Enemies of Science: The Handmaiden's Handmaiden in the Early Medieval West

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Virginia Tech

The gradual blending of classical science and epistemology with indigenous/traditional practices and modes of understanding (particularly magic and religion) in the early western Middle Ages tends to be misunderstood. The purpose of this study is to address the reason(s) why the early medieval West has been labeled an irrational, unscientific "Dark Age" in order to point out that this conception's existence has more to do with limited historical perspectives than with reality. The anachronistic superimposition of modern presuppositions and methodological expectations is a very old phenomenon. Ironically, however, it has crept into the history of science and extended to ostensibly objective "scientific" historiography to such a degree that dismissiveness regarding the other ways of knowing that have informed our scientific and epistemological development frequently tends to obscure historical continuity.

My goal in this undertaking is to firmly establish how we may understand that the intellectual revolution beginning in twelfth-century Europe was founded on a rich and multifarious tradition of knowledge and understanding; the preceding seven or eight centuries of the early Middle Ages was not one of intellectual "darkness" and should not be discarded as such. The approach I have taken is intended to demonstrate, rather than simply state, this goal by roughly imitating of the process of intellectual transmission in the early Middle Ages. Therefore, primary sources are supplemented by numerous secondary interpretations from various academic disciplines in the hope that collecting and reforming ideas in this fashion will draw out the inherent connectivity of ideological thought structures and approaches to the natural world.

Ideas, Cosmology, History, Magic, Other, Rationality