Talk:Natural philosophy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Philosophy (Rated Start-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of content related to philosophy on Wikipedia. If you would like to support the project, please visit the project page, where you can get more details on how you can help, and where you can join the general discussion about philosophy content on Wikipedia.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject History of Science (Rated Start-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is part of the History of Science WikiProject, an attempt to improve and organize the history of science content on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, you can edit the article attached to this page, or visit the project page, where you can join the project and/or contribute to the discussion. You can also help with the History of Science Collaboration of the Month.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Physics / History (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Physics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Physics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
This article is supported by History Taskforce.

history of science[edit]

I removed this:

According to historians of science, basic science really did not become a true form of science until the second half of the 19th century.

I spent I few years in grad school studying the philosophy of science, and I don't believe this. It needs a citation from at least one historian of science who actually says it. user: Gene Ward Smith

Reponse to Gene Ward Smith:
The following phrase:
"basic science really did not become a true form of science" does not seem to be in any way explanatory, because 'basic science" and "true form of science" do not seem to be established as distinctive terms, such that they can be contrasted in the way implied.
However, if the sentiment intended to be expressed in that phrasing was that science reached some kind of special milestone of culturally accepted legitimacy in the second half of the 19th century, I think we would need to ask a science historian specialising in cultural and linguistic issues dating back from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century whether any such phenomenon manifested itself, and whether, if it did, it had any bearing on the transition of proto-science to science, or any bearing upon the respective usages of the terms 'natural philosophy' or 'science'. User:Ericross 21 Dec 2005
There are some historians of science who might make that milestone argument, but it would definitely be controversial enough that we shouldn't really be including it here. Science was gradually becoming more culturally significant, but I feel confident in saying that this was not strongly related to usage of the terms "natural philosophy" or "science." I've done a fair bit of reading on 19th century (and some earlier) natural philosophy, and I can say that what fell under the rubric of "natural philosophy" is widely considered to be science by historians of science. It should be noted that natural philosophy is not strictly the analog of science, but rather physics. While cause-based biological investigations occasionally were called natural philosophy (as opposed to natural history), by the 18th century at least, natural philosophy meant what we call physics. The change in naming happened in the mid-to-late 19th century, and the terms were interchangeable for a while. And when the name change happened, that didn't mark any sudden change in the actual practice of the science; if Maxwell or Kelvin did science, then at least some natural philosophy was science (but what counted as natural philosophy changed considerably over the centuries). I think you've made some positive changes to the article, Ericross. Great job! It could definitely go further, however, and it's a little too colloquial in places.--ragesoss 08:53, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
Anyone interested in the 'transitional period' between proto-science and science needs to read Principe's 'The Aspiring Adept'.
The transition is not really 'proto-science to science' as all the glib popularisations would have us believe.
And 'Natural Philosophy' was neither a 'half-way house' on the journey, nor was it 'just a synonym for science'.
The whole transition is essentially an 'evolution not revolution'.
This comes as a shock to me, because I was taught that the stuff that preceded science was just a collection of superstition, charlatanry, speculation and unfounded nonsense which was suddenly abandoned in favour of a body of rigorous, disciplined and evidence based knowledge which at the time was called Natural Philosophy and is now called science.
The notion that this might have instead been a gradual process is perhaps a little difficult but by no means impossible to grasp.
The fact that there was a concerted effort by historians until very recently (especially by successions of biographers of the great 17th century figures of science) to paint the transition as sudden and total is a sin which has been disguised by subsequent historians labelling the 'transitional period' as being the period during which the subject of science was referred to as being 'Natural Philosophy', thus rescuing science from a much more painful admission, which is that those great figures who supposedly unequivocally abandoned such things as alchemy in favour of science, in fact never even considered abandoning alchemy.
Principe shows that what Boyle, as the first great writer to tackle Natural Philosophy and Alchemy together, far from recommending the abandonment of Alchemy and replacing it with Natural Philosophy, Boyle seeks to REFORM Alchemy not to abandon it.
So much for the scientific 'revolution'.
Biographers seeking to glorify their biographical subject were clearly embarrassed by the prospect of revealing any lingering connections with the 'old mumbo jumbo' and thus sought to excise such facts from the record. User:Ericross 27 Sept 2005

I agree the general point of the above comments. This entire article needs to be redone. "Natural Philosophy" has meant a lot of different things. Throughout most of the 19th century, the people we recognize as physicists called themselves natural philosophers (James Clerk Maxwell, for instance, and just about anyone before the mid-19th century). Natural Philosophy was a school subject, alongside chemistry and physiology. But many natural philosophers were doing experimental science. -User:Ragesoss 17 Dec 2005

