Tag: book diary

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The collapse of the Renaissance in Rome and the triumph of the Reformation can be traced through the six Renaissance popes, Borgia and Medici (plus a couple of hapless popes who only lasted a few months), each of whom in their own way contributed to the coming debacle through their poor choices in policy and […]

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Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum still has relevance for contemporary scientists, who are just as prone to bias as the Natural Philosophers of Bacon’s day. In fact, I am convinced that most scientists do not understand science as a discipline. They understand how to do research in their field of study or, to be more cynical […]

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The first book of Bacon’s ‘Novum Organum’ provides an extensive catalog of the different sources of bias and other impediments to understanding the natural world, of which his ‘idols’ are simply broad categories. He has a lot of ground to cover. Anyone with an interest in the history of science can think of many examples […]

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I have mentioned before that I found it difficult to grasp Francis Bacon’s concept of ‘idols’. I thought it worth noting that Peter Michael Urbach, writing in the Encyclopedia Britannica, provides a clean summary of Bacon’s categories of bias without the jargon and eccentric metaphor. Bacon’s first category describes the bias that comes from human […]

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The previously noted ‘The Practical Cogitator’ begins with some brief aphorisms on thinking and philosophy from Oliver Wendell Holmes ( a favorite of the editors), John Adams, and others. The first extended excerpt comes from Francis Bacon’s ‘Novum Organum’, where he presents his famous ‘idols’ that act as obstructions to the understanding and discovery of […]

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In the past, I have brought up several books that I read in the background, a little at a time as the mood strikes. A background book that I haven’t mentioned before is ‘The Practical Cogitator’. Not a felicitous title, but of a piece with the sensibilities of the editors. The book is in the […]

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I am always pleased to get some response to my little cantles of opinion that I post here.  Occasionally, a thoughtful comment appears that deserves a considered response. In case you missed it, here, in response to my post on Marshall McLuhan, is @genferei: I wonder if we are in the midst of a transition […]

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To most people, the 1960s means Civil Rights, Vietnam, the Beatles, Woodstock, and Austin Powers. To me, it meant Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Buckminster Fuller, and Marshall Mcluhan. At fifteen, I was reading Marshall Mcluhan, and it all made perfect sense. Coming back to him several years later, after having learned […]

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One guilty pleasure that I will admit to is the writing of Sax Rohmer, creator of Fu Manchu. In my youth, when the Boston Public Library was a pleasant and useful place to spend time in, I could find all of the Fu Manchu stories on the open shelves, most in battered first editions. I […]

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Several years ago, I began Dumas Malone’s magisterial biography of Thomas Jefferson. Reading it off and on since, I finally made a push to finish the sixth volume, some 3000 pages later. The last chapters are rather sad. Malone goes into great detail regarding Jefferson’s difficulties starting the University of Virginia. I was amused to […]

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In a recent issue of National Review, Jack Fowler wrote a charming article about Thomas Aquinas College in upstate New York. It begins with his account of attending an early morning philosophy class discussing Aristotle on the nature of time. Naturally, I had to read Aristotle for myself, and think about what I might have […]

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I have mentioned before Nolli’s map of Rome from 1748. I have found it a pleasurable, even indispensable accompaniment to my reading about the Renaissance in Rome. I have also mentioned the website maintained by the architecture and geography department of the University of Oregon (http://nolli.uoregon.edu and now at http://nolli.stanford.edu/legacy). This site includes background material, […]

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It was during the papacy of Leo X that the Reformation became a force to be reckoned with, which Leo didn’t. A Lateran Council finally met, but was ineffective in implementing serious reform. This is when the corruption of the church became undeniable, and Martin Luther came to the fore as the focus of rebellion […]

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I am old enough to remember when there was considerable controversy over a major restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the 1980s. A vocal minority contended that a layer of varnish, presumably applied contemporaneous to the painting, was part of Michelangelo’s conception and should be preserved. My guess is the varnish (actually layers of […]

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Pope Julius II is best remembered for the great art he commissioned. At any rate, the art is remembered, if not the Pope. In Durant’s telling, this is when the Renaissance shifted from Florence to Rome. Julius deserves credit for having commissioned the new St. Peter’s (Bramante), the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Michelangelo), The School of […]

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Those of you who may have been following my diary for some time will recall that my interest in the Renaissance began with Barabara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly’ and her section on the Renaissance popes whose folly brought on the Reformation. I wanted to know more, and have been helped immeasurably by Will Durant’s […]

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I have mentioned before that there are a very small number of authors for whom I will drop everything in order to read their latest. Faith Hunter is one, and her latest book has landed at my door. Any author who comes up with one good idea has done a remarkable thing. Sherlock Holmes, Harry […]

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I have mentioned before that I read Gibbon more as a work of literature than history, but having become curious about the time period covered by his fourth book, I thought I might find some modern historians on my shelves, and see what they had to say about it. One of my commenters, @GeezerBob , […]

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I confess that I write these book diary posts largely for my own amusement, and to get these thoughts out of my head, where they would otherwise rattle around without end. I don’t expect to add to anyone’s knowledge, unless it is to point out some odd cross-references that may be unknown to anyone but […]

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I have mentioned before that I read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall a little at a time, as the mood strikes. Having just now reached the end of the fourth book, I am inclined to make some comments here. There are three major inflection points in Gibbon’s book, excepting the endpoint of the fall of Constantinople […]

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