Discipline and Experience
The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution
Peter Dear investigates the nature of the change that occurred during this period, focusing particular attention on evolving notions of experience and how these developed into the experimental work that is at the center of modern science. He examines seventeenth-century mathematical sciences—astronomy, optics, and mechanics—not as abstract ideas, but as vital enterprises that involved practices related to both experience and experiment. Dear illuminates how mathematicians and natural philosophers of the period—Mersenne, Descartes, Pascal, Barrow, Newton, Boyle, and the Jesuits—used experience in their argumentation, and how and why these approaches changed over the course of a century. Drawing on mathematical texts and works of natural philosophy from all over Europe, he describes a process of change that was gradual, halting, sometimes contradictory—far from the sharp break with intellectual tradition implied by the term "revolution."