm ...
, and perhaps some Eastern philosophers.
George Santayana Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known in English as George Santayana (; December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952), was a Spanish and US-American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. Born in Spain, Santayana was raised ...
, in his ''Scepticism and Animal Faith,'' attempted to show that the reality of change cannot be proven. If his reasoning is sound, it follows that to be a physicist, one must restrain one's skepticism enough to trust one's senses, or else rely on
anti-realism In analytic philosophy, anti-realism is a position which encompasses many varieties such as metaphysical, mathematical, semantic, scientific, moral and epistemic. The term was first articulated by British philosopher Michael Dummett in an argum ...
.
René Descartes René Descartes ( or ; ; Latinisation of names, Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French people, French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, widely considered a seminal figure in the emergence of m ...
'
metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
system of mind–body dualism describes two kinds of substance: matter and mind. According to this system, everything that is "matter" is
deterministic Determinism is a Philosophy, philosophical view, where all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have developed from diverse and sometimes overlapping motive ...
and natural—and so belongs to natural philosophy—and everything that is "mind" is volitional and non-natural, and falls outside the domain of philosophy of nature.


Branches and subject matter

Major branches of natural philosophy include
astronomy Astronomy () is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and chronology of the Universe, evolution. Objects of interest ...
and
cosmology Cosmology () is a branch of physics and metaphysics dealing with the nature of the universe. The term ''cosmology'' was first used in English in 1656 in Thomas Blount (lexicographer), Thomas Blount's ''Glossographia'', and in 1731 taken up in ...
, the study of nature on the grand scale;
etiology Etiology (pronounced ; alternatively: aetiology or ætiology) is the study of Causality, causation or origination. The word is derived from the Ancient Greek, Greek (''aitiología'') "giving a reason for" (, ''aitía'', "cause"); and (''wikt:-l ...
, the study of (intrinsic and sometimes extrinsic) causes; the study of chance, probability and randomness; the study of elements; the study of the infinite and the unlimited (virtual or actual); the study of
matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atoms, which are made up of interacting subatomic partic ...
;
mechanics Mechanics (from Ancient Greek: wikt:μηχανική#Ancient_Greek, μηχανική, ''mēkhanikḗ'', "of machine, machines") is the area of mathematics and physics concerned with the relationships between force, matter, and motion among Ph ...
, the study of translation of motion and change; the study of
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the physics, physical world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomenon, phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. ...
or the various sources of actions; the study of natural qualities; the study of physical quantities; the study of relations between physical entities; and the philosophy of space and time. (Adler, 1993)


