Dan Cohen, Professor of Philosophy (Colby)

Sept. 13 at 7:00 in Lovejoy 100

scientific revolution

The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries marked a sea change in Western thought about the world and humanity’s place in it. At its start, we located ourselves at the center of a finite, harmonious, purpose-filled cosmos qualitatively defined by the vocabulary of form and matter, essence and accident, and potential and actuality. By its end, the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic complex of theories that had been burnished by centuries of Medieval Arabic and Latin Scholastic “natural philosophers” gave way to a Newtonian universe quantitatively defined by space and time, matter and motion, and mass and momentum. It also gave the world two very powerful ideas: Science and a Scientific Revolution. In retrospect, neither one is a perfect fit in describing that era.

After graduating from Colby with a B.A. in Philosophy-Mathematics, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy, with a minor in the History and Philosophy of Science, at Indiana University, I joined the faculty at Colby in 1983. Since then, my research interests have brached out from formal logic to include Philosophy of Language, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and, most recently, Argumentation Theory.

Student Discussions

  • Was “The Scientific Revolution” actually the, scientific or revolutionary? November 29, 2016 nranit20The first lecture of the Continuing Revolutions seminar was about “The Scientific Revolution”, by Dan Cohen. The main idea of the lecture was actually proof-checking whether that event that we ...
  • What is a revolution? November 5, 2016 Landon BarrerasWhat does it mean to be revolutionary? To go somewhere no one’s ever gone, to do something no one’s ever done? This might be true on a personal level but ...
  • The Origins of Revolution October 31, 2016 Matthew HoffmanIn attending our first evening lecture in the Revolutions cycle I was surprised by a number of things. First was the complexity of the argument. I certainly ...
  • Thoughts on the (or a) Scientific Revolution October 29, 2016 Nicholas ArchibaldProfessor Dan Cohen’s lecture on the Scientific Revolution was the rare lesson that brings up more questions than answers. Is something truly “revolutionary” if many of its greatest achievements call ...
  • Revolution or Evolution: Questions about the Cosmos that have changed the direction of history October 10, 2016 Pedro CaballeroProfessor Cohen’s lecture began with an interesting definition about exploration of ideas explaining humanity’s relation to our planet. Basically he states that science is about exploring the cosmos in order ...
  • Shoot the Messenger: Not the Science October 10, 2016 Ben TheyerlThe history of science was throughout my primary and secondary schooling, the unit I hated.  I just didn’t and still to some degree don’t really care about the so called ...
  • The Scientific Revolution??? September 27, 2016 JoshuaWhile I have heard mentions of the Scientific Revolution in passing, I have never stopped to question or ponder its meaning, implications, or what it truly was. Colloquially it is ...
  • The Scientific Revolution September 26, 2016 mbmckinnThe Scientific Revolution was, as Professor Cohen explained, not a single, observable moment or occurrence. It was rather, a blurry movement propagated by great philosophers who theorized about the universe ...
  • The Scientific Revolution: Exemplary and the End of Scientific Discoveries September 22, 2016 Jaritza AbreuThe Scientific Revolution was thought of as impeccable and the end of huge scientific discoveries. The latter being a point Professor Cohen briefly mentioned in his talk. Specifically, he stated ...
  • Does a Another Paradigm Shift lie Ahead? September 20, 2016 William ReynoldsThe Scientific Revolution was a monumental time period for the advancement of human kind. Not only did the discoveries of the time make us rethink our place in the universe, ...