Autonomous Nature: Problems of Prediction and Control From Ancient Times to the Scientific Revolution
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Autonomous Nature investigates the history of nature as an active, often unruly force in tension with nature as a rational, logical order from ancient times to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. Along with subsequent advances in mechanics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism, nature came to be perceived as an orderly, rational, physical world that could be engineered, controlled, and managed. Autonomous Nature focuses on the history of unpredictability, why it was a problem for the ancient world through the Scientific Revolution, and why it is a problem for today. The work is set in the context of vignettes about unpredictable events such as the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the Bubonic Plague, the Lisbon Earthquake, and efforts to understand and predict the weather and natural disasters. This book is an ideal text for courses on the environment, environmental history, history of science, or the philosophy of science.
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relation to the imperfectly created world, Plato writes: Now everything that becomes or is created must of necessity be created by some cause, for without a cause nothing can be created. The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when he looks to the created only, and uses a created pattern it is not fair or perfect. . . . [A]ll sensible things are
(Heidelberg: C. Winters, ); Baruch Spinoza, Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, trans. Harry E. We (New York: Philosophical Library, 1961); Spinoza, The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and Metaphysical Thoughts; Followed by Inaugural dissertation on matter; Lodewijk Meyer; trans. by Samuel Shirley, introduction and notes by Steven Barbone and Lee Rice (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1998); Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ed. Jonathan Israel, trans. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan
in such a marvelous way that even if we suppose that He creates nothing more than what I have said, and even if He does not impose any order or proportion on it but makes it of the most confused and muddled chaos that any of the poets could describe, the laws of nature are sufficient to cause the parts of this chaos to disentangle themselves and arrange themselves in such a good order that they will have the form of a most perfect world, a world in which one will be able to see not only light,
Renaissance, and Scientific Revolution. From the dilemma of Parmenides’s unchanging Being (or all is Substance) versus Heraclitus’s all is Change (and no Substance), Plato and Aristotle introduced the concepts of Form and Matter. For Plato, the two were separate entities, whereas for Aristotle they were combined in individual things. But Form was the ideal, unchanging pattern, Matter the changing substrate. Form was masculine, matter feminine (see Chapter 1). Biologist Daniel Simberloff, in a