The article was rewritten in response to the above. User:Ericross 21 Dec 2005


I'm unhappy at the section entitled revival describing the use of the natural philosophy term to cover creationism. The action appears to me rather to be crafty misappropiation! I did my science degree at a university where the original use is still carefully kept alive - and it wouldn't extend to covering the supernatural except as a critical footnote in history. Linuxlad 12:10, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Natural philosophy encompassed a lot of what we consider non-scientific today, including natural theology. And that section seems to make clear the problematic nature of said "revival" vis-a-vis modern science. But it's relevance is also rather marginal, and I wouldn't object to the removal of that section.--ragesoss 20:15, 8 March 2006 (UTC)
Since the term is being craftily misappropriated, something creationism is noted for. it should be explained here. Perhaps the title Revival is inappropriate: any ideas for improvements? A modern usage section could cover both uses, or something like "Use to redefine modern science" might be appropriate, subject to consideration of NPOV issues. Either way, when such usage is linked here the situation should be made clear to avoid giving unwarranted credibility to neo-creationist pseudoscience. ...dave souza, talk 20:35, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

More material has been added to the 'Revival' section which is apparently intended to further a creationist argument. Whatever its merits (or otherwise) it is out of context here - I suggest it be moved to a new article within the next week, after which the material in the revival section should be pruned to a first paragraph and a link out. Linuxlad 19:50, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

The new addition clearly has POV problems, and verifiability may be an issue. Also, Philip Kitcher and Bertrand Russell have been added at some point with no explanation as to their relevance. The danger with moving this lot to a new article could be the creation of a POV fork, something to consider. ..dave souza, talk 20:57, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

compare to Philosophy of Nature article[edit]

Recently the Nature article was split and a major part of it was put onto an article called Philosophy of Nature. I tend to think the article should be re-named Nature (Philosophy), in this way we keep the material closer to it's intended use, and perhaps distinct from the present article? Or perhaps it should be merged to this article? --Andrew Lancaster 15:23, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy of nature should definitely not be merged here (and the see also at the top should probably be moved down to the regular see also; this article is only slightly more relevant than the rest of the see alsos). Given the content of the new fork, your renaming proposal seems logical.--ragesoss 17:31, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

This article needs much more emphasis on Aristotle! Aristotle was "the philosopher" in the Middle Ages and almost all science (i.e. natural philosophy) of the Middle Ages was in some way related to his legacy.

The Contemporary Scene?[edit]

How about a section on more recent revivals of natural philosophy? Two figures that deserve to be included (that I can think of off the top of my head) are Hans Jonas and Brian David Ellis. JKeck (talk) 23:49, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Also, please add something about what is meant by having a degree in Natural Philosophy? I have heard that Sir Muir Russel is a physicist but according to his Wikipedia page, he took first in Natural Philosophy at University of Glasgow. What is that degree if natural philosophy is a precursor to science but is no longer the term used to describe science?

Is it something like a BS Physics? Or more like a degree in Philosophy? (talk) 04:29, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

Problematic Distinction Between "Natural Philosophy" and "Science"[edit]

The most misleading part of this article is the suggestion that never and at no time in history was the term "natural philosophy" synonymous with our modern conception of "science."

This is simply not true. Sure, natural philosophy wasn't always the same thing as modern science, but a lot of fully mature science was done under the name of "natural philosophy."

I think omitting this explanation is just going to result in a heck of a lot of confused readers when, for example, they read Michael Faraday's famous Candle Lectures and see the sentence, "...there is no more open door by which you can enter natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomenon of a candle." (Lecture 1, first paragraph). And so what will the reader think, that Faraday is making reference to "proto-science" rather than the fully mature science in which he made seminal breakthroughs?

I will consider making this alteration myself, but I can only do so to a limited extent since my history of the formative centuries of modern science is scant.--Scyldscefing (talk) 04:21, 8 May 2010 (UTC)

My two cents on the Problematic Distinction Between "Natural Philosophy" and "Science".[edit]

I see the distinction between natural philosophy and science as: anything you read in a science book preceded by "The Theory of" is natural philosophy, anything proceeded by "The Law of" is science. It was necessary long ago to tie the absolute of science to the highly likely of theory to get very logical natural philosophy such as Darwin's theory into the classroom past theist who believe everything came into existence in six days. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:06, 25 September 2013 (UTC) --That is absoloutely wrong. Theories in science are not simply guesses. Scientist hypothesize based on an initial consideration of known data and known science. Then they test those hypotheses. Hypotheses either become laws or theories depending on the nature of the hypothesis. Laws of science are simple mathematical statements which have been verified by many many experiments. For example F=Ma and E=Mc^2 are laws of science. In theories, on the other hand, the hypothesis is usually called a postulate. The consequences of the postulates of a theory are worked out mathematically into a number of hypothetical predictions. Each of those number of hypotheses must test true for a a hypothesized set of postulates to become a bonnified theory. So if anything Laws are science and theories are even more science! :) --2601:D:2A80:DFF:A9AE:5D5C:D27F:F06D (talk) 11:06, 11 July 2014 (UTC)