So.. I am deliberately cheating on this one, and giving you the etymology from my French dictionary.
I am doing this because the Grand Robert Historique is a little more succint than the OED, and is better at transmitting the historical evolution of the word. The OED has a purely analytical, descriptive approach, and the word's history falls by the wayside.
This piece is a translation of what I put on my loony forum in July. Complete with.. MY commentary on the implications of the etymology for us, at this time.
Here is a word whose etymology and history everybody should know at a moment when "science" has become our new.. RELIGION. In the following piece, I will stick my commentary between parentheses, in order to allow you to differentiate between me, and the Grand Robert.
Science : First appearance (I think) in the French language in 1080 in "The Song of Roland". Borrowed from the classic latin scientia, "knowledge", particularly "scientific knowledge" which starting at the classical period takes on the meaning of the Greek episteme, "theoretical knowledge", from whence "epistemology". (I shall add that the original meaning of "theory" is "a group of people sent to a religious performance, or to consult an oracle". In the word "theory" we hear the root theos, which means "god". In the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations we observe how religion and knowledge are linked together in our ancestors minds. We will see why later.)
"Science" at first refers to the know-how which is derived from "knowledge" combined with (manual) skill, and starting in around 1119, the corpus of "knowledge" aquired from studying an object. Before the XIVth century, the word applies particularly to knowledge as a practical object subservient to religion. Moreover... the word is used in a religious context in 1120, with respect to the "intimate knowledge of God and creatures", from whence "the spirit of science", "the spirit (esprit, difficult to translate...), essence of God insomuch as he gives knowledge to man (1553), and the transcendental knowledge of the creation that God has.
In the middle of the XIIth century the generalized opposition between theoretical and practical knowledge emerges. (I would like to remind you that this opposition marks the beginning of a separation, a compartmentalization which translates in the separation between head/brain and hands. Increasingly, the value of what is produced with the hands will be debased, while what is produced with the head will be... INFLATED he he. The problem being particularly, the separation of head and hands... We are still suffering terribly in our civilization from the result of this compartmentalization.)
XVth century : "avoir la science infuse" means "to have the knowledge that God gives by pure inspiration (the breath of God ???), in reference to the knowledge that Adam received from God (and not from biting that apple, careful...), the expression has taken on the meaning "to know... INNATELY (my capitals), and then, to claim to know everything. (1835) (Note the deterioration in the meaning, the mockery that arises ...)
During the Renaissance, "modern" thinkers came to understand that science must be founded on formal reasoning, i.e., on mathematics, on direct observation, and controlled experimentation (!!!! The Robert's prejudices are evident here...). Two types of knowledge vyed for preeminence : law, an emanation of divine thought and a framework for human life, and mathematics which also manifested a certain world.. order. The concept of "science" draws away from theology, and philosophy, and the idea of method begins to impose itself. (I remind you that this evolution corresponds to the rise of humanism in Europe. Humanism is an ideological approach which progressively evacuates a reference to a transcendence ideal and/or divine. The founding fathers were probably.. devoted to a reference towards an IDEAL transcendance, but not a.. DIVINE one. Transcendance can be inferred from the structure of language, as you have learned from my previous posts, right ??) Starting at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, "science" refers to "exact and universal, and verifiable knowledge expressed through laws". (Please notice how this definition of science corresponds to... the rise of our modern democraties, the rise of the value of reason. Please note also that... the word "law" is retained, but it has subtely changed meaning...)
(I would like to impart to you to what extent it is essential to understand this little topo. We retain the medieval root and meaning of the "science " in the expression "God only knows". This means... ONLY God knows. God, in the medieval topo WHICH WE REMEMBER IN/THROUGH OUR LANGUAGE is the garant of truth, and only through him does man receive... science/knowledge. The place of the garant, the person who... GUARANTEES, in other words is fundamental because.. we must RECEIVE knowledge from somewhere (someone ?) and.. HOW DO WE KNOW IF IT IS TRUE ???
Other EXTREMELY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION : the fact that... our modern judicial systems and ideological fascination for the.. LAW mask the fact that the latter emerged from a.. THEOLOGICAL context, my friends. This is... CAPITAL.
In the Renaissance topo (humanism, anthropocentrism, which still dominate western civilization..), man acquires knowledge/science himself through observation and experimentation, by formal reasoning applied to (personal) experience.
But.. the question/problem of the garant/guaranteer remains intact. CAN MAN BE THE GARANT/GUARANTEER OF HIS OWN KNOWLEDGE ? At the risk of usurping God's (symbolic !!!!!) place ?
I think that at rock bottom we have an innate knowledge that we receive our lives, our knowledge our words from... ANOTHER. (Levinas). Therefore.. a certain anthropocentrism/humanism is a delusion, a dangerous one for our species, that at this time has embarked on a frantic search for all powerfulness on everything that moves.)
I warned you that this would be long...