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New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of…
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New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of… (vuoden 1992 painos)

– tekijä: Anthony Grafton (Tekijä), April Shelford (Avustaja), Nancy Siraisi (Avustaja)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1351162,251 (3.8)1
On encountering what he called "the Indies," the Jesuit Jose de Acosta wrote, "Having read what poets and philosophers write of the Torrid Zone, I persuaded myself that when I came to the Equator, I would not be able to endure the violent heat, but it turned out otherwise ... What could I do then but laugh at Aristotle's Meteorology and his philosophy?" Acosta's experience echoes that of his fellow travelers to the New World, and it is this experience, with its profound effect on Western culture, that Anthony Grafton charts. Describing an era of exploration that went far beyond geographic bounds, this book shows how the evidence of the New World shook the foundations of the old, upsetting the authority of the ancient texts that had guided Europeans so far afield. The intellectual shift mapped out here, a movement from book learning to empirical knowledge, did not take place easily or quickly, and Grafton presents it in all its drama and complexity. What he recounts is in effect a war of ideas fought, sometimes unwittingly by mariners, scientists, publishers, scholars, and rulers over one hundred fifty years. He shows us explorers from Cortes and Columbus to Scaliger and Munster, laden with ideas gathered from ancient and medieval texts, in their encounters with the world at large. In colorful vignettes, firsthand accounts, published debates, and copious illustrations, we see these men and their contemporaries trying to make sense of their discoveries as they sometimes confirm, sometimes contest, and finally displace traditional images and notions of the world beyond Europe. The fundamental cultural revolution that Grafton documents still reverberates in our time. By taking us into this battle of books versus facts, a conflict that has shaped global views for centuries, Grafton allows us to re-experience and understand the Renaissance as it continues to this day.… (lisätietoja)
Jäsen:usernome
Teoksen nimi:New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery
Kirjailijat:Anthony Grafton (Tekijä)
Muut tekijät:April Shelford (Avustaja), Nancy Siraisi (Avustaja)
Info:Belknap Press (1992), 296 pages
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New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (tekijä: Anthony Grafton)

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Between 1550 and 1650, Europeans came into contact with a new world for which they were ill prepared by ancient texts. Encountering a temperate instead of torrid zone, the Jesuit Jose de Acosta laughs at Aristotle's characterization (p.1) "In 1492, all educated Europeans knew where knowledge lay. It was contained in authoritative texts, the Bible, the philosophical, historical and literary works of the Greeks and Romans, and a few modern works of unusually high authority." (p.2) The learned men of Medieval Europe were people of "the book". The practical men of the Renaissance went beyond this book knowledge to the experiential. By the mid-17th C, ancient texts became less central to European intellectual life. The world itself was expanding, as new lands were discovered. The 17th C also witnessed the rise of vernacular prose. In the encounter with new lands and new peoples, inconvenient facts burst the bounds of ancient texts and experience replaced book learning as the primary source of knowledge.

Yet the ancient texts maintained their vitality well into the new era. Revisionists have pointed to the persistence of old ideas amidst the discovery of the new. Tilting his hat toward the revisionist position, Grafton points to contradictions and tensions within texts and seeks to portray a complicated and nuanced picture of the encounter of new worlds by cultures steeped in ancient texts. Making no pretense of presenting a narrative of the native peoples, this is a story about Europeans. It is about how they interpreted and re-interpreted their texts in light of the new empiricism. Grafton seeks to show the power of these texts and the contest over their meaning.

"All Coherence Gone" (Chapter 3)

Focusing on the Cosmographia by Thomas Muenster as a "diagnostic tool for cultural analysis." In this Renaissance encyclopedia, Muenster attempted to catalog all of the knowledge of the world. It mixes elements of Enlightenment skepticism with credulity seeming reminiscent of the Medieval scholar. Replete with internal contradictions, Muenster (for instance) drew maps of an American continent distinct from Asia and then proceeded to describe the inhabitants of that new continent as Indians. "Denouncing the tellers of tall tales about monstrous races," he then recounted the tales in great detail. "The book merges a compendium of rigorous and up to date information with a panoply of fabulous stories and popular errors. " (p.102) He portrayed a "zodiac's worth of fantastic monsters as well as neat constellations accurately plotted and recorded." Having translated Ptolemy's Geography, Muenster relied upon the concepts presented therein and extended rather than refuted this ancient text. His analytic structure was timeless, despite the new evidence piling up in front of him. New races of people portrayed in classical Roman poses.

