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(p.274) Conclusion
Before Nature
Francesca Rochberg
University of Chicago Press

Regarding the notion of the domain of a universal nature, or the essence of things belonging to nature (phusis/natura), this book develops the argument for a deep-seated discontinuity separating the Western from the ancient Near Eastern tradition. Such discontinuity notwithstanding, the concluding chapter argues for an intellectual kinship between cuneiform knowledge and science by considering facets of “the scientific imagination,” especially, as defined by Gerald Holton, in terms of its characteristic themata and the workings of analogy as an important intellectual tool of science. It further concludes that a history of science inclusive of cuneiform texts is not dependent on whether the ancient literati of the Near East thought about nature, or whether they asked questions of nature in an effort to produce knowledge. That they did not express such thoughts or questions, and yet developed the models (schematic, quantitative, predictive), reasoning styles (empirical, deductive, analogical), and methods (quantitative, analytic, hermeneutic) to find structures of order in their experiential and conceptual world, as well as to define norms and anomalies, regularities and irregularities worthy of investigation, argues for the necessity of granting a place for cuneiform texts in our history of science.

Keywords:   scientific imagination, themata, analogy, intelligibility

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