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

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By: Lynn Thorndike

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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

総計六~七千頁に及ぶリン・ソーンダイク(1882-1965)の歴史的大著『魔術と実験科学の歴史』全八巻中第七巻(コロンビア大学出版、1958年刊/皮革装丁、全695頁)で、「17世紀」とサブタイトルにありますが厳密には17世紀前半が範囲。全23章。

第2章は「コペルニクス『天体の回転について』(1543年)からニュートン『自然哲学の数学的諸原理』(1687年)までの天文学理論のなかで最も偉大な仕事(p.14)」と著者が考える天体の運行法則発見者ケプラー(1571-1630)ならびに望遠鏡作成者ガリレオ(1564-1642)について。

第5章「1650年までの占星術」はイングランド、フランス、イタリア、ポルトガルとスペイン、ドイツ、北欧、以上七つの国・地域での占星術の話題ならびにこの世紀でもおびただしくあったと著者が唱える占星術への攻撃・擁護について。なお、この時代を代表する占星術師の一人と著者が考えるジャン=バティースト・モラン(1583-1656)については別の章(第16章)が設けられています。

錬金術と医療化学は第6章、鉱物学は第9章、自然魔術は第10章が充てられています。魔術で興味深かったのは「西欧の他の国々に比べ隠秘科学に対し幾分か好意的で、あらゆる魔術を悪魔的としなかった傾向を有する(p.323)」ポルトガルとスペインでの魔術(第11章)。

フランシス・ベーコンは第3章、マラン・メルセンヌとピエール・ガッサンディは第14章。デカルト(第19章)ならびにデカルト以後の物理学・天文学(第23章)を読むと時代が大きく変わりつつあることを感じるかもしれません。

なお全八巻中第五巻ならびにこの第七巻のみ巻末索引がなく、同じ16・17世紀が範囲である第六巻(第五・六巻レヴュアーレヴュー済)ならびに第八巻巻末に二巻分が併せ収録されています。

- Anonymous

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