Tuesday, May 3, 2011
AVDI VIDE TACE translated means “HEAR, SEE, BE SILENT”
The Royal Society, the premier and oldest learned society for the study of science, was founded in 1660 with the motto “Nullius in Verba” or “On the words of no one.” This date probably was the start of that remarkable period in the intellectual history of Europe that we call today “The Age of Enlightenment.”
But the story of the beginning of that age went back many years.
European universities and intellectual climate at the time were still dominated by Aristotle and Scholastic system of thinking, that of the “Disputatio.”
The way to arrive at truth was the method of “Deduction” axiomatic deductions from authorities. Who constituted the “Authorities" anyway? The sacred books, writings by ancient authorities and so on. Scant attention was paid to empirical evidence.
An example being based on the authorities of St. Thomas, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Kings 1, (the last three are books of the Bible) and St. Augustine, one must logically deduce that witches exist, and therefore it was heresy to say otherwise. (Hence the Witch Trials that lasted for 100's of years)
The Catholic Church’s pressure on Galileo to recant his heliocentric world view was base on a similar line of reasoning. The authority of the Bible and of Ptolemy clearly stated that the earth was immovable and was the center of the universe. (Many intellectual men of this time lost their lives or came very close at the hands of the Church)
Even Martin Luther, the man who started the "Reformation" was steeped in the Aristotelian world view and was a follower of the method of scholasticism of his Age. He had this to say regarding the heliocentric world view: “This FOOL Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” (Again the teachings had to be that the Earth was the center of the universe because the Bible said so)
Even today you will see people holding up a Bible or Koran as proof of anything they disagree with. Evolution, Gay Marriages, Women's Rights, etc.
That was the method of scholasticism that one drew upon the rigid axiomatic deductions by logic from premises, the veracity of which were based on "AUTHORITIES."
To sum this up, “TRUTH” is to be derived by induction from the particular to the general, by induction based on empirically collected data.
When I read or hear a person quoting sources of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Rielly, Donald Trump, or any other Mass Marketed Ultra-Conservative Personality as proof of their argument; my only thought is, “Hey Mindless, Non-Critical Thinking Lemming!!! At Least Try And Join The 17th Century Line Of Thinking!!”
“NULLIUS IN VERBA”