08 March 2012

Rosetta Stone

In an issue of the Union Seminary Magazine in 1891 is reproduced a sermon given by the Rev. H.C. Alexander. in which the good reverend remidns his listeners that "Men pore over the monuments of Egypt and Nineveh, and sometimes vainly attempt to decipher their hieroglyphic inscriptions."

Such is one of the hard-to-love faces of religious fervor. It tells us what mysteries we can not solve, what efforts at discovery are "vain." The sermonizer was confident in 1891 that no one would ever decipher the hieroglyphs on the Egyptian tombs.  Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!


Indeed, the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta stone had been deciphered by scholars working in the French language by the early 1840s, and English-language translations of their work had appeared a decade later. Alexander was by the most generous reading forty years behind the times in thinking that such efforts are "vain."

Calling the efforts of others vanity may itself be the cheapest form of vanity.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.