होम Early Science and Medicine God and Natural Philosophy: The Late Middle Ages and Sir Isaac Newton
God and Natural Philosophy: The Late Middle Ages and Sir Isaac Newton Author(s): Edward Grant Reviewed work(s): Source: Early Science and Medicine, Vol. 5, No. 3 (2000), pp. 279-298 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4130187 . Accessed: 11/10/2012 18:48 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com. . BRILL is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Early Science and Medicine. http://www.jstor.org GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY: THE LATE MIDDLE AGES AND SIR ISAAC NEWTON EDWARD GRANT Indiana University In reading Dr. Andrew Cunningham's forceful reply to my article, I have great difficulty in recognizing myself. It seems that I am a kind of troglodyte, out of step and out of touch with the world of progressive historians, who have re-arranged the world as I slept. Moreover, I find little connection between what I said and what I am alleged to have said. And, finally, let me say that Dr. Cunningham has skillfully turned this discussion into a debate on the large issues concerning the nature of history. So be it. But Dr. Cunningham also feels aggrieved. He says that I have ignored "his substantive work" in which he believes that he has made much of his case. For example, I did not "assess the arguments or the evidence" he adduced in his book, BeforeScience, "the only historical book on the nature of natural philosophy yet produced, and equally the only book which deals with the origins of any version of natural philosophy." Did he and his colleague Roger French make their cas; e for the Dominican and Franciscan versions of natural philosophy? And "similarly, with respect to Isaac Newton and his book The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, have I," Cunningham asks, "produced a satisfactory account, built on his own words and intentions, of why he should have named his famous book in this way, and what he intended thereby?" "On all these matters of empirical research on my part," laments Dr. Cunningham, "Grant says not a word." Let me now say a word: No, I do not think Dr. Cunningham has made his case for either the Friars or Newton. But I plead guilty to the charges, with mitigating circumstances. After all, I was writing an article, not a book, and could not possibly consider all these matters and still present the case I wished to make. I shall try to make amends here on those two issues. One major accusation against me is that I misinterpreted Dr. Cunningham's intent. He says that "'natural philosophy was about God and His creation' can be interpreted in many ways, and Grant explores some of them. But he does so while ignoring the sense in ? Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2000 Early Science and Medicine 5, 3 280 OPEN FORUM which I obviously mean it. For the published examples I have given make perfectly clear the meaning I intend." Since Dr. Cunningham does not specify any examples, or give references to any, I am ignorant of the examples he has in mind. But in my article, I gave only one citation as the basis of my interpretation. I will now cite a few more, so that readers can judge for themselves if I have ignored the sense Dr. Cunningham "obviously" intended. I present them in the order in which they occur in his article, "How the Principia Got Its Name; or, Taking Natural Philosophy Seriously".' In the first, he explains that over and above any other defining feature which marks natural philosophy off from modern science. .. natural philosophy was about God and about God'suniverse.Indeed, this was the central pillar of its identity as a discipline, both with respect to its subject-matterand to its goals, its purposes, and the functions it served. This is what, more than anything else, distinguishes it from our modern science.2 In the second passage, Cunningham declares If we were to start to take natural philosophy seriously, as the God-centred study of nature that it was for the people who conducted it (rather than as some study of nature which was struggling to be objective and to free itself from the fetters of religion, or as some odd amalgam of 'science' and religion or of 'science' and theology) then certain consequences would follow for us, and for the conduct of our historical research.3 And, finally, toward the end of his article, Cunningham elaborates further that The point is that naturalphilosophyas such was a discipline and subject-area whose role and point was the study of God's creation and God's attributes. Thus, no-one ever undertook the practice of natural philosophy without having God in mind, and knowing that the study of God and God's creation-in a way different from that pursued by theology-was the point of the whole exercise. All natural philosophy was alwayslike this; when people stopped having this understanding of their goal in their considerations of nature then they necessarilystopped doing natural philosophy, and started engaging in a discipline or enquiry which was, in this most fundamental of ways, different in its identity from natural philosophy.' Dr. Cunningham does not mince his words. He states his position with vigor and seeming clarity. He tells us that "natural philosophy was about God and about God's universe"; that we should "start 1 Andrew Cunningham, "How the PrincipiaGot Its Name; or, Taking Natural Philosophy Seriously,"Historyof Science29 (1991), 377-392. 2 Ibid., 381. 3 Ibid., 386. 