Prescience, Greeks, and Romans
(1)What early people knew (what we would call mathematics/astronomy/ medicine), how they knew
it what they used it for and how they passed it on:
-Driving force in early science was survival, curiosity, and religion; early science grew from Mesopotamia
-Prehistoric people developed technologies to obtain necessities for life
-Oral tradition was used to pass on what seemed to be important knowledge until writing is invented
in building the pyramids (inclined surface)
-Egyptians wrote on papyrus
-Mesopotamians developed the sexagesimal number system, which was used in algebra and astronomy
-Egyptians used surgical tools for treatment of wounds, fractures, or dislocations and had pharmacology
-Believed disease was caused by an evil spirit in the body
-Mesopotamians did similar healings and also thought disease was spiritual or due to sin, carelessness or
-Mesopotamians were first real observers of heavens and calculated the path of Venus, passed on by
-Babylonian divination-predicting events from Gods by looking for signs in the stars
-Calendar based off the moon
*Both helped shape and benefit Greek Philosophy
(2) Why written records were critical for knowledge development:
§ The invention of writing was a prerequisite for the development of philosophy and science. Written
records allowed the education of wider groups of people and also allowed information to be evaluated.
Oral tradition allowed information to become skewed and unreliable; it also could not be inspected or
compared to anything like written works could. (3) The new approach of the early Greek thinkers (known as Pre-Socratics) and how it differed from
the explanations based on myth. What kinds of questions did they ask? What did they think the
Kosmos was made of and why?
Thales- attempted to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology and was
tremendously influential in this respect. He believed that water is the the principle of everything.
Heraclitus-The world itself consists of a law-like interchange of elements, symbolized by fire. Thus the
world is not to be identified with any particular substance, but rather with an ongoing process governed
by a law of change.
Leucippus-everything made up of small parts or atoms, and they make change possible.
Aneximes-concluded that everything in the world is composed of air
All of these philosophers questioned the possibility of change. They concluded that there were
elements in everything that allowed change, as opposed to the myths of God’s changing the world
based on personality traits and for entertainment.
They were on speculations based on rationality. They wanted scientific answers for their questions and
used critical thinking. . Their subjects included the cosmos, its origins the earth & its inhabitant’s
celestial bodies, natural phenomena, death and the nature of human knowledge. They believed the
cosmos was made up of apeiron. The believed that apeiron was the main element that produced the
others (earth,wind,fire,water etc).
(4) Aristotle-Who was he and what he thought about:
Born in Stagira. Attended Plato’s academy. Opened lyceum in Athens. Had a personal library. Teleolgy-
purposefulness in the universe. Everything has a cause and meaning. Doesn’t explain on how reality
came into being. Everything made with four causes. Cause one is material. Second is formal (shape).
Third the efficient cause (How it’s made/being made). Fourth cause is final (There is a purpose).
Rejected the theory of the form (cosmology) Unmoved mover- if universe is in constant motion
unmoved mover is the stable efficient cause. (Snow globe). Eternal universe in constant motion was
never created. NO COSMOLOGY.Taught Alexander the Great and opened lyceum in Athens and had a
personal library.His theology-purposefulness in the universe. Everything made with four causes: Form-
Formal Cause (shape-what it is), Matter-Material Cause (ingredients-what its made of), Agency-Efficient
Cause (who make its), and Purpose-Final Cause (what’s its purpose).
(a) the Kosmos
-Rejected the theory of the form (cosmology) -universe is eternal (never ends, never began)
-was a sphere, full with no void space
-Earth in the center-change on Earth but nowhere else
-prime mover (not like traditional God) moves spheres-if universe is in constant motion unmoved mover
is the stable efficient cause
(b) Elements composing the earth-system
-Aristotle’s elements were: fire, air, water, and earth
-Earth in center, then water, air and fire in successive order
-Their shells/spheres occupy small portion of the universe
-heavens around spherical Earth (eather)
(c) Why objects were where they were
(d) The subjects that composed meteorology
(5) Roman approach to science – same as Greeks? Why or why not? What was occupying the Romans?
§ Greek Philosophy continued into the Roman Empire as the foundation of education. Alexander the
Great from the Italian peninsula started taking over Greek land around 330 CE.
