|Posted on February 22, 2012 at 6:10 PM|
How Archaeology missed the Scientific Revolution
The Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries began with the abandonment of alchemical approaches to physics rooted in the philosophy of Empedocles and developed by Aristotle, that all things in the universe were formed from only four elements earth, air, water and fire. This led to alchemists sustained efforts to transform one element into another, with little success.
Once Aristotelian physics was jettisoned, most famously by Copernicus and Galileo, it allowed the adoption of a monistic, materialist and atomistic approach pioneered by the Ancient Greek Physiologoi. Based on the principle the rules of the universe must apply everywhere, and that matter consists of discrete particles that are immutable, this was a radical break with the Middle Ages.
But this progress did not occur in the humanities. Philosophers and theologians argued a separate theoretical origin for biological systems based on a dualistic ontology. They argued that physical or mechanical laws could not have given rise to the complexity of life for reasons predominantly religious. This was defended quite successfully until Darwins Origin of Species in 1859. Even then, evolution was conceded to animals but mankind was held in special isolation.
This resulted in philosophy in humanities being isolated from the physical causal chain of natural science, effectively preventing integration of the humanities with science.
Categories: Philosophy of Archaeology