4 Ibid., 388. GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 281 to take natural philosophy seriously, as the God-centred study of nature that it was for the people who conducted it"; and again: The point is that natural philosophy as such was a discipline and subject-area whose role and point was the study of God's creation and God's attributes. Thus, no-one ever undertook the practice of natural philosophy without having God in mind, and knowing that the study of God and God's creation-in a way different from that pursued by theology-was the point of the whole exercise.5 Perhaps such remarks may apply to some authors in the seventeenth century, but they simply will not do for the late Middle Ages, as I have shown in my article. Dr. Cunningham says that natural philosophy was not theology, but was "the study of God's creation and God's attributes." It may have been the study of God's creation, which is not very illuminating, but it was certainly not the study of His attributes during the Middle Ages, when God's attributes were exclusively under the jurisdiction of theology. And while it may have been the study of God's creation, God played virtually no role in natural philosophy except in the ways I have described in my article. Dr. Cunningham finds fault with my methods of determining the role that religion played in natural philosophy. Although I carefully analyzed 310 questions and found the role of religion negligible, Cunningham ignores my analysis, neither accepting nor refuting it. Instead, he attacks my methodology. I am criticized for doing what he would not do, namely base my arguments on what medieval natural philosophers actually said, or did not say, about religion and faith in their commentaries and questions on Aristotle's texts. Hence I declare that "When they write about God and faith, then that segment of their writings is about God and the faith. But when there is no mention of God and faith, or allusions to them, then it is not about God and faith." I thought that this was a far better method than Cunningham's, which was to ignore the texts completely and generalize on the basis of intuition or imagination. I sought to determine the real nature of medieval texts in natural philosophy. But Cunningham says "this is not an adequate way of assessing the matter, for it interprets the 'about' question only in the narrowest sense." Although he allows that one sense of the text is "content", "another is its wider meaning," and so on, it is quite obvious from his reactions to my results that I The passage that appears in my Festschrift article is cited below. 282 OPEN FORUM Cunningham is not interested in content. Indeed, he says of my approach that "counting of mentions of particular word frequencies is a very crude instrument"-but offers nothing better than a vague "wider meaning," which he never explains in terms of specific medieval discussions of natural philosophy. Cunningham's approach may be characterized as "context over text," perhaps even "context without text." Perhaps this explains why, in both his relevant article and in his book (BeforeScience), he does not enter into a discussion of natural philosophy, but talks around it. Dr. Cunningham is also disturbed by the fact that I said "we cannot know what was in the minds of medieval or early modern natural philosophers as they wrote their treatises" and that such matters are better left to psychohistorians. From this, he infers that I am a naive, narrow historian. But there is a clearly suppressed premise here. We cannot know what they are thinking unless they give us some clear indication of their thoughts, or we have information from some other source. In the scholastic literature of natural philosophy, this rarely occurs. Nevertheless, Cunningham accuses me of contradicting myself by the judgment I rendered on Jordanus de Nemore's treatise On the Theory of Weights, which I categorize as a scientific treatise. In rendering this judgment, Cunningham feels that "it is not legitimate for us to label the statements or the treatise as 'science' and 'scientific' while at the same time claiming that we are saying nothing about what was in Jordanus's mind. If we are (as Grant is doing) judging Jordanus's work to be scientific, then we are claiming that he was practising science." I made no such claim. I only concluded that Jordanus's treatise deserved to be categorized as scientific solely on the basis of its subject matter, external structure, and formalism. I compared it to a work of Einstein's, that all agree is a treatise in science, and judged that it was so structurally similar that it too deserved to be considered a scientific treatise. It was I who labeled it scientific, notJordanus. And I have no idea what was in Jordanus's mind when he wrote his treatise, or what he thought he was practicing. But I am confident that most scholars would regard the Jordanian treatises on the science of weights as legitimate science. In 1952, Ernest Moody and Marshall Clagett edited eight of these remarkable treatises under the title The Medieval Science of Weights (Scientia de ponderibus). Those who believe it is anachronistic, or whiggish, to speak of science in the Middle Ages, and who deny GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 283 that we can speak of anything like a science with regard to physics, would do well to read the introductions by Moody and Clagett in this little known study. Moody and Clagett explain that Ernst Mach, in his Scienceof Mechanics,distinguishes four basic principles proper to statics: (1) the general lever principle; (2) the inclined plane principle; (3) the principle of composition of forces; and (4) the principle of virtual displacements. The statics of Archimedes, which steered clear of all entanglements with dynamics, attained only the first of these principles; the other three, involving dynamical considerations, characterize modern statics. In the treatises ascribed to Jordanus de Nemore, however, these last three principles appear, and provide a dynamical foundation for the proof of the lever principle.6 Treatises in the medieval science of weights (scientia de ponderibus) played a role in developments in statics in sixteenth century Italy where they were known to authors like Guidobaldi del Monte, Jerome Cardano, Niccolo Tartaglia, Benedetti, and Galileo. There is simply no warrant for denying scientific status to these treatises, which would constitute a legitimate part of any proper history of mathematical physics. Indeed, Euclid's Optics; Archimedes's On the Equilibrium of Planes; Ptolemy's Almagest; and Jordanus's treatises on statics reveal that the rigorous mathematical form of the exact sciences was laid down in antiquity and the Middle Ages (also see the section on Newton, below). If these treatises do not meet Dr. Cunningham's criteria for science, then he ought to tell us what does. Moreover, since the treatises just mentioned are not properly classifiable as natural philosophy, and Dr. Cunningham denies that they can be categorized as science, then what are they? Thus I claim that we cannot know what was in the mind of a medieval natural philosopher unless we are given some definite clues. But if I do claim to know what was in the mind of an author, I will give concrete evidence for my claim. I would not simply assert it, as Cunningham does, when he declares that natural philosophy was not just 'about God' and His creation at those moments when natural philosophers were explicitly talking or writing about God in their natural philosophical works or activities. It was, by contrast, 'about God' and His creation the whole time.7 6 Ernest A. Moody and Marshall Clagett, eds. and transl. TheMedievalScience of Weights (Scientia de ponderibus), Treatises Ascribed to Euclid, Archimedes, Thabit ibn Qurra, Jordanus de Nemore and Blasius of Parma (Madison, 1952), 15. v Cunningham, "How the PrincipiaGot Its Name, 388. I cited this passage in the first paragraph of my John D. North Festschriftarticle. 