Originally, the causality described by Aristotle is a concept that includes 4 causes and that aim to answer the question of "why" (Falcon, 2009). Among the 4 causes, the final or teleological cause ("the end", "that for the sake of which a thing is done") acquired a cosmic connotation in the Middle Ages and became attached to the Judeo-Christian God (Greene, 1976). I deduce from this that, consequently, the Church had a say in matters of causality, if not an authority of divine right on the question, and therefore on any question given the broad scope of the concept of causality.

Pearl (2000) reports that Galileo advocates that physics should not be concerned with the "why" but with the "how" and thus with the Aristotelian notion of the efficient cause. He also points out that Galileo suggests that common language should even be abandoned in favor of algebra. Inasmuch as Galileo was under the wrath of the Inquisition, a legitimate question is: were his methodological choices and recommendations guided by the intention to protect himself from the criticism of the Church?

Besides, Galileo's case had a notable influence on Descartes. It discouraged him from publishing his physics and encouraged him instead to write a work that was poor in scientific fact, i.e., his method: a return to pure reason and common sense. In the same way as for Galileo, aren't Descartes' acts and the emphasis on the pure reason a response to religious dogmatism?

Finally, Newton, in his empirical approach formulated the famous phrase "hypotheses non fringo", I do not make hypotheses, basically hiding behind observational data and claiming that he had no opinion. Rather than promoting his method, isn't this also a way of protecting himself from criticism?


Thus, in different ways, are mechanistic thought, algebra, pure reason, or even data, all refuges or umbrellas to protect oneself from the dogmatism of the institutions that hold authority over what is judged true or false within a society?

I have always believed that these scientific methods/tools or principles were born and became popular because of their own merits. This is certainly true in part, but I remain a little confused that they may actually be a product of history associated with a political context and the desire to guard against it, and not for the sake of science itself. It suggests that science could have evolved differently without religious dogmatism.


Falcon, A.: Aristotle on Causality, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. N. Zalta, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. [online] Available from: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/aristotle-causality/

Grene, M. (1976). Aristotle and Modern Biology. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 3-36. doi:10.1007/978-94-010-1829-6_1

Pearl, J.: Causality: models, reasoning, and inference, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.; New York, 2000.

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    "Galileo advocates that physics should not be concerned with the "why" but with the "how"" WRONG; the Fourth Day of Galileo's Dialogue is devoted to investigate the cause of tides: "Knowledge of effects leads to investigation of causes." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 18 '20 at 9:24
  • "Galileo suggests that common language should even be abandoned in favor of algebra. " WRONG; Galileo used no algebra but geometry and theory of proportions. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 18 '20 at 9:24
  • Galileo did not "protect himself from the criticism of the Church": he was condemned for his philosophical views about the relationship between science (and philosophy) and dogma. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 18 '20 at 9:26
  • Yes, Newton's "hypotheses non fingo" was "a way of protecting himself from criticism" but this does not mean that Newton "hided [himself] behind observational data and claimed that he had no opinion." He claims that he had discovered the existence of real gravitational force acting as a cause for the motion of the celestial bodies; what he refused to do is to produce a mechanical hypothesis to explain the "mechanism" of gravitational attraction. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 18 '20 at 9:30
  • "It suggests that science could have evolved differently without religious dogmatism." Maybe... but medieval Islam was far less "dogmatist" compared to Medieval and Early Modern Europe and, despite its relevant contribution to the preservation of Ancient Greek mathematics, there were no significant attempt to a physico-mathematical science of nature. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 18 '20 at 9:33

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