Jerry asked in Science & MathematicsPhysics · 10 years ago

What is the basic principle of Descartes matter in motion?

I never took physics, but I am interested in his quote "Give me matter and motion, and i will construct the universe"

Can anyone please explain the basic pprincples of this in a few sentences?

1 Answer

  • 10 years ago
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    The principal primary qualities were matter and motion. Rene Descartes famously said that if he were given matter and motion he could construct the universe. All the majestic synthesis of physical laws, laid down by Newton, concerned only matter and motion. The scope of physical inquiry was thus constricted and focused by Galileo and the subsequent founders of our age, on the mathematical expression of laws dealing exclusively with these two “qualities”. This method was deemed sufficient to penetrate and expose all the secrets of nature.

    Then came the upheavals of the early twentieth century. It seemed that Newton did not, after all, have all the answers. Some of his predictions turned out to be wrong and the need to explain these anomalies formed the bases for both relativity and quantum theory, the two branches of physics that dominated the later twentieth century. Physicists began to chafe at the limits imposed on their science. Arthur Eddington commented unfavorably on the exclusive treatment given in physics to Galileo’s primary qualities: “…. ideally, all our knowledge of the universe could have been reached by visual sensation alone – in fact by the simplest form of visual sensation, colorless and non-stereoscopic.” Bertrand Russell grumped that “Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about nature but because we know so little: it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.” J.W.N. Sullivan wrote a whole book on this subject, The Limitations of Science, in which he concludes: “Science deals with but a partial aspect of reality and…. there is not the faintest reason for supposing that everything science ignores is less real than what it accepts.”


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