Saturday, November 5, 2016

David Wootton contra Thomas Kuhn

     "In these last two chapters we have been looking at the ways in which intellectual change has knock-on consequences.  The discovery of America killed off the two-spheres theory of the Earth.  Copernicanism led to the idea that the planets shine by reflected light, which was confirmed by the discovery of the phases of Venus; and this killed off the Ptolemaic system.  There was nothing arbitrary or contingent about these changes; they were as inevitable as the discovery of America once Columbus had set sail.  These were intellectual transformations of fundamental importance, yet historians of science barely discuss them.  They have become dark stars themselveseffectively invisible.
     "Why?  Since Kuhn's Structure history of science has focused on controversy between scientists, the assumption has been that every major new theory is contentious, and that there is nothing inevitable about the process by which one theory supplants another.  This approach has been extraordinarily illuminating.  But, in shining a light on controversy, it has left in the shadows all those changes which took place almost silently and were inevitableindeed, could be seen to be inevitable at the time.  Nobody (or, rather, only a few confused and ill-informed individuals) sprang to the defence of the two-spheres system after 1511. . . . By 1624, eleven years after he had made public his discovery that Venus had a full set of phases, Galileo could take it for granted that no competent person would defend the Ptolemaic system. . . . The evidence is clear:  Ptolemaic astronomy was unaffected by Copernicus; it went into crisis with the new star of 1572, but by the end of the sixteenth century it had fully recovered.  The telescope, on the other hand, brought about its immediate and irreversible collapse.
     "Sometimes there are real, live, enduring controversies in science.  In the seventeenth century such conflicts took place between those who believed in the possibility of a vacuum and those who did not, between those who believed in the possibility of a moving Earth and those (after 1613, supporters of Brahe rather than Ptolemy) who did not.  Sometimes the outcome really does teeter and hang in the balance.  But, at other times, vast, well-constructed, apparently robust intellectual edifices are swept away with barely a murmur because, to paraphrase Vadianus, experience really can be demonstrative."

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 245-247.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"you, O God, . . . alone are holy and wonderful in all your Saints. . . ."

"Mirabilem te, Deus, et unum Sanctum in omnibus Sanctis tuis. . . ."

     Post communion, Feast of All Saints, Roman missal, but before that the Missale Parisiense of 1738 and I think (though I haven't double-checked) 1706 (ed. Noailles).  See Corpus orationum 13, p. 55, no. 3798.  There, i.e. in the Introduction to the Missale Parisiense on p. 3, it is said that many of the prayers in the Missale Parisiense go back to ancient models, e.g. ancient prefaces and episcopal benedictions.  Thus, my guess would be that this post communion was constructed on the basis of the antiphon present from 935+ in the database Cantus (see, for example, the presence of that antiphon in this manuscript Missale Parisiense of 1497), itself a quotation of Ps 67:36 iuxta LXX ("mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis").

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Catholic Church has preoccupied the ground (preoccupies the ground)

"to do this [(give ‘our own people . . . what is better’)] effectually we must proceed on the plan of attacking Romanism, as the most convenient way of showing what our own views are.  It has pre-occupied the ground, and we cannot erect our own structure without partly breaking down, partly using what we find upon it."

     John Henry Newman, Lectures on the prophetical office of the church:  viewed relatively to Romanism and popular Protestantism (London:  J. G. & F. Rivington; Oxford:  J. H. Parker, 1837), 8.