284 OPEN FORUM There is no justification for Cunningham's claim that natural philosophers were really thinking exclusively about God, even when they make no mention of religion or the faith, and where the content of their discussions is purely secular! There are innumerable other thoughts that might have entered their minds and caught their attention. But even if they were always thinking about God, we must then ponder why they chose to ignore Him in 70% of the 310 questions I examined, and speak so sparingly of Him in the remaining 30%.8 It is important to take a closer look at the way God is often cited in treatises on natural philosophy. Since all believed that God was the creator of the world from nothing and the ultimate cause of all natural effects, stating this in a treatise on natural philosophy was unilluminating and rather formulaic. One did not have to argue for it or offer evidence. Some natural philosophers asserted these formulaic statements somewhere in their treatises, while others did not. But they had no more effect on the substantive content of the natural philosophy in those treatises than did the words "In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful,"9 or similar sentiments, customarily included by Muslim scholars at the beginning of a treatise, or at the beginning and end of individual books within a treatise. Adopting the "context over text" approach, which is clearly Dr. Cunningham's preferred tool of historical interpretation, we should place assertions by Christian natural philosophers that God is the creator of the world from nothing, and is the ultimate cause of all effects, within the context of the whole treatise. We would then readily observe that the impact of such assertions on the substantive content of the entire treatise is virtually nil. In the third quotation cited above, Cunningham seems to contradict himself. "Thus, no-one ever undertook the practice of natural philosophy," he declares, "without having God in mind, and a way difknowing that the study of God and God's creation-in ferent from that pursued by theology-was the point of the whole exercise." Here he says that natural philosophy studied God in ways that are different than the ways pursued in theology. But earlier, in the same article, he says that it is pointless to discuss the See p. 258 of myJohn D. North Festschrift article. For an example, see A. I. Sabra, The "Optics" of Ibn al-Haytham,2 vols. (London, 1989), 1: 3. 8 9 GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 285 mutual relations of religion, or theology, and natural philosophy because they depend for their validity on religion and natural philosophy having been seen as separate from each other in the past as religion and science are seen as being today."1 Here Cunningham obviously means to say that we are mistaken to view religion and natural philosophy as having been separate in the past, as they are in the present. Which opinion does he hold? Was the study of God in the past pursued differently in natural philosophy and theology; or were theology and natural philosophy inseparable? Cunningham has a simple approach: In the Middle Ages, religion, or theology, and natural philosophy were not viewed as separate, in contrast to the modern world where religion and science (the latter viewed as the replacement of, and successor to, natural philosophy) are seen as distinct. But as I have argued in my article and in many places, theology and natural philosophy were distinct disciplines and, contrary to Cunningham's claim, were indeed "seen as separate" throughout the Middle Ages. But the separation between them had already occurred a few centuries earlier, in Islam. We see it in the struggle between the philosophers (falasifa), who followed Aristotle, and their rivals, the mutakallimun. The mutakallimun and the philosophers made much use of Greek philosophy. The mutakallimun, however, were primarily concerned with the Kalam, which, according to A. I. Sabra, is "an inquiry into God, and into the world as God's creation, and into man as the special creature placed by God in the world under obligation to his creator."" Thus Kalam is a theology that used Greek philosophical ideas to explicate and defend the Islamic faith. By contrast, Islamic natural philosophers followed rational Greek thought, especially the thought of Aristotle. They placed greatest reliance on reasoned argument while downplaying revelation. The philosophers sought to develop natural philosophy in an Islamic environment-and did so, "often in the face of suspicion and from certain quarters in Islamic society""'-just as opposition Christian natural philosophers developed Aristotelian natural philosophy in a Christian environment. 10 Cunningham, "How the Principia Got its Name," 382. " A.. I. Sabra, "Science and Philosophy in Medieval Islamic Theology," in Geschichteder Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, 9 (1994), 5. Zeitschriftfifr 12 Ibid., 3. 