Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

More massive objects will fall faster than lighter objects?

  1. Sep 26, 2005 #1
    Was it Aristotle who said that more massive objects will fall faster than lighter objects? This leads me to wonder: why didn't he just experiment with this idea to see that he was wrong? :confused:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2005 #2
    Yes, it was Aristotle. He didn't do experiments. He just wrote what he thought was true.
     
  4. Sep 26, 2005 #3
    And yet call him an "empiricist" :rolleyes:
     
  5. Sep 26, 2005 #4

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    How does Aristotle differ from modern theoretical physicists?
     
  6. Sep 26, 2005 #5

    loseyourname

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I could think of about a hundred thousand different ways.

    Regarding the original post, though, he probably did experiment. Not in any controlled way, mind you, but he probably observed that rocks fall faster than paper and made an inference. Unfortunately, it would be many years before anybody developed a system of inductive logic or scientific method that would make his error obvious. The one that always gets me is his claim that a revolving object, when let out of its revolution, will fly off along a path perpendicular to a tangent line to its circle of revolution. Wasn't discus a popular sport amongst the Greeks? Did he honestly never notice that the discs actually fly off on the tangent?
     
  7. Sep 26, 2005 #6
    I hate Aristotle.
     
  8. Sep 26, 2005 #7

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    For instance?? He was operating under a different paradigm? Telescopes hadn't been invented yet? No stopwatches or cameras? Did he accept the four elements (fire, air, water, earth) thing?

    He did use logic to explain observations. Don't theoretical physicists still do that?
     
  9. Sep 26, 2005 #8

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Aristotle observed the world around him, but he didn't perform experiments. He also relied more heavily on his logic than on observations. He once reasoned that a fly should have 4 legs like a table, and never bothered to look at one to see if his reasoning led to a correct answer.

    The worship of Aristotle is largely responsible for holding back scientific advancement until the scientific revolution.
     
  10. Sep 26, 2005 #9

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Great, I don't like blind devotion any more than I like blind contempt. I'm just trying to avoid, as much as possible, an inaccurate picture of him.

    He did things that ended up - not by his actions alone - hurting modern science. Is there any reason to think that he did so intentionally, maliciously? If it was an honest mistake, have we learned the lesson?
    Did he do anything that ended up helping modern science? Trying to construct a logically consistent model of the physical world - is that not something he did that helped modern science? Are people still doing the same thing?

    He was a teacher - can anyone else at least give him that?
     
  11. Sep 26, 2005 #10

    PerennialII

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    So did his philosophy run itself to a dead end which caused the stagnation or was the worship the problem? I'd be arguing in favor of the latter, since although Aristotle's philosophy has its flaws (compared to modern that is) and structures which can be interpreted to hinder further progress, don't see them to be the real obstacles here. Misplaced respect and worship, on the other hand, are.
     
  12. Sep 26, 2005 #11

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I've read excerpts of Aristotle concerning the evolution of a chicken within the egg.
    From these, it is obvious that Aristotle performed observations (by opening the egg at different times) and in this manner was an empiricist.

    I haven't read any excerpts of Aristotle that can be likened to what it is said he said about physics. If anyone knows where to look in his works, please inform me.
     
  13. Sep 26, 2005 #12
    You could say that about many people. I wouldn't blame Aristotle any more than I'd blame Newton.
     
  14. Sep 26, 2005 #13

    PerennialII

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Physica (Physics) and De Caelo (On the Heavens) as far as I'm aware contain his physics related contributions. For general info probably better to read it from some compilation or so, at least for myself tough pointing out specific sections out of those. Sure they are far more imaginative what comes to the actual physics in them and influenced (very) heavily by the religious aspects, but somehow don't consider that really surprising (+ the "Platonic/Greek like scientific method"). Got to start doing physics somewhere though, and although his mechanics for one don't comply with Newton, Galileo etc at all it's still an attempt to formulate general understandings of physics.
     
