Modern Vs. Premodern Essay, Research Paper
Modern vs. Pre-modern
There is one simple way to classify the difference between the modern and the pre-modern, and that would be to separate them by years. Unfortunately this would not be cut and dried; it would be a rough estimate because no one really knows when the change took place, or if there even was a change. What is known for sure is that things did change. The ??moderns? (became) set against ?ancient? modes of thought and practice? (Shapin, p. 5), and this led to a so-called scientific revolution. In science the old ways of the pre-modern world were being questioned and torn apart by the people of the modern era. People began to lose faith in the medieval scholastic interpretation of the Bible and began to question all that they knew. Many discrepancies became obvious in what they knew at the time, how each came to the conclusion of what they knew, and finally what the knowledge that they had acquired was worth. This did have an adverse affect though, many Protestant movements turned even more back to the Bible to explain what was happening.
The level of knowledge that was known in the pre-modern is minuscule compared to the amount of information that was added to what had already been established during the modern period. Of course the exception of subjects that interested people, then in that case they were very knowledgeable. This adding to and explanation of many old ideas was the ushering in of the new age. This questioning and explanation began somewhere around 1611 when Gaileo ?observed dark spots, apparently on (the sun?s) surface.?(p.15). His interpretation of what these sunspots were ?was widely taken as a serious challenge to the whole edifice of traditional natural philosophy as it had been handed down?(p.15). His predecessors believed that the sun was too great and perfect to have such blemishes and imperfections because it was created by God as a part of nature, and when he challenged them with his theory that they were atmospheric in nature, he began the modern period of time in some senses. Galileo believed that ?only one universal knowledge? (p.18) existed instead of the two traditional knowledge bases of mathematics and natural history. The Bible provided many of these unquestioned beliefs, ?the power of God and spiritual agencies in the natural order was freely acknowledged? (p. 105). For example, once all the planetary theories were revealed, many still believed that ?the actual center of the cosmos was hell.?(p. 24) supporting the belief that God played a large role in science.
It seems that what was known in the ?modern? time period was based on what had been said previously and what could be reasoned from the human senses. An example is Galileo and Orion?s belt: ?To the three previously known stars in Orion?s belt Galileo now added about eighty more?(p. 26) with his newly invented telescope. Another example is Antoni van Leewenhoek and Robert Hooke?s use of the microscope to see and support their theories ?that all bodies were composed of small globules? (p.50). Scientists were trying to go more in depth to everything that was known and ask themselves why something happened or what made up something. The precise nature of the change was that people wanted to know and to discover. They wanted to ask why something happened, and they weren?t satisfied with the answer ?because it just does?.
Another way of information being communicated and discovered was through the use of experiments and individual experiences. Experiments were planned and conducted by individuals in a controlled environment, while experiences just occurred without an attempt at trying to discover knowledge. People and scientists were no longer content to believe that something happened or was correct just because someone else said. Scientists such as Johannes Hevelius and his wife (p. 70,71) who made his own observations with a telescope and sextant, were pioneers of the emerging society of intellectuals. Others such as Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, and Pascal used this ?experience it yourself? factor to base many of their writings. With those intellectuals using that experience idea, many experiments were taking place and inventions being created. For example, Pascal performed the hydrostatic experiment (p. 83) that would aid in the invention of Boyle?s air pump (p. 96, 97). This air pump shook the pillars of royalty who had advertised for the use of the experimental philosophy to encourage people to invent to further themselves and the royalty itself. Shapin, himself, believed these experiments were just trying to improve on nature the way it was.
These processes of discovering, using, and naming knowledge all happened simultaneously, but just how they used the information discovered is interesting. Most early modern philosophers ?were in part motivated by a desire to produce and extend true, or probably true, knowledge? (p. 119). ?The desire for knowledge? (p. 120) was the main driving force for the modern era. Also the desire to pass this knowledge was a main theme, ?the Seats of Knowledge, have (not) been?laboratories, as they ought to be, but only schools, where some have taught and the rest subscribed?(p.153). The modern knowledge was known just to be known, and it was used to make advancements in the lives of the universe. The knowledge was also used to simply explain things that had perplexed scientists and philosophers. For example, during this period the reason the lengths of days fluctuated during the year was discovered. Things such as the universe and how it was arranged were explained during this time with the information acquired. It was a time of great revelations.
The pre-modern and modern time periods in world history have blended together to create a great revolution that changed the world for the better. A writer named Hannah Arendt commented on this time in that ?the traditional hierarchy which ruled that truth is ultimately perceived only in speechless and actionless seeing?(Arendt). This compares to Shapin in that he too agreed that the traditional form of science was strangled off when the modern era was ushered in. Arendt states that ?science became active and did in order to know?, and once again this parallels Shapin?s beliefs. They do not agree on everything though. For example, ?the concept of truth as a revelation had become doubtful, and with it the unquestioning faith in a revealed God? was said by Arendt yet throughout Shapin?s The Scientific Revolution he notes that some modern scientists and 17th century natural philosophers believed that ?God?s Book of Nature as a source of truth?(p. 136). Shapin also suggests that God can still exist with science because God was a creation of science in order to explain the workings of the universe. Overall Shapin is in agreement with the quote from Arendt, and they both agree that science is a working hypothesis that is constantly changing and growing to fit man?s needs. Throughout time this has occurred, the improving on nature to improve man?s life. It is quite possible from what we have read that they both believe that the improvement on nature will further man, but still cannot take man to perfection.