Monday, June 16, 2008

Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age: Part III, Chapter 7, "Preludes to a Future Overstepping of Limits"

Two preconditions for rehabilitation of curiositas (1) removing man's contribution to his own salvation (2) rescinding the world's providential or even perspicuously intelligible character.

These validated approach which acted as if God were dead.

346: "The modern era began, not indeed as the epoch of the death of God, but as the epoch of the hidden God, the deus abscondidas -- and a hidden God is pragmatically as good as dead. The nominalist theology induces a human relation to the world whose implicit content could have been formulated in the postulate that man had to behave as though God were dead. This induces a restless taking stock of the world, which can be designated as the motive power of the age of science."

Made possible new view of science -- not trying to comprehend the world ideally and exactly, but only hypothetically and provisionally.

Nominalism developed many quantitative approaches to study of nature, but refrained from measuring the quantities used -- both from the lingering fear of transgressing on the exact numerical knowledge reserved for God and the prejudice that approximate measures were unworthy of science.

Nicole de Oresme's argument for incommensurability of movement's of heavens means that there is no prospect of a perfect alignment, and from this and the Aristotelean premise of symmetry of beginning and end of time, infers that there can be no end.

352: "The pretension to exactitude conjured up visions of a collision with the theological index of the impossible and gave any application of the speculative calculations the character of curiositas; renunciation of exactitude, which could have stylized and justified itself as humilitas [humility], presupposed a break with the generally accepted ideal of science. From this point of view, what still had to happen between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries in order to lay the foundation for the formation of the modern age ... does not look like an intensification, or even an exaggeration, of the supposedly 'modest' cognitive pretensions of the Middle Ages -- as it has been readily perceived, to the detriment of the integrity of the modern idea of science. Rather it looks like a very decisive renunciation, a resignation -- which, while it was not skeptical, was still directed at the center of what had gone before -- from continuing to measure oneself (in one's theoretical relation to nature) against the norm of knowing the Creation from the angle of vision and with the categories of the Creator."

Basic medieval conflict: unlimited pretensions of theoretical drive versus theological insistence on human finitude. Late medieval Pietism found a resolution in reacting against theoretical inquiry.

Nicolas of Cusa sought a different resolution. He views knowledge about every particular thing as capable of being corrected and improved upon without end -- he adds a dimension of intensification to knowledge. Wisdom is the recognition that knowledge is not complete, that it could be made more perfect. In this context, Nicolas of Cusa assesses the limitless quest for knowledge as a positive quality, because it is only in striving for knowledge that the lack of full knowledge is revealed. This triggers self reflection in the knowledge seeking subject.

For Cusa, Applying mathematics to nature, in particular by measurement, particularly brings out the incompleteness of knowledge of the world. Mathematics is where human knowledge is most secure because it is produced by man himself. Knowledge not as what is pregiven, but what is constructed and measured. That the model or measurement of physical phenomena, like the heavens, is not perfect is to be expected; error in knowledge thus has a necessary and positive quality, as the element which we ceaselessly strive to reduce without eliminating.

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