The University of Sciences: One More Time

Jim Davila has an abnormally interesting post on Why We Need Akkadian in which he draws from Jerome A. Chanes’ The Forward review of An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological- Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents With Supplements on Biblical Aramaic by Hayim ben Yosef Tawil and Miri Eliav-Feldon’s Haaretz article, “Nanotechnology 1, Assyrian 0.” Jim’s post, Chames’ review and Eliav-Feldon’s article are all well worth reading. And while “reading” may not be the exactly correct word, Tawil’s lexicon is well worth consulting and consulting regularly.
All this reminded me of a quotation from Jean Bottéro’s talk “In defense of a useless science.” I’ve quoted it before but it won’t hurt to quote it again.

Since I have practiced the discipline [Assyriology] and I have obtained an idea of all that it can bring to us, I have learned to consider it to be not only useful, but (objectively!) as indispensable for a correct and global understanding of our own history. Assyriology is not simply an enrichment of the mind. It should not have as its final goal our own pleasure and grandeur in discovery and learning. It is at our disposal to provide us with our oldest family documents, if we want to consult them. It is there to crown our past, to inaugurate our origins, and to lead us to the primal source of that enormous stream which still carries us.
In this regard, Assyriology takes its own irreplaceable position in the center of knowledge and learning that make up the university of sciences, a university which was the greatest and most noble ideal of the Middle Ages. As in Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas, the medieval ideal also placed the dignity and greatness of mankind before all else in the pursuit and satisfaction of its hunger for knowing and understanding. And it thought that, just as we all have a brain in order to see, to perceive, to think, to prepare, and to direct properly the activity of our mouth, our arms, and our legs, all human society worthy of that name must have the capability of knowledge, of perception, of understanding, and of information that does not leave anything outside its field of vision, of research, and of study. . . . (p. 23-24)


Bottéro, Jean, Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop trans, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992
Hayim ben Yosef Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical Companion For Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic, Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2009, 451.