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The Role Of Natural History Essay

720 words - 3 pages

In Cuvier’s introduction he discusses the essence of natural sciences as to “render sensible in all its parts the mutual influence of every being” (Cuvier, 4). Cuvier is able to show that natural history is an indispensible part of natural philosophy and can successfully unveil the laws of nature. In making this assertion Cuvier argues that natural history plays an equal and scientific role in uncovering the system of natural sciences when compared to more empirical methods such as dynamics or chemistry. These empirical forms are able to establish laws through calculation, or experiment where natural history relies on observation.
He shows that each of these forms are powerful in their own right but fail when attempting to explain all of natural science. Cuvier explains that each science addresses natural philosophy in an individual yet unified way. Each branch of science dissects a philosophical issue to arrive at a greater understanding. This is often done by experiment or dissecting it into parts and calculating their relationship and equilibrium. One cannot experiment in an open system without throwing off the dynamic, just as one cannot explain the through calculation the equilibrium in a vast and complicated system. The study of natural history cannot always dissect its subjects as does dynamics and chemistry because in their parts, the subjects no longer function. In these absences, natural history systematically observes and describes in order to fully understand general laws. While observation and description seem to be less scientific ways of understanding Cuvier argues that they have their place. Cuvier argues that this method must be systematic and natural.
While some such as John Ray argue that the relation of natural history cannot be fully known as numerous organisms display characteristics of seemingly unrelated organisms and any grouping will simply be a human convention (evolution nor evolutionary convergence had not be thought of yet), Cuvier makes the point that through the natural method one can unveil the nature and order of these organisms. While Ray’s argument asserts that one could not unveil truth through natural history because observation does not lead to a natural understanding,...

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