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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

4 - The Meanings of Experience

from Part I - The New Nature
At the start of the sixteenth century, scholastic versions of Aristotelian natural philosophy dominated the approach to knowledge of nature that informed the official curricula of the universities. Aristotle's writings stress the importance of sense experience in the creation of reliable knowledge of the world. The teaching of human anatomy formed an integral part of an early modern medical education in the universities, and, like other areas of the study of nature, it already had its established ways of doing things. The general introduction of 'experimental experience' from the mathematical sciences into the wider arena of natural philosophy may be traced by reference to the gradual emergence in the seventeenth century of a new term, 'physico-mathematics'. Newton's optical work lay squarely within the tradition of geometrical optics, one of the mixed mathematical sciences. The varieties of experience in the sciences of early modern Europe thus ran the gamut from mathematics through the traditional topics of natural philosophy to natural history.
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