The Sleep Walkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

The Sleep Walkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

The Sleep Walkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

The Sleep Walkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

Excerpt

In the index to the six hundred odd pages of Arnold Toynbee A Study of History, abridged version, the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton do not occur. This one example among many should be sufficient to indicate the gulf that still separates the Humanities from the Philosophy of Nature. I use this outmoded expression because the term "Science", which has come to replace it in more recent times, does not carry the same rich and universal associations which "Natural Philosophy" carried in the seventeenth century, in the days when Kepler wrote his Harmony of the World and Galileo his Message from the Stars. Those men who created the upheaval which we now call the "Scientific Revolution" called it by a quite different name: the "New Philosophy". The revolution in technology which their discoveries triggered off was an unexpected by-product; their aim was not the conquest of Nature, but the understanding of Nature. Yet their cosmic quest destroyed the mediaeval vision of an immutable social order in a walled-in universe together with its fixed hierarchy of moral values, and transformed the European landscape, society, culture, habits and general outlook, as thoroughly as if a new species had arisen on this planet.

This mutation of the European mind in the seventeenth century is merely the latest example of the impact of the "Sciences" on the "Humanities"--of the inquiry into the nature of Nature on the inquiry into the nature of Man. It also illustrates the wrongheadedness of erecting academic and social barriers between the two; a fact which is at last beginning to gain recognition, nearly half a millennium after the Renaissance discovered the uomo universale.

Another result of this fragmentation is that there exist Histories of Science, which tell one at what date the mechanical clock or the law of inertia made their first appearance, and Histories of Astronomy which inform one that the precession of . . .

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