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Hellenophilia versus the History of Science Author(s): David Pingree Reviewed work(s): Source: Isis, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Dec.

, 1992), pp. 554-563 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/12/2012 07:32
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"as it is a most convenient description of a set of attitudes that I perceive to be of increasing prevalence t Box 1900. I. as practiced in ancient Mesopotamia. and when they worked as functioning systems of thoughtand interactedwith each other and with other systems of thought. that I have embracedthe word employed in the title of this article. Providence. magic. of This paperwas originallydeliveredas a lecture at the Department History of Science. and not simply dismissed as rubbish or interpretedin the light of modern historical mythology. "Hellenophilia. I would argue. then. were or are sciences within the contexts of the culturesin which they once flourishedor now are practiced. but also astralomens. 14 November 1990. For the sciences I study are those related to the stars. and in medieval Islam. but simply in understandinghow. but I would deny the applicabilityof that epithet to my position since my interest lies not in judging the truth or falsehood of these or any other sciences. Brown University. 1992. and the Latin-speakingWest.Rhode Island02912. that motivates me-these two. It is with these considerationsin mind.Hellenophilia versus of Science By David Pingreet the History GENESIS OF THIS PAPER lies in a conversationthat I had with A. and to the social context within which each arose and developed. and the wish to providean apologiafor my claim to be a historian of science ratherthan of quackery. ISIS. and the desire to reconstructa complex history as accuratelyas possible. This means that their intellectual content must be probed deeply. In statingthese opinions I may appearto have set myself up as a relativist.83: 554-563 THE 554 This content downloaded on Mon. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . medicine. All and law (dharmasaistra). and that the intellectual content must be related to the culture that producedand nourishedeach. in ancient and medieval Greece. Harvard University. and they include not only various astronomiesand the differentmathematicaltheories they employ. India. For the piece representsthe attitudestowardthe subjectthat I have developed over some three and a half decades of studyingthe history of the "exact" sciences (as I will persist in calling them despite the lack of exactitude in some of them). As such they deserve to be studied by historians of science with as serious and thorougha purpose as are the topics that we usually find discussed in history of science classrooms or in the pages of Isis. where. its corruption(includingthe deliberately extreme mode of its expression) is entirely a result of my own labors. It is this experience. why. astrology. nor in discovering in them some part that mightbe useful or relevantto the present world. then. Sabra of Harvard on the perennial problem of the definition of science appropriateto a historian of science. of these subjects.

as if these transitoryideas were eternal complete truths.thoughalso an attributeof barbarians epithet "Philhellene"was proudlyborne by ancient Parthians. as well. for instance. but actually are or were- This content downloaded on Mon. transforming them into the Islamic sciences that. These attemptsdo not enhance the brillianceof the authorsor the reinterpretersof their sacred or scientific texts.Semites. I like "Hellenophilia"as a word because it brings to mind a such other terms as "necrophilia. In doing this they are behavingas did those Christians who once believed it importantto demonstratethat Genesis agrees with Greek science. a virtually universal awe of Greek literature. philosophy. whereas the true love of the such as are we-the Greeks. the false claim that medieval Islam only preserved Greek science and transmittedit as Muslimshad received it to the eager West. it might be observed.they are deluded into believing that the greatest glory an Indian. say. I must report that many non-Westerners have caught a form of the disease Hellenophilia." barbaricexcess that eruptsas a disease from the passionate rather than from the rational soul.A Philhellene is one who shares in what used to be.CULTURESOF ANCIENT SCIENCE 555 within the profession of the history of science. such persons have simply not been exposed to the knowledge they would need to arrive at a more balanced judgment. and which I believe to be thoroughly pernicious. the second is that they discovered a way to truth. the scientific method. revised the Greek sciences. but never fully understoodor utilized by them. But. the third is that the only real sciences are those that began in Greece. In fact Arab scientists. Another form that this Western arrogancetakes is the naive assumption that other peoples in the world not only should be like and the fourth (and last?) is that the true definitionof science is just that which scientists happento be doing now. and Syrian sources as well as their own genius. are overwhelminglyWesterners. Intellectuallythese Western Hellenophilesare still living in the miasmathat permeated Europe until the nineteenthcentury. Parallelto this form of culturaldenigration. Philhellenism. and Romans-arises preeminentlyfrom well-deserved admiration. displaying the cultural myopia common in all cultures of the world but. by Hellenophiles. