February 22

1636, 1788


The Internet is full of Books of Days. You can obtain long lists of who was born and died this day in history, or what events deemed to be significant took place. And so it is. But how much is excluded from those lists, and why? Facts are meaningless without context and commentary (Santorio Sanctorius, born March 29th 1561, Trieste). Facts are not knowledge, simply because they can be repeated in an exam or on a quiz-show (my father liked to challenge know-alls by asking them to name the four principal islands of Japan). 

Without context, without awareness of the agenda of the historian who selected them in, or out, we cannot determine what is "true" or "correct", let alone draw lessons from them. English-language almanacs, for example, are quite remarkably anglocentric, or extend into the wider world only when they have an anglo-connection, or are so universal as to be unignorable; I imagine the same is true for every language. I also imagine a future history book which will declare that Bradley (Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden and Julian Assange were heroes in the cause of freedom, and another which will declare them traitors to the same cause, just as Balfour is a hero to the Jews but an object of detestation to the Palestinians, and adoration of Margaret Thatcher is a fetish of right-wing conservatives. How then can we make an intelligent determination, and use history to construct the future?

We create history fictionally by misremembering the past. Sometimes willfully, as propaganda, to acculturate patriotism, to ensure the past is remembered as we wish it to be; sometimes by denial, as Holocaust revisionists attempt; sometimes by ignoring evidence, as in the case of Roderigo Lopes - another of my books scheduled for release very soon. Once the fictional version is established as "history", we reinforce it by repetition - the myth of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot for example, or that other residue of pre-Christian paganism transformed into a political hero, Robin Hood: I shall return to both later in the year.

And what of the aforementioned Sanctorius, with whom you are certainly unfamiliar? In 1610 he devised a temperature scale for Galileo's recently invented air thermometer, long before Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Celsius. In 1613 he developed it for use with humans, and then produced a hygrometer, which measures the density of gases. A remarkable man, who would be a Nobel candidate today, and deserves to be remembered for his life, but also for his death - yet he is absent from most history books. He died on February 22nd 1636, in Venice, burned at the stake by the Inquisition as a heretic. His crime: the pursuit of science.


Of Schopenhauer (born today 1788) Jung wrote:

"He was the first to speak of the suffering of the world, which visibly and glaringly surrounds us, and of confusion, passion, evil - all those things which other philosophers hardly seemed to notice and always tried to resolve into all-embracing harmony and comprehensibility. Here at last was a philosopher who had the courage to see that all was not for the best in the fundaments of the universe."

(Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

To understand my piece about Sanctorius, you need to read Wittgenstein
To understand Wittgenstein you need to read Nietzsche
To understand Nietzsche you need to read Schopenhauer
To understand Schopenhauer you need to read Kant
          especially the concept of the "thing-in-itself"

To understand Kant...

The metaphysical structure, modelled on "Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung" (1818, 1859)

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