Newton, Maxwell, Marx: Spirit, Freedom, and the Scientific Vision

Newton, Maxwell, Marx: Spirit, Freedom, and the Scientific Vision

by Thomas K. Simpson


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Newton, Maxwell, Marx: Spirit, Freedom, and the Scientific Vision by Thomas K. Simpson

Newton, Maxwell, Marx-familiar to all of us, but all have been distorted by caricatures: Newton, as the first true reductionist, inventor of mathematical physics; Maxwell, as he whose equations of the electromagnetic field represent the high water mark of Newtonian determinism; Marx, as author of a thoroughly discredited totalitarian economic system, now merely a historical curiosity. But in these pages, we meet these three as we have never seen them before, as champions of a scientific vision that leads to intellectual freedom and human emancipation. We see Newton, the last of the alchemists, creating a visionary physics that was intended as a direct refutation of the dead mechanism of Cartesian philosophy. We see Maxwell striving to free the human intellect from the dogmatism of the "Newtonian" physics of his day, the champion of a new democratic science as exemplified by the work of Michael Faraday, a largely unschooled commoner. We are astonished to meet Marx, the ultimate libertarian, envisioning "a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle," a society that could be attained through a rational understanding deliberately constructed to emulated Newton's approach to physics.

Simpson invites us to read Newton's Principia, Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, and Marx's Capital, with an open mind, ready to rethink what we thought we already knew. We may end up agreeing or disagreeing on one point or another, but we are unlikely ever to see these iconic figures in the same way again. In the end, Simpson points us toward a vision of science, common to these three thinkers, as a powerful means of attaining human freedom-material, intellectual, and even spiritual.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781888009378
Publisher: Green Lion Press
Publication date: 06/16/2012
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Thomas King Simpson (of Saratoga Springs, NY) is Tutor Emeritus at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has taught at the American University at Cairo and is a co–founder of The Key School in Annapolis, Maryland. He was educated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, St. John’s College, Wesleyan University, and the Johns Hopkins University, where in 1968 he received his doctorate in the history of science. His background also includes engineering and the classics.

Table of Contents

The Green Lion's Preface vii

Note on Reference Style viii

Author's Preface 1


Introduction to the essay 37

Science as Mystery: A Speculative Reading of Newton's Principia 39


Introduction to the essay 129

Maxwell's Treatise and the Restoration of the Cosmos 131


Introduction to the essay 203

Toward a Reading of Capital 205

Afterword 283

Bibliography 291

Index 295

About the Author 303

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