Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural science.
From the ancient world, starting with Aristotle, to the 19th century, natural philosophy was the common term for the practice of studying nature. It was in the 19th century that the concept of "science" received its modern shape with new titles emerging such as "biology" and "biologist", "physics" and "physicist" among other technical fields and titles; institutions and communities were founded, and unprecedented applications to and interactions with other aspects of society and culture occurred. Isaac Newton's book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), whose title translates to "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", reflects the then-current use of the words "natural philosophy", akin to "systematic study of nature". Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867).
In the German tradition, Naturphilosophie (philosophy of nature) persisted into the 18th and 19th century as an attempt to achieve a speculative unity of nature and spirit. Some of the greatest names in German philosophy are associated with this movement, including Goethe, Hegel and Schelling. Naturphilosophie was associated with Romanticism and a view that regarded the natural world as a kind of giant organism, as opposed to the philosophical approach of figures such as John Locke and Isaac Newton who espoused a more mechanical view of the world, regarding it as being like a machine.
The term natural philosophy preceded current usage of natural science (i.e. empirical science). Empirical science historically developed out of philosophy or, more specifically, natural philosophy. Natural philosophy was distinguished from the other precursor of modern science, natural history, in that natural philosophy involved reasoning and explanations about nature (and after Galileo, quantitative reasoning), whereas natural history was essentially qualitative and descriptive.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, natural philosophy was one of many branches of philosophy, but was not a specialized field of study. The first person appointed as a specialist in Natural Philosophy per se was Jacopo Zabarella, at the University of Padua in 1577.
Modern meanings of the terms science and scientists date only to the 19th century. Before that, science was a synonym for knowledge or study, in keeping with its Latin origin. The term gained its modern meaning when experimental science and the scientific method became a specialized branch of study apart from natural philosophy.
From the mid-19th century, when it became increasingly unusual for scientists to contribute to both physics and chemistry, "natural philosophy" came to mean just physics, and the word is still used in that sense in degree titles at the University of Oxford. In general, chairs of Natural Philosophy established long ago at the oldest universities are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors. Isaac Newton's book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), whose title translates to "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", reflects the then-current use of the words "natural philosophy", akin to "systematic study of nature". Even in the 19th century, a treatise by Lord Kelvin and Peter Guthrie Tait, which helped define much of modern physics, was titled Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867).
In Plato's earliest known dialogue, Charmides distinguishes between science or bodies of knowledge that produce a physical result, and those that do not. Natural philosophy has been categorized as a theoretical rather than a practical branch of philosophy (like ethics). Sciences that guide arts and draw on the philosophical knowledge of nature may produce practical results, but these subsidiary sciences (e.g., architecture or medicine) go beyond natural philosophy.
The study of natural philosophy seeks to explore the cosmos by any means necessary to understand the universe. Some ideas presuppose that change is a reality. Although this may seem obvious, there have been some philosophers who have denied the concept of metamorphosis, such as Plato's predecessor Parmenides and later Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and perhaps some Eastern philosophers. George Santayana, in his Scepticism and Animal Faith, attempted to show that the reality of change cannot be proven. If his reasoning is sound, it follows that to be a physicist, one must restrain one's skepticism enough to trust one's senses, or else rely on anti-realism.
René Descartes' metaphysical system of mind–body dualism describes two kinds of substance: matter and mind. According to this system, everything that is "matter" is deterministic and natural—and so belongs to natural philosophy—and everything that is "mind" is volitional and non-natural, and falls outside the domain of philosophy of nature.
