In Anne-Lise Rey & Siegfried Bodenmann (eds.), What Does It Mean to Be an Empiricist?: Empiricisms in Eighteenth Century Sciences. Springer Verlag. pp. 15-30 (2018)

Eric Schliesser
University of Amsterdam
In this paper I distinguish four methods of empirical inquiry in eighteenth century natural philosophy. In particular, I distinguish among what I call, the mathematical-experimental method; the method of experimental series; the method of inspecting ideas; the method of natural history. While such a list is not exhaustive of the methods of inquiry available, even so, focusing on these four methods will help in diagnosing a set of debates within what has come to be known as ‘empiricism’; throughout the eighteenth century there was a methodological reaction against the hegemonic aspirations of mathematical natural philosophy associated with the authority of Newton.In particular, I argue that the methods of inspecting ideas and natural history remained attractive to ‘empiricist’ thinkers with reservations about aspects of Newtonianism. Moreover, I show that the language of experimentalism meant different things to researchers with different attitudes toward Newton’s legacy. In order to illustrate and make more precise these claims, I embed my taxonomic treatment of the four methods within a narrative in which I primarily focus on Colin Maclaurin, Isaac Newton, David Hume, and Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon.
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DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-69860-1_2
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Author Meets Critics.Eric Schliesser - 2018 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 16 (3):272-282.

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