History

Humankind's mental engagement with nature certainly predates civilization and the record of history. Philosophical, and specifically non-religious thought about the natural world, goes back to ancient Greece. These lines of thought began before Socrates, who turned from his philosophical studies from speculations about nature to a consideration of man, viz., political philosophy. The thought of early philosophers such as
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia. Parmenides was born in the Greek colony of Elea, from a wealthy and illustrious family. His date ...
,
Heraclitus Heraclitus of Ephesus (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἡράκλειτος, Ἡράκλειτος , "Glory of Hera"; ) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic philosopher from the city of Ephesus, which was then part of th ...
, and
Democritus Democritus (; el, Δημόκριτος, ''Dēmókritos'', meaning "chosen of the people"; – ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient ...
centered on the natural world. In addition, three Presocratic philosophers who lived in the Ionian town of
Miletus Miletus (; gr, Μῑ́λητος, Mī́lētos; Hittite language, Hittite transcription ''Millawanda'' or ''Milawata'' (Exonym and endonym, exonyms); la, Mīlētus; tr, Milet) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek city on the western coast of ...
(hence the Milesian School of philosophy),
Thales Thales of Miletus ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Θαλῆς, Θαλῆς; ) was a Greeks, Greek Greek Mathematics, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor. He was one of ...
,
Anaximander Anaximander (; grc-gre, Ἀναξίμανδρος ''Anaximandros''; ) was a Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus,"Anaximander" in ''Chambers's Encyclopædia''. London: George Newn ...
, and Anaximenes, attempted to explain natural phenomena without recourse to creation
myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of Narrative, narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or Origin myth, origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not Objectivity (philosophy), ...
s involving the
Greek gods The following is a list of gods, goddesses, and many other Divinity, divine and semi-divine figures from ancient Greek mythology and ancient Greek religion. Immortals The Greeks created images of their deities for many purposes. A temple would h ...
. They were called the '' physikoi'' ("natural philosophers") or, as Aristotle referred to them, the ''physiologoi''. Plato followed Socrates in concentrating on man. It was Plato's student, Aristotle, who, in basing his thought on the natural world, returned empiricism to its primary place, while leaving room in the world for man.
Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (; ; 26 September 188926 May 1976) was a German philosopher who is best known for contributions to Phenomenology (philosophy), phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism. He is among the most important and influential phi ...
observes that Aristotle was the originator of conception of nature that prevailed in the Middle Ages into the modern era: Aristotle surveyed the thought of his predecessors and conceived of nature in a way that charted a middle course between their excesses. "The world we inhabit is an orderly one, in which things generally behave in predictable ways, Aristotle argued, because every natural object has a "nature"—an attribute (associated primarily with form) that makes the object behave in its customary fashion..."David C. Lindberg, ''The Beginnings of Western Science'', University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 50. Aristotle recommended
four causes The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelianism, Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in Posterior Analytics, analysis of change or movement in nature: the Four_causes#Material, material, the ...
as appropriate for the business of the natural philosopher, or physicist, “and if he refers his problems back to all of them, he will assign the ‘why’ in the way proper to his science—the matter, the form, the mover, nd‘that for the sake of which’”. While the vagaries of the material cause are subject to circumstance, the formal, efficient and final cause often coincide because in natural kinds, the mature form and
final cause The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in analysis Analysis (plural, : analyses) is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theo ...
are one and the same. The capacity to mature into a specimen of one's kind is directly acquired from “the primary source of motion”, i.e., from one's father, whose seed (''sperma'') conveys the essential nature (common to the species), as a hypothetical ''ratio''. ; Material cause : An object's motion will behave in different ways depending on the ubstance/essencefrom which it is made. (Compare clay, steel, etc.) ; Formal cause : An object's motion will behave in different ways depending on its material arrangement. (Compare a clay sphere, clay block, etc.) ; Efficient cause : That which caused the object to come into being; an "agent of change" or an "agent of movement". ; Final cause : The reason that caused the object to be brought into existence. From the late Middle Ages into the modern era, the tendency has been to narrow "science" to the consideration of efficient or agency-based causes of a particular kind:


In ancient Greece

Early Greek philosophers studied motion and the cosmos. Figures like
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. He is generally regarded by western authors as 'the first written poet i ...
regarded the natural world as offspring of the gods, whereas others like Leucippus and
Democritus Democritus (; el, Δημόκριτος, ''Dēmókritos'', meaning "chosen of the people"; – ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient ...
regarded the world as lifeless atoms in a vortex.
Anaximander Anaximander (; grc-gre, Ἀναξίμανδρος ''Anaximandros''; ) was a Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic Ancient Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus,"Anaximander" in ''Chambers's Encyclopædia''. London: George Newn ...
deduced that eclipses happen because of apertures in rings of celestial fire.
Heraclitus Heraclitus of Ephesus (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἡράκλειτος, Ἡράκλειτος , "Glory of Hera"; ) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greek Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic philosopher from the city of Ephesus, which was then part of th ...
believed that the heavenly bodies were made of fire that were contained within bowls. He thought that eclipses happen when the bowl turned away from the earth. Anaximenes is believed to have stated that an underlying element was air, and by manipulating air someone could change its thickness to create fire, water, dirt, and stones.
Empedocles Empedocles (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἐμπεδοκλῆς, Ἐμπεδοκλῆς; , 444–443 BC) was a Ancient Greece, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a native citizen of Akragas, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for ...
identified the elements that make up the world, which he termed the roots of all things, as fire, air, earth, and water.
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia. Parmenides was born in the Greek colony of Elea, from a wealthy and illustrious family. His date ...
argued that all change is a logical impossibility. He gives the example that nothing can go from nonexistence to existence.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
argues that the world is an imperfect replica of an idea that a divine craftsman once held. He also believed that the only way to truly know something was through reason and logic not the study of the object itself, but that changeable matter is a viable course of study.


