Social theory and naturalism: an introduction

Elias Lafi Khalil

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In “The History of Astronomy,” Adam Smith (1980, pp. 33-105) shows how the origin of theories lies in the mind’s attempt to alleviate uneasiness or tension usually felt when unexpected events arise. Theories are the fruit of the imagination in its thrust to bring order, and hence beauty, to the phenomenal world. Such order is associated with a variety of sentiments. Smith begins the essay by explicating three types of sentiments: “Wonder, Surprise and Admiration.” Admiration is excited by “what is great and beautiful.” This is best illustrated by Newton’s system which unites Galileo’s laws of terrestial motion with Kepler’s laws of celestial motion. For Smith, while Newton’s theory of gravity might be proven in the future to be wrong, it commands admiration for its ability to weave the wonders of nature within one great “connecting principle."
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution, Order and Complexity
EditorsElias Khalil, Kenneth Boulding
Place of PublicationLondon UK
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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