- Briefly outline the period known as the Renaissance, and some factors leading to its development in Central Europe and Italy during the 15th century.
- Who was Andreas Vesalius? Explain the characteristics of his work which distinguish him from the medieval scholars that came before.
- What is the Scientific Revolution, and what were some of its prominent distinguishing features as compared to the practice of science during the medieval period and before?
- What is the “Continuity Debate”? To your mind — citing some examples from the course so far — which side is more plausible?
- Compare Kuhn’s notion of a “Scientific Paradigm” to our notion of a “Scientific Worldview”. How are they different? Do you think Kuhn was originally right to suppose that two paradigms can really be completely incommensurable?
- Define Kuhn’s notion of “incommensurability”, and explain what he means by the “theory-ladenness of observations”. Can we ever experience the world completely objectively according to Kuhn? What do you think?
- How does Thomas Kuhn think that scientific changes happen? Given what we’ve seen so far in the history, do you agree?
Week 16 Questions for Thought
- As we all know, Columbus’ voyage was not to prove that the Earth was round — everyone’s always known that. So then, what was the scientific interest of the voyage?
- What are Copernicus’ primary motivations for the development of his new model of planetary motion? What is his explanation for Retrograde Motion?
- Explain the difference between the medieval understandings of Astronomy versus Cosmology according to Henry. Why did the unification of these disciplines embolden Copernicus to take the final step and completely alter the notion of what a “planet” is?
- Copernicus puts great stress upon the idea that with his system we get a definite physical ordering of the planets and other heavenly phenomena (what he calls the “heavenly spheres”). Give the order, and explain why Copernicus’ system generates this order given the observational data. Why does Copernicus think this is so important? (Hint: Unification!)
- Explain the reason Osiander surreptitiously inserted the unsigned letter at the beginning of Copernicus’ book. What interpretation of Copernicus’ theory was suggested by this letter?
- Describe Brahe’s argument to the conclusion that the new stellar object he describes in the reading cannot be a comet, but must be a star. Why was this such a shock to people at the time? Describe another of Tycho’s major observations and why it too was shocking to those subscribing to the Aristotelian Worldview at the time.
- Outline Brahe’s model of planetary motion. Compare the benefits and drawbacks of this system to Copernicus’ and to Ptolemy’s.
- Outline Kepler’s 3 Laws of Planetary Motion. How does his first law modify Copernicus’ system? Compare his second law to Ptolemy’s Equant Point (what’s the difference?). And finally, explain how Kepler’s third law relates to and enhances Copernicus’ discovery of a natural ordering for the planets on the assumption that the Earth moves.
- What does “eight minutes of arc” mean, and what does this have to do with Tycho? Why does this cause Kepler to reject his own original theories? Was he right to do so?
Week 17 Questions for Thought
- What is Francis Bacon’s epistemological story? Is he fundamentally an Empiricist or a Rationalist? What argument type (think all the way back to the first few weeks last semester!) does he recommend as the cornerstone method for science? How is this different from Aristotle?
- Explain Bacon’s notion of the Four Idols. Name each idol, and explain the mistake that each one makes with regard to scientific reasoning. Can you give an example of a thinker or theory we’ve see led astray by each idol?
- What is Descartes’ epistemological story? Is he fundamentally an Empiricist or a Rationalist? Why does he think we need to try to doubt all of our beliefs? How does he get us out of this mode of systematic doubting? For Descartes, when are we justified to trust our senses?
- According to Descartes, what is the essential property of matter? How does this imply that there cannot be void? How does this imply that there cannot be atoms? What then, according to Descartes, is the basis by which we distinguish between different objects (matter with different sensible properties)?
- Descartes argues that understanding the efficient cause of a phenomenon isn’t the whole story with regard to a scientific explanation. What else does he suggest we need? With this in mind, explain his theory of planetary motion and his theory of magnetism.
- State Descartes’ “Laws of Nature”. Are these scientific laws in the modern sense? (i.e., in the same sense as Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion) What do they imply for Plato’s Challenge?
- Describe the anatomical and methodological advances made by Andreas Vesalius, as well as their influence on the development of medicine and biology in Europe. Does Vesalius’ work avoid the idols outlined by Bacon? Explain.
- Outline the evidence and arguments that William Harvey brought to bear in showing that the blood circulates throughout the body. Would you characterize his work as more in line with Bacon’s or Descartes’ suggestions for how to do science?
- What role did the microscope have to play in Harvey’s ideas about blood circulation? Is it correct to say that Harvey’s work proves Galen’s physiological model wrong?