Major branches of natural philosophy include astronomy and cosmology, the study of nature on the grand scale; etiology, the study of (intrinsic and sometimes extrinsic) causes; the study of chance, probability and randomness; the study of elements; the study of the infinite and the unlimited (virtual or actual); the study of matter; mechanics, the study of translation of motion and change; the study of nature or the various sources of actions; the study of natural qualities; the study of physical quantities; the study of relations between physical entities; and the philosophy of space and time. (Adler, 1993)
Humankind's mental engagement with nature certainly predates civilization and the record of history. Philosophical, and specifically non-religious thought about the natural world, goes back to ancient Greece. These lines of thought began before Socrates, who turned from his philosophical studies from speculations about nature to a consideration of man, viz., political philosophy. The thought of early philosophers such Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Democritus centered on the natural world. In addition, three presocratic philosophers who lived in the Ionian town of Miletus (hence the Milesian School of philosophy,) Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, attempted to explain natural phenomena without recourse to creation myths involving the Greek gods. They were called the physikoi (natural philosophers,) or, as Aristotle referred to them, the physiologoi. Plato followed Socrates in concentrating on man. It was Plato's student, Aristotle, who, in basing his thought on the natural world, returned empiricism to its primary place, while leaving room in the world for man. Martin Heidegger observes that Aristotle was the originator of conception of nature that prevailed in the Middle Ages into the modern era:
The Physics is a lecture in which he seeks to determine beings that arise on their own, τὰ φύσει ὄντα, with regard to their being. Aristotelian "physics" is different from what we mean today by this word, not only to the extent that it belongs to antiquity whereas the modern physical sciences belong to modernity, rather above all it is different by virtue of the fact that Aristotle's "physics" is philosophy, whereas modern physics is a positive science that presupposes a philosophy.... This book determines the warp and woof of the whole of Western thinking, even at that place where it, as modern thinking, appears to think at odds with ancient thinking. But opposition is invariably comprised of a decisive, and often even perilous, dependence. Without Aristotle's Physics there would have been no Galileo.
Aristotle surveyed the thought of his predecessors and conceived of nature in a way that charted a middle course between their excesses.
Plato's world of eternal and unchanging Forms, imperfectly represented in matter by a divine Artisan, contrasts sharply with the various mechanistic Weltanschauungen, of which atomism was, by the fourth century at least, the most prominent… This debate was to persist throughout the ancient world. Atomistic mechanism got a shot in the arm from Epicurus… while the Stoics adopted a divine teleology… The choice seems simple: either show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or inject intelligence into the system. This was how Aristotle… when still a young acolyte of Plato, saw matters. Cicero… preserves Aristotle's own cave-image: if troglodytes were brought on a sudden into the upper world, they would immediately suppose it to have been intelligently arranged. But Aristotle grew to abandon this view; although he believes in a divine being, the Prime Mover is not the efficient cause of action in the Universe, and plays no part in constructing or arranging it... But, although he rejects the divine Artificer, Aristotle does not resort to a pure mechanism of random forces. Instead he seeks to find a middle way between the two positions, one which relies heavily on the notion of Nature, or phusis.
"The world we inhabit is an orderly one, in which things generally behave in predictable ways, Aristotle argued, because every natural object has a "nature"—an attribute (associated primarily with form) that makes the object behave in its customary fashion..." Aristotle recommended four causes as appropriate for the business of the natural philosopher, or physicist, “and if he refers his problems back to all of them, he will assign the ‘why’ in the way proper to his science—the matter, the form, the mover, [and] ‘that for the sake of which’”. While the vagaries of the material cause are subject to circumstance, the formal, efficient and final cause often coincide because in natural kinds, the mature form and final cause are one and the same. The capacity to mature into a specimen of one's kind is directly acquired from “the primary source of motion”, i.e., from one's father, whose seed (sperma) conveys the essential nature (common to the species), as a hypothetical ratio.
From the late Middle Ages into the modern era, the tendency has been to narrow "science" to the consideration of efficient or agency-based causes of a particular kind:
The action of an efficient cause may sometimes, but not always, be described in terms of quantitative force. The action of an artist on a block of clay, for instance, can be described in terms of how many pounds of pressure per square inch is exerted on it. The efficient causality of the teacher in directing the activity of the artist, however, cannot be so described…
The final cause acts on the agent to influence or induce her to act. If the artist works "to make money," making money is in some way the cause of her action. But we cannot describe this influence in terms of quantitative force. The final cause acts, but it acts according to the mode of final causality, as an end or good that induces the efficient cause to act. The mode of causality proper to the final cause cannot itself be reduced to efficient causality, much less to the mode of efficient causality we call "force."
