Lehoux contends that even though many of the Romans' views about the natural world have no place in modern science--the umbrella-footed monsters and dog-headed people that roamed the earth and the stars that foretold human destinies--their ...
What did the Romans know about their world? Quite a lot, as Daryn Lehoux makes clear in this fascinating and much-needed contribution to the history and philosophy of ancient science. Lehoux contends that even though many of the Romans’ views about the natural world have no place in modern science—the umbrella-footed monsters and dog-headed people that roamed the earth and the stars that foretold human destinies—their claims turn out not to be so radically different from our own. Lehoux draws upon (...) a wide range of sources from what is unquestionably the most prolific period of ancient science, from the first century BC to the second century AD. He begins with Cicero’s theologico-philosophical trilogy _On the Nature of the Gods_, _On Divination_, and _On Fate_, illustrating how Cicero’s engagement with nature is closely related to his concerns in politics, religion, and law. Lehoux then guides readers through highly technical works by Galen and Ptolemy, as well as the more philosophically oriented physics and cosmologies of Lucretius, Plutarch, and Seneca, all the while exploring the complex interrelationships between the objects of scientific inquiry and the norms, processes, and structures of that inquiry. This includes not only the tools and methods the Romans used to investigate nature, but also the Romans’ cultural, intellectual, political, and religious perspectives. Lehoux concludes by sketching a methodology that uses the historical material he has carefully explained to directly engage the philosophical questions of incommensurability, realism, and relativism. By situating Roman arguments about the natural world in their larger philosophical, political, and rhetorical contexts, _What Did the Romans Know?_ demonstrates that the Romans had sophisticated and novel approaches to nature, approaches that were empirically rigorous, philosophically rich, and epistemologically complex. (shrink)
The relationship between conceptions of law and conceptions of nature is a complex one, and proceeds on what appear to be two distinct fronts. On the one hand, we frequently talk of nature as being lawlike or as obeying laws. On the other hand there are schools of philosophy that seek to justify ethics generally, or legal theory specifically, in conceptions of nature. Questions about the historical origins and development of claims that nature is lawlike are generally treated as entirely (...) distinct from the development of ethical natural law theories. By looking at the many intersections of law and nature in antiquity, this paper shows that such a sharp distinction is overly simplistic, and often relies crucially on the imposition of an artificial and anachronistic suppression of the role of gods or divinity in the worlds of ancient natural philosophy. Furthermore, by tightening up the terms of the debate, we see that the common claim that a conception of ‘laws of nature’ only emerges in the Scientific Revolution is built on a superficial reading of the ancient evidence.Keywords: Ancient science; Philosophy of science; Philosophy of law; Ancient theology; Scientific Revolution. (shrink)
Concluding his discussion of bee reproduction in Book 3 ofGeneration of Animals, Aristotle makes a famous methodological pronouncement about the relationship between sense perception and theory in natural history. In the very next sentence, he casually remarks that the unique method of reproduction that he finds in bees should not be surprising, since bees have something ‘divine’ about them. Although the methodological pronouncement gets a fair bit of scholarly attention, and although Aristotle's theological commitments in cosmology and metaphysics are well (...) known, scholars have almost universally passed over the comment about bees and divinity in silence. This paper aims to show why that comment is no mere throwaway, and offers an exploration and elaboration of the ways in which divinity operates even at fairly mundane levels in his natural philosophy, as an important Aristotelian explanation for order, proportion and rationality, even in the lowest of animals. (shrink)
. Once constituted, scientific facts have a way of roaming about on their own in the world, much divorced from the circumstances of their original constitution. An important part of Latour and Woolgar's discussion in Laboratory Life was to draw attention to how facts are used once they are at the final stage of their constitution. What I propose to do here is to go one step further, and to follow a single fact around in the wild—to tag it, as (...) it were, much as a biologist might tag an animal with a radio collar—and then look to see where it turns up. The fact I have chosen is especially taggable, simply because it happens to be fantastic: I refer to the fact that magnets will lose their power of attraction if they are rubbed with garlic. This fact is also useful because it shows up in authors spanning fifteen centuries, from Plutarch through Rabelais and beyond, and over this time it shows some interesting behaviors. Of course, in the end, the garlic-magnet antipathy was disproved, and so changed its epistemological status, moving from one extreme to the other: from the obviously true to the obviously ridiculous. What struck Rabe-. (shrink)
The volume unites the three aspects - poetry, philosophy, and science - found in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. With ten original essays and an analytical introduction, the volume aims not only to combine different approaches within single covers, but to offer responses to the poem by experts from all three scholarly backgrounds.
Scholars looking back to the earliest stirrings of the philosophical tradition in ancient Greece have often seen a rational approach to nature cleaving itself off from an older approach, that of the mythographer. If this account were right, we would have here a major (and perhaps the ?rst major) drawing of an epistemic boundary. There are, however, mounting reasons to question this narrative that have been accumulating across several modern disciplines. This paper explores the most important challenges to the myth-to-science (...) narrative and suggests that the different ways of framing the ancient debates have much to do with the boundaries between modern disciplines and/or academic cultures. (shrink)
What is the relationship between observations, predictions, texts, and instruments in ancient astrology? By distinguishing between two distinct kinds of observation claim in astrological texts, I show on the one hand the rhetorical and theoretical importance of each kind of observation claim to ancient astrological traditions, and on the other hand how practices of ancient astrology break from observation once astronomical phenomena become reliably predictable. We thus see a shift in practice from observationally derived predictions to a reliance on textual (...) and instrumental authority, even though the rhetoric of ancient astrology still tries to maintain an emphasis on observation.Author Keywords: Astrology; Astrometeorology; Astronomy; Divination; Instruments; Observation; Parapegmata; Prediction; Rhetoric; Signs; Weather. (shrink)