A rich exploration of how European naturalists used wonder and wonders (oddities and marvels) to envision and explain the natural world.Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize"This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objeA rich exploration of how European naturalists used wonder and wonders (oddities and marvels) to envision and explain the natural world.Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize"This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility of naturalists. Pursued in tandem, these interwoven histories show how the two sides of knowledge, objective order and subjective sensibility, were obverse and reverse of the same coin rather than opposed to one another."-- From the IntroductionWonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750 is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions--these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds....
|Title||:||Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750|
|Number of Pages||:||512 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750 Reviews
I was interested in this book largely for discussions of the fantastic in medieval perspective. I definitely got some of that--even the view of medieval life we get in fantasy, which is biased towards magical and interesting objects, seems to underplay the vivid and colorful reality of wonders in the lives of people in the Middle Ages (especially the elite, but even among common people). Princes and prelates hoarded collections of oddities far beyond the expected saints' bones and ersatz chunks of the cross. Ostrich eggs, narwhal tusks (as unicorn horns), and even whole dried crocodiles were hung in places of honor in entirely Christian churches, to communicate wealth and impress the congregation. Then there are the democratic sort of wonders, monstrous births of livestock and people, or comets, accessible to all classes and interpreted as portents of divine retribution for social ills. That section was neat and I got some good ideas from it. But the book very quickly turned to another angle: philosophy of science. Which I am also, felicitously, particularly interested in. The early natural philosophers held some pretty bizarre views. They believed that a true natural philosopher understood the causes of all things in theory, and that wonder was a response borne out of ignorance and not fit for an educated individual. To that end, they actively tried to "make wonders cease" by explaining away strange occurrences reported by their correspondents.Daston and Park trace the twists and turns wonders took as science grew over the 15th-18th centuries. This is all really interesting, but the changes are fairly subtle or particular to a dialogue relevant in one time period and not another, and it quickly all muddled together for me. I'm not sure if they could have done all that much more to establish time and zeitgeist to keep things grounded, but I'm not sure I could explain much of the last half of the book in any kind of chronological sequence. I think that may have been part of their point--trying to draw chronological progressions belies the messy and contradictory nature of history--and that's great but I found it hard to internalize a lot of the information because it was so similar, abundant, and without a lot of context or consequence. Medieval princes used Orientalist wonders to sell investors on financing Crusades, but what did Francis Bacon use them to do? Things become kind of abstract as the book goes on.That said, it does give a sense of the historical depth of some familiar contemporary dialogues. The idea that scientific explanations take the magic out of the world feels like an absurd mischaracterization made by people who aren't familiar with all the amazing stuff science has discovered. But that sentiment, the idea that scientists are "unweaving the rainbow," unconsciously echoes a sentiment leading scientists and philosophers have put forth explicitly more often than not in the centuries science has sort of existed. Even later Enlightenment scientists seem to have spent more time elaborating theory and philosophy (largely trying to square the idea of natural laws with their very important religious interpretations). It also really drove home how recently scientists have become really cognizant of the factors influencing their observations. Bacon may have pointed out the idols of the mind and the marketplace, but it doesn't seem like they were taken to heart by most scientists and implemented in methodology until much later. But early scientists still managed to start parsing out a lot of things through misguided observations of wondrous particulars, which is a good reminder about the complexity of the scientific method and the inevitable and potent influences of the culture that executes it. I feel like I didn't really internalize as much of this content as Daston and Park intended, but they've got me on the scent of science studies. I'll be headed to histories and cultural studies about science next, so if you've got good recommendations defo let me know.
Fascinating book - it seems everything Lorraine Daston's touches is brilliant. This was my entrée to early-modern science studies, and a compelling and engaging introduction at that. Though I may bicker with some of Park and Daston's arguments - I think they overstate the centrality of the 17th century to the development of modernity - one forgives them the occasional overstretching, and towards the back end of the book, repetitiveness, because as a whole the work is so brillaint.Fantastically illustrated to boot. And another bang-up design job by Bruce Mau and Zone Books.
This is a pretty amazing book - one of my all-time favorites. It's a history of how a sense of wonder (religious, supernatural, whatever) drove scientific investigation in pre-Modern Europe. It's science writing and writing about the history of science, but it's also about the way culture is constructed in the shadow of irrational impulses. Plus it's beautifully written and Lorraine Daston is a badass academic who can actually make a non-academic reader feel connected to what she's writing.
Neat concept even for someone less interested in pre-modern history. Major recommendation for anyone interested in history of science\intellectual history
Interested in freaks and wonders, but also want to know how they got that way in the first place? Think about how huge the world was, when ostrich eggs and alligators inspired maps that contained dragon-like fish between continents. Read this before you even pick up a book on circuses or so-called hermaphrodites.
It was a pleasure just to leaf through this nicely constructed book. The illustrations alone were entertaining. The argument on the changing meanings attached to wonder, especially in changing cultural contexts, was lucid and informative.
Fantastic pictures, in all senses of fantasy. Worth reading before any trip to the Cloisters (the met Cloisters)
Read this for a class, but really enjoyed the examples and the complex philosophy of wonder and curiosity.
Interesting subject, but I just couldn't get into the book itself.
This is a spectacular but messy book. Fascinating, but remind yourself when you read it to employ a little common sense.