How did Europe manage to emerge from the Medieval remnants of the Roman Empire and go on to dominate the world?
In The Measure Of Reality, Alfred W. Crosby theorizes that it was a growing thirst for measuring and quantifying every aspect of life when qualitative opinions had reached their limits.
During the late Middle Ages and renaissance a new model of reality emerged in Europe. A quantitative model was just beginning to displace the ancient qualitative model. Copernicus and Galileo, the artisans who taught themselves to make one good cannon after another, the cartographers who mapped the coasts of newly contacted lands, the bureaucrats and entrepreneurs who managed the new empires and East and West India companies, the bankers who marshaled and controlled the strems of new wealth -- these people were thinking of reality in quantitative terms with greateer consistency than any other members of their species.
Crosby also describes at some length the quantification of the arts. Where once Gregorian chants had to be memorized by succeeding generations of monks, music was eventually "measured" and the notation developed to put it on paper. In the visual arts, the amazing "invention" of perspective grew from the European fascination with geometry and made the canvas come alive.
Interestingly enough, just as motion pictures would be met with dismay by some in 1903 as "too" real, paintings using the new-fangled perspective didn't sit well with some traditional art dévotés at the dawn of the Enlightenment.