The development of philosophy in different societies and in different time naturally led to substantial differences in views of people on the surrounding world, themselves, and their life. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the philosophy developed by Cahuilla, Native American tribe in Palm Springs that developed its own philosophy based on its religious beliefs and creation myth and compare it to the philosophy developed by Newton on the ground of his mathematical principles. In fact, mathematical principles of natural philosophy make the perception of humans, surrounding world and the role of people in the world and their perception of human life different from the views of Cahuilla on these issues. In fact, Cahuilla’s view on the surrounding world and their philosophy were quite realistic but naïve, whereas natural philosophy is much more complex and stands on the scientific ground, which implies the subordination of all phenomena to certain natural laws, which people either have already discovered or are to discover.
The philosophy of Cahuilla tribe was grounded on their creation myth and religious beliefs. The world was created by two gods, who were the first to create the earth and humans. There was nothing before them. There was no earth, no water, no light, nothing but darkness; so they could not see each other, but they could hear each other (Johnson & Halverson, 188). The name of the first god was Mo-Cot, and the name of the second was Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit, meaning creator. These were the first people. They were sitting in the air. They did not call each other “brother,” but “my man” (Johnson & Halverson, 189).
Cahuilla had realistic view on gods since they were treated as first people but not actually gods. Therefore, they were not superior beings as Newton defined God in his mathematical principles of natural philosophy. At the same time, they attributed to gods superior power, such as protection of people from illness and death. For instance, Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit considered the protection of people from illnesses and death as he said that there should be no sickness or death or he would go down where he came from and take with him all that had been made (Johnson & Halverson, 191).
Furthermore, two gods are perceived as two struggling forces, good and evil, whereas Newton insisted on the motion which occurs respectively to natural laws. In contrast, Cahuilla viewed Mo-Cot as the god, who supported them, whereas Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit was thinking to destroy the world, the earth, the sky, the water, and everything, by taking it along with him; but Mo-Cot resisted and saved people (Johnson & Halverson, 192).
Cahuilla believed that gods taught them everything they know. According to their creation myth, after the moon had gone away, Mo-Cot began teaching the people. He taught them how to make arrows and other tools, which became vitally important for people (Johnson & Halverson, 195). In contrast, Newton’s mathematical principles of natural philosophy stress the importance of human learning and exploring the surrounding world and natural laws. Newton argued that every man, so far as he is a thing that has perception, is one and the same man during his whole life, in all and each of his organs of sense (Johnson & Halverson, 197).
Nevertheless, Newton did not deny the existence of God. In contrast, he believed that God is a super Being that does exist. However, unlike Cahuilla, who made their gods anthropomorphic, Newton strictly distinguished God from humans. He stood on the ground that God is the same God, always and everywhere. He is omnipresent notvirtually only, but also substantially; for virtue cannot subsist without substance (Johnson & Halverson, 231). In contrast, Cahuilla believed that gods taught them everything and gave them everything.
On the ground of mathematical principles of natural philosophy, Newton suggested four rules of philosophy. The first rule implied that people are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances (Johnson & Halverson, 239).
In the second rule, Newton insisted that therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes (Johnson & Halverson, 239). The third rule stood on the ground that the qualities of bodies, which admit neither intensification nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever (Johnson & Halverson, 240). Finally, the fourth rule In experimental philosophy we are to look, upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may cither be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions (Johnson & Halverson, 240). In such a way, Newton, in his mathematical principles of natural philosophy suggested the scientific approach to the surrounding world and its exploration. All motions he attempted to explain by certain natural laws and the main point of human explorative work was to reveal these laws and identify the true ones, which do exist in the real world.
In contrast to natural philosophy, Cahuilla did not have any scientific knowledge and they did not rely on the exploration and testing the surrounding world on the scientific ground. Instead, they used gifts of nature and, what is more important, they believed that the surrounding nature and humans were created by gods, who were prior to all. Therefore, there is nothing to explore and to discover because Cahuilla knew how they were created and how the world was created. Moreover, they had all they needed for living and they believed that all they possessed was the gift of gods. Hence, they did not to explore the surrounding world any further.
At the same time, they should not doubt anything in the surrounding world, while questioning and doubts comprise an integral part of the natural philosophy developed by Newton on the ground of his mathematical principles. In such a way, Cahuilla was satisfied with the explanation they got about the surrounding world and its creation. The creation myth and philosophy of Cahuilla did not motivate or encourage them to conduct exploration and to make any efforts in terms of early forms of scientific studies and activities. In stark contrast, they remained passive and totally dependent on the surrounding nature because they believed that all they had was the gift of gods.
Obviously, natural philosophy stood on the different ground. Newton, as the founder of mathematical principles of natural philosophy believed that God is superior Being that cannot interfere constantly in the life of people and teach them everything. Instead, God gave humans mind and ability to learn and they should use this ability at their best. In such a way, they should explore the surrounding world and conduct scientific studies to reveal natural laws and rules as Newton actually did. The scientific exploration of the surrounding world and natural laws was the way to enlightenment of people and better life. Newton could not admit that people should just stay and wait till God teach them anything. This is one of the major points where the difference in Cahuilla philosophy and mathematical principles of natural philosophy developed by Newton are particularly obvious.
In fact, the difference in views of Cahuilla and natural philosophy derive from different approaches to the surrounding world and humans. On the one hand, Newton developed well-grounded scientific philosophy, where man is an active participant and explorer of the surrounding world. In contrast, Cahuilla preferred to believe in the creative priority of gods that means that humans were just using what gods have already created. Moreover, they attributed all their discoveries, findings, and inventions to the will of gods for they believed that it was gods, who gave them new tools and helped them to make their discoveries. Hence, the gap between Newtonian mathematical principles of natural philosophy and Cahuilla philosophy grounded on their beliefs and traditions grew extremely wide. The difference in the perception of the surrounding world and humans in views of Newton and his followers, on the one hand, and Cahuilla, on the other, was the result of the different approaches to philosophy and the role of humans. Newton was more advanced in his scientific views believing humans being capable to explore and explain the surrounding world, whereas Cahuilla were satisfied with the explanation of the world and their existence as they have already got it.
Oliver A. Johnson & James L. Halverson. Sources of World Civilization. Vol. 2. New York: Random House, 2010.