  15. Sep 26, 2005 #14

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Several times in this thread the statement is made, "Aristotle did not do experiments". Taken literally, this is wrong. He did not do physics experiemnts, or at least he never wrote them up that we know, but he did biological dissections and was a careful observer of maritime life as he had access to it. His law of falling bodies is true under water!
     
  16. Sep 26, 2005 #15
    You're right. Hmmm, it must've been a typo. Damn! If only we'd discovered that 2400 years earlier! Gah!
     
  17. Sep 26, 2005 #16

    jma2001

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Aristotle's science was mostly rubbish, but his writings on ethics, politics, and poetics were, and are, brilliant. I'm afraid a lot of people hear examples of his bad science and dismiss him without recognizing the value of his purely philosophical works.

    I would make a comparison between Aristotle and Ptolemy. Both wrote influential scientific works that have been largely discredited in modern times. Yet, Aristotle is still being read while Ptolemy is forgotten. Why? Because of the quality of his philosophical works. No one reads Aristotle for his science, they read him for his philosophy.
     
  18. Sep 26, 2005 #17

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Whatever damage his philosophy did to scientific progress, Aristotle is to logic what Euclid is to geometry.
     
  19. Sep 26, 2005 #18

    honestrosewater

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, I don't know much about his work in science; I know him from philosophy and logic (and am quite fond of him too). I started browsing through Physics today, and so far he seems to spend most of his time refuting other people's arguments. I want to search around for the best translation before reading more. If he was wrong, I'd still like to know why - it looks like there are some good lessons and arguments in there.

    I already have a question. He argues (I think) that the 'void' is impossible, i.e., cannot exist. Today, if a theory predicts that something is impossible or cannot exists and this thing is not already known to exist, do scientists go looking for it? Does anyone have examples? (I'm familiar with the idea of falsification - I'm asking specifically about looking for something that is predicted to not exist or be impossible.)
     
  20. Sep 26, 2005 #19
    In the case of g, scientists have indeed gone looking for the thing that was posited not to exist.
    https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0275961036

    0275961036.01._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-dp-500-arrow,TopRight,45,-64_AA240_SH20_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

    Ditto for race.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  21. Sep 26, 2005 #20

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not blaming Aristotle, (though I'm not a big fan), I'm blaming those who worshiped him.
     
  22. Sep 26, 2005 #21

    loseyourname

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    See, right there are three differences and one similarity between him and modern theoretical physicists.

    He was one of the foremost and most prolific of all western philosophers. He was the first western advocate of the 'middle way' in ethical theory, and invented bivalent logic. He was also arguably one of the greatest asthetic philosophers we've ever had.

    Of course, we're at a physics forum, so people just see that his Physics was terribly inaccurate (he was only about the first person to ever do physics of any kind!) and think he was nothing but bad news. It wasn't Aristotle that delayed the modernization of science. It was medieval scholastics and the Church that adopted their views as dogma that did so by adapting Aristotle's archaic, early attempts at doing physics as gospel truth.
     
  23. Sep 26, 2005 #22
    No, not his physics, his philosophy. Thomas Aquinas created a hybrid of Aristotelian philosophical concepts and Church doctrine that, as Dava Sobel put it, helped "...the word of Aristotle gain the authority of holy writ..."
     
  24. Sep 26, 2005 #23

    loseyourname

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Sorry, it was mostly arguments from Metaphysics they adapted, not Physics. I just grouped them in with his Physics because many of them constitute a cosmology. Aristotelian physics was official Church dogma for a very long time, though, was it not?

    To call this his "philosophy" seems a bit misleading, anyway, as Metaphysics was only a very small part of his work, plus his physics was part of his philosophy. There was no distinction between disciplines at the time he was writing.

    The interesting thing to me is that, in the case of many of his explorations that tackled subject now in the domain of the sciences, the men he was refuting (Democritus, Empedocles) turned out to be right.
     
  25. Sep 27, 2005 #24
    I don't know. What I can tell you is that no one in the Church was particularly upset by Galileo disproving Aritotle's notions of falling bodies. It wasn't till his discoveries started to cast doubt on the accepted cosmologies that the church became concerned.
    Yes, there's confusion. What the church adopted was his notions about the perfection of the heavens, their immutability, and things like that. This may well better be termed "metaphysics" than "philosophy", I don't know.
     