Aristotle's philosophy of nature

:::"An acorn is potentially, but not actually, an oak tree. In becoming an oak tree, it becomes actually what it originally was only potentially. This change thus involves passage from potentiality to actuality — not from non-being to being but from one kind or degree to being another" Aristotle held many important beliefs that started a convergence of thought for natural philosophy. Aristotle believed that attributes of objects belong to the objects themselves, and share traits with other objects that fit them into a category. He uses the example of dogs to press this point. An individual dog may have very specific attributes (ex. one dog can be black and another brown) but also very general ones that classify it as a dog (ex. four-legged). This philosophy can be applied to many other objects as well. This idea is different than that of Plato, with whom Aristotle had a direct association. Aristotle argued that objects have properties "form" and something that is not part of its properties "matter" that defines the object. The form cannot be separated from the matter. Given the example that you can not separate properties and matter since this is impossible, you cannot collect properties in a pile and matter in another. Aristotle believed that change was a natural occurrence. He used his philosophy of form and matter to argue that when something changes you change its properties without changing its matter. This change occurs by replacing certain properties with other properties. Since this change is always an intentional alteration whether by forced means or by natural ones, change is a controllable order of qualities. He argues that this happens through three categories of being: non-being, potential being, and actual being. Through these three states the process of changing an object never truly destroys an object's forms during this transition state but rather just blurs the reality between the two states. An example of this could be changing an object from red to blue with a transitional purple phase.


Medieval philosophy of motion

Medieval thoughts on motion involved much of Aristotle's works ''
Physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...
'' and ''
Metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
''. The issue that medieval philosophers had with motion was the inconsistency found between book 3 of ''Physics'' and book 5 of ''Metaphysics''. Aristotle claimed in book 3 of ''Physics'' that motion can be categorized by substance, quantity, quality, and place. where in book 5 of ''Metaphysics'' he stated that motion is a magnitude of quantity. This disputation led to some important questions to natural philosophers: Which category/categories does motion fit into? Is motion the same thing as a terminus? Is motion separate from real things? These questions asked by medieval philosophers tried to classify motion.
William of Ockham William of Ockham, OFM (; also Occam, from la, Gulielmus Occamus; 1287 – 10 April 1347) was an English Franciscan friar The Franciscans are a group of related Mendicant orders, mendicant Christianity, Christian Catholic religious order, ...
gives a good concept of motion for many people in the Middle Ages. There is an issue with the vocabulary behind motion that makes people think that there is a correlation between nouns and the qualities that make nouns. Ockham states that this distinction is what will allow people to understand motion, that motion is a property of mobiles, locations, and forms and that is all that is required to define what motion is. A famous example of this is
Occam's razor Occam's razor, Ockham's razor, or Ocham's razor ( la, novacula Occami), also known as the principle of parsimony or the law of parsimony ( la, lex parsimoniae), is the problem-solving principle that "entities should not be multiplied beyond neces ...
, which simplifies vague statements by cutting them into more descriptive examples. "Every motion derives from an agent." becomes "each thing that is moved, is moved by an agent" this makes motion a more personal quality referring to individual objects that are moved.John E. Murdoch and Edith D. Sylla ''Science in The Middle Ages:The Science of Motion'' (1978) University of Chicago Press p. 213-222


