Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Antiquaries

Before there were modern historians, there were antiquaries. From 1400 to 1800, in Europe, these scholars discovered and  examined carved stones, architectural features, old books. They had no idea how these things might be connected to answer questions about the builders, carvers, painters whose products they examined. Their own universe was firmly planted and considered timeless. Their finds were a source of interest, amazement, and reflected a collector's zeal and preservationist's scruples. 

A similar intellectual landscape prevails in modern science. Without questioning, mostly, their positivistic bearings, these figures point out exciting strange phenomena and refuse to consider questions of boundaries, of gaps, of edges. 

A difference is that the antiquaries did not pretend their research answered all the important questions.

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