  26. Sep 27, 2005 #25

    loseyourname

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    To be accurate, it's not like the Church adapted faithfully Aristotle's cosmology. The idea of the intelligences became the idea of heavenly spheres on which the orbits of the planets were planted, God's complete perfection was adapted to Christian dogma, and the argument from first cause became the major argument for the existence of God put forth by Aquinas. Final causation probably provided philosophical grounding for the idea of a purposeful universe, but I'm not sure about that one. There are still many notable differences, however. Aristotle's God was neither the creator of the universe nor a person, for one thing. Aristotle also never went into any detail about the physical geography of the heavens. It was Ptolemy that did so, starting from the idea of a geocentric universe and then developing all of his cycles and epicycles to make the theory fit the observation, something that Aristotle himself never bothered with. Final causation, also, if it was indeed adapted, could not have been done so faithfully.

    Aristotle's cosmology was quite interesting. His explanation of motion was that the intelligences (heavenly spheres upon which heavenly bodies were mounted) attempted to emulate the perfection of God. Since they could not, the closest thing they could do was move in perfect circles, considered by Aristotle to be the perfect shape. This movement filters down somehow into all others things, imparting them with an impetus that is the efficient cause of their movement. The final cause of movement for all things remains the yearning for perfection. This takes the form of change in physical objects in everyday life. An acorn becomes an oak tree because that is its perfection. Interestingly enough, in humans this becomes the basis of his ethics, as human action is explained through the desire for happiness. Aristotle believes this is best achieved through the exercise of reason because the perfection of a human being is a being of pure reason. (I find this interesting because he seems to be the only philosopher, other than Hobbes, to ever physically derive an ethics). Anyway, his notion of God becomes that of a Prime Mover that is the final cause of all motion, but not the efficient cause, nor is God the cause of existence, as the universe in Aristotle's metaphysics is coeternal with the Prime Mover. According to Aristotle, this Prime Mover is not even aware of the existence of the universe. Obviously, this is radically different from any Catholic doctrine.

    In reality, the scholastics, and Aquinas especially, simply picked and chose the elements of Aristotle that happened to be compatible with existing Church dogma to provide some form of logical underpinning which they felt they needed, in light of classical learning that early Christians had not been aware of. In addition to the development of a Catholic cosmology that borrowed elements of the Metaphysics, it would seem that Marcus Aurelius was heavily influenced by the Ethics in his own writings on virtue ethics.

    Well, metaphysics is a part of philosophy. What I mean is that the arguments that scholastics used were the arguments that Aristotle laid out in his book titled Metaphysics. I only meant that it's misleading to call this his 'philosophy' as that seems to suggest that the content of this one work constitutes the whole of his philosophy, when in fact he wrote many treatises on a great many diverse subjects, all of which were considered 'philosophy.'

    Another interesting thing to note that is that the immutability of the heavens and the complete perfection of the Prime Mover were ideas that Aristotle himself adapted from Parmenides and Xenophanes (I could be wrong on Xenophanes, but it was another of the pre-Socratics). The major ideas that were actually uniquely his were the ones that are still popular today: moderation as the chief virtue, happiness as the telos of human action, and his theories on dramatic structure. Terms like "golden mean" and "catharsis" endure today, whereas "impetus" and "intelligences" are relegated to medievalist curiosities. He was also probably the first person to ever undertake any kind of taxonomy.

    One thing that was brought in a discussion recently that piqued my interest was the possibility that the Buddhist conception of the 'middle way' might also be an adaptation of Aristotle, as it is eerily similar to his 'golden mean.' Alexander, who was tought by Aristotle, was in India a couple hundred years after the Buddha had died, but who knows whether or not some of his ideas may have been incorporated into early Buddhism, which was still very much in a developmental stage. Anyway, that's just idle speculation on the part of people who know way too little about history, myself included.
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook