quinta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2014

A Querela dos Antigos e dos Chineses

Chinese technology, both ancient and medieval, led to empirical discoveries and inventions many of which profoundly affected world history. It is quite clear that the Chinese could plan and carry out useful experiments for the further improvement of techniques, though again always interpreting them by theories of primitive type. It is quite clear that Chinese society, though less favourable to technological advance than post-Renaissance European society, was able to make much greater advances than the slave-owning city-state culture of the ancient Mediterranean region, or the civilisation of feudal Europe. Both these differences call for sociological comment. Who ever may trouble to read this book to the end will, I believe, be astonished at the richness and variety of the techniques which Europe adopted from China, generally with no appreciation of their origin, during the first fourteen centuries of our era. Francis Bacon wrote:
It is well to observe the force and virtue and consequences of discoveries. These are to be seen nowhere more conspicuously than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, and of which the origin, though recent, is obscure and inglorious; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the magnet. For these three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world, the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes ; insomuch that no empire, no sect, no star, seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
During the following centuries, Europeans acquired a much greater knowledge of China than was available when Bacon wrote. But those who should have known better failed to give the acknowledgement that was due. Thus J. B. Bury in our own time, in his history of the Idea of Progress, when describing the Renaissance controversies between the supporters of the ' Ancients ' and those of the 'Moderns', shows that the latter were generally considered to have had the best of it, precisely because of the three great inventions which Bacon described. Yet nowhere in his book is there even a footnote pointing out that none of the three was of European origin.

Joseph Needham. Science and Civilisation in China Vol I. Cambridge at the University Press. (1954)

Sem comentários:

Enviar um comentário