History 291, Spring 2007

Final Exercise

Complete BOTH parts.  It would help if you submitted them as two separate papers, taking care to place your name and precept on each. The exercise is due on Monday, 21 May, at 3:00 in the History Department Office, 129 Dickinson Hall. Both parts of the exercise are "open book". You may refer to the readings and other course materials, along with your notes from lectures and precept. Since this is a take-home exercise, it falls under Academic Regulations rather than the Honor Code. Hence, it requires the statement "This paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations" with your signature, attesting that you have read and understand the provisions set forth in Academic Integrity at Princeton.  

Part I (30%)

Following are six passages taken from the sources read this semester. Choose FOUR of them and for each identify the author and work and write a paragraph explaining the significance of the passage for the development of science in the 16th and 17th centuries. (Total length: 800 words)
  1. In proposing to treat here of light, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that there can be a difference between our sensation of light (i.. the idea that is formed in our imagination through the intermediary of our eyes) and what is in the objects that produces that sensation in us (i.e., what is in the flame or in the sun that is called by the name of "light").  For, even though everyone is commonly persuaded that the ideas that are the objects of our thought are wholly like the objects from which they proceed, nevertheless, I can see no reasoning that assures us that this is the case.  On the contrary, I note many experiences that should cause us to doubt it.

  2. "But it was especially after the Gothic devastation, when all of the sciences previously in their prime and fittingly practiced went to ruin, that first in Italy the more fashionable doctors behaved as if they were ancient Romans and scorned working with their hands; they began to order their servants to perform what they thought should be done by hand for the sick, while they only stood by as if they were architects."

  3. The next care to be taken, in respect to the Senses, is a supplying of their infirmities with Instruments, and, as it were, the adding of artificial Organs to the natural; this in one of them has been of late years accomplisht with prodigious benefit to all sorts of useful knowledge, by the invention of Optical Glasses. By the means of Telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible world discovered to the understanding.

  4. But I have not yet been able to deduce the cause of those properties of gravity from the phenomena, and I make up no hypotheses.  For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses whether metaphysical or physical, of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.  In that philosophy propositions are deduced from the phenomena and rendered general by induction.  Thus the impenetrability, mobility, and impetus of bodies and the laws of motion and gravity are made known.  And it is enough that gravity in fact exists, and acts according to the laws set out by us, and suffices for all motions of the heavenly bodies and of our sea.

  5. Whether or not the heart, besides propelling the blood, giving it motion locally, and distributing it to the body, adds anything else to it, --heat, spirit, perfection,-- must be inquired into by-and-by, and decided upon other grounds. So much may suffice at this time, when it is shown that by the action of the heart the blood is transfused through the ventricles from the veins to the arteries, and distributed by them to all parts of the body.

  6.   (Click on picture to enlarge in new window.)

Part II (70%)

Write an essay of about 2000 words on ONE of the following topics. Be sure to support your argument by specific examples taken from the readings and lectures.

  1. “I have in this treatise cultivated mathematics so far as it regards philosophy.” (Newton, Preface to the Principia)

    In implied criticism of Descartes' The Principles of Philosophy, Newton titled his great work The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. What did Newton take to be the relationship between mathematics and natural philosophy, and how did that relationship evolve over the century and a half between Copernicus and Newton?  You may find it helpful to consider the works of the following authors: Copernicus, Tartaglia, Galileo, Descartes, Huygens, Newton.

  2. “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it.”  (Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, 1)

    On what grounds does Shapin reject the Scientific Revolution? Drawing upon evidence from the material of the course, evaluate his claim critically.

  3. "He deserves not the knowledge of nature that scorns to converse even with mean persons, that have the opportunity to be very conversant with her." (Robert Boyle, The Usefulness of Experimental Philosophy
    Who were the people "very conversant" with nature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and to what extent and how did their practical know-how become "knowledge of nature" in the sense meant by Boyle?
  4. "Contrary to a popular notion, the Scientific Revolution did not represent a triumph of common sense over blind dogmatism, achieved by opening one's eyes to the world.  Rather, it involved the construction of a sophisticated theoretical framework for making intelligible a world that lay beyond the reach of the senses and that operated by rules that were often counterintuitive.  Aristotle's world was a world of sensory experience; Newton's was a world of the imagination."

    Do you agree? If so, discuss why and how that framework was constructed. If not, what is wrong with the statement?

  5. “The demand for truth above all was an appeal to fact – fact that was in principle public, verifiable, morally neutral, invariant with the social circumstances of the observer, immune from interference by magician or god.  But the new science did more than appeal to facts.  It created facts of that kind for the first time.” (Nathan Sivin, “Why the Scientific Revolution did not take place in China – or didn’t it?”, p. 544)
    Identify and analyze some of the techniques that were used to establish the facts that Sivin describes and assess their role in the development of the new science of the seventeenth century.

"This paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations."