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Galileo And Newton Essay, Research Paper

Galileo and Newton


Galileo believed the physical world to be bounded. He says that all

material things have “this or that shape” and are small or large in relation to

other things. He also says that material objects are either in motion or at

rest, touching or not touching some other body, and are either one in number,

or many. The central properties of the material world are mathematical and

strengthened through experimentation. Galileo excludes the properties of tastes,

odors, colors, and so on when describing the material world. He states that

these properties “reside only in the consciousness.” These latter properties

would cease to exist without the living creature so the mathematically defined

properties are the most accurate in describing the material world. Galileo

seems to test his beliefs through experimentation and mathematical reasoning.

He sites examples in life that support his hypothesis. His argument is of a

scientific nature because he is making a hypothesis on a distinctive type of

concept. The conclusions that Galileo made relate directly to the work in

physics for which he is so well known. His conclusions put emphasis on shapes,

numbers, and motion which are all properties that lend themselves to support

through “reasoning back and forth between theory and experiment.” I feel that

Galileo’s argument is a valid one because it explains relations in nature and

the physical world through mathematical analysis. This allows him to define a

world outside of human existence that can be logically calculated and explained.

His view describes the world in which living creatures live and not contrasts it

to the world within living creatures. The problem with Galileo’s view is that

it pioneers a scientific outlook but never actually fulfills it.

Newton believes the world is ultimately made up of hard particles that

can retain different properties. The central properties are solid, massy,

impenetrable, and movable particles. He believes God created matter in the

beginning in such a way to allow the particles to take on mathematical forms.

His approach is a scientific one because he practices the continual interaction

of experiment and theory. It is the hard particles that move in such a way that

can be assigned certain mathematical principles that clearly explain the

interaction of bodies. Newton’s conclusion seems to be a strong one because it

deals with the world being made up of particles and shows how these particles

act with each other in a way that can be explained scientifically. I like the

idea of organized flow in the world and God being the creator of it all. The

mathematical/scientific approach offers explanation to how the particles are

moving. Galileo and Newton differ in certain aspects of their understanding of

the physical world. Galileo doesn’t put much emphasis on the role of creativity

in science. Newton believes in the mathematical and experimentation outlook of

science pioneered by Galileo but he believed that new concepts are the product

of creative imagination. He felt that math should explain the concepts imagined.

Newton extended ideas pioneered by Galileo on issues of forces, masses, shapes,

and forms. Newton didn’t feel that the scientific theory needed to answer every

question asked about a phenomenon in order to be useful.

Galileo and Newton make a strong argument for the lack of purposes or

values in nature. Their scientific minds sought answers on a logical scale.

They could analyze the material world through calculations and in this math was

suitable explanation. In the study of physics, purposes are irrelevant.

Physics looks for the mathematical explanation of concepts and doesn’t need to

analyze the purpose behind such. It is concerned simply with what happens and

how it is happening. The philosophy of physics could extend the concepts to

incorporate purpose. The world is the product of the chance concourse of atoms.

Everything is comprised of atoms and it makes up the known world to which

mathematical principles analyze. If there are no purposes in the universe and

this fact is supported through scientific study, then there is purpose in that

science works to break down the material world to series of facts that are

constantly adapting to one another.

The world view introduced by seventeenth century mechanists is science.

Science became the answer or way to the answer. Aristotelian view is concerned

with the final state whereas as the scientists thought the important information

was the entire process, or efficient causes. It is also concerned with the

purposes and values that are at work in nature while mechanists see nature as a

mechanism that operates blindly, and the forces of nature are in themselves

entirely indifferent to purposes or values. Newton, in opposition to Aristotle,

didn’t believe in unknown causes. He wanted answers that were or could be

proven. I feel that Newton has the stronger view because his deals with

observable facts and not just concepts. Newton’s ideas about the world extend

the concepts of Democritus. Newton strengthens the mechanistic view by

providing it with mathematical reasoning. Aristotle’s argument of Democritus

weakens when dealing with Newton. He had scientific evidence that backed up his

claims. However, Newton still doesn’t concern mechanism with the answer of

“why” but rather looked to understand the immediate “how.” Newton would agree

that Democritus didn’t support his arguments with fact and that they are mostly

conceptual views. Newton would have to support Democritus for initiating the

atomic theory and would probably say that his ideas are relevant and not over

simplified. Form in the world is the effect of other causes in a long,

scientific chain of efficient causes by the interactions of atoms.

In a way Newton’s cosmological ideas are better because he was able to

support interactions within the universe with mathematical reasoning. He

eventually came to the belief that “there is no scientific explanation for the

pattern of the planets,” holding that coplanar orbits with velocities in the

same direction cannot be accounted for by natural causes. This lead him to the

answer that God prevents the universe from collapsing. I feel this is better

than Timaeus’s view of patterns in the cosmos because he has to discard certain

information because he himself can’t find mathematical proof for these theories.

Later, Laplace will be able to account for the coplanar character of the solar

system by showing inadequacies in Newton’s science. This is a credit to Newton

in that if he couldn’t back a theory with mathematical reason and experiment, he

wasn’t just going to assume it to be true. Galileo and Newton along with Plato

believed in atoms or particles as the material of which all things are made of.

I also infer that they would somewhat agree on how truth can be perceived

differently in the same manner that opinion is different from knowledge (this

idea was illustrated by Plato in his divided line analogy). For the mechanists,

opinion is a perception of truth but an incorrect one because it is not

supported with mathematical reasoning and experimentation, which would then make

it knowledge.

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