In this part, we will take up two questions rather than pick over this or that misconception in Mr. Walker's essay. Instead, we will make the positive case. And because the case is medieval and I just plain feel like it, I will cast them in the form of the medieval Question genre. The format runs as follows:
- The Question to be answered; sometimes broken down into separate articles.
- The principles Objections (Antitheses) or arguments against the questions. (It would seem not, because...)
- The principle argument in favor of the question (the Thesis) (On the contrary...)
- The determination of the question (Synthesis) (I answer that...)
- The specific rebuttals of the Antitheses.
The arguments are typically in abbreviated form, as writing materials were expensive and the medieval student was assumed to be familiar with the required readings and would recognize an entire argument from a "key phrase." To the modern ear, Questions seem oddly verbose -and- curt. In those days, texts did not have standard pagination, so the "key" phrases were the way they "referenced" or "footnoted." The necessary texts are listed at the end of the Questions.
Question I. The nature of the Scientific Revolution.
Article 1. Whether there was in fact a Scientific Revolution.
a) purposefully uncovering those facts,
b) developing natural laws to describe them, and
c) formulating physical theories to explain them.
While the facts accumulate continuously, the methodology had, by the 17th century, undergone a radical transformation involving six “innovative and essential features” identified by Peter Dear:
Greek polytheism also got in the way. The planets were not merely the abodes of the gods, they were the gods. That just was Mars out there, and study of his movements would help us anticipate wars. In the same sense, Poseidon just was the sea, and the sea was Poseidon. (The Greeks could actually point to their gods. Heh.) And if the seas and the forests and the volcanoes and the rest were actually gods, well, then the right sacrifices, the right mysteries, would let you placate them. Those few philosophers who developed a more scientific outlook - like Aristotle - usually wound up with a quasi-monotheism: the Prime Mover, the Demiurge.
a) being outside the mainstream of Greek thought, they revolutionized nothing; and
b) they were not scientific in the sense intended here.
They were not derived from empirical facts but deduced from logical necessity or assumed a priori. Democritus’ άτομος seems prescient only because we apply the term to a very different entity. (The άτομος is by definition "indivisible," while our "atoms" can be split. They are in fact more like the medieval minima than like BDemocritus' άτομος.) His five “atoms” corresponded to the five regular solids and five “elements.” (“Therefore,” the element fire is painful because its tetrahedral atom has the sharpest corners.) Aristarchos placed the sun in the center “because” fire was a nobler element than earth and rest a nobler state than motion. This sort of thing can be called many things; but "scientific" is not among them.
Regarding heliocentrism, Juan Yuan wrote, “Our ancients sought phenomena and ignored theoretical explanation... It does not seem to me the least inconvenient to ignore Western theoretical explanations and simply to consider facts.” If the Greeks valued logical theories more than facts; the Chinese prized facts with little concern for explanatory theories.
[Note, too, that astronomy was a Directorate under the Six Ministers, not something pursued independently for greater understanding of the heavens.] This is not a milieu conducive to science.
A Note on "Technolgical Advances"
Science is not technology, engineering, or the building of clever gadgets. Such things may or may not boost science. It depends on WHAT CAME OF IT.
The following articles and books were consulted in the original preparation of the Questions above.
Jaki, Stanley. The Limits of a Limitless Science. (ISI Books, 2000)
The remaining Questions are listed below, and will be posted on request: