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By Daryn Lehoux

What did the Romans learn about their global? rather a lot, as Daryn Lehoux makes transparent during this interesting and much-needed contribution to the historical past and philosophy of historic technology. Lehoux contends that even supposing some of the Romans’ perspectives in regards to the wildlife haven't any position in sleek science—the umbrella-footed monsters and dog-headed people who roamed the earth and the celebs that foretold human destinies—their claims end up to not be so noticeably varied from our own.

 

Lehoux attracts upon quite a lot of resources from what's definitely the main prolific interval of historic technological know-how, from the 1st century BC to the second one century advert. He starts off with Cicero’s theologico-philosophical trilogy On the character of the Gods, On Divination, and On Fate, illustrating how Cicero’s engagement with nature is heavily concerning his issues in politics, faith, and legislation. Lehoux then courses readers via hugely technical works through Galen and Ptolemy, in addition to the extra philosophically orientated physics and cosmologies of Lucretius, Plutarch, and Seneca, all of the whereas exploring the complicated interrelationships among the items of clinical inquiry and the norms, techniques, and buildings of that inquiry. This comprises not just the instruments and techniques the Romans used to enquire nature, but in addition the Romans’ cultural, highbrow, political, and spiritual views. Lehoux concludes through sketching a strategy that makes use of the historic fabric he has rigorously defined to without delay interact the philosophical questions of incommensurability, realism, and relativism.

 

By situating Roman arguments in regards to the flora and fauna of their greater philosophical, political, and rhetorical contexts, What Did the Romans Know? demonstrates that the Romans had subtle and novel techniques to nature, ways that have been empirically rigorous, philosophically wealthy, and epistemologically complex.     

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Extra resources for What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking

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61. Leg. 33. 62. De div. 75. natu r e, gods, a nd gov er na nce 37 In neither passage does Cicero say that he himself thinks divination is simply true or false. , but also by scandalous behavior such as P. 64 Recent studies have to some extent moved away from a belief/disbelief dichotomy, but sceptical readings of various sorts do still see the light of day. Krostenko, for example, thinks that Cicero is arguing in the De div. that neither belief nor scepticism is adequate, and instead he attempts to paint a divination that “is purely formal and symbolic,”65 but I do not see how this avoids the sceptical reading.

For Marcus’ “old women” are Roman “old women” and the measure of what counts as gullible needs to be handled carefully. Not every story Quintus will tell would be seen by Cicero’s intended audience as ridiculous, whatever the modern reader may think of them, and so to know whether he is in fact being portrayed as a dupe, we need to attend carefully to how a Roman would have heard the stories Quintus recounts of prediction by lightning, dreams, livers, and the eating habits of sacred chickens. There is a little more to this admonition than may appear at first sight.

And so, when Cicero finally comes to laying out the details of the specific laws of the ideal state, we find the mapping out of the duties of people to gods as the first order of business. Not just any gods, but public gods, for the public good. Thus at the outset, Cicero establishes not the existence of the gods, for he thinks that is a given, but the parameters and responsibilities of the state religion, and he roots this in a conception of law as given in nature itself. 45 All Roman magistrates were both political and cultic functionaries, and priestly offices were simultaneously public.

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