Trends and new directions in "natural philosophy" and philosophy that began with the Renaissance came to fruition in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The medieval concept of Scholasticism, which concentrated on past achievements, was replaced with a forward-looking emphasis on nature. The impact of the Scientific Revolution was soon felt among a wider range of intellectuals and writers in literature, which sought to entertain; philosophy, which sought to answer; and politics, which sought to act and explain. A new intellectual synthesis was formed. Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler applied mathematical reasoning to their studies of nature and the universe. Galileos telescope was an important technological breakthrough. Descartes and Newton developed models that established the basis of modern mathematics and physics. Great volumes of nationalist "vernacular" literature also appeared. Art historians use the term baroque to denote the style associated with seventeenth-century painting, sculpture, and architecture. The new approaches to nature could not help but trigger philosophical questions about the nature of God. Spinozas emphasis on God embracing all of nature became the basis of a new humanistic trend in religion. During the seventeenth century, a far-reaching reexamination of political philosophy took place. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke lived through and reflected on the turbulent political and religious times of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution. Their works examined such basic concepts as the state of nature, the origin of political authority, and the concept of a social contract. The opinions of Hobbes and Locke had a fundamental effect upon the political development of the West. The shift from a medieval to a modern view also generated widespread and sometimes vicious assaults on those whose views could not be readily explained. Unquestionably, these attacks upon heretics and so-called witches, the vast majority of whom were middle-aged and older women, were stimulated by decades of religiously motivated warfare and the uncertainties created by intellectual fermentation. Overall, however, the "Scientific Revolution" became a vital development in the Western heritage as it slowly unfolded for 150 years before the dawn of the eighteenth century.
After reading this chapter you should understand:
- The astronomical theories of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton.
- The emergence of new scientific institutions.
- The role of women in early science.
- The relationship between science and religion.
- New directions in philosophy and political science.
- Witch-hunts in the early modern era.
- The distinguishing characteristics of Baroque art.