The Physical World of the Greeks

The Physical World of the Greeks

SAMUEL SAMBURSKY
Translated from the Hebrew by MERTON DAGUT
Copyright Date: 1956
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztsfg
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  • Book Info
    The Physical World of the Greeks
    Book Description:

    Professor Sambursky presents a lucid and absorbing survey of the scientific ideas of the Greeks, showing how they constructed their world-view. He establishes what the Greeks thought and how much they knew, why they thought as they did, and why they did not learn more.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5899-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    S. S.
  5. INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    S. Sambursky

    MORE than thirty years after the publication in 1956 ofThe Physical World of the Greeksthis second edition appears with hardly any changes apart from the correction of a few printing errors which I could discover. I do not think that the reprint of this book as it stands needs any substantial alterations. Today however I would rewrite it with some changes in emphasis or judgment on the merits of this or that philosopher, although there are a number of problems which have not been discussed to their full extent, because the frame of this book was essentially limited...

  6. I THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH
    (pp. 1-25)

    THE contemporary student of Ancient Greek science is forcibly struck by the historical affinity between that science and our own, no less than by the differences between them. Modern science—in particular the science of the physical world—goes back to the seventeenth century, and its origin is usually associated with the names of Galileo and Newton. Despite the many transformations to which it has been subject during these past three hundred and fifty years and to which it will in all probability be subject in the future, the character of modern science can be accurately and unambiguously defined. In...

  7. II NATURE AND NUMBER
    (pp. 26-49)

    IN the first chapter we discussed the foundations of science which were laid in the sixth and fifth centuries b.c.; we gave examples of the first beginnings of the scientific approach as they are revealed to us in the Milesian School’s doctrines of matter and force and in the teachings of Empedocles and Anaxagoras. Here was the origin of that train of thought which led to the atomic school, to alchemy and chemistry, and to our contemporary theory of matter. But this was not the only scientific chapter to be opened in that period. There was another of even greater...

  8. III HEAVEN AND EARTH
    (pp. 50-79)

    THE Greek contribution to astronomy, the most ancient of all the sciences, is particularly marked in the following three spheres: (a) the improvement of astronomic measurements; (b) the development of geometrical models for the explanation of stellar movements; (c) the calculation of cosmic dimensions. In the first case the Greeks merely carried on from the point reached by the Egyptians and Babylonians. But in the other two they opened new chapters in the history of astronomy which resulted in far-reaching advances.

    The best criterion of the improvement made in astronomical observations during the Greek period is the degree of accuracy...

  9. IV THE COSMOS OF ARISTOTLE
    (pp. 80-104)

    ARISTOTLE’S physical doctrine was accepted as dogma for sixty generations. No other personality in the history of science, and very few in the whole course of human culture, had so deep and long-lasting an influence on subsequent thought. Already in the Ancient World Aristotle’s views, or the views propounded in his name, bore the stamp of a supreme authority which only a few bold spirits dared to reject. This authority was in no way weakened by the rival claims made for Plato’s philosophy at the end of the classical period and the beginning of the Middle Ages. In the sphere...

  10. V THE WORLD OF THE ATOM
    (pp. 105-131)

    THE science of Ancient Greece, in all its stages of development, shows the constantly recurring attempt to resolve the antithesis between the unity of the cosmos and the plurality of its phenomena. Is this antithesis real? Or is it perhaps only an illusion resulting from the imperfection of our senses—and if so, how does this come about? Is the plurality of phenomena only apparent, and the cosmos in fact a single unchanging unit, admitting of no movement? Or is it this unity that is imaginary, and reality in fact no more than the sum total of unending mutations and...

  11. VI THE WORLD OF THE CONTINUUM
    (pp. 132-157)

    BEGINNING with the third century b.c., there grew up side by side in Greece, and subsequently at Rome, two opposed and rival physical theories, each of which became part of a comprehensive philosophical doctrine. One, the atomic theory, which is simply the teaching of Leucippus and Democritus with extensions and modifications, was incorporated in the Epicurean philosophy. The other is the original creation of the Stoics and is associated principally with the names of Zeno of Cition in Cyprus (c. 352-262 b.c.), Chrysippus of Soli in Cilicia (c. 280-207) and Poseidonius of Apamea in Syria (c. 135-51). The corner-stone of...

  12. VII THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF THINGS
    (pp. 158-183)

    WE have seen how the two great rival schools of the Hellenistic era served as the mouthpieces of two opposed scientific, views. While Epicurus and his disciples expounded the atomic theory, the Stoics, especially Chrysippus and Poseidonius, taught the continuum theory. As the teachings of these philosophical systems included not a little about many other fields of science, this led to a process of popularization of natural sciences within wide sections of the population. The writings of the “pure” scientists, and even the greatest of them like Archimedes, Eratosthenes and Hipparchus, presumably were confined to a small circle of mathematicians...

  13. VIII COSMOGONIES
    (pp. 184-203)

    GREEK science appears to us as a continuous effort to rationalize nature, resulting in the gradual extension of the concept of law to every observed sphere of the physical universe. We have traced the various aspects of this process and their influence on the description of the physical phenomena of the cosmos. But to complete this study we must add a survey of ancient cosmogonies from the Ionian philosophers to the Stoics. The term “cosmogony” means any description or explanation of the creation of the cosmos, from the prescientific mythologies found amongst all ancient peoples down to the scientific theories...

  14. IX THE BEGINNINGS OF ASTROPHYSICS
    (pp. 204-221)

    AFTER the golden period of Greek science in the third and second centuries b.c., a rapid decline of scientific creativeness set in. Eventually, after some slight revivals of secondary importance, this decline merged into the general decay of ancient culture from the fourth century a.d. onwards. From the time of Aristarchus, Archimedes and Eratosthenes in the third century b.c., and of Hipparchus in the second, no more important original contributions were made in the two main branches of ancient science, mathematics and astronomy. Ptolemy in a.d. 150 was mainly a summarizer and interpreter of previous astronomical doctrines, though he also...

  15. X LIMITS OF GREEK SCIENCE
    (pp. 222-244)

    THE picture unfolded by a general survey of Ancient Greek Science is characteristic of the birth and death of a living organism. We witness the period of germination in the sixth and fifth centuries with the appearance of the Milesian School, the work of Pythagoras and his first pupils, and the teachings of Empedocles and Anaxagoras. This seed comes to fruition in the period from Leucippus and Democritus and the later Pythagorean School in the second half of the fifth century to the death of Archimedes at the end of the third century. In the second century, after Hipparchus, the...

  16. LIST OF SOURCES QUOTED
    (pp. 245-249)
  17. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 250-250)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 251-255)