Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
At one point in the recounting of his breakfast-table experiences, the Autocrat observes that, since medieval times, the reputation of Aristotle had passed through two stages and is just entering its third. First came the period of idolization, when everything attributed to the Greek sage was accepted not only as scientifically sound but as absolute and ultimate truth. Then came the period of critical examination, the stage at which his scientific inaccuracies were discovered and consequently all his ideas belittled and discredited. Finally, there was the third stage, the enlightened period when the scientific inaccuracies were excused, being viewed in historical perspective as unavoidable, and the value of his philosophical insights restored.
On a smaller time scale, the reputation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, along with that of his Cambridge-Boston group (as opposed to the Concord group), had gone through the first two of these stages but showed no signs, as yet, of entering the third. Although few, and certainly never Holmes himself, believe that Boston is the hub of the universe, Harvard Yard and the eastern end of Beacon Street (including the first eight doors on Arlington Street so as to take in the offices of the Atlantic Monthly) had been for more than half a century regarded as the dual nerve center, the cerebrum and cerebellum, as it were, of American culture. A Cambridge-born Harvard professor of anatomy, a member of the Saturday Club, a...
(The entire section is 1738 words.)
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