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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Tam Hunt: A Love Letter to Science

Photo: Tam Hunt
Tam Hunt, lawyer and writer based in Santa Barbara and Hilo, Hawaii summarizes, "The Encyclopædia Britannica’s set of 60 Great Books — a collection of the classics in literature, science and philosophy — has sat quietly on a special bookshelf in my living room for more than two decades now, an attractive accessory to my home. I have even read a few of these volumes during this time."

Recently, as I was lying on my couch resting, I gazed at my Great Books set and pondered the history of Western thought and the rise of science, a subject that has preoccupied me over the years since science and technology have defined the modern era in so many ways.

Looking more closely at these books, I noticed that just four of the 60 volumes were written during the Middle Ages, the period from the fall of Rome until the Renaissance in the 14th century, a thousand years of depressed intellectual activity.


On the top of the same bookshelf rests Ariel and Will Durant’s amazing history collection, The Story of Civilization. Of the 11 volumes in this set, just one volume covers the Middle Ages, The Age of Faith.

So, in these two collections of books covering more than 2,500 years, 7 percent and 9 percent of the volumes, respectively, cover the 1,000 years of the Middle Ages. That 1,000 years comprises 20 percent of the time span of Western civilization if we start the clock ticking with classical Greece.

Why do these collections devote so little space to this thousand-year period sandwiched between the Greco-Roman period and the dawn of modernity?

This raises the next question: Why did so few contributions to the lasting legacy of the Western mind arise during this period?

The obvious and, it seems, accurate answer is that there simply wasn’t a great deal of noteworthy thinking or writing being done in this time period. Certainly there were some worthy thinkers making real contributions to philosophy, science, architecture, art and literature — but at a much lower rate than before and after.

The notable exception to this conclusion was the development of science and philosophy in the Islamic world from the 9th to the 13th centuries, which then led to the Renaissance in Europe.

This raises the next question: Why did so few contributions to the lasting legacy of the Western mind arise during this period?
Read more... 

Source: Noozhawk


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