HPS 392 -- Spring 1980

The Scientific World View of Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Professor Michael S. Mahoney

The following books, to be read in their entirety during the course, are available for purchase at the University Store:

W.K.C. Guthrie, The Greek Philosophers from Thales to Aristotle Harper and Row TB 1008)

D.C. Lindberg, Science in the Middle Ages (Chicago)

G.E.R. Lloyd, Greek Science after Aristotle (Norton N780)

J. Pieper, Scholasticism (McGraw Hill)

Plato (trans. H.D.P. Lee), Timaeus and Critias (Penguin)

Other assigned readings will be found in the Firestone Reserve Room. Some may be in short supply, and students should begin reading early in the week to avoid the last-minute rush. Titles marked with an asterisk are available in paperback and might make good additions to personal bookshelves.

The course consists of lectures, precepts, readings, a midterm exercise, a paper, and a final examination. The midterm exercise takes the form of a one-hour essay on one of several suggested topics pertinent to the lectures and readings of the first six weeks of the course. Students may write the essay at a convenient time during the week of 17 March; topics will be available on the 17th, and the essay will be due by 5:00 P.M., Thursday, 20 March. The paper, of about 2000 words in length, will be due by 5:00 P.M., Friday, 15 May; it may address any topic pertinent to the course.

The readings serve two main purposes: to supplement the lectures and set them in a context, and to provide raw material, especially primary sources, for class discussion.

The Course

I. Preliminaries


1. (2/4) Introduction: Science, Culture, and World View
2. (2/6) Myth and Science


 *Henri Frankfort et al., Before Philosophy (= The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man in earlier editions), Chaps. I, II, V.
Claude Levi-Strauss, "The Structural Study of Myth", Journal of American Folklore, 68(1955), 428-444.

II. The Beginnings of Science
3. (2/11) The Science of Mythopoeic Culture
4. (2/13) The Emergence of Rational Cosmology


Articles by A.L. Oppenheim ("Man and Nature in Mesopotamian Civilization"), B.L. van der Waerden (the astronomy section of "Mathematics and Astronomy in Mesopotamia"), R.J. Gillings ("The Mathematics of Ancient Egypt") and R.A. Parker ("Egyptian Astronomy, Astrology, and Calendrical Reckoning") in Vol. XV of the Dictionary of Scientific Biography; xerox copies bound together under the title "Pre-Greek Science from the DSB"

Guthrie, Chaps. I-III

III. The Ideal World

5. (2/18) Early Greek Mathematics
6. (2/20) Pythagoras and Plato


Guthrie, Chaps. IV-V
Plato, Timaeus (entire)

IV. The Real World

7. (2/25) Aristotle's Theory of Scientific Knowledge
8. (2/27) Aristotle's Nature


Guthrie, Chap. VII
Aristotle, Physics, Book II; Book III, Chaps. 1-3 (in any edition, e.g., Works, ed. R. McKeon, 237-257)
Aristotle, Parts of Animals, Book I, Chaps. 1-5 (McKeon, 643-658)

V. Greek Science in Antiquity

9. (3/3) Greek Medicine and Biology to Galen
10. (3/5) Mathematics and Astronomy at Alexandria


Lloyd, Chaps. I-IX
M.R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, Source Book in Greek Science, 69 -75, 117-130, 224-239, 271-281, 422-433, 474-486

VI. Changing Traditions

11. (3/10) Science in Late Antiquity: A Clash of Cultural Priorities
12. (3/12) The Book of Nature: Science in Europe to the Twelfth Century


Lloyd, Chap. X
L. Edelstein, "Motives and Incentives for Science in Antiquity", in A.C. Crombie, ed., Scientific Change, 15-41 (xerox copies; request under Edelstein's name)
Lindberg, Chap. 1
Edward Grant (ed.), Source Book in Medieval Science, 3-33 (xerox copies; request under the title "Early Middle Ages ")

VII. Science Goes East

13. (3/17) Science in Islamic Culture
14. (3/19) The Achievements of Arabic Science


Articles by S. Pines, S.H. Nasr, and various authors in the DSB; xerox copies bound together under the title "Arabic Science Readings"

VIII. The Greco-Arabic Heritage

15. (3/31) Aristotle in the West
16. (4/2) New Perspectives, New Problems


Pieper, Chaps. I-X
Lindberg, Chaps. 2 , 5

IX. The Context of Medieval Science

17. (4/7) Scholasticism and Science
18. (4/9) Science in the Medieval University


Pieper, Chaps. XI-XII
St. Thomas Aquinas, "Whether Things that are Impossible for Nature are Possible for God" (= Quaestiones disputatae, I, Quaest. 1, Art. III: translated handout)
Grant, Source Book, 42-52 (xerox copies; request as given here)
Lindberg, Chaps. 3, 4, 14

X. The Science of Motion

19. (4/14) The Quantification of Change
20. (4/16) The Theory of Impetus


Grant, Source Book, 234-311, 334-359 (xerox copies; request under the title, "Science of Motion")
Lindberg, Chaps. 6, 7

XI. The World of Experience

21. (4/21) Optics and "Experimental Science"
22. (4/23) Medieval Technology


Lindberg, Chap. 10
Grant, Source Book, 384-434 (xerox copies; request under the title "Optics")
Lynn White, Jr., Cultural Climates and Technological Advance in the Middle Ages", in his Medieval Religion and Technology

XII. Antiquity and New Worlds

23. (4/28) Alchemy, Astrology, and Medicine: The Uses of Science
24. (4/30) Renaissance, Reformation, and Revolution


*Paolo Rossi, Philosophy, Technology and the Arts in the Early Modern Era, Chap. I
Lindberg, Chaps. 11, 12
Roger Bacon, "Letter on the Secret Works of Nature and Art, and on the Nullity of Magic"