, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 369-372
Date: 07 Sep 2010

Mechanism and modernity

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Gregor Schiemann’s Wahrheitsgewissheitsverlust: Hermann von HelmholtzMechanismus im Anbruch der Moderne (1997) is a mighty endeavor. Part intellectual history, part history of philosophy of science and nature, it has an ambitious, twofold aim: to chart mechanistic philosophy of nature and to trace the transformation from the “classical” to the “modern” concept of science. In doing so, it seeks to provide a new periodization of the history of modern science.

The abridged English version, Hermann von Helmholtzs Mechanism: The Loss of Certainty, still advances a number of big claims. Commonly, the Early Modern period is regarded as a period of major changes of the structure, content, and organization as well as of the conception of science. Schiemann, however, advocates a different periodization. While he agrees that the seventeenth century was a time of profound transformation of mechanics, he argues that the transformation from the classical to the modern conception of science took pl ...