- Outline Edward Tyson’s work in comparative anatomy. What does this work tell us about ourselves — about human beings?
Week 18 Questions for Thought
- List the significant astronomical discoveries/observations Galileo made with his telescope, and explain how each acts as a Falsifying instance of the Aristotelian Worldview and the Ptolemaic Model, or as a Confirming instance of the Copernican/Keplerian Model.
- What are the three significant challenges to the Copernican Model that Salviati lists at the beginning of reading 2.11? How does he reply to each?
- What is Cardinal Bellarmine’s objection to Galileo’s telescopic evidence confirming the Copernican Model of the universe? How might we explain Bellarmine’s objections?
- Explain the difference between a refracting and a reflecting telescope. What are some problems with each? Which kind of telescopes are used for advanced optical astronomy today?
- Consider Galileo’s discussion of a stone dropped from the mast of a ship/top of a tower. Do these examples finally undermine the traditional observational arguments that the Earth can’t be moving (recall Oresme) ? Explain.
- State the Principle of Galilean Relativity and Galileo’s Principle of Inertia. Does this account make different predictions or give us a different understanding of motion as compared to Descartes’ Laws of Nature and his “mechanical” understanding of the universe?
- Compare Galileo and Descartes’ notion of Inertia to Buridan’s notion of Impetus. What are the major differences between these two concepts?
- What is Galileo’s Challenge? Explain the difference between this and Descartes’ own answer to the question of why planets stay in their orbits, how magnetism works, and why things move at all. Does this new Challenge act as a sufficient replacement for Plato’s Challenge?
- In the slides I’ll say that Galileo’s Law of Falling Bodies holds only approximately. What does this mean? How can it still be a law?
Week 19 Questions for Thought
- Explain the difference between Data and Phenomena. List some examples of each in the celestial and terrestrial investigations we’ve examined since Copernicus.
- Outline Newton’s first three Rules of Reasoning. Do you think they comport with Francis Bacon’s ideas about scientific methods?
- How does Newton’s Fourth Rule of Reasoning let him dismiss objections from scientists (specifically Cartesians like Leibniz & Huygens) that his theory of gravity doesn’t furnish an actual physical cause for its influence? (viz., Newton ignores material causes—is this okay?)
- Explain Newton’s continuing method of successive approximations. Given an example of a discovery made as a result of this method. Give an example of this method being used to refute or discard an old theory — which theory was refuted?
- Describe the primary Agreeing Phenomena that Newton takes as evidence to warrant his generalization to Universal Gravity. Describe how Newton’s stress on Agreeing Phenomena mirrors Copernicus’ stress on Unification.
- What is Newton’s answer to the Chief World Systems Question?
- Newton begins his argument for Universal Gravity by assuming Kepler’s Laws as empirical phenomena. By the end, Newton’s theory is actually incompatible with Kepler’s Laws — WtF?
- Is Newton an Anti-Realist or a Realist about gravity? What about Descartes?
Week 20 Questions for Thought
- How and why did medieval scholars attempt to merge Aristotle’s theory of substance with his theory of form and matter? Why was this problematic in the first place?
- What is Alchemy? More specifically, what was the basic alchemical principle? Was it reasonable for medieval scholars to pursue alchemy? Why? What was the medieval theory of the natural creation of complex substances (like metals and salts)? How did this theory act as motivation for experimentation and laboratory work?
- Describe some of the practical disciplines that acted as precursor to chemical investigations. Note the vast amounts of knowledge about substances and reactions that people have had for millennia. Was this knowledge mostly knowledge how or knowledge why?
- Explain how Paul of Taranto’s work acts as a sort of bridge between an Aristotelian way of thinking about matter and Boyle’s Corpuscular Theory, especially as regards the notion of a substance. What’s an advantage of Taranto’s theory over the old Aristotelian ideas?
- List and summarize Boyle’s first three Hypotheses of the Corpuscular Theory. Note the points on which Boyle seems to agree with Descartes’ view of matter. On what point does Boyle disagree with Descartes? (Note that the word ‘catholic’ in this context means ‘most general’ or ‘all-embracing’, it has nothing to do with the religion)
- Explain Boyle’s lock and key analogy. What is he trying to explain with this analogy, and how is his idea related to the pre-Socratic and Epicurean theories of atomism?
- What is Boyle’s Challenge? How does Boyle think we should go about meeting this challenge?
- What is Pneumatic Chemistry? State and explain Boyle’s Law. Is this law an example of data or a phenomenon?
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