286 OPEN FORUM Before I move on to the two issues slighted in my article, I should like to reply briefly to the historical continuity/discontinuity problem, which Cunningham disparages. "Continuity versus discontinuity," he regards as "an old battle which may not be worth fighting any longer;" it is "a misplaced concept." Not when historians reject the concept. It then becomes essential to fight the battle. For if history, including the history of science, is not regarded as continuous, then history will be little more than a sequence of incommensurable, unrelated, quantized, temporal packets. Instead of regarding a ship driven by wind-power two thousand years ago as a precursor of modern nuclear powered ships, we would foolishly conclude that they lack an historical connection; instead of regarding the invention of the alphabet nearly four thousand years ago as the move that ultimately made possible the messages sent round the world in an instant by email on the internet, we would offer arguments to show that they are really unrelated. History is akin to the relationship between the human embryo and the full-blown adult. The latter comes from the former by a complex, lengthy process, though one would never deduce that from their appearances. We can always find reasons to distinguish things, but the historian knows that appearances are frequently deceiving. New things and innovations occur all the time, but they are connected to what went before. They do not spring into being like Athena, from the head of Zeus. We ignore these innumerable connections, and become fashionably iconoclastic, at our peril. Dr. Cunningham is disturbed by the fact that I ignored his discussion about "the Invention of the Friars' Natural Philosophy" and also ignored his discussion of Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.As for the Friars, I do not think they invented natural philosophy, or even a particular natural philosophy. No scholars in the Middle Ages thought so, because they were convinced that Aristotle's natural books constituted the essence and core of natural philosophy. Why did they think they were doing natural philosophy when they wrote questiones and commentaries on Aristotle's natural books? Obviously, because they thought Aristotle was doing natural philosophy. And what do French and Cunningham think Averroes was doing when, in the twelfth century, prior to the Friars, he wrote his extensive commentaries on Aristotle's natural books? Do they wish to argue that none of this was natural philosophy? How could anyone, or any group, in the GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 287 thirteenth century, invent what had already been invented, and been around for at least 1500 years? It follows therefore that by using Aristotle's natural philosophy to defeat the Cathars, the Friars could not have created natural philosophy, as French and Cunningham say (see p.141). They were simply using Aristotle's substantively unaltered natural philosophy in defense of the faith. But even in this, the Friars did not invent a new approach, since they were anticipated by the Islamic mutakallimun (see above), among whom the Mu'tazilites, in the ninth century, deliberately used Greek logic and natural philosophy-that is, reason-to confront non-Muslims and heretics in the service of theology and religion.13 The appropriation of Aristotelian natural philosophy by the Friars to combat heresy had no detectable influence on the content or methodology of natural philosophy. The fact that the Friars viewed the world as created and Aristotle did not had little impact on the doing of Aristotelian natural philosophy; nor was Aristotle's physis, or natural philosophy, Christianized, as French and Cunningham claim (BeforeScience, p. 140). In short, the way the Friars did natural philosophy failed to influence the way that discipline was taught and written about in the arts faculties of the late Middle Ages. In support of their argument for a Friars' natural philosophy, French and Cunningham make much of such great thirteenthcentury figures as Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and John Pecham. But they ignore the specific treatises, which Albertus, Aquinas, and Bacon wrote on Aristotle's natural books. In my article in the North Festschrift (pp. 250-257), I carefully examined their treatises on natural philosophy and found that they had virtually nothing about God and the faith in those works. And, despite the alleged importance of the works on perspective by Bacon and Pecham in the Friars' natural philosophy, I found that religion and faith were virtually excluded from those works. Moreover, I also quoted passages from Albertus Magnus to the effect that theological issues were to be treated in theological treatises and not in treatises dealing with Aristotle's natural philosophy. A similar sentiment was uttered by Thomas Aquinas when he proclaimed: "I don't see what one's interpretation of the text "1 See W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim Intellectual: A Study of Al-Ghazali (Edinburgh, 1963), 28-29; and Joseph Schacht with C. E. Bosworth, eds., The Legacy of Islam, 2nd ed., (Oxford, 1974), 354. 288 OPEN FORUM of Aristotle has to do with the teaching of the faith."14 One can readily understand why Dr. Cunningham chose to ignore those pages of my article. We should keep in mind an important, inherent, structural feature of natural philosophy, namely the difficulty of injecting theology into explanations of natural phenomena. Whenever a theological explanation is given in natural philosophy, it converts what should have been a natural explanation to a supernatural explanation and, consequently, defeats the very purpose of a treatise on natural philosophy, which is to explain phenomena by natural causes. If this were done to any considerable extent, the treatise in question would no longer be a work in natural philosophy, but would have been converted to one on supernatural philosophy, or theology, or perhaps a treatise on natural theology. Conversely, the more natural philosophy you introduce into theology, the less concerned with the supernatural does it become, as clearly occurred in late medieval theology. Everyone seems to have implicitly recognized this in the Middle Ages. That is why various Popes criticized the theologians for ignoring the study of the Bible in favor of philosophical problems and why John Major, in the sixteenth century, could declare, in his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, that "for some two centuries now, theologians have not feared to work into their writings, questions which are purely physical, metaphysical, and sometimes purely mathematical."'5 The boundaries between theology and natural philosophy were, however, rarely blurred beyond recognition. What I have said here bears on what I shall say about Newton, to whom I now turn in order to consider Dr. Cunningham's analysis of the title of his great work, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. In