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)
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)
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)