-Differed in that philosophy became a leisure activity compared to in Greece
-In Greece, knowledge flourished after the creation of the alphabet and writing
-Romans studied the philosophy and only used what was logical from the Greeks-the circle of Roman
and Greek scholars could not go beyond Aristotle
-most scholarly writings were merely commentaries on ancient texts
-Aristotle’/ s Philosophy grew to be foundation of science until 15th century
-Works translated from Greek to Latin
-Varro identified arts but not sciences: Grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music
theory, medicine, and law
-Main figure of Polarization period-Pliney (Natural History)
-Romans were occupied with economic decline from war-lead to decrease in education and literacy -Also spread of Christian religion (official religion of Romans in 400 CE) occupied time and attention-
presenting serious obstacles in scientific development in Rome-the Church gained power by appealing
to the poor and uneducated
(6) How did the early Christians view pagan learning? How did they adapt to it?
Christians turned to education when they wanted their followers to be able to read the Holy Bible.
However, most of education was based off of Greek philosophy-course determined from Aristotelian
-Some Christians regarded Greek philosophy with error and some believed it was the complete
-Without the development of monasteries for education, Western Europe would most likely have less
-Ultimately, the Church tried to work with Science-viewed it as a ‘handmaiden’-could help explain their
basis for education (Christianity)
(7) Why were the “commentaries” on Greek philosophy important?
Commentaries or translations preserved the old philosophies and added to them or compared them.
(8) How were handbooks used in the dissemination of scientific knowledge?
Hard-covered books and parchment were still expensive and hard to come by. Handbooks and
pamphlets were more easily accessible and able to be passed around from person to person easily since
they included multiple pieces of Greek philosophy and scientific texts.
*Greek achievements existed mainly in commentaries, handbooks, and encyclopedias in the decline of
Roman Empire-these were limited versions.
(9) What was the role of the encyclopedists?
Encyclopedias brought together different scientific facts from all different subjects and compared and
-Pliny wrote Natural History, which included numerous facts from hundreds or authors and included
cosmology, astronomy, geography, anthropology, zoology, mineralogy and botany. *Instead of reading thousands of different texts, you could read one and learn scientific finds.
(10) Why were the seven liberal arts ultimately deemed important for a Christian education?
Christian education included the wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and
beauty by means of the seven liberal arts
-Liberal arts education were considered important for an active citizen to have; to produce an articulate
person who can contribute to society
-Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core, and also included mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and
-Trivium and Quadrivium made up seven liberal arts of university curriculum in medieval days since
Church controlled education
Islamic Science and Greek (Arabic Translation)
(1) Why and how did Greek learning take root in Persia?
Greek Culture spread through conquest and religion (Greek Empire taking over then Roman Empire
taking over Greek Empire)-Islam religion developed and spread over Arabian Peninsula united nomadic
-Islamic people welcomed Greek science and it served as a source of inspiration
-Multi-lingual philosophers traveled about western civilization and began translating Greek into Arabic
(2) What was the rationale behind translating Greek works into Arabic? What kinds of documents
were more likely to be translated and why?
Translation center was Bagdad (easy for traveling purposes) on Tigris River
-They were translated because they were interested in the development of education and science; it
was practical and most did not hurt religious theories in Islam but opened up debates
-Most practical translations were medically related; education was useful for them and they contributed
to astronomy and astrology, medicine, and vision and light theories
-Byzantine Church and Christian church started a rivalry (4) Contributions of Islamic scholars to science.
Astronomy and astrology-checked Ptolemaic models of planets, created predictive physical models, and
Medicine-Greek techniques used; established hospitals-became institutionalized
-discovered pulmonary transit of blood (blood has oxygen)
Mathematics-decimal point, and algebra and geometry for problem solving
(5) Why did Islamic scientific work go into decline in the 13th and 14th centuries?
§ 13th/14th century considered dark ages or medieval period with not much scientific advancement
-contributing factors could be the bubonic plague where about 50% of the European population died
and little ice ages with many crop failures in the 14th centuries
-religion became a focal point with protestant reformation in 14th and the counter reformation the 15th
-picks back up with renaissance in Italy (14th century)
Western Europe Perks Up…Arabic to Latin Translation (Universities)
(1) What problems faced western Europeans between 500 and 1000?
§ Roman Empire was sacked and the Islamic empire began to flourish and spread all the way to Spain
and Franks built their Northern empire that is eventually out competed by Islam
-500 to 1000 was a ‘dark age’- schools deteriorated and deurbanization occurred
(2) Why were living conditions starting to “look up” for the western Europeans I n the 11th century?
§ Charlemagne started recovery and preservation of philosophical texts and wanted to spread learning
and uniform way of writing as well -Europeans started driving out the Muslims during the Christian crusades and began political, social, and
-increase in food supply from increase of technologies led to population explosion
-schools formed again-close relationship between urbanization and schools
(3) What connection did the crusades have with later scientific work in Europe?
The Crusades were the Europeans trying