Ancients vs. Moderns

R.C. Jebb, Richard Bentley (Chp. IV):

Sir William Temple, in his ‘Essay on Ancient and Modem Learning’ — published in 1692, and dedicated to his own University, Almae Matri Cantabrigiensi — was not less uncompromising in the opposite direction. His general view is that the Ancients surpassed the Moderns, not merely in art and literature, but also in every branch of science, though the records of their science have perished. ‘The Moderns,’ Temple adds, gather all their learning out of Books in the Universities.’ The Ancients, on the contrary, travelled with a view to original re- search, and advanced the limits of knowledge in their subjects by persistent interviews with reserved specialists in foreign parts. Thales and Pythagoras are Sir William’s models in this way.  Thales acquired his knowledge in Egypt, Phoenicia, Delphos, and Crete; Pythagoras spent twenty-two years in Egypt, and twelve years more in Chaldea; and then returned laden with all their stores.’ Temple’s performance was translated into French, and made quite a sensation in the Academy, — receiving, among other tributes, the disinterested homage of the Modern Horace.

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