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . sadly. an Arab. using Indian. but ratherreveal a severe sense of culturalinferiority. So some Indians. before the discovery of Sanskritand the cracking of cuneiform destroyed such ethnocentric rubbish. is. a Hellenophile suffers from a form of madness that blinds him or her to historical truth and creates in the imaginationthe idea that one of several false propositions is true. when childrenin the West still were taught the classics.practicedby the cultureitself or by historiansof science. served as the mainbasis for what little science there was in Western Europe in the twelfth and following centuries and for the amazing developments that happened three and four centuries later in Italy and Central Europe. and science. historically. The first of these is that the Greeks invented science. the arrogancethat characterizedthe medieval Christian'srecognitionof his own infallibility and that has now been inherited by our modern priests of science. following a methodor methods adumbrated the Greeks. busily reinterprettheir divinely inspired Rgveda so that it teaches such modern hypothetical theories as that of relativity or the latest attemptto explain black holes. a Chinese. or an African scientist can have acquired is that gained by having anticipatedeither a Greek or a modern Westerner. Iranian. that we are now successfully following.

and the examples of the Egyptians. from Mesopotamia. This seems to me a trivial purpose to motivate such monumentalcommunal efforts as the buildingof Stonehenge or the pyramids. and started to develop toward mathematicalastronomy in about 1200 B. The realizationthat some of these ominous phenomenaare periodiccan be dated securely in Mesopotamiato a time no earlier than the late second millenniumB.C. and progressed no furtherin mathematicalastronomy till they came under Babylonianinfluence.C. it appears that an interest in the stars as omens arose in Mesopotamiaafter 2000 B. the cataloguing of stars and the recording of stellar and planetary phenomenaare not a natural. who believed that the gods send messages to mankindthroughthe celestial bodies.. Greeks.C. and Indians. then.C.C. or precession.. From the written evidence. without any known systems of writingor accurate record keeping. independentlydiscovered complex lunar theories. The astral sciences spread from one civilization to another like a highly infectious disease. seem to me to invalidate the theoretical basis for much of archaeoastronomy. The Egyptians also first began using selected stars as a sort of crude clock only in about 2000 B. In the history of the exact sciences the scholars who perpetratewild theories of prehistoric science call themselves archaeoastronomers.C. later to Greece and India. and finally..At this point.. though still having recognizable Mesopotamianorigins.C. I cannot speak of the astronomy of the early Chinese with authority because I am ignorantof their language. some quite massive.556 PINGREE: HELLENOPHILIA V.The basic premise of some archaeoastronomersis that megalithic and other cultures in which writing was not known built stone monuments. to China. if not the Chinese.but a learnedactivity that needs a motivation such as that which inspired the Babylonians.but I gatherfrom what I have read that not even the beginnings of the system of the hsiu or lunar lodges can be dated before the late second millenniumB. or even an accurate intercalationcycle. perhaps. but that the Babyloniansbegan to invent mathematicalmodels useful for the prediction of celestial phenomenawith some degree of accuracy only in about 500 B. I wish only to point out that they go against the strong evidence from early literate societies that early man had little interest in the stars before the end of the third millennium B. The example of the Babylonians. in the early first millenniumB. I return now to the four variants of Hellenophilia that I mentioned earlier.with their need for a specific motive for observingstars and the fact that it took them a millenniumand a half to arrive at a workable mathematicalastronomy. It is within the context of this documented history that I find implausible the suggestion that less advanced civilizations. however. The earliest traces of a knowledgeof astronomyin Greece and India seem also to be derived. mathematicalcontrol of the relation between solar and lunarmotion came only in about 500 B. who initiallyborrowed their astronomies from the Babyloniansbefore each developed its science in its own way. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . HISTORY OF SCIENCE "were"because this particularfallacy usually affects those who study Stone Age and other preliteratecultures that have been left defenseless in the face of modern reconstructionsof their thoughts by their inabilityto record them in permanent form. in order to record their insights into the periodicityof celestial motions.There are many strong argumentsto be raised against many of these interpretations.C. This content downloaded on Mon.C. From Mesopotamiathese astronomicalideas rapidly radiatedto Egypt. in each of these cultures they were molded by the recipient scientists into somethingnew.