Ancient Authorities and Modern Questions

Copernicus and Vesalius faced the same challenges, extending the frameworks of ancient knowledge (Aristotle and Galen) to include knew empirically-based knowledge. Vesalius, in particular, tried to hold onto anatomical concepts from Galen until it was absolutely impossible to hold them alongside new empirically-derived ideas. Neither Copernicus nor Vesalius was an intellectual radical. "Both Copernicus and Vesalius expected that their innovations could coexist with - and even rest on - the very structures we now see them as attacking." (p. 115) The traditional frameworks of thought were as necessary to the Europeans as they were to the natives. In the welter of new information, the ancient constructs provided conceptual frameworks in which to cast new information. The sense that emerges of trying to make sense of it all is best captured by the image of the book wheel, used in the mid-16th century as a device to examine multiple books at the same time, comparing and contrasting authorities. The shock of the new sent European intellectual life into "confusion and decay." (p. 120)

The Crisis and Its Causes

Search for universal legal principles, as witnessed in the contest between Baudouin and Bodin, took on new life as scholars of the Roman Law became ethnographers in search of universally applicable truths. The bounds of ancient knowledge could not contain new knowledge. Bodin concluded that ancient Europeans had lived a savage life. It was his contact with the fruits of real exploration that allowed this re--conceptualization to take place. Europe too, had lived through its savage age. Mercator, in drawing his new world maps, asserted that Ptolemy was simply wrong. Instead of building on Ptolemy, Mercator consigned him to the dustbin of history (p. 126).

Fielding the New World

Hispanic historians first to describe the new world. In the debate between Bartolome de Las Casas and Juan GInes de Sepulvida, we see the canon used to good effect by both sides. Sepulvida drew on Aristotle to justify the treatment of the barbarian races of the new world. Las Casas drew on a wide variety of classic texts within the Aristotelian tradition to show that barbarism was a relative term. Perhaps, he asked, were the Europeans not barbarians compared to the Incas and Aztecs? They often drew on the same texts to prove opposite points.

Las Casas was one of several important mendicant scholars who studied the world of the Incas and Aztecs and wrote detailed histories in which they imposed Western form on native history. Bernardino de Sahagun's work provides illustration of this process. Spending tremendous effort in research in the field, learning native languages, conducting interviews, Sahagun's narrative reveals his traditional orientation as a "man of the book" by imposing categories such as "moral philosophy" and "theology" onto a culture where these concepts were meaningless. (p. 145) Through the very act of capturing in writing an ever changing oral tradition, Sahagun did violence to the culture he was trying to catalog. Writing a History of New Spain, Sahagun sought to provide them with their own canonical text. It is a-historical to criticize these mendicants for this though, since the valuable work they did in cataloguing the native culture was inspired by the same habits of thought that marred the results (p. 147).

Ancient Solutions and Their Virtues

Using the Bible to situate the native populations in the flow of world history. The natives were cast as descendants of the ancient Israelites. (p. 149) The Europeans of the 16th and 17th C labored to make the classics fit with the Bible as well, seeking a unified interpretive whole. Trapped within the interpretive framework of ancient texts, critics of the texts' authority often deployed the texts themselves in the pursuit of discrediting them. Social critics like Montaigne in his On Cannibals, criticized the Europeans for being worse than cannibals, who merely ate their victims.

Epilogue - Grafton returns to the metaphor of the cannon and tool chest.
1 ääni mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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On encountering what he called "the Indies," the Jesuit Jose de Acosta wrote, "Having read what poets and philosophers write of the Torrid Zone, I persuaded myself that when I came to the Equator, I would not be able to endure the violent heat, but it turned out otherwise ... What could I do then but laugh at Aristotle's Meteorology and his philosophy?" Acosta's experience echoes that of his fellow travelers to the New World, and it is this experience, with its profound effect on Western culture, that Anthony Grafton charts. Describing an era of exploration that went far beyond geographic bounds, this book shows how the evidence of the New World shook the foundations of the old, upsetting the authority of the ancient texts that had guided Europeans so far afield. The intellectual shift mapped out here, a movement from book learning to empirical knowledge, did not take place easily or quickly, and Grafton presents it in all its drama and complexity. What he recounts is in effect a war of ideas fought, sometimes unwittingly by mariners, scientists, publishers, scholars, and rulers over one hundred fifty years. He shows us explorers from Cortes and Columbus to Scaliger and Munster, laden with ideas gathered from ancient and medieval texts, in their encounters with the world at large. In colorful vignettes, firsthand accounts, published debates, and copious illustrations, we see these men and their contemporaries trying to make sense of their discoveries as they sometimes confirm, sometimes contest, and finally displace traditional images and notions of the world beyond Europe. The fundamental cultural revolution that Grafton documents still reverberates in our time. By taking us into this battle of books versus facts, a conflict that has shaped global views for centuries, Grafton allows us to re-experience and understand the Renaissance as it continues to this day.

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