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The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine.



This work subtitled sub·ti·tle  
n.
1. A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work.

2. A printed translation of the dialogue of a foreign-language film shown at the bottom of the screen.

tr.v.
 Ficino to Descartes constitutes the first volume of James J. Bono's two-part study of the cultural transformation of "science" during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The purpose of the extended project is to recount changes in scientific and medical thought during the Scientific Revolution (c. 1500-1700). The central focus is Renaissance theories of language and their impact on the study of nature. The book contains eight chapters, plus an epilogue ep·i·logue also ep·i·log  
n.
1.
a. A short poem or speech spoken directly to the audience following the conclusion of a play.

b. The performer who delivers such a short poem or speech.

2.
, bibliography, and index, and offers an excellent and wide-ranging discussion of Renaissance theories of language and the relationship of human language to the verbum Del. Bono's scope is admittedly broad, yet the figures he analyzes are highly selective; they are in large measure drawn from medical authors, natural philosophers, and occultists such as Fernel, Paracelsus and Harvey, and others who figure prominently in the Scientific Revolution, notably Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and Mersenne. Without a doubt, the book's greatest strength is in the selection of this truly prodigious pro·di·gious  
adj.
1. Impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous: a prodigious storm.

2. Extraordinary; marvelous: a prodigious talent.

3.
 range of figures. Rather than hampering the study, this approach has allowed the construction of a rewarding discussion.

An introductory chapter, "The Word, the Text, and the Narrative," frames the study as an exploration of the nature and origins of language theory and science. The second chapter reviews "Ficino and Neoplatonic Theories of Language," and examines the philosophical sources of a new perception of mankind, integrating Ficino's concept of prisca theologia (a tradition of ancient theological wisdom), used for constructing narrative contexts.

In the third chapter, "The 'Word of God' and the Languages of Man," Bono turns to the increasingly sophisticated theories of language generated during the Renaissance, and analyzes such "master cultural narratives" as those found in the biblical episodes of Adam's naming of the creatures in the Garden of Eden Garden of Eden
n.
See Eden.

Noun 1. Garden of Eden - a beautiful garden where Adam and Eve were placed at the Creation; when they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were
 and of the destruction of the Tower of Babel Babel (bā`bəl) [Heb.,=confused], in the Bible, place where Noah's descendants (who spoke one language) tried to build a tower reaching up to heaven to make a name for themselves. .

The remaining chapters center upon particular figures who adopt specific hermeneutic her·me·neu·tic   also her·me·neu·ti·cal
adj.
Interpretive; explanatory.



[Greek herm
 strategies for reading the book of nature during the Scientific Revolution. For instance, in the fourth chapter, "The Priority of the Text" - in this reader's opinion the best in the volume - Bono deals with bookish book·ish  
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or resembling a book.

2. Fond of books; studious.

3. Relying chiefly on book learning:
 culture and contrasts the hermeneutic practices of Fernel and Harvey, two major practitioners of theoretical medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In this slightly revised version Revised Version
n.
A British and American revision of the King James Version of the Bible, completed in 1885.


Revised Version
Noun
 of a previously published article, Bono examines the scientific programs of Fernel and Harvey which, he aptly points out, were informed by radically different theories of language; Fernel's attitude was shaped by Neoplatonic theories, and he adopted Ficino's notion of a prisca theologia. By contrast, Harvey adopted a narrative of reform and developed a theory of language that involved experimental and observational practices (88).

The fifth chapter entails a study of "Paracelsian Medicine and Occult occult /oc·cult/ (o-kult´) obscure or hidden from view.

oc·cult
adj.
1. Hidden; concealed.

2. Detectable only by microscopic examination or chemical analysis.
 Natural Philosophy," while a transitional sixth chapter treats Galileo and Renaissance natural history. In that chapter Bono focuses on links between words, symbols, things, and the "Word of God."

The seventh chapter, "The Reform of Language and Science," demonstrates Bacon's rejection of "bookish culture" and retention of a system of traditional tropes while embracing a new descriptive approach to nature. In the final chapter, "Beyond Babel: Mersenne, Descartes, Language and the Revolt REVOLT, crim. law. The act of congress of April 30, 1790, s. 8, 1 Story's L. U. S. 84, punishes with death any seaman who shall lay violent hands upon his commander, thereby to hinder or prevent his fighting in defence of his ship, or goods committed to his trust, or shall make a revolt  against Magic," Bono sheds light on the Cartesian project of a universal science in contrast to the Baconian project of an experimental and natural history (247).

A four-page epilogue permits Bono to sum up his findings. He reiterates the importance of reconstructing the "role of narrative in early modern science," so that "the substance and significance of late Renaissance science and the nature of the changes produced by the Scientific Revolution" might be better understood (272).

Scholars interested in the history of science and in theories of language during the Scientific Revolution will find much in this study of particular interest. In sum, the first volume of Bono's study represents a useful and important contribution to the history of language, early modern science, and medicine, and elucidates aspects of science previously neglected. The anticipated second volume of this study, currently in preparation, will undoubtedly provide further amplification amplification /am·pli·fi·ca·tion/ (33000) (am?pli-fi-ka´shun) the process of making larger, such as the increase of an auditory stimulus, as a means of improving its perception.  and explanations to issues raised herein. Together the two volumes will constitute a valuable contribution to scholarly discussion of narratives about language in texts and cultures of early modern science.

KAREN R. SORSBY California State University, Chico References

1. ^ "California State University, Chico", Yahoo! Education, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
 
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Author:Sorsby, Karen R.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1998
Words:705
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