Saturday, February 06, 2010

not a glimmer, but a gift

David Schaengold's fine first post at The League fills me with the urge to visit a cathedral/skyscraper hybrid like the Tribune Tower or the Woolworth Building. His heartening and refreshingly original insight that there are many ways in which "modernity is actually more Christian than the Middle Ages" does not, however, require positing that "nothing like the scientific method was found in antiquity, and what glimmers of it appeared in the Middle Ages were feeble." Or so it seems to me. Here's the wonderful Edward Grant on the matter:
The idea, and the habit, of applying reason to resolve the innumerable questions about our world, and of always raising new questions, did not come to modern science from out of the void. Nor did it originate with the great scientific minds of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries... It came out of the Middle Ages from many faceless scholastic logicians, natural philosophers, and theologians... It is a gift from the Latin Middle Ages to the modern world, a gift that makes our modern society possible, though it is a gift that may never be acknowledged.
But this is only to bolster Schaengold's point that the "civilization of the modern West has privileged and encouraged joy in the way the universe works more than any civilization in history." We've made good use of the gift.