Jonathan Rée

Schools of Thought

The Meaning of Science

By

Pelican 320pp £8.99 order from our bookshop

There has always been something self-righteous about the notion of science. In its classical sense, the Latin word scientia meant not just knowledge, but knowledge gained in a heroic struggle against the forces of ignorance and folly. By the time of the Renaissance, it referred to esoteric information gathered through sustained study, as opposed to everyday facts picked up without effort. In the course of the 19th century it acquired a new normative edge. ‘Science’ came to signify a set of disciplines that distinguish themselves from the rest – from the fine arts or imaginative literature, and perhaps history or geography or economics – by displaying a robust tendency to improve over time, reaching higher and higher levels of accuracy, comprehensiveness and sophistication. Ever since then, science and progress have been conceived as two sides of the same coin.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,