I cannot help thinking, said the Marchioness, that this proportion in the squares of the

Distances of Places, or rather of Times, is observed even in Love. Thus after 8 Days

Absence Love becomes 54 times less that it was the first Day and according to

Proportion it must soon be entirely obliterated; I fancy there will be found, especially

in the present Age very few Experiences to the contrary.

From Francesco Algarotti’s Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explained for the Use of the

Ladies (1739)

Newton’s Principia    1686




“No! No! said the Marchioness,

Gallantry must never destroy a

theorem.  It geometry was permitted to get some footing here in little Time it would produce Wonders”                                                                                                     2.



Why ?




greatest scientist – complex


expectations of the Newtonian approach


Newton hoped that:


 “we could derive the rest of the phenomena of Nature by the same kind of reasoning from these mechanical principles”


aim – certain knowledge of causes




Newton’s Method


Rule 3

If it universally appears, by experiments and astronomical observations, that all bodies about the earth gravitate towards the earth, and that in proportion to the quantity of matter which they severally contain; that the moon likewise, according to the quantity of its matter, gravitates towards the earth; that, on the other hand, our sea gravitates towards the moon; and all the planets one towards another; and the comets in like manner towards the sun; we must, in consequence of this rule, universally allow that all bodies whatsoever are endowed with a principle of mutual gravitation.


Rule 4.

In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.


Hypotheses    ş         speculations

To be avoided!                                                                                               4.





Hume’s Treatise         1739



Hume hoped to emulate Newton in producing a science of man (thinking, acting, feeling)



atoms -           impressions


laws     -           laws of association



Science of nature; science of man


discovery of substantial truths

which would give explanations and predictions


because true, theories are permanent



Why such faith ?


            Particularly as the results were not yet in !


Real question for us


            scientific revolutions


                        relativity, quantum mechanics


                        cosmology (steady state;       big bang;         hot and cold;   singularity; inflationary;    Hawking)


bewilderingly rapid change



Hawking - final theory - know mind of god





What justfied Newton’s faith ?


            right in one sense


            200 years no serious rival


            Newtonian Framework


            paradigm of a good theory


fertility - lots of applications

flexible  - copes with anomalies



            but the choice was made in advance of evidence



This couldn’t be Newton’s reason

            religious grounding


                        God’s word

                        God’s work


scriptures - God gives truth to pious men


\ permanent






vegetation, medicine


alchemy - Renaissance Magi






Newtonian legacy


            not just scientific achievement


            model of science itself


            Building Block model


            discover truths

            record them

            move on





            “no revolutions in science”


            History of the Inductive Sciences 1857



Who knocked over the blocks?

Einstein - Special Theory of Relativity

simultaneity becomes relative to a frame

not a refinement of Newton

Minkowski spacetime

radically different picture

preserved observational success

preserved method of doing science

progress through revolution




“The history of science like the history of all human ideas is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, of error.  But science is one of the very few human activities - perhaps the only one - in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often in time correct.  In other fields there is change but rarely progress. The history of science like the history of all human ideas is a history of irresponsible dreams, of obstinacy, of error.  But science is one of the very few human activities - perhaps the only one - in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often in time correct.”

                        Karl Popper


Progress ? Through revolution ?

Progress in question




Science is special

            Ben Johnson story

            Theories may come and go

            But technological spin-off remains

If science is special, what makes it so ?                                                                   12.

classical answer : scientific method

important to articulate

            improve understanding

                                    (progress thro’ revolution)

            explaining the success of science

            improve chances of success




discoveries in science and discoveries about how to do science

Bacon’s Novum Organum     1620

Mill’s Methods


logical positivists







            now confusion

            Feyerabend’s Against Method

            free ourselves from “the ideology of the one true science”




What is science?


Oxford Concise


Science: organized body of knowledge that has been accumulated on a subject especially if conducted on scientific principles.


Scientific: of investigation - according to the rules laid down in exact science for preforming observation and testing soundness of conclusions

hopeless definition

touchingly other worldly

observation and principles or rules




Rational Model of Science

family of models

explain success of science

1.         Goal of science

science institution with goal

predictive power


 discovery of laws

                        constraint on members

                        goal of college



2. Methodogy

-Principles of comparison

            part of scientific method

Missing ingredient

3. Scientific community

follows outcome of the methods

contrast chemistry department (quantum chemistry )and Central Committee of the Tory party (rejoining ERM)



Rational model


1.         Goal

                        (truth, verisimilitude, explanation, predictive power)


2.         Methodology

                        (Mill, Whewell, Popper, positivists)


3.         Linkage

                        (method means to goal)


4.         Fit with scientific practice




Scientific Change



            aether drift ® special theory


            better on the evidence

            motivates shift in allegiance


            internal factors

            external factors


Young wave theory 1800’s


Feuer - climate was ripe in Zurich




Essential Reading in Logical Positivism, edited O Hanfling.  See especially papers by Schlick.


K Popper Objective Knowledge.  See especially Ch. 1 “Conjectural Knowledge: My Solution to the Problem of Induction”.


Conjectures and Refutations.Ch 10 “Truth, Rationality and the Growth of Scientific Knowledge”                                                                                                                21.