D. and local mathematicaltraditions that occurred in India in the fifth century A. to a large extent. and these manifestly lie. of course. however. using observations to modify Babylonian parametersand to fine-tunetheir own geometricalmodels.but can a historianof science function effectively under such disabilities? While ignorance of Babylonian astronomy destroys the historian's ability to understandthe originsand developmentof Greekand other astronomiestogether with their more modern descendants. A thirdvariety of astronomy emerged from the synthesis of Babylonianarithmeticalmodels. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . it both of Western sciences. Babylonian mathematicsand astronomy or else. fall into my second category and refuse to recognize them as sciences. simply expressed the Babylonian period relations and arithmeticalzigzag and step functions in a geometrical language. of arithmeticaland geometricalseries. Thus those who still believe that the Greeks invented science either are altogether ignorantof. in the wedges impressed on clay tablets as well as in the observed motions of the celestial bodies. In this astronomyquestions of celestial cinematics receded into trivial mechanisms while computationalfinesse harnessed a broad range of mathematicaltechniques to the solution of astronomicalproblems. say. of course. can and should be remedied through education. or of Pythagoreantripletsare science even though they are mathematicallycorrect. actively. I would claim. from the Greeks till now. for astronomy. with a strongprejudicein favor of circles or spheres rotatingwith uniformmotion. But Babylonianastronomy reveals how few observations are needed and how imprecise they may be if the astronomersare clever enough. Hellenistic geometrical models. made purely to provide the possibility of prediction without any concern for theories of cosmological structureor celestial mechanics. or even with a firmbelief in historical mythology. but this cannot be accepted by a historian. it also tempts him or her to imagine that there is no other way to do astronomythan throughthe Greekand modernway of makingobservations and buildinggeometric it is the historian'stask to seek out the originsof the ideas that he or she is dealing with. The ignorance of the first group. The Babylonian solutions are brilliant applications of mathematical structuresto rathercrude data. and perverts understanding of non-Westernsciences. Such a person.if possible. of accepted This content downloaded on Mon. though aware of them. with the role of observationsbeing limitedto the confirmation. but they also.CULTURESOF ANCIENT SCIENCE 557 Each. It is certainlypossible to be a modernscientist without knowinghistory. The Greeks added the concern both for the geometricalstructureof the universe and for the cinematicsof the heavens. distorts the history of science in two ways: passively. in the awkward position of denying the status of science to one of the main contributorsto the Greek astronomy that is the forebear of our positional astronomy. it limits the phenomenathat the historianis willing or able to examine. and it also demonstratesthat simple arithmetical models suffice for predictingthe times and longitudes of periodic celestial phenomena. can name an arbitrarydate at which positional astronomy comes to fit into his or her definitionof science. the obstinacy of the second in not acknowledgingthat Old Babylonianinvestigationsof irrationalnumberslike \/j. or in asserting that the arithmetical schemes that they successfully used to controlthe many variablesinvolved in the predictionof the time of the first visibility of the lunar crescent cannot bear the august name of scientia even though the predictions were essentially correctthis obstinacy is hard to deal with. It leaves the obstinate.

