Physics International

The Rise of the Physical Sciences in “Stricto Sensu” The Developmental Approach and the History of Sciences

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff

DOI : 10.3844/pisp.2017.8.23

Physics International

Volume 8, Issue 1

Pages 8-23


J. Piaget dedicated several books and articles on the psychogenetic reconstruction of the history of sciences. A couple of disciples followed Piaget´s ideas and reconstructed the history of single disciplines or of some scientific developments in terms of developmental psychology. They found a striking similarity between childish psychological stages and the sciences in their premodern period. Correspondingly, they also found similarities between adolescent psychological stages and early modern sciences. Many data hint at the fact that psychological stage advancements respectively the emergence of the adolescent stage of formal operations during the 17th century was the cause to the rise of the physical sciences in stricto sensu. The research of Piaget and his followers, however, was not deep enough insofar as they were insecure whether the correspondencies related may concern the theories only or also the minds of the theoreticians (the scientists) themselves. Therefore, the main goal of this article is to demonstrate that the emergence of the formal operational stage took place in the minds of the scientists themselves. It is argued that the cognitive transformations within the minds of the scientists themselves were the origin of the scientific breakthroughs and the emergence of the new disciplines. The article presents the data according to them premodern peoples stood on pre- and concrete operational stages, as the ancient scientists did, too. Then it shows that premodern sciences substantially likewise root in these lower stages, as their adherence to magic and animism already evidence. Consequently, it is argued that the transformation from magical-animistic theories to the sciences in stricto sensu during the 17th century originates in the rise of the formal operations. The next step is to show how the formation of the disciplines such as physics, astronomy, chemistry and medicine and the accumulation of scientific knowledge already in the first generation directly followed the fresh establishment of the formal operational stage. The conclusion is that the relationship between psychological stage development and the history of sciences is closer and more direct than Piaget and his followers ever described.


© 2017 Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.