By J. F. Scott
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Additional resources for A History of Mathematics: From Antiquity to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century
37 All these natural philosophies were implicitly premised on the precepts of mechanical realism. 38 His “Rules of Reasoning” are based on the precepts of mechanical realism. This allowed him to assume that there is a “natural economy of causes”, demanding that the investigation of the causes of natural things is limited to those causes we identify as necessary and sufficient to explain the appearance of natural phenomena, assuming the invariance and universality of any cause–effect sequence we discover from experiment, due to the isotropic and homogeneous character of natural law.
Mechanical realism allowed the mathematical description of the motions of the six simple machines (the wedge, the lever, the balance, the inclined plane, the screw, and the wheel) to be represented as descriptions of the fundamental natural motions. The Renaissance developments of the Medieval mathematical science of mechanics, underwritten by mechanical realism, allowed experimental physics to be metaphysically operational as a technological mode of disclosure of natural mechanisms, and for technology to be a consequence of the utilisation of natural mechanisms in material practices.
Henceforth, the ontology disclosed by the new experimental science was a tripartite ontology of law, mechanism, and object. The performance of any machine is conceived as being governed by natural laws, and, consequently, the technological process of designing, The Metaphysics of Modern Science 47 building, and using machines in the artificial world of the laboratory provides a means to disclose the fundamental mechanisms and laws of the natural world outside the laboratory. Mechanical realism provided the necessary conceptual connection between the closed, controlled, and simplified system of the experiment and the open, complex, and messy natural world to allow machines to act as the objective connection between the two.