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The Emergence of a Scientific CultureScience and the Shaping of Modernity 1210-1685$
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Stephen Gaukroger

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199296446

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296446.001.0001

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Experimental Natural Philosophy

Experimental Natural Philosophy

(p.352) 10 Experimental Natural Philosophy
The Emergence of a Scientific Culture

Stephen Gaukroger (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with experimental philosophy, as represented in Gilbert on magnetism, Hobbes on the air pump, and Newton on the production of the spectrum. It is shown that experimental philosophy differs from mechanism in quite radical ways. In particular, it has explanatory success but in apparently very localized domains, and it construes causation not in terms of underlying causes but in terms of causes acting at the same level. Its difference from mechanism is manifest in the contrast between Descartes' and Newton's accounts of the production of the spectrum: Descartes provides a fully geometrical account of the separation of coloured rays, but then shifts into a different register, a qualitative and speculative one in attempting to provide a micro-corpuscularian account of the physical basis of colour production; Newton manages to account for the spectrum without leaving the phenomenal geometricized level, eschewing any recourse to ‘underlying’ causes.

Keywords:   air pump, René Descartes, experimental philosophy, William Gilbert, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton, spectrum

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