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Surrender to Whom? Commencement Address* College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas, May 1980 By Cliff Grubbs Thank you, Dean King. Ladies and Gentlemen, graduates of the class of 1980, my colleagues .. . hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, innundations, thefts, murders, massacres . . . spectrums, prodigies, apparitions . . . monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies .. . peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances . . . paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies . . . treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villanies in all kinds, funerals, burials . . . tragical matters. Surely anyone hearing these impressions for the first time may infer that they were intended to be a summary of the “new news” in our day and time, during the intellectual anarchy of the last quarter of the twentieth century. A sense of uncertainty in the times, of anarchy in the course of events, of personal identity often lost in a world that has seemed to go mad it is all there, this sense of our day in another time. For the lines I have read were not written in the year 1980, but rather more than 350 years ago by Robert Burton, the Vicar of St. Thomas’ at Oxford, in his Anatomy of Melancholy published in 1621. And then as now there was a profound uncertainty about the future of things to come. By the year 1621, the older vision of Western Christendom One God, One Church, One Europe lay in terminal ruins; the witch mania seemed to have no end in sight; the devastating Thirty Years War had just begun; and the trial of Galileo in Rome for his scientific heresies was only twelve years away. The first Western clock had run down on the Middle Ages, while the dawn of modern science and mathematics, although stirring in a new West, only added to the uncertainty of the Vicar’s years. For it was a time between two Western epochs amidst the ruins of the Age of Faith and at the threshold of the modern era between the execution of Giordano Bruno in Rome in 1600 for his religious heresies and the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia in England in 1687, the great harvest year of classical mechanics. And yet, the new vision of those who argued that the sun was not circling the Earth only seemed to violate the very foundations of human experience, calling “all in doubt” John Donne wrote only ten years before the Vicar. The element of fire is quite put out. The sun is lost, and th’ earth, and no man’s wit Can well direct him where to look for it. And freely men confess that this world is spent. . . . Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone, mourned the poet in the year 1611. Such were the doubtful moods of the Vicar and the poet during the first quarter of the seventeenth century at the end of the Age of Faith in Western Europe. And so now also today in our own time, it is often said that we too live at the end of an age at the end of the age of Western scientific certainty, its reason and enlightenment, which followed the Age of Faith. It is said that we too live between ages, amidst the intellectual * Some details of the text were omitted during the reading on May 18. ruins of the age of certainty and on the threshold of a new “consciousness” or “third wave” to come. It is not my intention today, however, to offer yet another scenario of things to come, building imaginary technological castles and scientific wonders in which the futurologist often takes refuge from the hard realities of things as they are. For all too much of this modern escapism is merely apocalypse in reverse. Rather, I would like only to comment on some aspects of the age of Western certainty, and to make some suggestions, little more, about a philosophy of personal living during a time of increasing uncertainty. II So to begin here, what about the age of Western certainty? What about the 300 years, roughly from 1650 to 1950, when the Western heirs of Pythagoras became the masters of the globe? What about the American solution mystique, the old conviction that all social problems can be solved? Where did all that promise come from? One may surely agree that little certainty about the future can be found in impressions of the Vicar, reporting the news in 1621. For quite to the contrary, that was a depressing time for many thoughtful men and women in Western Europe. There seemed to be no way out of an old regime that had begun to repeat itself to death. In Germany alone, 100,000 women would be executed for witchcraft during the seventeenth century. And yet, even as the Vicar published his Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621, new and powerful forces were stirring in Europe. And by the end of the troubled seventeenth century, the potential destiny of the human race would be transformed more radically than it had been during the preceding 2,000 years. Indeed only two years before the Vicar, Johannas Kepler had published his Harmony of the World, the first scientific formulation of the behavior of the solar system in all history \(contaniing his third chart the heavens, this Jobe of Western astronomy had finally got it right in the year 1619. Within another nineteen years, Descartes published his analytical geometry, giving wings to Euclid and opening the high road to the calculus. The same year, 1638, brought the publication of Galileo’s major accomplishments in terrestrail mechanics dividing the universe in half with Kepler. Then, moving on, Christiaan Huygens published his mathemetics of centrifugal force the simple link between Kepler’s heaven and Galileo’s earth. But by 1687 it was done. Newton had invented the calculus, unified the conceptions of Kepler and Galileo, formulated the law of universal gravitation, and published the Principia the masterpiece of the age of scientific reason and, through its power and enlightenment, an impressive argument for the rising certainty of the Western world. And why not? one might ask. Within rather less than eighty years, tne Christian heirs of the Greeks had invented more science and mathematics than had been invented during the entire preceding history of human civilization, more than every line combined since the Sumerians. Logarithms, projective geometry, analytical geometry, theory of numbers, mathematical theory of probability, and the calculus and its powerful differential equations; the dawn of modern physics, astronomy, chemistry, cellular biology, pathology, medicine the whole flood seem to come as if overnight. Not since the 18 AUGUST 8, 1980