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The Babylonians and the Rational

The Babylonians and the Rational

kullat ṭupšarrūti “Everything Pertaining to the Scribal Art”

(p.131) Chapter Five The Babylonians and the Rational
Before Nature
Francesca Rochberg
University of Chicago Press

Assyrian and Babylonian divinatory, astrological, magical and medical texts that characteristically deal in correspondences and properties testify to an important context of the rational in cuneiform knowledge. Focusing on analogical reasoning, rationality in cuneiform scholarly texts can be seen as independent of the dictates of Western logic, or of the cognitive-historical model wherein rationality unfolds progressively through history. The argument for cuneiform knowledge as a context of rationality is that reasoning by analogy was a primary and essential way to forge connections between phenomena in different domains, not, however, within a physical/metaphysical matrix defined by nature and God (or gods) such as is found in Western science and natural magic, but within its own comprehensive world structure.

Keywords:   rational, occult properties, correspondence, irrational, cognitive history, logic, magic

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