Study Sheet on the Scientific Revolution, The Political Revolution and the Enlightenment


The Scientific Revolution:


1.  Define the scientific method.


Pursuit of the truth about phenomena in nature through observation, then the assertion of a hypothesis which is then subjected to rigorous and systematic experimentation to confirm its validity. (deductive and inductive reasoning)

2.   How did the Renaissance interest in perspective contribute to the scientific revolution?


Depicting a landscape using mathematical proportions led people to think that the whole natural world could be understood through applications of mathematics and the scientific method.


3.   What was the significance of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory?


The earth is not the center of the universe. Therefore, humans no longer are situated in the middle of the cosmos, the focus of God's creation. This rebuttal of the Church's divine hierarchy overturned the church's central place in society.


4.      How did Galileo’s discoveries confirm Copernicus’s theories and change our understanding of the nature of the heavens?


Galileo's discoveries of imperfections on the moon and the sun destroyed the conception of a dualistic universe. His use of mathematics to understand physical motion paved the way for Newton’s theories.


5.      What are Newton’s three laws of motion?


1. Something at rest remains at rest; something in motion stays in motion unless a force acts upon it.
2. A given force provides a measurable change to a body's velocity, in proportion to that force.
3. For every action and force there is an equal and opposite reaction.


These laws explain all motion anywhere in the universe. (monist not dualist universe)


6.      What is inductive reasoning?


The use of experimentation and observation to draw conclusion about the way nature works.


7.      What is deductive reasoning?


Using axioms and then systematic logic to understand how a problem can be solved.


8.   How did Descartes prove the existence of God?


Descartes argued that because humans could conceive the idea of a perfect being, then God must exist because the idea of perfection could have come from no other source.


9.   How did Spinoza conceive of God?


Spinoza conceived of God as Nature. The universe is God, and God can be understood through systematic reasoning. Spinoza believed that all phenomena in the universe, including human actions, were completely determined by the natural chain of cause and effect. Free will did not exist beyond our ability to use reason to understand our situation in the universe. (Stoicism) Monistic, determined universe.


 Revolution in Political Thought:


10.      What were key features of the emerging modern state?


1. The government is led by secular not religious authority
2. The government's authority is enforced by a professional army paid by the government.
3. Laws apply equally throughout the entire state.
4. All property within the geographic border of a territory is protected by a sovereign government.


11. According to Machiavelli, why should a leader avoid morality in his administration of government?


Machiavelli argued that morality would inhibit a leader from doing whatever is necessary to preserve the survival of the state. Doing the 'right' or 'good' thing might lead to betrayal and subversion because people are bad and they'll take advantage of any perceived weakness in you if they can, thus plunging society into civil war. So the best prince uses reason and his knowledge of statecraft to do whatever is necessary to maintain the power to keep the peace.


12.  What was Hobbes’ vision of human nature?


Hobbes wrote at a time when the first truly capitalist economies had begun to emerge. Success or failure in this arena depended on the willingness of an individual to pursue his own self interest with ruthless dedication. Hobbes concluded that people are innately selfish, grasping, envious, distrustful and treacherous. Competition and dissension, rather than cooperation, characterize human relations, and their society will naturally and inevitably disintegrate into violence. Life in the natural state of man is 'nasty, brutish and short'. Society in its natural state is in 'a war of all against all'.


13.  What is Hobbes’ version of the social contract?


Hobbes believed that power in a state rightly emanates from the people, not from God,  but he did not believe that people have the ability to govern themselves. Therefore, the people should agree to relinquish their rights to an absolute monarch who may use force to maintain public order and protect private property. Once authority has been transferred to the King, there is no going back even if the people change their minds.


14.  Why was an absolute monarchy necessary in Hobbes’ state?


Only a 'philosopher king' with the intelligence and ability to govern would seek arrangements which were realistic, rational and realizable. He uses the power of the state to punish those who threaten the life or property of another, for it is only when harsh consequences are threatened that people resist their natural inclination to steal. The king must be allowed to rule absolutely even if he makes mistakes and becomes abusive, for the alternative even to tyranny is anarchy and civil war which would be much worse.


15.  What was Locke’s vision of human nature?


Locke held that individuals participate in a moral order whose existence can be grasped through reason. Locke believed that rational people could recognize that their behavior ought to correspond to the requirements of the moral order. They are capable of transcending narrow selfishness and respecting the inherent dignity of others. Locke believed that the human ‘state of nature’ before the creation of the state had been free, rational, and equal. The problems which emerge within society can be addressed by appealing to the rational self-interest of the people who agree to be ruled by a government incorporated to protect their natural rights.


16.  What was Locke’s theory of natural rights?


Men consent to organize a civil government and to submit to the will of the majority. Locke rejects the idea that rulers derive their power from God. He asserts that all legitimate authority derives from the consent of the majority. The state exists only to protect the natural rights of the people to their life, liberty and property. Locke’s theory of natural rights is derived from the ancient stoical conception of natural law that applies to all human beings.


17.  Under what conditions does a citizen have the right to rebel, according to Locke?


A ruling authority that attempts to govern absolutely and arbitrarily fails to fulfill the purpose for which it has been established. Under these circumstances, the people have the moral right to dissolve the government. The state is constitutional. It follows established rules and sets barriers to arbitrary dictates. The legislature has greater power than the monarch does.


The Enlightenment


18.  How did the philosophes believe they would inaugurate an enlightened age?


The philosophes attacked medieval otherworldliness, rejected theology as an avenue to truth, denounced the Christian idea of people’s inherent depravity, and sought to understand nature and society through reason alone.


19.  How did the philosophes apply Newton’s discovery of universal laws governing motion to the problems of society and government?


The philosophes sought to expand knowledge of nature and to apply the scientific method to the human world in order to uncover society’s defects and to achieve appropriate reforms.


20.  What were the deists’ religious beliefs?


Deists rejected miracles, mysteries, prophecies and other fundamentals of revealed Christianity and sought to fashion a natural religion that accorded with reason and science. In essence religion consists of a few moral truths that are ascertainable by the mind. Rituals, miracles and asceticism are merely priestly accretions; they have nothing to do with God’s moral law. To deists it seemed reasonable that this magnificently designed universe, operating with clockwork precision, was created at a point in time by an all-wise Creator. But once God had set the universe in motion, he had refrained from interfering with its operations. In addition to an argument for the existence of God from design, the deists argued that there must have been a first cause to reality.


21.  What was Locke’s theory of epistemology, the way humans learn?


In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke argued that humans are not born with innate ideas (the idea of God, principles of good and evil, and rules of logic, for example) divinely implanted in their minds as Descartes had maintained. Rather, said Locke, the human mind is a blank slate (a tabula rasa) upon which sensations derived from contact with the phenomenal world are imprinted. Knowledge is derived from experience.


22.  How does Locke’s epistemology refute the Church’s idea of original sin?


 If there are no innate ideas, then human beings, contrary to Christian doctrine, are not born with original sin: we are not depraved by nature. All that individuals are derives from their particular experiences. If people are provided with a proper environment and education, they will behave morally and they will become intelligent and productive citizens. By their proper use of reason, people could bring their beliefs into harmony with natural law.


23.  What reform movements were inaugurated by the philosophes? How did they believe a utopian society could be created?


Religious toleration, freedom of the press, public education, the end of officially sanctioned brutality: torture, capital punishment, the end of war as an officially accepted method of resolving disputes between nations.