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Darwin-L Message Log 8:107 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<8:107>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sat Apr 30 18:42:48 1994

Date: Sat, 30 Apr 1994 19:43:07 -0500 (EST)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: Winning on comparative philology and palaetiology
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

The very fine interlibrary loan folks here at UNCG recently obtained for me
a fascinating book which is one of the few that specifically adopted William
Whewell's term "palaetiology" for the historical sciences as a whole.  The
book is:

  Winning, W. B.  1838.  _A Manual of Comparative Philology, in Which the
  Affinity of the Indo-European Languages is Illustrated, and Applied to
  the Primeval History of Europe, Italy, and Rome_.  London: J. G. & F.
  Rivington.

Winning begins with two epigraphs from the philologist Franz Bopp which
illustrate the intellectual context in which sees himself operating:

  The genealogy and antiquities of nations can be learned only from the
  sure testimony of the languages themselves.

  It is chiefly by comparison that we determine, as far as our sensible and
  intellectual faculties reach, the nature of things.  Frederick Schlegel
  justly expects, that Comparative Philology will give us quite new
  explications of the genealogy of Languages, just as Comparative Anatomy
  has thrown light on Natural Philosophy.

Here are some extracts from Winning's text, pp. 12-15:

  In entering upon the early history of Italy, it becomes quite necessary,
  besides the affinity of languages, to take into consideration monuments
  of art, customs, government, religion, and the general style of
  civilization.  The name, therefore, of Comparative Philology, is not
  sufficiently comprehensive for the science treated of in this work; the
  subject, in its whole extent, belongs rather to the class of sciences
  which have lately been called Palaetiological; and of which Geology is,
  at present, the best representative.

  "By the class of sciences here referred to," says Mr. Whewell, who
  introduced the term Palaetiological, "I mean to point out those
  researches in which the object is, to ascend from the present state of
  things to a more ancient condition, from which the present is derived by
  intelligible causes....Though our comparison might be bold, it would be
  just if we were to say, that the English language is a comglomerate of
  Latin words, bound together in a Saxon cement; the fragments of the Latin
  being partly portions introduced directly from the parent quarry, with
  all their sharp edges; and partly pebbles of the same material, obscured
  and shaped by long rolling in a Norman or some other channel.  Thus the
  study of palaetiology in the materials of the earth, is only a type of
  similar studies with respect to all the elements, which, in the history
  of the earth's inhabitants, have been constantly undergoing a series of
  connected changes."

  Perhaps Philology, and the connected archaeological subjects, are not yet
  sufficiently advanced to constitute collectively, under an appropriate
  name, a complete and uniform member of the Palaetiological class of
  sciences; and I have therefore retained the more common and intelligible
  phrase, Comparative Philology, though in a more extended sense than
  exactly belongs to it....My object in the present Work is to perform for
  Italy and the West, the same kind of task which he [Schlegel] has
  executed for India and the East; and to induce others to enter upon the
  same path.  May Palaetiology, on the higher theme of Man, obtain as
  numerous and scientific inquirers as she already possesses on the subject
  of the earth!

There is a major Whewell anniversary coming up in May, and I'm planning a
special palaetiological event for us all here on Darwin-L (more on that
shortly).  In the mean time, if any of our members happen to know more about
Winning or about any influence this book may have had I would be glad to
hear from them -- please feel free to post to the list as a whole.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology
100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

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