A Battle Against Medieval Barbarism


Today, we explore the origin of the modern concept of a fact.

We take facts for granted, but they represent an invaluable intellectual technology less than 400 years old, which was forged in a fight between two of history’s brightest thinkers battling over the best way to rescue their society from the madness of medieval barbarism.

There is a book that gives us a front row seat to that fight: Leviathan and the Air Pump, published by the historians of science Steve Shapin and Simon Schaffer. It covers the conflict between the Scientific Revolutionaries Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle concerning how new knowledge could and should be created, and out of which the concept of an objective fact as we now know it was born.

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