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History of Science

Preclassical Antiquity

Mott Greene's Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity (1992) displays a time when people lived in an oral culture and were in close contact with their natural surroundings as a daily part of life. Greene argues that this firsthand experience of nature means that mythology should be understood in natural terms as well as through philology. For example, the enigma of the Cyclops might well be explained through the presence of volcanoes—gigantic one-eyed beasts that threatened humans with annihilation.

Ideas such as Greene's have found their way into standard works of scholarship on human ecology and nature. In The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (1991), Max Oelschlaeger begins by trying to understand the world-view of Paleolithic humans. He writes, "Clearly, the mythology of the Great Hunt and totemism are not stupid responses to the world but mirror the same level of intelligence—albeit one directed to an unmistakably different view of the world—as modern science" (p. 15). Furthermore, in seeking to understand the meaning of wilderness for the modern world, Oelschlaeger considers the poetry of Robinson Jeffers or Gary Snyder to be on equal footing with the environmental science of Aldo Leopold. Understanding science as an integral part of culture rather than as an exceptional activity is characteristic of postmodernism, although this way of thinking is still disputed by many historians of science.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Jean-Paul Sartre Biography to Seminiferous tubulesHistory of Science - General Works, Preclassical Antiquity, Middle Ages, Scientific Revolution, Biological Sciences, Feminist History Of Science