Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making Plans

Of course that is what I am doing - or trying to do - given the other demands on my time. Part of the difficulties arise from not having any clue about setting up a scholarly organization - and having a certain fear of getting bogged down by administrative details. Let that not disturb any reader - those things can be worked out. We must not lose sight of the real purpose: to actually study the work of Duhem and Jaki, to learn from them, and to advance their work in the study of the history of science - and to make it known more widely. By doing so we shall take our part in accomplishing what Chesterton wrote over a century ago:
The rebuilding of this bridge between science and human nature is one of the greatest needs of mankind.
[GKC The Defendant 75]
But exactly what might we be doing? What tasks might this grand but ill-defined society perform? And must we all be scholars - must we somehow be of the ranks of our great leaders?

Having mentioned Chesterton - how can I avoid doing so, for I am a Chestertonian, and his work enters so much into my own, even into the technical work I do - I must point out that my vision our society is to be universal. It must be scholarly - but it must include those who have interest in our purposes and are willing to be diligent - to have a love for the work.
Certainly there will be tasks for scholars - for those who can read the difficult medieval scripts of old French and abbreviated Latin, and who can acquire access to these rare texts. Tasks for those who are willing to do translations of difficult and technical writing. Tasks for those who have the wide view of history, and who will search for truth, even in the work of intellectual enemies. But also popular writings desired by Duhem and Jaki:
Duhem certainly looked forward to the day when, as he told Jordan, following the completion of the Système du monde "I would closet myself during the summer vacation in Cabrespine and would extract, without a scholarly apparatus, its essential conclusions." He did not live to see that day which would have regaled the historiography of science with a great classic enjoyable by a very large public.
[Jaki, Uneasy Genius 196]
Most of these tasks will require scholars and specialists. But there will be tasks for less scholarly. There will be a variety of "Internet searches" for those who have such skills. There will be books to be read, and reviews of those books to be written. There will be discussions to be had - yes, and questions to be asked. There will even be tasks for young people to do: those who will enter into the wider knowledge of science and of history - and of the authentic realm of higher education - by studying the works of Jaki and Duhem and others in this field.

Eventually we shall have a journal to unite our work, and a real web site - though I see benefits in the use of bloggs, and think we ought to take advantage of them - it is a wonderful paradox to wield such a novel tool in such historical work (sounds like St. Augustine's tam antiqua, tam nova, doesn't it?) And we shall want to have a conference, and publish proceedings and our translations and support scholars in their research, which will mean financial support.

For now, however, I shall be content in making this rough sketch for you, and proceeding to think more on our work. I might point out that in our high-tech world, even major projects are begun on napkins while drinking beer (my own system happened that way!) You may prefer another beverage; suit yourself. But we have the advantage that this scrawled draft of a design is stored and propagated to others who may be half-a-world away physically - yet united in a desire and a will to work on this worthy project.

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