What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry Into Science and Worldmaking

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University of Chicago Press, Feb 28, 2012 - History - 275 pages
2 Reviews

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.     

  

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Review: What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking

User Review  - Usfromdk - Goodreads

Very close to giving it one star. I briefly questioned during one of the last chapters whether I was experiencing a dumbpiphany, and I basically called the author a moron in the margin because I got ... Read full review

Review: What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking

User Review  - Bonnie_blu - Goodreads

This book is not so much an analysis of Roman science as it is an analysis of how ancient Romans apprehended the world in which they lived. In this regard, the author succeeds brilliantly. He shows ... Read full review

Contents

1 The Web of Knowledge
1
2 Nature Gods and Governance
21
3 Law in Nature Nature in Law
47
4 Epistemology and Judicial Rhetoric
77
5 The Embeddedness of Seeing
106
6 The Trouble with Taxa
133
7 The Long Reach of Ontology
155
8 Dreams of a Final Theory
176
9 Of Miracles and Mistaken Theories
200
10 Worlds Given Worlds Made
224
11 Conclusion
243
Lemma to the Mirror Problem
247
Reference List
251
Index
269
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

Daryn Lehoux is professor of classics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He is the author of Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World.

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