Natural philosophy in the early modern period

The
scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method for acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century (with notable practitioners in previous centuries; see the article hist ...
has ancient precedents, and
Galileo Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He was ...
exemplifies a mathematical understanding of nature, which is a hallmark of modern natural scientists. Galileo proposed that objects falling regardless of their mass would fall at the same rate, as long as the medium they fall in is identical. The 19th-century distinction of a scientific enterprise apart from traditional natural philosophy has its roots in prior centuries. Proposals for a more "inquisitive" and practical approach to the study of nature are notable in
Francis Bacon Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (; 22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England England is a Countries of ...
, whose ardent convictions did much to popularize his insightful
Baconian method The Baconian method is the investigative method developed by Francis Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, one of the founders of modern science, and thus a first formulation of a modern scientific method. The method was put forward in Bacon's book ''Novum Org ...
. The Baconian method is employed throughout
Thomas Browne Sir Thomas Browne (; 19 October 160519 October 1682) was an English polymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric. His writings display a deep curi ...
's encyclopaedia ''
Pseudodoxia Epidemica ''Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths'', also known simply as ''Pseudodoxia Epidemica'' or ''Vulgar Errors'', is a work by Thomas Browne challenging and refuting the "vulgar" or common ...
'' (1646–1672), which debunks a wide-range of common fallacies through empirical investigation of nature. The late-17th-century natural philosopher
Robert Boyle Robert Boyle (; 25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691) was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, Alchemy, alchemist and inventor. Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the foun ...
wrote a seminal work on the distinction between
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that depar ...
and
metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of conscio ...
called, ''A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature'', as well as '' The Skeptical Chymist'', after which the modern science of
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds made of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties ...
is named, (as distinct from proto-scientific studies of
alchemy Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Greek: χυμεία, ''khumeía'') is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and protoscience, protoscientific tradition that was historically practiced in Chinese alchemy, C ...
). These works of natural philosophy are representative of a departure from the
medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
scholasticism Scholasticism was a medieval school of philosophy that employed a Organon, critical organic method of philosophical analysis predicated upon the Aristotelianism, Aristotelian categories (Aristotle), 10 Categories. Christian scholasticism eme ...
taught in European
universities A university () is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in several Discipline (academia), academic disciplines. Universities ty ...
, and anticipate in many ways, the developments that would lead to science as practiced in the modern sense. As Bacon would say, "vexing nature" to reveal "her" secrets, ( scientific experimentation), rather than a mere reliance on largely historical, even anecdotal,
observation Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the perception and recording of data (information), data via the use of scienti ...
s of empirical
phenomena A phenomenon ( : phenomena) is an observable event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, Epistemology ...
, would come to be regarded as a defining characteristic of
modern science The history of science covers the development of science from ancient history, ancient times to the present. It encompasses all three major branches of science: natural science, natural, social science, social, and formal science, formal. Sc ...
, if not the very key to its success. Boyle's biographers, in their emphasis that he laid the foundations of modern chemistry, neglect how steadily he clung to the scholastic sciences in theory, practice and doctrine. However, he meticulously recorded observational detail on practical research, and subsequently advocated not only this practice, but its publication, both for successful and unsuccessful experiments, so as to validate individual claims by replication. Natural philosophers of the late 17th or early 18th century were sometimes insultingly described as 'projectors'. A
projector A projector or image projector is an optical device that projects an image (or moving images) onto a surface, commonly a projection screen. Most projectors create an image by shining a light through a small transparent lens, but some newer types ...
was an entrepreneur who invited people to invest in his invention but – as the caricature went – could not be trusted, usually because his device was impractical. Jonathan Swift satirized natural philosophers of the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, ...
as 'the academy of projectors' in his novel ''
Gulliver's Travels ''Gulliver's Travels'', or ''Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships'' is a 1726 in literature, 1726 prose satire by the Anglo-Irish writer and c ...
.'' Historians of science have argued that natural philosophers and the so-called projectors sometimes overlapped in their methods and aims.


