Chapter

The Trouble with Taxa

in What Did the Romans Know?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780226471143
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226471150 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226471150.003.0006
The Trouble with Taxa

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This chapter demonstrates that relatively innocuous-looking assumptions about how phenomena are related, and how those relationships enable possibilities for interaction, can have major effects on how the world itself looks to be put together, and on what kinds of things are possible or impossible, patently obvious or patently ridiculous, in that world. It also asks why it is that the ancients think that garlic interferes with magnetism. Plutarch's appeal to experience for garlic-magnets was not unique. In their counterarguments, both Giambattista della Porta and William Gilbert notably divorce garlic-magnets from their traditional taxonomic context. Garlic and magnets had been of a kind in Plutarch's day, and during the scientific revolution the lodestone got classified. The kind of experience to which both the pro and con claims about garlic and magnets presented in this chapter was not the laboratory-experimental kind of experience.

Keywords: garlic; magnetism; Plutarch; magnets; Giambattista della Porta; William Gilbert

Chapter.  9224 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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