animals. HISTORYOF SCIENCE theory. at least to that population's satisfaction. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and astronomerswent. physicists. To departbrieflyfrom the exact sciences. as long as the people were not subjected to wars. and environmentalas- This content downloaded on Mon. These differentastronomies reflect the differentintellectual traditionsof the various cultures as well as the specific problemsthat each society wished its astronomersto address-for example. manifestinga variety of ways in which the same phenomenamight be made predictableby mathematical means. the Greeks broughtphilosophical and physical problemsinto a science that had been purely mathematical.I believe. it would appear. and the Indians devoted their effortsto the purely pragmaticgoals of casting horoscopes. But without axioms and without proofs Indian mathematicianssolved indeterminateequations of the second degree and discovered the infinite power series for trigonometricalfunctions centuries before European mathematicians independentlyreached similarresults. social. the Indian science of longevity.biologists. If it is evident that for a historian the proposition that the Greeks invented science must be rejected. that the Euclideanapproachis not necessary for discovery in mathematics. their separate methodologicalways.and as well introduced the more social aim of casting horoscopes. by not fully understandingthe range of possibilities or the shapingforce of purely culturalfactors on the course that any science takes. the Babylonianswere interestedin certain horizon phenomenathat they regardedas omens. And in their denial they clearly deprive themselves of an opportunity to understandscience more deeply. and of evolving and regulating an extraordinarily complex calendar. and plants inhabitingany region and that region's terrain and focus on the pride of Greek science: Euclidean geometry-which. or epidemics. they-and we-have not one. Those who deny the validity of alternativescientific methods must somehow explain how equivalent scientific "truths"can be arrivedat without Greek methods. This is often and justly praised for the rigor and power of its axiomatic system and for its ability to offerlogical deductiveproofs. And it attempts to address psychological. but many scientific methods.558 PINGREE:HELLENOPHILIAV. These achievementsamply demonstrate. of course. Babylonianand Indian mathematicsare frequentlycriticizedfor relyingnot on proofs but on demonstrations. and go. Zimmermannis also keenly aware of the many ways in which Indian vaidyas have altered foreign notions while incorporatingthem into their own cultural traditionsto create a theory of harmonyand mutual influence between the humans. of predicting eclipses because of their significanceas omens. Indeed. is purely logical and nonexperimental. While he strongly supports the idea of the historicaldependence of ayurvedaon the Galenic theory of humors. I choose. therefore. I would like to draw attentionto the fascinating work of Francis Zimmermannon ayurveda. The a-yurvedic approachto medicine does not inspire its practitionersto make discoveries in molecularbiology. Indeed. as it was and is currentlypracticed in Kerala. as indeed many have. In Keralathese "ecological"ideas produceda local interpretation of ayurvedic doctrine that. but it is the correct medical science for the culturalcontext within which it operates. There were historicallymany more astronomies. it necessarily follows that they did not discover a unique scientific method. famines. I believe that those historians who limit themselves to the study of only one of these approaches to mathematical astronomy will blunder. maintaineda generally healthy human population.

nor. That Church." Obviously. and so do Western historiansof my way of thinking. it is precisely at this point where. though on the grounds that they limit God's power and human free will rather than that they fail to conform to our current "laws of nature. for the reasons I have already stated. I believe it to be totally false. who should remain free of either the Church's or modern science's theology. who have not seriously consideredthe subject. This opinion generallytakes the form of allowingAristotle to define science for us. and other so-called superstitions.In its persecutionof heretics as in its missionaryzeal and its tendency to sermonize and to pontificate. like modern science. therefore. The third fallacious opinion that I have associated with the Hellenophiles is that the only sciences are those that accreditedGreeks recognized as such. It is.our scientific establishmentdisplays markedsimilaritiesto the Church. at least viewed as historicalphenomena. for the best that modern scientists can claim-I cannotjudge whetherjustly or not-is that they are closer to some truth than were their predecessors." Some may regardthis procedurefor elevating and superstitionto the rankof scientific theory as arbitrary unfair. alchemy. and magic. astrology. can the methodologies of science be limited to just those employed by present-day scientists.or else is based on such an explanation.but remember that modern science is the initial culprit in that it arbitrarilysets up its own criteria by which it judges itself and all others. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and so on are "sciences. inappropriate apply a standardof truthfulnessto to the sciences. If my definitionof science as it must be viewed by a historianis accepted. denounce astrology as "unscientific"when all that they mean is that it does not agree with their ideas about the way the universe functions and does not adhere to their concept of a correct methodology. and most useful: science is a systematic explanationof perceived or imaginaryphenomena.Mathematicsfinds a place in science only as one of the symbolical languages in which scientific explanations may be expressed. for explanations of phenomena are never complete and can never be proved to be "true. It pains me not because I believe that astrology is true. Western doctors have something to learn about medical care from a-yurveda. this shortfallis as true of modern scientific hypotheses as of ancient ones. it is easy to show that astrology and certain "learned"forms of divination. But the anathemas hurled at it by some scientists remind me more of the anathemas leveled by the medieval Churchagainstthose who disagreedwith its dogmasthan of rationalargument. It pains me to hear some scientists. I refuse to allow modern scientists who know little of history to define for me the bounds of what in the past-or in the present-I am allowed to consider to be science. condemned divination. as a historian. then. are arbitraryand irrelevantto a historian. on the contrary. divination. magic. This brings us squarely to the fundamental question of this paper: What is the proper definition of science for a historianof science? I would offerthis as the simplest. This definitiondeliberatelyfails to distinguishbetween true and false science. If I am a relativist. magic. broadest. so that it excludes even the genuinely Greek sciences of astrology." Both of these arguments. This content downloaded on Mon. whose place in our society it has largely usurped.CULTURESOF ANCIENT SCIENCE 559 pects of health that our mechanistic medicine tends to ignore.

