Journal of the History of
 Ideas

Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 64, Number 1, January 2003


Contents

Articles
Early Modern Information Overload

    Rosenberg, Daniel.
  • Early Modern Information Overload
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    Subject Headings:
    • Learning and scholarship -- Europe -- History.
    Abstract:
      Contemporary discussions of information overload have important precedents during the years 1550-1750. An examination of the early modern period in Europe, including work of humanism, science, theology, and popular encyclopedias demonstrates that perceptions of information overload have as much to do with the ways in which knowledge is represented as with any quantitative measurers in the production of new texts, ideas, or facts. Key figures in this account include Francis Bacon, Conrard Gesner, Francesco Sacchini, Johann Heinrich Alsted, Casoar Bauhin, Rempert Dodeones, Samuel Bochrt, Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, John Wilkins, Jonathan Swift, Ephraim Chambers, Smauel Johnson, Denis Diderot, and Louis-Sébastian Mercier.
    Blair, Ann, 1961-
  • Reading Strategies for Coping With Information Overload ca.1550-1700
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    Subject Headings:
    • Books and reading -- Europe -- History.
    • Learning and scholarship -- Europe -- History.
    Abstract:
      This article surveys some of the ways in which early modern scholars responded to what they perceived as an overabundance of books. In addition to owning more books and applying selective judgment as well as renewed diligence to their reading and note-taking, scholars devised shortcuts, sometimes based on medieval antecedents. These shortcuts included the use of the alphabetical index, whether printed or handmade, to read a book in parts, and the use of reference books, amanuenses, abbreviations, or the cutting and pasting from printed or manuscript sources to save time and effort in note-taking.
    Ogilvie, Brian W.
  • The Many Books of Nature: Renaissance Naturalists and Information Overload
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    Subject Headings:
    • Botany -- Europe -- History.
    Abstract:
      Early Renaissance naturalists worked to identify the plans described in ancient sources. But during the middle decades of the sixteenth century, naturalists instead began to describe and name plans unknown to the ancients. They also divided nature much more finely, distinguishing species that their predecessors had lumped together. As a result, they created an information overload. Dictionaries of synonyms and local flora were invented in the early seventeenth century as partial solutions to this problem of information overload.
    Sheehan, Jonathan.
  • From Philology to Fossils: The Biblical Encyclopedia in Early Modern Europe
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bible -- Encyclopedias.
    • Learning and scholarship -- Europe -- History.
    Abstract:
      In the Early Modern era of encyclopedias, the Bible functioned as a tool for managing and organizing the superabundance of information. From Johann Alsted to Johann Scheuchzer, this paper traces the use of the Biblical encyclopedia and the ways that the Bible was deployed to control the data that flooded the world of Early Modern scholarship. In a variety of contexts, the Bible served as a structure for generating meaningful statements from informational noise. In turn, the use of the Bible as a principle of organization would have profound implications for the status of the Bible in Early Modern scholarly culture.
    Yeo, Richard R., 1948-
  • A Solution to the Multitude of Books: Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia (1728) as "the Best Book in the Universe "
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    Subject Headings:
    • Chambers, Ephraim, 1680 (ca.)-1740. Cyclopaedia.
    • Encyclopedias and dictionaries -- History and criticism.
    Abstract:
      This article considers Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia (2 Vols., 1728) as a work that responded to anxieties about information overload. Chambers drew on Renaissance ideas about summarizing and organizing knowledge—in particular, the humanist practice of keeping a commonplace book. By completing an alphabetical dictionary with due deference to categories, or Heads, he not only offered a convenient summary of knowledge but retained the notion of an encyclopedic circle of arts and sciences. The article also relates this concept of authorial design to debates surrounding the 1710 copyright Statute in England.
    Zagorin, Perez.
  • Looking for Pieter Bruegel
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bruegel, Pieter, ca. 1525-1569 -- Criticism and interpretation.
    Abstract:
      This essay survey the attempts by art historians to discover the meaning of the peasant paintings and other works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and to determine whether his oeuvre reflects any underlying philosophy. It examines some of the recent literature on Bruegel dealing with the question of his political allegiance, his supposed affiliation with the circle of distinguished intellectuals in Antwerp that included the printer-publisher Christophe Plantin and the geographer Abraham Ortelius, the possible influence of Stoic ideas in his depiction of landscape, and his social ideals and attitude toward his peasant subjects. The essay suggests that there are obscurities in Bruegel's works that may never be resolved.
    Sutcliffe, Adam.
  • Judaism in the Anti-Religious Thought of the Clandestine French Early Enlightenment
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    Subject Headings:
    • Enlightenment -- France.
    • Judaism -- Controversial literature.
    Abstract:
      It has already been noted that Jewish anti-Christian arguments, circulating clandestinely, were a notable inspiration of radical Enlightenment critiques of Christianity. Judaism itself, however, was simultaneously also a prime target of irreligious polemic, most prominently in the work of Voltaire. This paper explores the tension between these two strands of critique, through an examination of the highly ambiguous and unstable status of Judaism in the French clandestine philosophical literature of the early eighteenth century, which were an important source for Voltaire. These texts highlight the intricate dynamics of fascination and hostility that characterized early Enlightenment attitudes towards Jewish difference.
    Roehr, Sabine, 1957-
  • Freedom and Autonomy in Schiller
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    Subject Headings:
    • Schiller, Friedrich, 1759-1805.
    • Liberty.
    • Autonomy (Philosophy)
    Abstract:
      This essay provides a systematic as well as chronological account of Schiller's concepts of freedom and autonomy. Its main thesis is that the duality of Schiller's moral/aesthetic ideal in the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man - of beauty and the sublime, of play and the moral law - is a result of his use of conflicting concepts of autonomy. While it is widely accepted that Schiller took over Kant's concept of autonomy, I argue that he simultaneously employed another concept of autonomy, that of the contemporary philosopher Karl Leonhard Reinhold, whose criticism of Kant's concept of free will and alternative formulation of the concept of a neutral will influenced Schiller.



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