6. Erasmus and Geography
Koyré argued that Renaissance humanistic scholarship had been the enemy of science: humanists preferred pouring over ancient texts much more than exploring nature and promoting knowledge associated with it—namely science. Later research, predominantly Grafton's works, contradicted Koyré’s view and showed that Humanism played an important role in the development of science, actually paving the way for Galileo. Undoubtedly, Erasmus contributed to that development. His non-dogmatic and skeptical mind—as well as that legacy of his which is dubbed Erasmianism—influenced and irrigated, often as an undercurrent, the intellectual soil, and thus enhanced the emergence of later science.
Erasmus considered geography as a mathematical science, as he stated in the Preface to his edition of Ptolemy's Geography. But this conception was common; and Erasmus, far from being engaged with mathematics, also had not much attentiveness to geography. I shall argue that his scholarly interest in geography was limited and marginal, and the fact that he took upon himself to prepare Ptolemy's Geography for print in its original language was for him more of a textual-philological task than a truly geographical challenge. This should raise a question mark over any alleged ‘Erasmian science’.
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