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

2 - Physics and Foundations

from Part I - The New Nature
Summary
This chapter presents a survey of some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century conceptions of the foundations of the sciences of the physical world, understood in this broad and somewhat imprecise sense. It reviews the Aristotelian foundations and discusses some of the alternatives to this conception of the world put forward by Renaissance thinkers. One group that set itself against Aristotle in the sixteenth century has come to be known as the Italian naturalists. The chapter also discusses some foundational issues connected with the so-called mechanical philosophy that came to dominate the field by the end of the seventeenth century. In the orthodox mechanical philosophy, everything was to be explained in terms of size, shape, motion, and the collision of corpuscles with one another, all governed by the laws of nature. In many ways, Newton's world was the by then familiar mechanist/ corpuscularian world of bodies governed by laws of motion.
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