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World of Patterns

A Global History of Knowledge

Rens Bod
translated by Leston Buell

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A comprehensive account of the methods of knowledge production throughout human history and across the globe.

The idea that the world can be understood through patterns and the principles that govern them is one of the most important human insights—it may also be our greatest survival strategy. Our search for patterns and principles began 40,000 years ago, when striped patterns were engraved on mammoths' bones to keep track of the moon's phases. What routes did human knowledge take to grow from these humble beginnings through many detours and dead ends into modern understandings of nature and…

A comprehensive account of the methods of knowledge production throughout human history and across the globe.

The idea that the world can be understood through patterns and the principles that govern them is one of the most important human insights—it may also be our greatest survival strategy. Our search for patterns and principles began 40,000 years ago, when striped patterns were engraved on mammoths' bones to keep track of the moon's phases. What routes did human knowledge take to grow from these humble beginnings through many detours and dead ends into modern understandings of nature and culture? In this work of unprecedented scope, Rens Bod removes the Western natural sciences from their often-central role to bring us the first global history of human knowledge.

Having sketched the history of the humanities in his ground-breaking A New History of the Humanities, Bod now adopts a broader perspective, stepping beyond classical antiquity back to the Stone Age to answer the question: Where did our knowledge of the world today begin and how did it develop? Drawing on developments from all five continents of the inhabited world, World of Patterns offers startling connections. Focusing on a dozen fields—ranging from astronomy, philology, medicine, law, and mathematics to history, botany, and musicology—Bod examines to what degree their progressions can be considered interwoven and to what degree we can speak of global trends.

In this pioneering work, Bod aims to fulfill what he sees as the historian's responsibility: to grant access to history's goldmine of ideas. Bod discusses how inoculation was invented in China rather than Europe; how many of the fundamental aspects of modern mathematics and astronomy were first discovered by the Indian Kerala school; and how the study of law provided fundamental models for astronomy and linguistics from Roman to Ottoman times. The book flies across continents and eras. The result is an enlightening symphony, a stirring chorus of human inquisitiveness extending through the ages.

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World of Patterns

Rens Bod
translated by Leston Buell

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Reviews

Reviews

Bod has written a sweeping history of the search for patterns and the generalizations and principles devised and discovered to explain and legitimate these perceived patterns. By tracing this search across different cultures and times, he has also written a history of the all-too-human desire to know. This book is even more ambitious and imaginative than Bod's last one.

In the writing of history, overviews are as necessary as detailed research. Rens Bod offers such an overview, a 'Big History' of human knowledge from the Stone Age to the present. He makes effective use of organizing concepts such as 'patterns' and 'principles,' especially in his analysis of select intellectual disciplines.

With a minimum of learned clutter and a maximum of clarity and curiosity, Rens Bod surveys the human search for patterns and the principles that underlie them over millennia and across continents, from Babylonian linguistics to Roman jurisprudence, ancient Greek astronomy to medieval music theory, Chinese logic to Micronesian navigation. This panoramic and insightful survey is the closest thing we have to a history of knowledge without borders.

This book is a tour de force. I cannot think of another work that attempts what this book does. The author has done us—across nearly all fields of scholarship and regions of the world—a huge service with his argument and synthesis of a huge amount of material in a single volume; and making it so readable.

In this pathbreaking book, Rens Bod tears down the walls that past historiographies have erected between fields of knowledge and between places of knowledge. Focusing on patterns and principles is the highly original choice that allows Bod to weave together threads that have usually been followed separately. A thought-provoking essay!

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
400
ISBN
9781421443447
Illustration Description
11 b&w photos, 2 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Preface: The Wonder of Knowledge
Introduction. Understanding the World through Patterns and Principles
Chapter 1. The Awareness of Patterns: Prehistory
Chapter 2. The Explosion of Patterns and the

Preface: The Wonder of Knowledge
Introduction. Understanding the World through Patterns and Principles
Chapter 1. The Awareness of Patterns: Prehistory
Chapter 2. The Explosion of Patterns and the Awareness of Principles: Early Antiquity
Chapter 3. The Explosion of Principles and the Awareness of Deduction: Classical Antiquity
Chapter 4. The Reduction of Principles: Postclassical Period
Chapter 5. The Discovery of Patterns in Deductions: The Modern Era
Conclusion. The Origin, Growth, and Future of Knowledge
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Rens Bod

Rens Bod (AMSTERDAM, NL) is a professor of digital humanities at the University of Amsterdam and the president of the Society for the History of the Humanities. He is the author of A New History of the Humanities: The Search for Principles and Patterns from Antiquity to the Present.