Thursday, April 09, 2009

An awesome dedication

Browsing through my recently obtained copy of I Have Landed, the first thing I came across was this dedication from Gould

Fellow members of the ancient and universal (and vibrantly continuing) Republic of Letters

I can't think of a more perfect dedication from someone who spent a lifetime doing science and writing essays promoting scientific literacy to the general public. The Republic of Letters was the Enlightenment era notion of a metaphysical community comprised of individuals engaging cooperatively in free inquiry and open discourse (via informal letters and Salon discussions) in order to advance human knowledge. This community of reasoned discourse and collaborative effort eventually came to become one of the foundations for the Englightment belief in meritocracy and democracy, the link expressed perhaps best by John Dewey in Democracy and Education: "A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience."

Thomas Paine exemplified how the spirit of the Republic of Letters inspired the American revolution when he wrote in American Crisis II: "The Republic of Letters is more ancient than monarchy, and of far higher character in the world than the vassal court of Britain; he that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defense of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to 'Defender of the Faith' than George the Third."

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