Medieval thoughts on motion involved much of Aristotle's works Physics and Metaphysics. The issue that medieval philosophers had with motion was the inconsistency found between book 3 of Physics and book 5 of Metaphysics. Aristotle claimed in book 3 of Physics that motion can be categorized by substance, quantity, quality, and place. where in book 5 of Metaphysics he stated that motion is a magnitude of quantity. This disputation led to some important questions to natural philosophers: Which category/categories does motion fit into? Is motion the same thing as a terminus? Is motion separate from real things? These questions asked by medieval philosophers tried to classify motion.
William Ockham gives a good concept of motion for many people in the Middle Ages. There is an issue with the vocabulary behind motion which makes people think that there is a correlation between nouns and the qualities that make nouns. Ockham states that this distinction is what will allow people to understand motion, that motion is a property of mobiles, locations, and forms and that is all that is required to define what motion is. A famous example of this is Occam's razor which simplifies vague statements by cutting them into more descriptive examples. "Every motion derives from an agent." becomes "each thing that is moved, is moved by an agent" this makes motion a more personal quality referring to individual objects that are moved.
Aristotle held many important beliefs that started a convergence of thought for natural philosophy. Aristotle believed that attributes of objects belong to the objects themselves, and share traits with other objects that fit them into a category. He uses the example of dogs to press this point. An individual dog may have very specific attributes (ex. one dog can be black and another brown) but also very general ones that classify it as a dog (ex. four-legged). This philosophy can be applied to many other objects as well. This idea is different than that of Plato, with whom Aristotle had a direct association. Aristotle argued that objects have properties "form" and something that is not part of its properties "matter" that defines the object. The form cannot be separated from the matter. Given the example that you can not separate properties and matter since this is impossible, you cannot collect properties in a pile and matter in another.
Aristotle believed that change was a natural occurrence. He used his philosophy of form and matter to argue that when something changes you change its properties without changing its matter. This change occurs by replacing certain properties with other properties. Since this change is always an intentional alteration whether by forced means or by natural ones, change is a controllable order of qualities. He argues that this happens through three categories of being: non-being, potential being, and actual being. Through these three states the process of changing an object never truly destroys an objects forms during this transition state but rather just blurs the reality between the two states. An example of this could be changing an object from red to blue with a transitional purple phase.
Early Greek philosophers studied motion and the cosmos. Figures like Hesiod regarded the Natural world as offspring of the gods, whereas others like Leucippus and Democritus regarded the world as lifeless atoms in a vortex. Anaximander deduced that eclipses happen because of apertures in rings of celestial fire. Heraclitus believed that the heavenly bodies were made of fire that were contained within bowls. He thought that eclipses happen when the bowl turned away from the earth. Anaximenes is believed to have stated that an underlying element was air, and by manipulating air someone could change its thickness to create fire, water, dirt, and stones. Empedocles identified the elements that make up the world which he termed the roots of all things as Fire, Air. Earth, and Water. Parmenides argued that all change is a logical impossibility. He gives the example that nothing can go from nonexistence to existence. Plato argues that the world is an imperfect replica of an idea that a divine craftsman once held. He also believed that the only way to truly know something was through reason and logic not the study of the object itself, but that changeable matter is a viable course of study.