his study, Dr. Cunningham sought to determine how Newton's choice of that title affects our understanding of natural philosophy and its relation, if any, to modern science. By the seventeenth century, the disciplinary boundaries between theology and natural philosophy no longer existed. One could indeed discourse about God in natural philosophy. But how would discoursing about God advance natural philosophy? It would not and could not. When Sir Isaac Newton, a devout individual who 14 See my North article, pp. 252 and 257 and n.53. '5 For these claims, see Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the MiddleAges (Cambridge, 1996), 152, and 212 n.22. GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 289 wasimmersedin religiousthought,wrotehis monumentaltreatise in mathematicalphysics,TheMathematical of NaturalPhiPrinciples firstpublishedin 1687,he found occasionto mention God losophy, only once in the entirework,in book three.And yet Cunningham declares that Newton's "naturalphilosophy was obsessed with Whata strangeobsession,where the obsesseddisplaysvirGod."'16 no tually symptomsof his obsession! Apparentlyregrettingeven this action,Newtondeleted mention of Godfrom thatpassagein subsequenteditions."As if in replacement of that passage,Newton added his famous GeneralScholium to the end of the second edition (1713). In a workof 530 pages, Newtonsawfit to discourseupon God only in the last four pages, where he praises the deity as the UniversalRuler and Supreme God, and enunciatessome of God'sattributes.Comingto the end of his encomiumon the deity,Newtondeclares:"Andthus much concerningGod; to discourseof whom from the appearancesof things,does certainlybelong to NaturalPhilosophy."'sIn the Middle Ages, when theology and naturalphilosophywere separate disciplines,it was the responsibilityof theology, not naturalphilosophy,to discourseabout God. But the ProtestantReformation and much else had destroyed the jurisdictionalboundaries between theology and naturalphilosophy.When Newton wrote, it was regardedas whollyappropriatefor a naturalphilosopherto discourseabout God. And yet Newtonfound few placeswhere he could do so substantivelyand effectively.Other than singing the praisesof the deity, Newton found very little to say about God. Scholium wasintroducedonly becauseof Indeed, even the General criticisms leveled against Newton's use of attractions and repulsions,which made his systemseem mechanical,much like that of Descartes.'9 16 Cunningham, "How the Principia Got Its Name," 381. 17 On this, see I. Bernard Cohen, Introduction to Newton's 'Principia' (Cam- bridge, 1971), 155. is The translation is from Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, translated into English by Andrew Motte in 1729. The translations revised, and supplied with an historical and explanatory appendix, by Florian Cajori (Berkeley, 1947), 543-547 for the Scholium and 546 for the lines quoted above. 19 See Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge, 1980), 744, where Westfall explains that Newton wrote the General Scholium, because "Newton and Newtonians were highly aware of the mounting tide of criticism of his natural philosophy and its concepts of attractions and replusions. .. " 290 OPEN FORUM In the GeneralScholium,Newton emphasizes that only God could have produced the cosmos. "Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things."20But after the conclusion of his worshipful tribute to God, Newton, in the final two paragraphs of his great work, admits that he has not yet found the cause of gravity.It is enough for us, he says, "that gravitydoes really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea."21 Why did Newton not attribute the cause of gravityto God? It would almost have followed from the immediately preceding three-page discourse on God's power and attributes, as his brilliant biographer, Richard S. Westfall, recognized.22But Newton did not do so. Why not? Probably because he was well aware that such an explanation would have been to no avail. It would have explained nothing. If you believe, as Newton did, that God has created our world and all of its operations, then you cannot invoke God to function as an explanation for the cause of any particular effect. You must assume that God provided a natural cause for that effect, and it is the task of the natural philosopher to discover it. Theologians and natural philosophers, many of whom were both theologian and natural philosopher, recognized this essential feature of natural philosophy. It explains why, from the Middle Ages onward, natural philosophy remained relatively free of theological encroachments. And it also makes it quite plausible to believe that natural philosophy is the real precursor of modern science. Its methods were rational and systematic by the very nature of the discipline. Theology and faith could not enter it in any significant manner because to do so would transform natural philosophy into supernatural philosophy, natural theology, or theology. Before leaving this section. Let me consider further Newton's statement in his General Scholium that I cited in the preceding paragraph, namely his assertion that "Blindmetaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same alwaysand everywhere, could produce no variety of things." Only God can produce a cosmos, not "blind metaphysical necessity." Along similar lines, Albert Einstein declared that scientists can only marvel at 20 GeneralScholium,p. 546 (Cajori translation). 21GeneralScholium,p. 547 (Cajori translation). 