The Sarton and Coomaraswamy Dialogue

Dhruv Raina

in Images and Contexts

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780198068808
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080113 | DOI:
The Sarton and Coomaraswamy Dialogue

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This essay reconstructs the dialogue between the Sri Lankan-born historian of art Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy and the Belgian-born historian of science George Sarton during the decade 1930–1940. It examines the politics and object of history by putting in context the thematic unity underlying two distinct discursive traditions. The distinction derives from the circumstance that one disciplinary formation drew its inspiration from the Cartesian world-view, while the other was inspired by nineteenth-century philology. Sarton was instrumental in establishing a professional identity for the history of science as a discipline within academia, while Coomaraswamy has been quite marginal to contemporary discussions on the history of ideas. Coomaraswamy reconceptualizes the term ‘civilization’ by disassociating it from the dominant Hellenophillia, and his views can be constructed from his review of the work of the French Orientalist René Guénon. Sarton's Catholic ethic compelled him to allow Coomaraswamy to articulate his views on the East-West divide.

Keywords: Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy; George Sarton; science; art; politics; René Guénon; civilization; East-West divide

Chapter.  8904 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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