Essay on The Role of Natural History

Essay on The Role of Natural History

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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 re...

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... habitat. Through this process of observation and comparison one can arrive at a true philosophical understanding of nature. In combination with general laws of physics or chemistry, natural history helps to produce a coherent understanding of the system of nature.
Cuvier shows that a philosophical understanding of nature cannot be obtained by calculation, experimentation, or observation alone, each of these methods play an important role in coming up with general laws which govern nature. Natural history is not given the luxury of being able to dissect its subjects and still retain their function and therefore has to rely on observation. While observation may seem to be a less scientific means, if observations are compared, general rules and relationships can be deduced. Through the systematic use of comparison one can arrive at a natural philosophical truth.

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