22 Westfall, Neverat Rest, 748. GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 291 the harmonyof naturallaw,which revealsan intelligenceof such superiority that, comparedwith it, all the systematicthinkingand actingof human beingsis utterlyinsignificant.This feeling is the guidingprincipleof his life and work,in so far as he succeedsin keepinghimselffrom the shacklesof selfishdesire.2s Cunninghamwouldhaveus believe thatwhenNewtonmakessuch remarks,they revealthat he, and all other naturalphilosophers, indicateunambiguouslythattheirnaturalphilosophyis aboutGod and that "no-one ever undertook the practice of natural philosophy without having God in mind," which, after all, "was the point of the whole exercise" (p. 388). But Cunningham argues that "the exact opposite is true about modern science," (p. 382) because "modern science does not deal with God or with the universe as God's creation," and this "is so basic to our understanding of modern science that it only needs to be mentioned if someone transgresses this understanding" (pp. 382-383). But Einstein's declaration, cited a few lines earlier, says that our harmonious natural laws reveal a superior intelligence, God, who is the guiding principle of a scientist's life and work, and therefore of Einstein's life and work. Are we not, then, entitled to infer-contrary to Cunthat claim for beliefs "are scientists ningham's religious supposed to be irrelevant to their science"-that God played as much of a role in Einstein's modern scientific achievements, as He did in Newton's achievements in natural philosophy? Einstein does not have to mention God in his actual work, no more than did Jordanus de Nemore, or Newton himself in the actual scientific parts of the Principia. For all these individuals, God may lie in the background as Creator, or perhaps simply as inspiration, but He does not enter into the content of their works, or affect it, because that would have proved futile. But, I suspect, this is an unwelcome and inconvenient inference for Dr. Cunningham, because it breaks down his rigid separation of natural philosophy and modern science, and destroys the opposite, absolutist symmetry he wishes to create: God wholly in for natural philosophy; God wholly out for modern science. But now we must inquire about Newton's objective in his great work. In judging what Newton was really doing in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, we must not be misled by the title. Newton might have used one of two medieval and early modern synonyms for natural philosophy, say "natural science" (scientia 23 Cited in my article in the North Festschrift, p. 245. 292 OPEN FORUM naturalis), or "physics" (physica), to produce, respectively, the titles "Mathematical Principles of Natural Science" and "Mathematical Principles of Physics." Would such moves have transformed Newton ipsofacto from a natural philosopher to a "natural scientist" or a "physicist"? Of course not. Moreover, was Newton applying mathematical principles to natural philosophy and therefore consciously mathematizing natural philosophy; or was he doing something else? In the Middle Ages, it was a commonly accepted notion that natural philosophy and mathematics were distinct subjects and that when mathematics was applied to elements of natural philosophy, a different kind of theoretical knowledge emerged, called a "middle science" (media scientia), which is the equivalent of an exact science. The exact sciences of astronomy, optics, and statics were middle sciences. The term "middle science" was not customarily used to categorize a science; and the term "scientist," as Cunningham observes, was, apparently, not invented or coined until 1833.24 What Newton was really doing, however, should not be obscured by the choice of any of these terms. A glance at the 530 pages of the Principia instantly reveals that Newton is doing physics, mathematical physics. One does not have to resort to mental gymnastics about the real meaning of the expression "natural philosophy." And surely we ought not to believe that because the term "science" did not come into common use until the nineteenth century, any activity we would want to call science could not have occurred prior to that date. But we need not rely on speculative debates about what Newton was really doing. He enlightens us himself, though not as much as we would like. In a letter to Halley on 20 June 1686, Newton informs Halley that he will suppress the third book, in which he applied mathematics and dynamics to celestial bodies, including comets. He was fearful that book three would involve him in controversy. For as he explains: "Philosophy is such an impertinently litigious Lady that a man had as good be engaged in Law suits as have to do with her. I found it so formerly & now I no sooner come near her again but she gives me warning." And then in a revealing passage, Newton explains that 24 See Cunningham, "How the PrincipiaGot Its Name," 390, n. 10. The introduction of the term "scientist"is discussed by Sidney Ross, "Scientist:the story of a word,"Annals of Science,18 (1962), 65-85. GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY The first two books without the third will not so well bear Philosophiae naturalis Principia Mathematica & therefore I had this De motu corporum libri duo: but upon second thoughts former title. Twill help the sale of the book which I ought not 293 the title of altered it to I retain the to diminish now tis yours.25 In this remarkable letter, Newton acknowledges that the title, MathematicalPrinciples of Natural Philosophy,was not really appropriate for the first two books without the third, and so was prepared to call it Two Books on the Motion of Bodies. Newton was well aware that the first two books were simply too mathematical to qualify as natural philosophy, and hence could not be titled: Two Books on Natural Philosophy. But Newton was willing to retain the title because the book would sell better! Thus it was not because he thought he was doing natural philosophy that Newton retained the title, as Cunningham would have it, but because book sales would undoubtedly be better than if the book were titled Two Books on the Motion of Bodies. But Halley was unhappy about Newton's decision and ultimately convinced Newton to retain the third book. What was Halley concerned about? He was fearful that without Book III, only mathematically competent individuals would be able to read Newton's book, but "those that will call themselves philosophers without Mathematicks, which are by far the greater number,"26 would be unable to do so. Newton's third book is also heavily mathematical and hardly qualifies as natural philosophy, although it more nearly does, as Newton rightly saw, than the first two books. The third book concerns celestial mechanics and cosmology and would certainly, as Halley foresaw, have had more appeal to interested readers than the first two forbiddingly mathematical books. But it is far too mathematical and dynamical to qualify as traditional natural philosophy. Thus the argument that Newton was not doing natural philosophy in the Principia gains credence from Newton himself. It is obvious from the letter that Newton thought the first two books did not qualify as natural philosophy and gave them the title De motu corporumlibri duo. He then explains to Halley that "upon second thoughts I retain the former title. Twill help the sale of the 25 Cited from I. Bernard Cohen, Introduction to Newton's 'Principia', 133. Cohen cites the passage from H. W. Turnbull, ed., The Correspondenceof Isaac Newton, 2: 1676-87 (Cambridge, 1960), 437. The full relevant passage is also cited by Cunningham, "How the Principia Got Its Name," 378. 