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Alexandre Koyré – ‘Forerunner’ is a distorting label.

July 2, 2014

“It is no doubt true that ideas have a quasi independent development, that is to say, they are born in one mind, and reach maturity to bear fruit in another; consequently, the history of problems and their solutions can be traced. It is equally true that the historical importance of a doctrine is measured by its fruitfulness, and that later generations are not concerned with those that precede them except in so far as they see in them their ‘ancestors’ or ‘forerunners.’ It is quite obvious (or should be) that no-one has ever regarded himself as the ‘forerunner’ of someone else, nor been able to do so. Consequently, to regard anyone in this light is the best way of preventing oneself from understanding them.”

(from The astronomical revolution : Copernicus, Kepler, Borelli [1961])

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