We [cannot] persist in seeing Leonardo [da Vinci] as an artist on the one hand and a scientist and technologist on the other. The common response is to suggest that he recognised no divisions between the two….

This doesn’t quite hit the mark, however, because it tacitly accepts that ‘art’ and ‘science’ had the same connotations in Leonardo’s day as they do now. What Leonardo considered arte was the business of making things. Paintings were made by arte, but so were the apothecaries’ drugs and the weavers’ cloth.

…the people who made [paintings] were tradesmen paid to do a job, and manual workers at that. Leonardo … strove to raise the status of painting so that it might rank among the ‘intellectual’ or liberal arts, such as geometry, music, and astronomy.

Scienza, in contrast, was knowledge—but not necessarily that obtained by … experiment…. Medieval scholastics had insisted that knowledge was what appeared in the books of Euclid, Aristotle, Ptolemy, and other ancient writers, and that the learned man was one who had memorized these texts.

The celebrated humanism of the Renaissance did not challenge this idea but merely refreshed it, insisting on returning to the original sources rather than relying on Arabic and medieval glosses.

Philip Ball, Flow: Nature’s Patterns

Tie-in 1: During my lifetime, progress is taken for granted.

  • “The pace of technological change is getting faster and faster”
  • “We can’t keep up with our own progress!”
  • “The world is more interconnected and dynamic than ever”
  • “Growth just happens”
  • “Equities for the long run”

But during the first millennium ano domini, and pretty much until the Renaissance, it was generally assumed (by European Christians) that the World was in a Fallen State. That we left Eden long ago, and that now the very bones of the Earth were decayed and decrepit. (according to Tom Holland)

Tie-in 2: In an upcoming article I’m going to pull out some of the best quotes from discussion of the Galileo Affair on Thony Christie’s website. My history of science was wrong.

About isomorphismes

Argonaut: someone engaged in a dangerous but potentially rewarding adventure.
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