What happened to the European mind between 1605, when an audience watching Macbeth at the Globe might believe that regicide was such an aberration of the natural order that ghosts could burst from the ground, and 1649, when a large crowd, perhaps including some who had seen Macbeth forty-four years earlier, could stand and watch the execution of a king? Or consider the difference between a magus casting a star chart and the day in 1639, when Jonathan Horrock and William Crabtree watched the transit of Venus across the face of the sun from their attic, successfully testing its course against Kepler's Tables of Planetary Motion, in a classic case of confirming a scientific theory by empirical testing.
In this turbulent period, science moved from the alchemy and astrology of John Dee to the painstaking observation and astronomy of Galileo, from the classicism of Aristotle, still favoured by the Church, to the evidence-based, collegiate investigation of Francis Bacon. And if the old ways still lingered and affected the new mind set – Descartes's dualism an attempt to square the new philosophy with religious belief; Newton, the man who understood gravity and the laws of motion, still fascinated to the end of his life by alchemy – by the end of that tumultuous century 'the greatest ever change in the mental outlook of humanity' had irrevocably taken place. AC Grayling explains how and why this period became the crucible of modernity.
AC Grayling (@acgrayling) is Master of the New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. Until 2011 he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written and edited over thirty books on philosophy and other subjects, including The Good Book, Ideas That Matter, Liberty in the Age of Terror, The God Argument and the forthcoming
The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind. He has been a columnist for the Guardian and the Times, and is a frequent contributor to the national press and radio. He is the Editor of Online Review London, and a Contributing Editor of Prospect magazine.
In addition Anthony Grayling sits on the editorial boards of several academic journals, and for nearly ten years was the Honorary Secretary of the principal British philosophical association, the Aristotelian Society. He is a past chairman of June Fourth, a human rights group concerned with China, and is a representative to the UN Human Rights Council for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He is a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, the Patron of the United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association, a patron of Dignity in Dying, and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. He was a Fellow of the World Economic Forum for several years, and a member of its C-100 group on relations between the West and the Islamic world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Danielle Sands is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Culture at Royal Holloway and Forum for European Philosophy Fellow.
The Forum for European Philosophy (@ForumPhilosophy) is an educational charity that organises a full and varied programme of philosophy and interdisciplinary events in the UK.
This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2016, taking place from Monday 22 - Saturday 27 February 2016, with the theme 'Utopias'.
Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #LSELitFest
A podcast of this event is available to download from Progress in Troubled Times: learning from "The Age of Genius"
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