Dreams of a Final Theory

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:
Dreams of a Final Theory

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This chapter argues that one of the foundational beliefs shared by many schools is the conviction that the universe is symmetrical, which is to say that ways of explaining parts of it will also explain other parts, and that it is symmetrical across physical, ethical, theological, and psychological dimensions. It also argues that symmetrical explanations should be rethought as vital parts of the Roman projects of knowing the cosmos. It demonstrates how modern arguments for the importance of breadth in scientific explanations can make space for understanding the place and force of these ancient orderings of nature. Additionally, it explores Cicero's Dream of Scipio. The idea of the Great Year was discussed by him. In reading book 3 of the Harmonics, if one follows along in the careful commentaries by A. Barker and J. Solomon, one sees again and again that Ptolemy borrows ideas heavily from many different thinkers and schools.

Keywords: symmetrical explanations; cosmos; breadth; nature; Cicero; Dream of Scipio; Great Year; Harmonics; Ptolemy

Chapter.  10862 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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