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Author Topic: THE RENAISSANCE  (Read 5099 times)
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« Reply #45 on: October 17, 2008, 07:00:47 pm »

As historians' interests have extended beyond astronomy and mathematics to natural history in particular, as well as to "pseudo-sciences" such as alchemy and magic,9 the problem of humanism has all but vanished, in part because humanists themselves found such fields natural. Further, a more nuanced view of humanism itself has taken root, whereby humanism cannot be conveniently separated out as just one of the factors influencing a scientist or a scientific text, whether for good or ill.10 It was neither an ideology with a particular stance towards the world and humanity's place in it (as Burckhardt had it), nor did it in practice turn young boys into virtuous orators , "good men speaking well" (as the humanists themselves advertised the goal of their teaching) who would have little use for mathematics and the sciences.11 Rather, humanist education instilled a range of mental habits and (just as importantly) techniques for reading, gathering information and putting it to use, which were the common scholarly foundation of all writers in this period, whether they were reading history itself,12 or investigating natural philosophy13 —or even magic [End Page 36] and alchemy.14 In a survey article in this journal, Ann Blair and Anthony Grafton reminded us of the continuing work in this field, while warning us against taking too literally the claims of practitioners in the new disciplines that they had shaken off the baleful influence of humanism and made themselves over anew.15

The papers in this forum provide a new approach to considering the relationship which humanist culture had with the emerging new sciences. The histories considered here are clearly not stories of opposition; nor, however, are they straightforward examples of humanist research in practice. Peter Ramus's Aristotelian opponent Jacques Charpentier accused him of plagiarizing his influential history from Johannes Stadius's Tabulae Bergenses, a claim which, despite Charpentier's personal animus against Ramus, seems to have some merit.16 Henry Savile, another opponent of Ramus, cribbed much of his history (itself critical of Ramus) from the French philosopher. The histories of magic outlined in Kassell's paper again draw second-hand on well-established narratives of disciplinary history. Such histories do not fit easily into the modern scholarship on Renaissance historiography, with its emphasis on the role of antiquarian research and the development of the notion of the fact (even though some of the same authors, such as Savile and, arguably, Ramus, were important contributors to this kind of historiography as well). The papers presented in this forum suggest, however, that it was in part the very ubiquity of the historical narratives that helped to establish and define the disciplines within a wider intellectual community. The authors' hermeneutic interventions constituted their originality, and were their means for fashioning a distinctive response both to external criticisms and to internal issues of the material and organization of their arts. 
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