This introductory chapter outlines the strategy of the book as a whole. This book is an investigation of the different conceptions that have been entertained in eight major areas of human experience: philosophy, mathematics, history, medicine, art, law, religion, and science. One recurrent theme is the different ways in which those intellectual disciplines have developed in different ancient and modern societies and the roles of elites in such processes, both positive ones, in encouraging the professionalization of the investigation, and negative, when elites lay down restrictive definitions of the subject-matter concerned. A second is the need to challenge modern Western assumptions on the nature of each discipline. A third is the struggle between different disciplines for hegemonic status.
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