Jun 20, 2010

we are geometricians only by chance

A quote from 'Dr Johnson' (I assume Samuel Johnson), taken from an article by philosopher Peter van Inwagen, 'Science and Scripture' in Science and Religion in Dialogue [2010] available online at Blackwell Reference. http://www.blackwellreference.com if you know how to log in as a subscriber, or via your institution if you're so blessed. If you read through this collection in conjunction with their "Companion to Natural Theology", you'll leave your computer [possibly] better educated than I on these subjects; not too small an achievement.

The last few hundred years have seen thinkers who overestimate the intrinsic value of scientific knowledge ... Against this, I would set the following statements of the “great champion of the obvious,” Dr Johnson:

We are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance…. Our speculations upon matter are voluntary and at leisure.

[Scientific knowledge] is of such rare emergence that one man may know another half of his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostatics or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.

The innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars.

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