natural philosophy

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Natural philosophy was the term whose usage preceded our current term science in the sense that prior to the replacement of the term natural philosophy with the term science, the term science was used exclusively as a synonym for knowledge or study and when the subject of that knowledge or study was 'the workings of nature', then the term natural philosophy would be used. Natural philosophy became science (scientia in Latin, which means ""knowledge"") when knowledge acquisition through experiments (special experiences) regulated by the scientific method became its own specialized branch over and above the analysis and synthesis of experiences of which philosophy partakes.

In what is thought to be one of Plato's earliest dialogues, Charmides, the distinction is drawn between sciences or bodies of knowledge which produce a physical result, and those which do not. Natural philosophy has been categorized as a theoretical rather than a practical branch of philosophy (like ethics).

In René Descartes' metaphysical system of dualism, there are two kinds of substance: matter and mind. According to this system, everything which is ""matter"" is deterministic and natural-and so belongs to natural philosophy-and everything which is ""mind"" is volitional and non-natural, and falls outside the domain of philosophy of nature.

Major branches of natural philosophy include astronomy and cosmology, the study of nature on the grand scale; etiology, the study of (intrinsic) causes; the study of chance, probability and randomness; the study of elements; the study of the infinite and the unlimited (virtual or actual); the study of matter; mechanics, the study of translation of motion and change; the study of nature or the various sources of actions; the study of natural qualities; the study of physical quantities; the study of relations between physical entities; and the philosophy of space and time. (Adler, 1993)

Source: Wikipedia contributors, ""Natural philosophy,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).