24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . that it was called simply mathesis or "science" by Firmicus Maternusand others. some may think-occurred in Egypt in the second century B. together with their varying but periodically recurringinterrelationships. this union-illicit. they provide systematic explanations of phenomena. persisted in the first millenniumB. The former is in additionclosely allied to the origins of mathematicalastronomy. animals. providing through the applicationof the mathematical models appropriateto it predictions of all changes that take place in a world of cause and effect. ancient was the most comprehensivescienGreek astrology in its strictest interpretation tific theory of antiquity. whether primary. both because of the frequentfailure of the predictions and. there is no causal connection. In other words. texts describing the rules of the interpretationof omens-Enuima Anu Enlil for celestial omens and summa alu for terrestrial ones-are scientific. The product was the supreme attempt made in antiquityto create in a rigorousform a causal model of the kosmos. secondary.C.C. as the mathematicalmodels became more sophisticated and the descriptions of the observed phenomena became more precise. one in which the eternallyrepeatingrotations of the celestial bodies. which are regardedas the manifestations of the individual gods in the sky. dispositions instead of concrete inevitabilitieswas accentuated when the Greek form of this science was transmittedto India and transformedinto a system that rapidly increased the complexity of the mathematicalmodels in order to diffuse This content downloaded on Mon.because of people's desire to circumventunpleasantpredictions-a practical rather than a theological demand for a modicum of free This trend toward an astrology that indicates prechoice and self-determination. Moreover. This close linkage between divination and mathematicalastronomy. indicate by their changes in qualityand in location the events that will befall mankindat large. Astrology grew out of a union of aspects of advanced Babylonian celestial divination with Aristotelian physics and Hellenistic astronomy. the rules for predictingterrestrialevents from the celestial phenomenabecame more complex.560 PINGREE:HELLENOPHILIAV. as well as a linkage between divinationand the observations necessary for constructingand refining mathematicalastronomy.In this system the stars and the planets.then. Omens that appear on earth are contrived by gamas. in the cuneiform Letters. and plants. Babylonia. HISTORYOF SCIENCE To turn to history: Babylonian divinationis a systematic explanation of phenomena based on the theory that certain of them are signs sent by the gods to warn those expert in their interpretationof future events. provides us our first example of the fruitfulinterplaybetween the theoreticaland the appliedaspects of a science. and Diaries. or a specific king and his family. more important.then. the god of the sun. it is not surprising. constitute the generation and decay of materialbodies and the modificationsof the parts or functions of the rationaland irrationalsouls of men. for Anu Enlil contain the first recordedrealizationof the perithe tablets of Enuima odicity of certain celestial phenomena and the first attempts to provide mathematical models for predicting the occurrences of such phenomena. or tertiary effects. produce all changes in the sublunar world of the four elements that. Reports. But even within Greek astrology there was a movementtoward a relaxationof the rigidityof the theory. In themselves. or a country in general. but only one of predictionso that appropriatecountermeasuresmay be undertaken. to warn individualmen of the coming of good or evil.