The scientific method has ancient precedents and Galileo exemplifies a mathematical understanding of nature which is the hallmark of modern natural scientists. Galileo proposed that objects falling regardless of their mass would fall at the same rate, as long as the medium they fall in is identical. The 19th-century distinction of a scientific enterprise apart from traditional natural philosophy has its roots in prior centuries. Proposals for a more "inquisitive" and practical approach to the study of nature are notable in Francis Bacon, whose ardent convictions did much to popularize his insightful Baconian method. The late 17th-century natural philosopher Robert Boyle wrote a seminal work on the distinction between physics and metaphysics called, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, as well as The Skeptical Chymist, after which the modern science of chemistry is named, (as distinct from proto-scientific studies of alchemy). These works of natural philosophy are representative of a departure from the medieval scholasticism taught in European universities, and anticipate in many ways, the developments which would lead to science as practiced in the modern sense. As Bacon would say, "vexing nature" to reveal "her" secrets, (scientific experimentation), rather than a mere reliance on largely historical, even anecdotal, observations of empirical phenomena, would come to be regarded as a defining characteristic of modern science, if not the very key to its success. Boyle's biographers, in their emphasis that he laid the foundations of modern chemistry, neglect how steadily he clung to the scholastic sciences in theory, practice and doctrine. However, he meticulously recorded observational detail on practical research, and subsequently advocated not only this practice, but its publication, both for successful and unsuccessful experiments, so as to validate individual claims by replication.
For sometimes we use the word nature for that Author of nature whom the schoolmen, harshly enough, call natura naturans, as when it is said that nature hath made man partly corporeal and partly immaterial. Sometimes we mean by the nature of a thing the essence, or that which the schoolmen scruple not to call the quiddity of a thing, namely, the attribute or attributes on whose score it is what it is, whether the thing be corporeal or not, as when we attempt to define the nature of an angel, or of a triangle, or of a fluid body, as such. Sometimes we take nature for an internal principle of motion, as when we say that a stone let fall in the air is by nature carried towards the centre of the earth, and, on the contrary, that fire or flame does naturally move upwards toward heaven. Sometimes we understand by nature the established course of things, as when we say that nature makes the night succeed the day, nature hath made respiration necessary to the life of men. Sometimes we take nature for an aggregate of powers belonging to a body, especially a living one, as when physicians say that nature is strong or weak or spent, or that in such or such diseases nature left to herself will do the cure. Sometimes we take nature for the universe, or system of the corporeal works of God, as when it is said of a phoenix, or a chimera, that there is no such thing in nature, i.e. in the world. And sometimes too, and that most commonly, we would express by nature a semi-deity or other strange kind of being, such as this discourse examines the notion of.— Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature
Natural philosophers of the late 17th or early 18th century were sometimes insultingly described as 'projectors'. A projector was an entrepreneur who invited people to invest in his invention but - as the caricature went - could not be trusted, usually because his device was impractical. Jonathan Swift satirized natural philosophers of the Royal Society as 'the academy of projectors' in his novel Gulliver's Travels. Historians of science have argued that natural philosophers and the so-called projectors sometimes overlapped in their methods and aims.
The modern emphasis is less on a broad empiricism (one that includes passive observation of nature's activity), but on a narrow conception of the empirical concentrating on the control exercised through experimental (active) observation for the sake of control of nature. Nature is reduced to a passive recipient of human activity.
In the middle of the 20th century, Ernst Mayr's discussions on the teleology of nature brought up issues that were dealt with previously by Aristotle (regarding final cause) and Kant (regarding reflective judgment).
Especially since the mid-20th-century European crisis, some thinkers argued the importance of looking at nature from a broad philosophical perspective, rather than what they considered a narrowly positivist approach relying implicitly on a hidden, unexamined philosophy. One line of thought grows from the Aristotelian tradition, especially as developed by Thomas Aquinas. Another line springs from Edmund Husserl, especially as expressed in The Crisis of European Sciences. Students of his such as Jacob Klein and Hans Jonas more fully developed his themes. Last, but not least, there is the process philosophy inspired by Alfred North Whitehead's works.
Among living scholars, Brian David Ellis, Nancy Cartwright, David Oderberg, and John Dupré are some of the more prominent thinkers who can arguably be classed as generally adopting a more open approach to the natural world. Ellis (2002) observes the rise of a "New Essentialism." David Oderberg (2007) takes issue with other philosophers, including Ellis to a degree, who claim to be essentialists. He revives and defends the Thomistic-Aristotelian tradition from modern attempts to flatten nature to the limp subject of the experimental method. In his In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life (2017), Nicholas Maxwell argues that we need to reform philosophy and put science and philosophy back together again to create a modern version of natural philosophy.
