I am unable to make sense of the highlighted sentence in the attached picture, especially the phrase, "leading note" if it's really used as a phrase. Unfortunately, the context doesn't help much as the former and the latter, both are cited sentences.

Robert Boyle exemplifies in most interesting fashion all the leading intellectual currents of his day ; every important or prevalent interest and belief occupied some place in his thinking and the conglomeration was harmonized with considerable success around the foci of his two most dominant enthusiasms, experimental science and religion. Boyle defines philosophy as "a comprehension of all those truths or doctrines, which the natural reason of man, freed from prejudices and partiality, and assisted by learning, attention, exercise,xperiments, etc., can manifestly make out, or by necessary consequence deduce from clear and certain principles. His conception of the leading note of the scientific current of which he formed a part appears at the end of an attack on the highly dogmatic and metaphysical character of the scholastic philosophy. “ Our great Verulam attempted with more skill and industry (and not without some indignation) to restore the more modest and useful way practised by the ancients, of inquiry into particular bodies without hastening to make systems, into the request it formerly had ; wherein the admirable industry of two of our London physicians, Gilbert and Harvey, had not a little assisted him. And I need not tell you that since him Descartes, Gassendi, and others, having taken in the application of geometrical theorems for the explanation of physical problems ; he and they, and other restorers of natural philosophy, have brought the experimental and mathematical way of inquiry into nature, into at least as high and growing an esteem, as it ever possessed when it was most in vogue among the naturalists that preceded Aristotle.

"The metaphysical foundations of modern physical science" E.A. Burtt · 1925

Full text (Archive.org)

  • 2
    Please don't post pictures of text. Transcribe the part that is important.
    – stangdon
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 19:32
  • You should also specify where the quoted text is from. The style seems very old. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 20:06
  • The phrase "leading note" has a meaning in music, meaning a note that is expected to "resolve" to a nearby note by rules of melody. I wonder whether this is part of an extended metaphor since the author used "harmonized" earlier. Ultimately, we're probably missing the important part of Boyle's quote, since the author says the "leading note" comes "at the end." Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 20:09
  • or the conception comes at the end i.e. "The conception" is of a leading note; the description of this conception appears "at the end."
    – Yorik
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


I suggest these meanings for "note" in that passage:
Merriam-Webster note

2 a : a characteristic feature (as of odor or flavor)
b : something (such as an emotion or disposition) like a note in tone or resonance
a note of sadness; end on a high note

Then, a leading note is a feature or aspect that stands out above others.

It's worth mentioning that while the text dates from 1925, the quoted part from Robert Boyle dates from about 1670. It's very old-fashioned.

  • 1
    Agreed; the sentence is saying that the definition of philosophy Boyle came up with was the "leading note", i.e. the foundation and key aspect, of the school of scientific thinking of the era that he was a part of. You can find Boyle's full text here: google.co.uk/books/edition/…
    – Showsni
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 22:40
  • @MichaelHarvey That seems to be the link to Burtt's 1924 text; mine was to Boyle's text that Burtt is quoting (so as to see the full context).
    – Showsni
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 22:20
  • I had seen this meaning of the "note", but I am still unable to make sense of this; "His conception of the leading [characteristic] of the scientific current of which he formed a part".
    – Tayyab
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 19:09
  • @Showsni I don't think that "his conception of the leading note" means "his definition of the philosophy was the leading note".
    – Tayyab
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 19:20

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