As the word Renaissance means “rebirth of knowledge,” Debus (1978) tries to examine how this knowledge, which is often scientific, originated. On his book “Man and Nature in the Renaissance,” Debus (1978) critically presents the history of scientific Renaissance that occurred from 1450 to 1650. Here, he narrates how humanism has influenced the development of two concrete areas of knowledge – medicine and science. He goes far on discussing and analyzing the impact of the works of some renowned Renaissance scholars such as Descartes, Galileo, Borelli, Boyle and Newton on the development of medicine and science.
Moreover, Debus (1978) also presents the important role of philosophical concepts and religion on getting the attention and interest of many young scholars to continuously seek deeper knowledge. Specifically, Debus (1978) talks about the contribution of the traditional study of nature including alchemy, astrology and natural magic which paved the way to the recognition of mathematics as a concrete tool for the interpretation of nature. The mathematical knowledge was then propagated by Galileo.
Generally, the book discusses the development of medicine and science from being unknown until it became a concrete knowledge that rooted from mere observation of nature and man’s activity. This knowledge, which originated in Western Europe, reached the world through the efforts of early scientists and philosophers who were seeking concrete explanation to the occurrence of different events around. Response and Analysis The present education system has gone far to teaching students about the many new knowledge, information and innovation relating to medicine and science.
The medical and scientific curriculum mostly focused on explaining how these new knowledge and invention functions when applied to our practical ways of living. However, only few studies had devoted time to critically discuss the origins of this important knowledge in detail. Debus’ work tries to fill this thirst for knowledge for he was able to discuss and analyze the root of medicine and science before these two fields claim acceptance from the early education system. Renaissance is one of the very important periods in our history.
During this time many developments had occurred and many branches of knowledge were unearthed. Indeed, before the Renaissance period, people used to believe about the power and influence of natural magic, occult, alchemy and astrology (Debus, 1978). These “branches of knowledge” are even included in their education curriculum from elementary to university level. Their attempts to understand the nature are generally expressed in almost all school subjects which are repeatedly being studied by scholars without arriving to a more concrete explanation.
In fact, most scholars preferred Aristotelian’s studies about the moral and physical improvement of man rather than seeking ways to logically and scholastically dispute the traditional higher learning. They had focused more on the improvement of elementary education rather than the development of knowledge at university education. Vittorino da Felte, a humanist, even built a school that would enhance children’s sports and military skills where most subjects are traditional and plainly about grammar, history, rhetoric and logic (Debus, 1978).
Thus early students received a course of learning that was only related to nature. Mathematics and science were not given importance to early students’ learning. Yet, if this kind of education has continued to flourish until today, we would not be able to survive the tests of nature. Progressively, the call to justify the pursuit of natural magic has introduced ways to the new investigation of nature through fresh observational evidence.
Galileo pioneered the importance of mathematics in understanding and interpreting the nature which then contradicts traditional Aristotelian search for causes. Later, this act was pursued by many Renaissance scholars. Technology became an important tool to the dissemination of new branches of knowledge divorced from traditional naturalistic studies. For example, through the invention of printing press, the quest for a new and concrete knowledge gained popularity among early scholars.
In addition, having the works of scholars, who then regarded themselves as scientist, published in vernacular through religious pamphlets resulted to acceptance since this approach was nationalistic. Thus the investigation for new higher learning became widespread. The development of medicine and science as fields of knowledge broke the monopoly of studying the past and the nature per se. More to this, many artisans and scientists became interested on inventing tools that require scientific application.
This then implied revolt against the traditional authority of the ancient since most ancient studies of nature were detached from processed being utilized by workmen (Debus, 1978). Indeed, since man naturally posses a thirst for knowledge and has the tendency to seek perfection this then explains how improvement and development take into places. The search for concrete knowledge encourages early scholars to deviate to traditional studies of nature thus embracing the new concept of science, mathematics and medicine.
Lastly, another characteristic of the Renaissance’s period of scientific and medical development was the growing reliance on observation and experiment as a carefully planned test of theory (Debus, 1978). Most Renaissance scholars have utilized the existence of Aristotelian studies in order to develop a more evidence-based study. Through the continuous effort to concretely explain the nature, early beliefs on magic, astrology and alchemy became unacceptable knowledge and were replaced by scientific and medical knowledge through the employment of evidence-based studies.
Yet, whatever imperfections antiquity has impacted on the early people, we should not disregard the important role ancient studies have played to the development of new branches of knowledge. In general, Debus (1978) was able to present historically and academically the origin and the development of science and medicine as new fields of knowledge on a way that readers could easily relate since he imparted the works of some renowned Renaissance scientists who until now are being studied in every school and university due to their important contributions in our society.
In conclusion, the impact of naturalism or humanism on the development of sciences, the scholars’ search for a new method of science and the continued debates between the proponents of a “mystical-occult world view” and those who believe in mathematical-observation approach to nature have paved way to the development of science and medicine which presently are regarded as important field of knowledge (Debus, 1978).
However, to be able to fully understand these fields of knowledge we, as present scholars, must be able to comprehend how this knowledge started and developed over time. In addition, the early beliefs on humanism and the high value imparted on the study of nature were indeed helpful to the development of many studies and new knowledge that we have today. Studying the historical Renaissance period is also important because during this period there are many important developments that occurred which are helpful on explaining present events and knowledge that we have.
Courtney from Study Moose
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