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To explain the Scientific Revolution by means of comparison

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Special Joint Needham Research Institute and HPS Seminar

In my talk I shall take up in succession the two constituent elements of the title: (1) Over past decades the idea that it makes historical sense to speak and keep speaking of ‘The Scientific Revolution of the 17th century’ has been much disparaged, not so say condemned as hopelessly outdated. In the ‘Epilogue’ to my 300 pages long book The Rise of Modern Science Explained (just published with Cambridge University Press) I give five major reasons, drawn from the book’s argument, why it makes eminent sense to retain the idea of The Scientific Revolution, now properly reconceptualised in my book as compared to how the concept first arose in the late 1930s. (2) In the much lengthier parent book How Modern Science Came Into the World: Four Civilizations, One 17th Century Breakthrough (Amsterdam UP, 2010) I have set forth in general terms why I have throughout the book used historical comparison as the royal road toward historical explanation. In my talk today, I shall briefly sum up the general point and then illustrate it by means of some salient examples, drawn from the history of European as well as Chinese nature-knowledge.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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