Benjamin Osgood Peirce (11 February 1854 Beverly, Massachusetts, USA – 14 January 1914 Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) was an American mathematician and a holder of the Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard from 1888 until his death in 1914. Osgood is buried at Beverly's Central Cemetery. Removed by several degrees, he was a cousin of Charles Sanders Peirce, whose father, Benjamin Peirce, worked as the Adcademic advisor to Joseph Lovering, Benjamin Osgood Peirce's predecessor as holder of the Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.Classical element
Classical elements typically refer to the concepts, rejected by modern science, in ancient Greece of earth, water, air, fire, and (later) aether, which were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances. Ancient cultures in Greece, Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India had similar lists , sometimes referring in local languages to "air" as "wind" and the fifth element as "void". The Chinese Wu Xing system lists Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ), though these are described more as energies or transitions rather than as types of material.
These different cultures and even individual philosophers had widely varying explanations concerning their attributes and how they related to observable phenomena as well as cosmology. Sometimes these theories overlapped with mythology and were personified in deities. Some of these interpretations included atomism (the idea of very small, indivisible portions of matter) but other interpretations considered the elements to be divisible into infinitely small pieces without changing their nature.
While the classification of the material world in ancient Indian, Hellenistic Egypt, and ancient Greece into Air, Earth, Fire and Water was more philosophical, during the Islamic Golden Age medieval middle eastern scientists used practical, experimental observation to classify materials. In Europe, the Ancient Greek system of Aristotle evolved slightly into the medieval system, which for the first time in Europe became subject to experimental verification in the 1600s, during the Scientific Revolution.
Modern science does not support the classical elements as the material basis of the physical world. Atomic theory classifies atoms into more than a hundred chemical elements such as oxygen, iron, and mercury. These elements form chemical compounds and mixtures, and under different temperatures and pressures, these substances can adopt different states of matter. The most commonly observed states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma share many attributes with the classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire, respectively, but these states are due to similar behavior of different types of atoms at similar energy levels, and not due to containing a certain type of atom or a certain type of substance.Corpuscular theory of light
In optics, the corpuscular theory of light, arguably set forward by Descartes (1637) states that light is made up of small discrete particles called "corpuscles" (little particles) which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess impetus. This was based on an alternate description of atomism of the time period. This theory cannot explain refraction, diffraction and interference.
Isaac Newton was a pioneer of this theory, in 1672.Cosmic pluralism
Cosmic pluralism, the plurality of worlds, or simply pluralism, describes the philosophical belief in numerous "worlds" (planets, dwarf planets or natural satellites) in addition to Earth (possibly an infinite number), which may harbour extraterrestrial life.
The debate over pluralism began as early as the time of Anaximander (c. 610 – c. 546 BC) as a metaphysical argument, long predating the scientific Copernican conception that the Earth is one of numerous planets. It has continued, in a variety of forms, until the modern era.Cosmogony
Cosmogony (from the Koine Greek Greek: κοσμογονία (from Greek: κόσμος "cosmos, the world") and the root of γί(γ)νομαι / γέγονα ("come into a new state of being") is any model concerning the origin of either the cosmos or the universe.Holism
Holism (from Greek ὅλος holos "all, whole, entire") is the idea that systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic) and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not just as a collection of parts.The term holism was coined by Jan Smuts. Alfred Adler considered holism as a concept that represents all of the wholes in the universe, and these wholes are the real factors in the universe. Further, that Holism also denoted a theory of the universe in the same vein as Materialism and Spiritualism.John Hasbrouck Van Vleck
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (March 13, 1899 – October 27, 1980) was an American physicist and mathematician. He was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977, for his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electrons in magnetic solids.Macrocosm and microcosm
Macrocosm and microcosm refers to a vision of cosmos where the part (microcosm) reflects the whole (macrocosm) and vice versa. It is a feature "present in all esoteric schools of thinking", according to scholar Pierre A. Riffard. It is closely associated with Hermeticism and underlies practices such as astrology, alchemy and sacred geometry with its premise of "As Above, So Below".Today, the concept of microcosm has been dominated by sociology to mean a small group of individuals whose behavior is typical of a larger social body encompassing it. A microcosm can be seen as a special kind of epitome. Conversely, a macrocosm is a social body made of smaller compounds. In physics, scale invariance describes the same phenomenon, although the universe as a whole is not physically scale invariant according to the modern understanding. However, scale invariance does appear in some physical systems, such as electrical breakdown.