if I have been at all successful. so that. whether the lapidaries and physiognomics that spread from Mesopotamia to Greece. if for no other reason than because many Western scientists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries took them to be genuine sciences. by manipulating terrestrialobjects. to Iran. The magus can then employ his artificialanimal to accomplish wonders. These same Sabaeans invented also a second type of learned magic based on Plato's and Aristotle's theories of animaland human souls. The same status must be accorded. Kenelm Digby and Elias Ashmole. If Greek astrology is based on the idea that the motions and interrelationsof the celestial spheres are ultimatelythe causes of all terrestrialphenomena. they do fall under the aegis of my definitionof science. In this way the magus can employ the astral influences definedby astrology to effect the changes he wishes in the sublunarworld. Ptolemaicastronomy. astral magic. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in which one defines science as that which modern Western scientists believe in and the methodologieswith which they operate. which I have dubbed psychic.and Hellenistic philosophy by the self-styled Sabaeansof Harranin the ninth century. then. assumes that the magus's soul is free of inhibitingstellar influences. or the science of determiningsites suitable for differenttypes of buildings-a science found in differentforms in China and in India-or the purely Indian analysis of the processes of converting thought into sound in orderto produceintelligiblespeech. is to inappropriate a historian. Chinese.though it may be useful to a modernWestern scientist. but as historianswe must regard them as scientific. And I have already mentioned that among the advantages provided to the historian by looking outside of the confines of such a restricted definitionare a realization of the potential diversity of interpretationsof phenomenaand of the actual diversity of the originsof the ideas that have developed into modernWestern science among other sciences. or Indian-and to other systematic theories that explain phenomena. of course. The loss of all these advantagesis the price paid for sufferingthe passive effects of this form of Hellenophilia. This results in the attitude that it is the task of the historiannot to study the whole of a science This content downloaded on Mon.CULTURESOF ANCIENT SCIENCE 561 and mollify the inescapability of a simpler predictive scheme. Arabic. he can reverse the processes of astrology and change the wills of the planetary spirits. And. and to India. and an objectivityborn of an understanding of the cultural factors that impel sciences and scientists to follow one path rather than another. I have already. Its active form is more pervasive in and perniciousto history. These and other sciences cannot be dismissed simply because they do not fall into the intellectualsystem favored by some Greek philosophers. which was concocted out of Babylonianand Indianliturgies and iconographies mingledwith Greek astrology. persuadedyou that the fourth variety of Hellenophilia. In this magic. This was a dreamstill dreamtby two foundingmembersof the Royal Society. Astral and psychic magic we may not wish to test in order to determinetheir validity. The Indians attempted to match the bewilderingvariousness of real lives by an equally bewildering multiplicityof mathematicallycomputablevariantsin astrology. to alchemy-be it Greek. the magus artificiallycreates new animals by uniting either within a womb or within a womblike chamber animal or human parts representingthe materialbody and the particularpartor function of the soul that he wishes his creation to be endowed with.

. a formula that occurs already in a sixth-centurySanskrit I text. but many historians still find it impossible to conceive of the problem and its solution in terms of anythingother than the calculus and proclaimthat the calculus is what Madhava found. cannot tell you how that formulawas derived. of the infinite power series of trigonometricalfunctions using geometrical and algebraic arguments. obviously. when. HISTORY OF SCIENCE within its culturalcontext. The idea that he might have discovered the calculus arises only from the Hellenophilicattitudethat what is valuable in the past is what we have in the present. Other examples of this dangerous tendency abound.APIN to the full-scale ephemerides of the last few centuries B. In this case the elegance and brilliance of Madhava's mathematics are being distorted as they are buried under the current mathematicalsolution to a problemto which he discovered an alternateand powerful solution. and now we have the Sanskrit texts properly edited. we do not know what observationswere used. but later because no one read anymore the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society. But it does not and cannot. or where and why they were recorded. of course.has not told me. this attitudemakes historiansbecome treasurehunters seeking pearls in the dung heap without any concern for where the oysters live and how they manufacturegems.and it tells us somethingabout some stages in the developmentof the science as recordedon the hundredsof tablets that he investigated.562 PINGREE: HELLENOPHILIA V. We do not know by whom. as Neugebauer well knew. One particularlydangerousform of this aspect of Hellenophiliais the positivist position that is confidentthat mathematical logic provides the correct answers to