If they mastered Latin and, ideally, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic; became proficient at what now seem the unconnected skills of mathematics and astronomy, history and geography, and physics and music; visited any recognized scholar . . . bearing a letter from a senior scholar, and E-eeted their host in acceptable atin or French, they were assured of everything a learned man or woman would want: a warm and civilized welcome, a cup of chocolate (or, later, coffee), and an hour or two of ceremonious conversation on the latest editions of the classics and the most recent sightings of the rings of Saturn. The only problem with this familiar narrative is that Piccolomini was describing his own election as Pope Pius II.\n (This history is being repeated today, as some scientists and philosophers- Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett- insist that religious belief of almost any kind is incompatible with a commitment to science and that everyone must therefore choose this day whom they will serve.) Grafton shows that in the republic's early centuries die bracketing of religious differences tended to confuse those who did not understand, or did not follow, the community's distinctive practices.
Pedantic Park Alan Jacobs First Things; Aug/Sep 2009; 195; Docstoc pg. 43 Reproduced with permission of the copyright own
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