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Schaffer on Temporal Evolution, Pt. 2 November 20, 2008

Posted by Will Thomas in Schaffer Oeuvre.
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Thomas Wright (1711-1786)

Thomas Wright (1711-1786)

In “The Phoenix of Nature: Fire and Evolutionary Cosmology in Wright and Kant,” (Journal for the History of Astronomy vol. 9, 1978, pp. 180-200), Simon Schaffer continued his study of the development of temporally evolving cosmologies, in this case with the natural philosophical work of the astronomy teacher Thomas Wright and German philosopher Immanuel Kant (well prior to his famous Critiques).  As I mentioned in the last post in this series, Schaffer seems to have directed his early work toward the introduction into natural philosophical thought of the idea that past and future states of the universe could be substantially different from the present state of the universe.  As he puts it, “the cosmological thought of Kant and Wright can be seen as the basis for the evolutionary systems of the universe developed by Laplace and Herschel later in the century.”  (As we have seen, he would turn to Herschel in his next few articles).

In his project, Schaffer tends toward the teleological.  Everyone in this piece seems either striving to introduce an evolutionary perspective, or constrained from doing so. (more…)