Newton the Empiricist

Sir Isaac Newton’s discoveries are truly relevant in our world today. His contributions to Physics are nonetheless substantial, especially the Laws of Motion which he established. However, the debate on whether Isaac Newton was a nativist or an empiricist has aroused. Some question Newton’s way of thinking where it breaks down to the belief of being any of nativism or empiricism.

Firstly, nativism is the belief which states that people’s skills are natural to them that at birth, everything they need to learn are already coded in their brains, just waiting to be explored and be utilized. Nativists believe that we have brains which are hard wired with the talents and skills. It is more on how we uncover these things that we learn the things around us. The process of acquiring knowledge is just actually relearning what has already been coded in our brains.

On the other hand, Empiricism claims that we have been born with a blank slate – tabula rasa, needing to be filled up by learning. We learn through experience in this concept, unlike that of Nativism where we already have the knowledge in the brain, all we need is to gather it and add it up to our knowledge. It emphasizes greatly on experience, where perceiving with our senses play a great role when we form various ideas. This discards the notion of having innate or inborn characteristics which is presented by Nativism.

The debate regarding Isaac Newton’s line of thinking arose because of the way he came up with his ideas, the brilliant laws he established which are of great use in our society today. It is not merely being able to come up with the right ideas, but people though that Isaac Newton already knows the things he supposedly has established.

But it was Empiricism that Newton believed more. He was more on the philosophy of science which gives a direct association to experiences, which derives data and information by means of experiments. Isaac Newton, as a person of science, underwent every necessary step in order to affirm his ideas. He tested through experiments in order to prove the knowledge he wishes to impart to the people. Theories and hypothesis were tested and some were proven through the use of observations and reasoning (Ess, 2007).

Newton has established his own programs in science which he himself used in order to remove the doubts from the hypothesis. His goal as a scientist was to uncover something certain, and not to linger into the uncertainty of things. His principles were established and were drawn from the experiments he conducted and the observations he made for these experiments.

This is just a manifestation that he abides in the Empiricist English tradition, just like Francis Bacon, where he comes up with ideas conceived from extensive experimentation and observation. As a man of science, he has always backed his ideas with relevant findings from the experiments that he conducted. He is not contended by assuming something as “ideally,” instead, he strived to prove such things using his own sets of experiments.

Sir Isaac Newton’s findings posed great importance in explaining various things in the human world. Even though there are still some people who question his way of thinking, it is undeniable that what he has conceived were all products of extensive research, of the scientific method which he himself has pioneered and is still being used today.

Reference:

Ess, D. (2007). Isaac Newton Retrieved September 25, 2007, from http://www.drury.edu/ess/philsci/newton.html