This theory was initiated by Pythagoras who saw the cosmos and the body as a harmonious unity. He expressed this connection with his concept of microcosm and macrocosm.Natural science
Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.
Natural science can be divided into two main branches: life science (or biological science) and physical science. Physical science is subdivided into branches, including physics, chemistry, astronomy and earth science. These branches of natural science may be further divided into more specialized branches (also known as fields).
In Western society's analytic tradition, the empirical sciences and especially natural sciences use tools from formal sciences, such as mathematics and logic, converting information about nature into measurements which can be explained as clear statements of the "laws of nature". The social sciences also use such methods, but rely more on qualitative research, so that they are sometimes called "soft science", whereas natural sciences, insofar as they emphasize quantifiable data produced, tested, and confirmed through the scientific method, are sometimes called "hard science".Modern natural science succeeded more classical approaches to natural philosophy, usually traced to ancient Greece. Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, and Newton debated the benefits of using approaches which were more mathematical and more experimental in a methodical way. Still, philosophical perspectives, conjectures, and presuppositions, often overlooked, remain necessary in natural science. Systematic data collection, including discovery science, succeeded natural history, which emerged in the 16th century by describing and classifying plants, animals, minerals, and so on. Today, "natural history" suggests observational descriptions aimed at popular audiences.Percy Williams Bridgman
Percy Williams Bridgman (21 April 1882 – 20 August 1961) was an American physicist who received the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on the scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science. The Bridgman effect and the Bridgman–Stockbarger technique are named after him.Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), often referred to as simply the Principia (), is a work in three books by Isaac Newton, in Latin, first published 5 July 1687. After annotating and correcting his personal copy of the first edition, Newton published two further editions, in 1713 and 1726. The Principia states Newton's laws of motion, forming the foundation of classical mechanics; Newton's law of universal gravitation; and a derivation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion (which Kepler first obtained empirically).
The Principia is considered one of the most important works in the history of science.
The French mathematical physicist Alexis Clairaut assessed it in 1747: "The famous book of Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy marked the epoch of a great revolution in physics. The method followed by its illustrious author Sir Newton ... spread the light of mathematics on a science which up to then had remained in the darkness of conjectures and hypotheses."A more recent assessment has been that while acceptance of Newton's theories was not immediate, by the end of a century after publication in 1687, "no one could deny that" (out of the Principia) "a science had emerged that, at least in certain respects, so far exceeded anything that had ever gone before that it stood alone as the ultimate exemplar of science generally."In formulating his physical theories, Newton developed and used mathematical methods now included in the field of calculus. But the language of calculus as we know it was largely absent from the Principia; Newton gave many of his proofs in a geometric form of infinitesimal calculus, based on limits of ratios of vanishing small geometric quantities. In a revised conclusion to the Principia (see General Scholium), Newton used his expression that became famous, Hypotheses non fingo ("I feign no hypotheses").Physics
Physics (from Ancient Greek: φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), romanized: physikḗ (epistḗmē), lit. 'knowledge of nature', from φύσις phýsis "nature") is the natural science that studies matter, its motion, and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines and, through its inclusion of astronomy, perhaps the oldest. Over much of the past two millennia, physics, chemistry, biology, and certain branches of mathematics, were a part of natural philosophy, but during the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century these natural sciences emerged as unique research endeavors in their own right. Physics intersects with many interdisciplinary areas of research, such as biophysics and quantum chemistry, and the boundaries of physics which are not rigidly defined. New ideas in physics often explain the fundamental mechanisms studied by other sciences and suggest new avenues of research in academic disciplines such as mathematics and philosophy.