Current work in the philosophy of science and nature

In the middle of the 20th century,
Ernst Mayr Ernst Walter Mayr (; 5 July 1904 – 3 February 2005) was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned Taxonomy (biology), taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, Philosophy of biology, philosopher o ...
's discussions on the
teleology Teleology (from and )Partridge, Eric. 1977''Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English'' London: Routledge, p. 4187. or finalityDubray, Charles. 2020 912Teleology" In ''The Catholic Encyclopedia'' 14. New York: Robert Applet ...
of nature brought up issues that were dealt with previously by Aristotle (regarding
final cause The four causes or four explanations are, in Aristotelian thought, four fundamental types of answer to the question "why?", in analysis Analysis (plural, : analyses) is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theo ...
) and Kant (regarding reflective judgment). Especially since the mid-20th-century European crisis, some thinkers argued the importance of looking at nature from a broad philosophical perspective, rather than what they considered a narrowly positivist approach relying implicitly on a hidden, unexamined philosophy. One line of thought grows from the Aristotelian tradition, especially as developed by
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Order, OP (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Order, Dominican friar and Catholic priest, priest who was an influential List of Catholic philo ...
. Another line springs from
Edmund Husserl , thesis1_title = Beiträge zur Variationsrechnung (Contributions to the Calculus of Variations) , thesis1_url = https://fedora.phaidra.univie.ac.at/fedora/get/o:58535/bdef:Book/view , thesis1_year = 1883 , thesis2_title ...
, especially as expressed in ''The Crisis of European Sciences''. Students of his such as Jacob Klein and Hans Jonas more fully developed his themes. Last, but not least, there is the
process philosophy Process philosophy, also ontology of becoming, or processism, is an approach to philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, ...
inspired by
Alfred North Whitehead Alfred North Whitehead (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in their work, typically to solve mathematical problems. Mathemat ...
's works. Among living scholars, Brian David Ellis,
Nancy Cartwright Nancy Cartwright (born October 25, 1957) is an American actress. She is the long-time voice of Bart Simpson on the animated television series ''The Simpsons'', for which she has received a Primetime Emmy Award for Primetime Emmy Award for Outsta ...
, David Oderberg, and
John Dupré John A. Dupré (born 3 July 1952) is a British philosophy of science, philosopher of science. He is the director of Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences, and professor of philosophy at the University of Exeter. Dupré's chief work a ...
are some of the more prominent thinkers who can arguably be classed as generally adopting a more open approach to the natural world. Ellis (2002) observes the rise of a "New Essentialism." David Oderberg (2007) takes issue with other philosophers, including Ellis to a degree, who claim to be essentialists. He revives and defends the Thomistic-Aristotelian tradition from modern attempts to flatten nature to the limp subject of the experimental method.David S. Oderberg, ''Real Essentialism'' (Routledge, 2007). In hi
In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life
(2017), Nicholas Maxwell argues that we need to reform philosophy and put science and philosophy back together again to create a modern version of natural philosophy.


See also

* * * * * * * *


References


Further reading

* * E.A. Burtt, ''Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science'' (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1954). * Philip Kitcher, ''Science, Truth, and Democracy.'' Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Science. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. LCCN:2001036144 *
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British mathematician, philosopher, logician, and public intellectual. He had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, ar ...
, '' A History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day'' (1945) Simon & Schuster, 1972. * * David Snoke, ''Natural Philosophy: A Survey of Physics and Western Thought.'' Access Research Network, 2003.
Natural Philosophy: A Survey of Physics and Western ThoughtWelcome to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine
* Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, ''The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy'' (Crossway Books, 1994, ). * Alfred N. Whitehead, ''
Process and Reality ''Process and Reality'' is a book by Alfred North Whitehead, in which the author propounds a philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy. The book, published in 1929, is a revision of the Gifford Lectures he gave in 1927–28. Whit ...
'', The Macmillan Company, 1929. * René Thom, ''Modèles mathématiques de la morphogenèse'', Christian Bourgois, 1980. *Claude Paul Bruter, ''Topologie et perception'', Maloine, 3 vols. 1974/1976/1986. *Jean Largeault, ''Principes classiques d'interprétation de la nature'', Vrin, 1988. *
Moritz Schlick Friedrich Albert Moritz Schlick (; ; 14 April 1882 – 22 June 1936) was a German philosopher, physicist, and the founding father of logical positivism Logical positivism, later called logical empiricism, and both of which together are also kno ...
, ''Philosophy of Nature'', Philosophical Library, New York, 1949. *Styrman, Avril:
Economical Unification as a Method of Philosophical Analysis
'. University of Helsinki, 2016. *Andrew G. Van Melsen, ''The Philosophy of Nature'', Duquesne University, Pittsburgh 1954. *Miguel Espinoza, La matière éternelle et ses harmonies éphémères, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2017. *


External links


"Aristotle's Natural Philosophy"
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' (''SEP'') combines an online encyclopedia of philosophy with scholarly peer review, peer-reviewed publication of original papers in philosophy, freely accessible to Internet users. It is maintained by S ...

Institute for the Study of Nature
**

" a talk at MIT by Michael Augros

{{DEFAULTSORT:Natural Philosophy History of philosophy History of science