A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Vol. 7: The Seventeenth Century, Part 1

A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Vol. 7: The Seventeenth Century, Part 1

Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago

With 3 ratings

By: Lynn Thorndike

Purchased At:

This does not strike me as quality scholarship. Thorndike is enormously hostile towards the traditional heroes of the scientific revolution. On Francis Bacon, for example, the unqualified conclusion is that "he did not think straight" (p. 88). I am certainly no admirer of Bacon's, but even I find this a bit hard to stomach. Elsewhere, Thorndike finds it appropriate to attack a work of Huygens as "woefully weak from the standpoints of both science and logic" (p. 636), but it is hard to see the merit in this tirade since the work in question is an innocent popular book speculating about life on other planets, which Huygens himself introduces as such, saying that "I can't pretend to assert any thing as positively true (for that would be madness)" (p. 9 of the english translation, not quoted by Thorndike, of course).

But perhaps yet another tirade is the most telling illustration of Thorndike's ignorance and baseless biases:

"Kepler held the erroneous view, but one all too common then and since, that the world had been asleep for a thousand years ... but that from the year 1450 on civilization had revived. ... The slur on the period before 1450 came with especially bad grace from Kepler ... Consider the association of the spheres of the planets with the five regular solids in Kepler's Mysterium cosmographicum of 1596. ... Kepler himself represented it as divine revelation such as he had never read in the work of any philosopher, and that he would not renounce the glory of its discovery 'for the whole electorate of Saxony'. But if Kepler had turned to the commentary on the Sphere of Sacrobosco (early thirteenth century) which Prosdocimo de'Beldomandi completed in 1418, and which was printed in the collection, Sphaerae tractatus, of 1531 (Venice; L. A. Junta), he could have read that Campanus of Novara in the thirteenth century in his commentary on Euclid's Elements, penultimate conclusion of Book 13, told that certain disciples of Plato said that the sky of the whole mass of the heavens and each of the elements was angular and not spherical, and that the number of essences corresponded to the number of regular solids: the pyramid to fire, hexahedron or cube to earth, icosahedron to water, octahedron to air, and duodecahedron to the fifth essence, 'as may be inferred in conclusions 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, of the 13th book of Euclid's Elements, and more clearly from Campanus in his comment on the 17th conclusion of the said 13th book'. Perhaps Kepler had read the passage and it subconsciously suggested his own theory to him. In any case, he had no license to scorn medieval science before 1450." (pp. 11-13)

Apparently Thorndike has never read Plato's Timaeus, where all these theories are laid out in perfect clarity. He is as stupid as his medieval heroes in thinking that wisdom hides in this sort of pretentious name-dropping and baroque references to unoriginal copyist. Of course it is ridiculous to suggest that Kepler "subconsciously" took his inspiration from these medieval idiots, since it is well know that Kepler (consciously!) read the Timaeus (which he cites repeatedly). This is the kind of faux scholarship that is supposed to show that Kepler's view of the dark ages was "erroneous."

- Anonymous







- Anonymous

Customers Also Bought