Colloquium: Dr. Hans Broedel
The Quantification of the Cosmos in Renaissance Natural Philosophy
In classical and Aristotelian thought, mathematics was considered a branch of abstract conceptual philosophy that lacked any necessary correlation with the physical world. Although the utility of mathematical models was thought useful in certain restricted fields, such models were believed incapable of rendering insight into real world cause and effect relationships that were the essential stuff of natural philosophy. This attitude remained prevalent until the Renaissance, when developments in astronomy and experimental science encouraged some thinkers to attempt to integrate mathematics into their natural philosophical systems. This paper will examine this epistemic turn, looking particularly at the work of Galileo, Kepler, and Descartes, and seek to explain why some systems failed while others ultimately were accepted as the approved basis for the investigation of the fundamental properties of the natural world.