26 Cohen, ibid. 294 OPEN FORUM book which I ought not to diminish now tis yours." Thus we may rightly infer, from his own explicit statement, that although Newton went along with the title Philosophiae naturalis Principia Mathematica, he did so only to aid his friend Halley to sell more books. He plainly did not regard the title as appropriate for the three-book treatise, since the first two books did not qualify as natural philosophy. Dr. Cunnningham cites the same passage in his article that I have cited and even briefly discusses it (pp. 378379), but he overlooked, or chose to ignore, the enormous import of Newton's remarks with regard to the title of his great work. In this instance, Dr. Cunningham would have been well advised to follow his instincts and emphasize context over text, instead of mistakenly upholding the literal text of the title and ignoring Newton's clear and unambiguous qualifications and reservations about that title. But rather than interpret Newton's remarks as "context over text," one might with equal plausibility view it as a battle of two texts, one clearly taking precedence over the otherNewton's statement to Halley subverting the title Newton ultimately chose for his great work. When Newton temporarily eliminated the title that included natural philosophy, the only name he proposed is Two Books on the Motion of Bodies. He did not suggest Two Books on Science, perhaps because that would have sounded too much Like Galileo's Two New Sciences, or Two Books on Physics, or Two Books on Mathematical Physics, or Two Books on Physical Science, or Two Books on Natural Science, and so on. Why not? Because they may not have occurred to him, probably because such titles were not customarily used to describe what he was doing. Hence he saw his choices either as natural philosophy, a generic title that was in common use and would be recognized by everyone as applicable to the physical world, or he would have to devise a specifically descriptive title like Two Books on the Motion of Bodies, which, although it was an accurate depiction of the content of the books, would be difficult to sell. Despite the title of his treatise, Newton knew that he was doing something different from natural philosophy in the first two books. And speaking of titles, what was Galileo doing in a treatise he called Two New Sciences (Due nuove scienze)?From whence did he get the term science? Does this make the Two New Sciences a scientific treatise? Should we infer that, by virtue of the titles of their respective treatises, Galileo was a "scientist" and Newton a "natural philosopher"? And if Galileo is to be regarded as a scientist, GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 295 ought we to classify him as a "modern" scientist, or a "pre-modern" scientist? However Newton may have titled his great work, we must get behind the terms he used and see what he was actually doing. We should not be confused or misled by names and titles. They are important, but they must not be taken so rigidly as to obscure the real significance of what is being done. Whether Newton was doing things that are truly representable by the terms science or physics is analogous to that of Aristotle and the term logic. No one really contests the claim that Aristotle is the founder, and even inventor, of formal syllogistic logic. But Aristotle did not use the name "logic." He called what he was doing "analytics." It was five centuries later that Alexander of Aphrodisias applied the term logic to what Aristotle did.27 Does this mean that by using the term "analytics" instead of logic, Aristotle was not really doing logic, but something called "analytics"? Of course not. And just as Aristotle's analytics and logic are identical, so also is the content of Newton's Principia the same as physics, perhaps even modern physics-despite being called natural philosophy. Similarly, Aristotle did not use the term biology, which was not invented until the nineteenth century, but does anyone doubt that Aristotle was doing biology when he wrote On the Parts of Animals, The Generation of Animals, and the History of Animals? The terms that are used to describe activities must be treated with great caution, because they sometimes mask and obscure what lies beneath. On this matter, perhaps it is well to be guided by the wise words of Juliet (Romeo and Juliet [2.1]), who rightly inquires What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. Cunningham, unfortunately, falls into the name trap. Indeed, he mistakenly believes that natural philosophy is an amorphous discipline by comparison with modern science. To show this, he declares that "From a modern point of view... there is indeed something remarkable about a discipline (natural philosophy) which included both physics and the soul-and everything in between. Such an extension is not shared by any modern division of knowl27 See W. D.Ross, Aristotle, Fifth edition revised (London: Methuen & Co., 1949), p.20. 