Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Cyril H.Levitt
It is argued that the fundamental concepts of early modern, mechanistic science are in part socially constituted. Mechanism is here understood as a conception of nature wherein natural objects are abstractly reduced and homogenised such that they come to be viewed as comprised of one primary material. Sensually intuitable events are then seen as explicable in terms of the mathematical relation between qualitatively similar particles.
This abstraction is gained by analogy to a society which is becoming similarly abstract. When the pivotal relation in society becomes that between owners of exchangable commodities, a similar abstraction occurs in the commodities. Qualitatively different goods come to be seen as commensurate in terms of "value". The mathematics and record-keeping which develop to keep track of "value", understood as an expression of a social relation, become the basis for a similarly abstract science of nature.
Of the major contributors to the early modern mechanistic view of nature, the work of many is seen to be in some way commercially inspired. Although no direct links are found for Galileo, Vieta, Descartes or Bradwardine, for Tartaglia, Bombelli, Oresme, Pacioli and Stevin, a rather strong connection exists. Concepts in early modern mathematics and mechanics thereby bear reference to a more abstract and homogeneous object.
Hadden, Richard William, "The Social Origins of Early Modern Mechanism" (1984). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1469.