The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World by Peter Dear

The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World

byPeter Dear

Paperback | March 1, 2008

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Throughout the history of the Western world, science has possessed an extraordinary amount of authority and prestige. And while its pedestal has been jostled by numerous evolutions and revolutions, science has always managed to maintain its stronghold as the knowing enterprise that explains how the natural world works: we treat such legendary scientists as Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein with admiration and reverence because they offer profound and sustaining insight into the meaning of the universe.

In The Intelligibility of Nature, Peter Dear considers how science as such has evolved and how it has marshaled itself to make sense of the world. His intellectual journey begins with a crucial observation: that the enterprise of science is, and has been, directed toward two distinct but frequently conflated ends—doing and knowing. The ancient Greeks developed this distinction of value between craft on the one hand and understanding on the other, and according to Dear, that distinction has survived to shape attitudes toward science ever since.

Teasing out this tension between doing and knowing during key episodes in the history of science—mechanical philosophy and Newtonian gravitation, elective affinities and the chemical revolution, enlightened natural history and taxonomy, evolutionary biology, the dynamical theory of electromagnetism, and quantum theory—Dear reveals how the two principles became formalized into a single enterprise, science, that would be carried out by a new kind of person, the scientist. 

Finely nuanced and elegantly conceived, The Intelligibility of Nature will be essential reading for aficionados and historians of science alike.

About The Author

Peter Dear is professor of science and technology studies and history at Cornell University. He is the author of Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700 and Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

Details & Specs

Title:The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the WorldFormat:PaperbackDimensions:254 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 0.8 inPublished:March 1, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226139492

ISBN - 13:9780226139494

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Science as Natural Philosophy, Science as Instrumentality
1. The Mechanical Universe from Galileo to Newton
2. A Place for Everything: The Classification of the World
3. The Chemical Revolution Thwarted by Atoms
4. Design and Disorder: The Origin of Species
5. Dynamical Explanation: The Aether and Victorian Machines
6. How to Understand Nature? Einstein, Bohr, and the Quantum Universe
Conclusion: Making Sense in Science
Notes
Bibliographical Essay
Index

Editorial Reviews

"This is a book written for a broad audience of educated people. No specific knowledge of the state of the art of research in the history of modern science is presupposed. . . . The chapters contain a lot of useful material, helping the reader to understand the main lines of development in modern science. It is a pleasure to read."