296 OPEN FORUM edge."28 May I suggest that Dr. Cunningham try the modern word science. Under that term we find psychology, astronomy, optics, biology with all its subdivisions, mineralogy, entomology, neurology, medicine, including psychiatry,-the modern analog to Aristotle's De anima and its treatment of the soul-ophthalmology, physics with all its subdivisions, geology, oceanography, meteorology, perhaps chiropractic, and many others, some with rather dubious credentials. If natural philosophy encompasses everything from the soul to physics, modern science embraces everything that lies between the human mind and the outermost reaches of our universe. The range of disciplines to which the term science applies greatly exceeds the number encompassed by natural philosophy. Science is plainly more amorphous than natural philosophy. But if Newton was doing natural philosophy it was in a special way. If Dr. Cunningham had pursued the use of the term natural philosophy beyond Newton and into the nineteenth century, he might have found some startling usages that subvert his thesis. For example, in 1845-1846, Dickinson College issued a catalogue which explained that Natural philosophymay be considered as the science which examines the general and permanent properties of bodies; the laws which govern them, and the reciprocal action which these bodies are capable of exerting upon each other, at greater or less distances, without changing their matter.2" And under the rubric of natural philosophy we find quite an array of sciences. At Dickinson College and elsewhere in the mid-nineteenth century, natural philosophy included mechanics, hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, hydraulics, pneumatics, acoustics, optics, astronomy, electricity, galvanism, magnetism, and chromatics.30 And if we turn to John William Frederick Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, first published in 1830, we can add crystallography and chemistry.3' In the early 1860s, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1824-1907) and Peter Guthrie Tait published a work under the title Treatiseon Natural Philosophy, 28Cunningham, "How the Principia Got Its Name," 381-382. Quoted from Stanley Guralnick, Science and the Ante-Bellum American College (Philadelphia, 1975), Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 109, p. 60. Also cited in Grant, Foundations, 193. 30 Guralnick, ibid., 61. 31 John William Frederick Herschel, Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natu29 ral Philosophy.A Facsimile of the 1830 edition with a new Introduction by Michael Partridge. (= The Sources of Science 17) (New York, 1966), 7. GOD AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 297 which consisted of two volumes on kinematics and dynamics." As Jed Buchwald explains, in this Treatise on Natural Philosophy, "Thomson and Tait presented in full the kinematics of point particles and the dynamics of motion under force; they placed heavy emphasis upon the dynamics of material media; and they made detailed use both of Lagrangean mechanics and the conservation of energy." Buchwald concludes that "The Treatise on Natural Philosophyintroduced a new generation of British and American physical scientists to the details and concepts of mechanics." Along with Maxwell's later Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Buchwald regards it as the most influential physical text of the second half of the nineteenth century. How would Andrew Cunningham explain the fact that Thomson and Tait were doing modern physics, and therefore modern science, under the rubric of natural philosophy? The obvious explanation is that throughout the nineteenth century, modern physical science was at least occasionally, and perhaps even frequently, called by the name of "natural philosophy," or subsumed under it. Indeed, it is not implausible to suppose that Thomson and Tait called their book Treatise on Natural Philosophy because Isaac Newton had called his work The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. But it is a certainty that none of themNewton, Thomson, or Tait-was doing traditional natural philosophy. It is obvious from what I have just reported that by the nineteenth century, natural philosophy had become synonymous with science, despite Cunningham's claim that "science" succeeds natural philosophy, the two being radically different disciplines. The distinction that natural philosophy is about God and His creation and that modern science excludes God becomes untenable when the two terms natural philosophy and science are often used synonymously, until natural philosophy fades away and only the term science remains. In the nineteenth century the term natural philosophy seems to have become the general, or umbrella, term for all of the particular sciences. The new sciences that proliferated in the nineteenth century lend credence to the view that natural philosophy is the Mother of all Sciences. Moreover, the totality of all the particular sciences was referred to by the general all-encompassing term science, which is understood to be equivalent to the 32 See Jed Buchwald, "Thomson, Sir William," in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 13: 386 (1976). 298 OPEN FORUM term natural philosophy. The process that resulted in this state of affairs may have begun in the seventeenth century with Newton and his predecessors. If so, perhaps we should interpret Newton's famous title as the first instance, or an early instance, where the term natural philosophy is used, but where a science has emerged, the science of mechanics, or dynamics, or perhaps some other appropriate term such as physics. On this approach-and if we take the long view-we might argue that the middle, or exact, sciences of the Middle Ages, which were neither natural philosophy nor mathematics, were gradually absorbed into the domain of natural philosophy and, when science became synonymous with natural philosophy, were absorbed into science. The stark differences that Cunningham sees between natural philosophy and modern science vanish in the nineteenth century, and probably much earlier. Sharply differentiating between the terms natural philosophy and science is a mistake. The names we at- tach to things may make them appear other than they really are. Old names and terms may linger on even when the activity or thing has altered substantially. We will all do well to remember that "a rose by any name is still a rose," to paraphraseJuliet. Whatever the title of his treatise, Isaac Newton was doing mechanics, or dynamics, or, if you wish, mathematical physics. In so doing, he brought to climactic fruition centuries of effort and achievement that had masqueraded under the guise of the middle sciences. Although what Newton did in the Principiastill had no widely accepted name, the reality of his remarkableaccomplishment reveals that upon the completion of his task, natural philosophy had given birth to a daughter, who would eventually be called mechanics, or dynamics, and would ultimately form part of the grander genus of mathematical physics and thus join her much older sisters, optics and statics, who, under different names, had been around since Greek antiquity.