Volume 2.1 (Spring 2018)
In her criticism of the replica of a pregnant woman used by her rival as a pedagogical tool, the English midwife Elizabeth Nihell went so far as to describe it as “[a] wooden statue, representing a woman with child, whose belly was of leather, in which a bladder full, perhaps, of small beer, represented the uterus.”
Coltan Scrivner and Dario Maestripieri. Creativity Patterns in The Production of Scientific Theories and Literary Fiction
The process of knowledge formation and transmittal can be studied historically, at the level of societies and their cultures, or at the level of the individual and over the course of an individual’s life. Take scientific knowledge, for example. The production of scientific knowledge by an individual is often associated with the concept of ‘creativity.’
The cult of ruins that arose in the 18th century set all Europe on fire. Italy was its first laboratory, but it did not take long for it to invade France, Great Britain, the German principalities and even Russia. Travelers and the “Grand Tour” were the vectors of this enthusiasm, enriched by the art of painters and poets no less than by antiquarian scholarship and the development of techniques of observation, survey, and excavation.
As he prepared for the Constitutional Convention in the spring of 1787, James Madison plunged into a thorough study of historical confederacies, from the ancient Greeks to the then- modern Dutch and German federations. His inquiry, which was informed by materials he had requested from Thomas Jefferson in France, was both schematic and thorough.
There is an idea, powerful across the long history of formation of much of what we take to be knowledge, that the objects of our thought can best be understood as pebbles. By way of explaining this cryptic point, let me remind you of one of Borges’ last stories, “Tigres Azules,” Blue Tigers. Its narrator, Alexander Craigie, was a Scottish philosopher who made a living teaching “occidental logic” at Lahore (modern Pakistan) circa 1900.
By contemporary accounts, the traditional Jewish Bible is an anthology of Hebrew pieces of literature from ancient Israel, Judea and Babylon. Its materials — compositions, collections, collated fragments, and more — span the ninth to second centuries BCE, from the period of Assyrian domination, through the Babylonian and Persian, and into the Hellenistic.
My subject is a crucial episode in the story of how historical explanation fell out of favor as an element of naturalist understanding: how history found itself banished from science. This is a subject close to my heart since I teach at Stanford, where the social and intellectual world, at least among the students, is divided into the Techies and the Fuzzies.
Can we speak of distinct Eastern and Western ways of knowing? Or of more of less undifferentiated East/West ways of knowing? Or of East/West ways of knowing of which we can speak as opposed to North/South ways of knowing of which we cannot really speak?