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The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science Paperback – January 27, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0486425511 ISBN-10: 0486425517
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (January 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486425517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486425511
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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93 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Bob Meyer on October 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Many books that were well received when originally published ultimately fail the test of time and seem hopelessly outdated, or even silly to future generations. Occasionally, a book seen as a solid effort when it was written is found later to be the definitive work on the subject. The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science by Edwin Arthur Burtt is such a book.
Burtt investigates the origins of the modern scientific world view, a view that today appears to be ancient but is, in fact, only a few centuries old. The concepts that we use to describe the modern world -- mass, velocity, energy, time etc -- form the substratum of so many modern ideas that their very ubiquity has made it hard to imagine that any other view ever existed. With these ideas woven into all of our thought how does one separate these ideas from all others in order to better appreciate and understand them? Burtt attacks this problem by tracing the evolution of modern scientific concepts from their origins in Copernicus and Kepler through to their highest development in Isaac Newton.
It may come as a surprise that Copernicus and Kepler were not motivated by empirical evidence. In fact, the empirical evidence was stacked against their view that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the planetary system. Anyone could see how solid the earth felt and how steady it was. If it were moving then its motion could be felt. The idea that something as large and solid as the earth could be flung through space was obviously ridiculous.
Nor were they motivated by a desire for greater accuracy since the Ptolemaic system that they would soon replace was every bit as accurate as their sun centered system with regards to predicting eclipses and positions of the planets in the sky.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By GrizzlyMike on March 26, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A superb account of the development of the physical model of the Universe culminating in the Newtonian framework. What sets this book apart from others is how Burtt attacks the interplay between the philosophical, social, and religious worldviews characteristics of the time period.

Burtt overthrows some of the conceptions still held today that the religious paradigm was the overrdiding impediment to the acceptance of the Copernican framework among the scientific community. Burtt demonstrates how the scientific community of the time had no need to revise the epicycles and deferrents of the ptolemaic scheme. It was only through the argument of greater simplicity and the appeal to the neo-platonic mathematical ideals that it became more widely accepted.

A must read for any student of science interested in the complex interplay of ideas that eventually led to the rationale for and acceptance of Newtonian mechanics and the resulting metaphysical framework.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By 'probabilist on February 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm usually disappointed in books on the philosophy of science written by theologians, but this one is a refreshing, delightful and informative exception. It has taken me a week of focused study to read and absorb, so it's definitely not a light, quick read. But it is very clearly and thoughtfully written, and I can't recommend it strongly enough for the reader who seeks to understand where the basic concepts of classical Newtonian physics came from, what they replaced, and how they fit together.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Bassett on November 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Apparently, this has been a standard since the fifties. I heard it mentioned in a lecture and had to have it. The author does a good job of evaluating the assumptions that underpin modern scientific thinking. I'm enjoying the read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By cortezhill VINE VOICE on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This modern classic in the philosophy of science describes and analyzes the greatest revolution in the history of Western thought - the shift from the medieval to the modern view of man's place in the universe. Through close and exact examination of the works of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Gilbert, Boyle amd Newton, Professor Burtt established the reasons for the triumph of the new view of the world, and also describes certain limitations in this view which have characterized modern science to the present day. This is a criticism as well as a history of the change that made posible the rise of modern science. It is also a guide to the understanding of the methods and accomplishments of the great philosopher-scientists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
--- from book's back cover
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The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science
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