CBR14bingo star (the philosopher/scientists dealt with, among other things, astronomy)
This graphic history of 17th century philosophical and scientific thought was written by Philosophy Professor (Univ. Wisconsin, Madison) Steven Nadler and drawn by his brother artist Ben Nadler. Using clever drawings and simple explanations, the Nadlers explain one of the most important centuries for scientific thought — the 17th century. If you ever took a Metaphysics course in college, you will recognize the names and ideas, and I wish I had had a book like this one when I was at university. Steven Nadler gives a concise overview of major philosophers’ complicated and radical ideas, while brother Ben provides bright and funny drawings demonstrating the philosophers and their ideas.
I’m not going to try to explain metaphysics or the ideas of the great thinkers covered in this book because I would do a terrible job and the Nadlers do a great job, so if this sort of thing interests you, you should pick up a copy of Heretics! The book goes in chronological order and demonstrates the ways in which these scientists built on each other’s ideas or attempted to refute them. The story begins in Rome, 1600, with Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei, two scientists who had radical (and correct) ideas about astronomy, and who faced grave punishment from the Catholic Church as a result. From there, the Nadlers move on to Holland, England and other parts of continental Europe where Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz were simultaneously, and often in communication with one another, developing ideas about nature, matter, motion and the mind/body relationship. These three guys are like the triumvirate of Metaphysics. I remember having to read some of their stuff in college and really struggling to understand it. Even with Nadler’s descriptions and simplification, it’s tough to fully understand. But it is cool to see the ways in which these guys developed their ideas and responded to each other. It’s also worth noting that their ideas caused much upset among religious leaders since the matter of God and the nature of God was included in scientific thought. I especially liked the way the Nadlers showed how scientific and philosophical ideas had an impact on the development of political theory as well. Hobbes and Locke are featured in here, and they, of course, were aware of the works of the metaphysicians and had their own opinions on them.
Eighteen philosopher/scientists are covered in this book, a couple of them women. The seventeenth century was an incredibly fertile time period for the development of philosophy and scientific theory, with the culmination being the work of Isaac Newton. The final word in the book comes from the 18th century philosophe Voltaire, noting that had Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Newton been writing in France, or Italy, or Spain, they might have been imprisoned or even executed for their ideas as Giordano Bruno and Galileo had been. It makes me sad to see parallels between 17th century persecution of scientists and the fear/anger/disdain directed toward doctors and scientists today. We are not as far removed from burning people at the stake as we should be.