questions in the history of the exact sciences. am not denying the power of mathematics to provide insights into the character and structure of scientific theories. presumablyat first because they could not admit that an Indian discovered the calculus. and then threw it away. but to attemptto discover withinthe science elements similar to elements of modern Western science. but I find it totally implausiblethat some Indian discovered the calculus-a discovery for which previous developments in Indian mathematics would not at all have preparedhim-applied his discovery only to the problem of the instantaneousvelocity of the moon. it was heraldedas the Indians' discovery of the calculus. and we understandthe clever way that Madhavaderived the series without the calculus. in the 1830s. This claim and Madhava's achievements were ignored by Western historians. in which Whish's article was published. derived from omen texts. answer a whole range of historical questions. the PancasiddhCantiki. found in MUL. Varahamihira. or where any Babylonianlunar or planetarytheory was invented. since the 1850s historians ignorantof Madhava'swork have arguedabout whether Indian calculus on the basis of their use astronomershad the concept of the infinitesimal of the equivalentof the cosine function in a formulafor findingthe instantaneous velocity of the moon. Otto Neugebauer's brilliantanalysis of the astronomical tables written in cuneiform during the Seleucid period gives us a profound understandingof how this astronomyworked mathematically. For instance. Historians need to be very careful in assessing the nature of the questions the This content downloaded on Mon. One example I can give you relates to the IndianMadhava'sdemonstration.C. we do not know much about the stages by which Babylonian astronomers went from the crude planetaryperiods. When this was first described in English by CharlesWhish.D. since its author. I. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The matter resurfaced in the about 1400A.

CULTURESOF ANCIENT SCIENCE 563 material at hand will allow them to answer with a reasonable expectation of probability. to Greece. Indian. with subsidiaryroots in Egypt and China (I have lopped the Mayas off this arboreal image. The process of the intertwining of these diverse varieties of astronomies throughoutEurasia and North Africa was amazinglycomplex.graftedonto differentculturalstocks in each of these civilizations. it developed variantleaves. and transformedby each recipient culture into noticeablein the astralsciences that I studysomethingnew. or Chinese astral sciences might have become had this not happened. scientific ideas have been transmittedfor millennia from culture to culture. and astral magic-but can be readily discerned in many others. From Babyloniathe tree branchedout to Egypt. the more precise their computations.For very complex reasons this modern Western astronomy has choked off all of its rivals and destroyed the intellectual diversity that mankind enjoyed before it moved from simple communicationto Western domination. shoots. Much of my argumenthas been based on the anthropologicalperception that science is not the apprehensionof an external set of truthsthat mankind is progressivelyacquiringa greaterknowledgeof. in general. as ideas. and one in which much remains to be done. the remoter the time and the scantier the evidence. they can be easily recognizedby the characteristictrait that. parameters. as a simple historicalfact. I will not here name names. I strongly recommendto those of you who have the opportunitythus to broaden your perspectives to grasp it. as they are self-rooted). but the numberof historiansof the exact sciences who sufferfrom this malady is appallinglylarge. This content downloaded on Mon. astral omens. to Syria. 24 Dec 2012 07:32:40 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . mathematicalmodels. But this viewpoint must be modifiedby a further consideration. We cannot know what the Islamic. This is particularly astronomy.Millenniaof history are made to depend on the measurement of an arc of a few minutes or degrees when it has not even been convincingly demonstratedthat any arc was being measuredat which I have from time to time alluded since it strengthensthe argumentsin favor of the definitionof science that I proposed. and to China.Out of this process modern Western astronomy sprangfrom a ratherlate branch that grew from and was fed by an incrediblycomplicatedundergrowth.and instruments circulatedrapidlyover the vast expanse of divergenttraditions. But the positivists jump in to claim that mathematicalmodels (and they usually use quite simple ones) suffice to describe the idiosyncraticbehavior of people and to account for the perverse quirks in their personalities. The taprootand trunkof the tree of the astralsciences are buried in the Mesopotamiandesert. to India. This consideration is that.and they must hope for and search out new evidence. So far I have been attemptingto discredit Hellenophiliaon the grounds that it renders those affected by it unable to imagine many significantquestions that legitimatelyshould be addressedby historiansof science and that it pervertstheir judgment. except that they would not have become what our culture has produced. But unravelingthe intertwinedwebbing of these sciences is a fascinating and a rewardingtask for a historian. and flowers. but that ratherthe sciences are the products of humanculture. to Iran. astrology.