Axiomatic Natural Philosophy and the Emergence of Biology as a Science [forthcoming]. Van den Berg, H. and Demarest, B. Journal of the History of Biology, 2020.
abstract   bibtex   
Ernst Mayr argued that the emergence of biology as a special science in the early nineteenth century was possible due to the demise of the mathematical model of science and its insistence on demonstrative knowledge. More recently, John Zammito has claimed that the rise of biology as a special science was due to a distinctive experimental, anti-metaphysical, anti-mathematical, and anti-rationalist strand of thought coming from outside of Germany. In this paper we argue that this narrative neglects the important role played by the mathematical and axiomatic model of science in the emergence of biology as a special science. We show that several major actors involved in the emergence of biology as a science in Germany were working with an axiomatic conception of science that goes back at least to Aristotle and was popular in mid-eighteenth-century German academic circles due to its endorsement by Christian Wolff. More specifically, we show that at least two major contributors to the emergence of biology in Germany, Caspar Friedrich Wolff and Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, sought to provide a conception of the new science of life that satisfies the criteria of a traditional axiomatic ideal of science. Both Caspar Friedrich Wolff and Treviranus took over strong commitments to the axiomatic model of science from major philosophers of their time, Christian Wolff and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling respectively. The ideal of biology as an axiomatic science with specific biological fundamental concepts and principles thus played a role in the emergence of biology as a special science.
@article{van_den_berg_axiomatic_2020,
	title = {Axiomatic {Natural} {Philosophy} and the {Emergence} of {Biology} as a {Science} [forthcoming]},
	abstract = {Ernst Mayr argued that the emergence of biology as a special science in the early nineteenth century was possible due to the demise of the mathematical model of science and its insistence on demonstrative knowledge. More recently, John Zammito has claimed that the rise of biology as a special science was due to a distinctive experimental, anti-metaphysical, anti-mathematical, and anti-rationalist strand of thought coming from outside of Germany. In this paper we argue that this narrative neglects the important role played by the mathematical and axiomatic model of science in the emergence of biology as a special science. We show that several major actors involved in the emergence of biology as a science in Germany were working with an axiomatic conception of science that goes back at least to Aristotle and was popular in mid-eighteenth-century German academic circles due to its endorsement by Christian Wolff. More specifically, we show that at least two major contributors to the emergence of biology in Germany, Caspar Friedrich Wolff and Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, sought to provide a conception of the new science of life that satisfies the criteria of a traditional axiomatic ideal of science. Both Caspar Friedrich Wolff and Treviranus took over strong commitments to the axiomatic model of science from major philosophers of their time, Christian Wolff and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling respectively. The ideal of biology as an axiomatic science with specific biological fundamental concepts and principles thus played a role in the emergence of biology as a special science.},
	journal = {Journal of the History of Biology},
	author = {Van den Berg, Hein and Demarest, Boris},
	year = {2020},
}
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