Friday, February 21, 2003

The Times Literary Supplement had a review of The Way and Word this week by Sir Geoffrey Lloyd and Nathan Sivin. It is a comparison between ancient Greek and ancient Chinese science which looks very interesting. The key question of why the scientific revolution never happened in China has never been properly answered and is often seen as an embarrassment to ask. Joseph Needham tried grasping the nettle but never really sorted the problem out either. Lloyd is lecturing on the subject at Cambridge at the moment so his thoughts are likely to develop further. The TLs review says this book does not provide an answer to the question (which it calls the elephant of history of science) either, but does point out some useful avenues of enquiry. The Way is the Chinese world view - everything is harmonious and one. The word is the Greek view - debate and argument to reach truth. Clearly they are different although one must be careful when trying to fit complex societies into one word generalisations. Should be an interesting read.

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