Advances in physics often enable advances in new technologies. For example, advances in the understanding of electromagnetism, solid-state physics, and nuclear physics led directly to the development of new products that have dramatically transformed modern-day society, such as television, computers, domestic appliances, and nuclear weapons; advances in thermodynamics led to the development of industrialization; and advances in mechanics inspired the development of calculus.Romanticism in science
Romanticism (or the Age of Reflection, c. 1800–40) was an intellectual movement that originated in Western Europe as a counter-movement to the late-18th-century Enlightenment. Romanticism incorporated many fields of study, including politics, the arts, and the humanities, but it also greatly influenced 19th-century science.In contrast to Enlightenment mechanistic natural philosophy, European scientists of the Romantic period held that observing nature implied understanding the self and that knowledge of nature "should not be obtained by force". They felt that the Enlightenment had encouraged the abuse of the sciences, and they sought to advance a new way to increase scientific knowledge, one that they felt would be more beneficial not only to mankind but to nature as well.Romanticism advanced a number of themes: it promoted anti-reductionism (that the whole is more valuable than the parts alone) and epistemological optimism (man was connected to nature), and encouraged creativity, experience, and genius. It also emphasized the scientist's role in scientific discovery, holding that acquiring knowledge of nature meant understanding man as well; therefore, these scientists placed a high importance on respect for nature.Romanticism declined beginning around 1840 as a new movement, positivism, took hold of intellectuals, and lasted until about 1880. As with the intellectuals who earlier had become disenchanted with the Enlightenment and had sought a new approach to science, people now lost interest in Romanticism and sought to study science using a stricter process.School of Naturalists
The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States-era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements.Science
Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.The earliest roots of science can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in around 3500 to 3000 BCE. Their contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine entered and shaped Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, whereby formal attempts were made to provide explanations of events in the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages but was preserved in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived "natural philosophy", which was later transformed by the Scientific Revolution that began in the 16th century as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The scientific method soon played a greater role in knowledge creation and it was not until the 19th century that many of the institutional and professional features of science began to take shape; along with the changing from "natural philosophy" to the "natural sciences".Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics), which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, and sociology), which study individuals and societies; and the formal sciences (e.g., logic, mathematics, and theoretical computer science), which study abstract concepts. There is disagreement, however, on whether the formal sciences actually constitute a science as they do not rely on empirical evidence. Disciplines that use existing scientific knowledge for practical purposes, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences.Science is based on research, which is commonly conducted in academic and research institutions as well as in government agencies and companies. The practical impact of scientific research has led to the emergence of science policies that seek to influence the scientific enterprise by prioritizing the development of commercial products, armaments, health care, and environmental protection.Scientist
A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest.In classical antiquity, there was no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, philosophers engaged in the philosophical study of nature called natural philosophy, a precursor of natural science. It was not until the 19th century that the term scientist came into regular use after it was coined by the theologian, philosopher, and historian of science William Whewell in 1833.In modern times, many scientists have advanced degrees in an area of science and pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit environments.Theodore Lyman IV
Theodore Lyman IV (; November 23, 1874 – October 11, 1954) was a U.S. physicist and spectroscopist, born in Boston. He graduated from Harvard in 1897, from which he also received his Ph.D. in 1900.Vis viva
Vis viva (from the Latin for "living force") is a historical term used for the first (known) description of what we now call kinetic energy in an early formulation of the principle of conservation of energy.Voluntarism (philosophy)
Voluntarism is "any metaphysical or psychological system that assigns to the will (Latin: voluntas) a more predominant role than that attributed to the intellect", or equivalently "the doctrine that will is the basic factor, both in the universe and in human conduct". This description has been applied to various points of view from different cultural eras in the areas of metaphysics, psychology, political philosophy and theology.
The term voluntarism was introduced by Ferdinand Tönnies into the philosophical literature and particularly used by Wilhelm Wundt and Friedrich Paulsen.