Philosophy Reading Group, Starting February 2024


E.A. Burtt (1892–1989), The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1924; 368 pages). A classic study on the relationship between early-modern philosophy and science, a history of the development of the mechanical understanding of nature presupposed by today's scientists. Burtt began his academic career at Columbia and went on to teach at Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, and Cornell.

Sample: The primary-secondary doctrine in Galileo is worth a moment’s pause, for its effects in modern thought have been of incalculable importance [...] In the course of translating this distinction of primary and secondary into terms suited to the new mathematical interpretation of nature, we have the first stage in the reading of man quite out of the real and primary realm. The features of the world now classed as secondary, unreal, ignoble, and regarded as dependent on the deceitfulness of sense, are just those features which are most intense to man in all but his purely theoretic activity, and even in that, except where he confines himself strictly to the mathematical method. It was inevitable that in these circumstances man should now appear to be outside of the real world; man is hardly more than a bundle of secondary qualities. Observe that the stage is fully set for the Cartesian dualism—on the one side of primary, the mathematical realm; on the other the realm of man. And the premium of importance and value as well as of independent existence all goes with the former. Man begins to appear for the first time in the history of thought as an irrelevant spectator and insignificant effect of the great mathematical system which is the substance of reality.


Burtt, Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science
Plato, Five Dialogues
Nussbaum, Fragility of Goodness
Weil, Gravity and Grace

When and Where

We meet at Picton Branch Library on Wednesdays at 5:30 PM.

For more information, contact Adam at