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History of Science Roman - Pantheon

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 6: Roman Science

Interpretation essay

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
4 Friday
11:59 p.m.
20 Interpretation Essay
Unless it explains, history is trivial.
Write a short persuasive essay agreeing or disagreeing with a common interpretation about the topic and expressing your own view
60 min.

Sic et Non

Write your interpretation in a 1200-1800 word essay.

It’s time to put on our thinking caps and interpret the significance of what we’ve been exploring! Unless it explains, history is trivial. Did you discover anything unexpected this week that needs to be explained? What surprised you this week? Did you make any unexpected discoveries? What was the most meaningful part of your explorations this week?

  1. Discuss and explain: "One of the most important contributions of the Roman empire to Western civilization was the legacy of Roman law. In the same way, Roman-era natural philosophers from Galen to Cicero to Basil to Boethius, and even Roman encyclopedists from Pliny to Isidore, bequeathed to later cultures a profound confidence in the lawful order of nature, the idea that nature is governed not by chance but by intelligible, unalterable natural laws. The only exceptions to this rule, such as Lucretius, found few followers in this period."
     
  2. What were the most important contributions of theistic perspectives to understanding "What is nature?" and "How is nature known?" Use the examples of Basil, Philoponos and Augustine to illustrate your points.
     
  3. The following caricatures of Roman-era science are unfortunately widespread. Discuss and critique any one of them on the basis of both your textbook and the primary source excerpts:
    1. "Roman scientific endeavor represented a sudden decline and major loss of the impetus of Hellenistic science, because Romans were more interested in ethical philosophy than inquiry into the causes of things."
    2. "The suffocating authority of Aristotle's cosmology, which was virtually unquestioned during the Roman empire, stifled the growth of science in Latin Europe."
    3. "The rise of Christianity and the decline of ancient science go hand in hand, because of the Christian impulse to attribute everything to God and consequently to ignore or even suppress investigation of natural causes."
    4. "Galen's medical theories doomed the history of medicine in later centuries to an endless series of fruitless speculations based not on first-hand anatomical experience so much as on hearsay and the authority of others."

Instructions for Interpretation assignments:

  1. Go to Janux and watch the Interpretations video prompt.
  2. Comment on your initial reaction to the video prompt in the discussion stream at Janux.
  3. Take one of the questions or points of view listed here and consider how it relates to the assigned readings for this week. Consider both Context and Evidence assignments, whenever applicable.
  4. Write a short essay defending your thesis and/or refuting competing interpretations. An Interpretation essay must express a point of view, supporting that argument with specific evidence gathered from the assigned readings.
  5. Your Interpretation essay should be at least 1200 words long, and not more than 1800 words (you can do a word count at Motionnet.com). This word count does NOT include the original question you are responding to, any quotations from assigned readings, or the two notes at the end of the essay.
  6. Spellcheck, word count, and proofread your essay. Since this is a longer writing assignment, you will probably want to use the spellcheck and word-count features in your word processor.
  7. In a one or two sentence note at the end of your essay (not part of the word-count), indicate why you chose to respond to that issue and how you came up with the interpretation.
  8. In a one-sentence note after your essay (not part of the word-count), identify which style or genre you selected (analytical, narrative, dialogue, etc.) and explain why you thought that would be the most effective way to convey your interpretation.
  9. Include reference citations or links to any textbook, website, course page, or Exhibits Online that are closely related to your Interpretation (e.g., "For Redondi's view, go here: insert link"). Additional reading beyond course assignments is not required, but you must include at least two citations or links to assigned readings that provide evidence and relevant historical context. These two sources must be either primary sources that pertain to the topic and come from the period being discussed or secondary sources (e.g., one of our textbooks or assigned web pages) written with demonstrable knowledge of the relevant primary sources (for example, in addition to the assigned background readings, professional historians of science may be assumed to be familiar with the sources they write about; see guidelines for evaluating sources). An argument that is not supported with documented evidence does not meet the minimum requirements for an Interpretation essay. For citations and links, use the forms described in the bibliographical guidelines. (For example, a citation to our text could be "Lindberg, Beginnings, p. #." )
  10. Cut-and-paste your completed essay, with notes and links, and post it in the Interpretation forum for this week at the Confluence discussion board.
  11. After you have posted your Interpretation, complete the Gradebook Declaration in Desire2Learn. (Your Gradebook Declaration is subject to the Honor Code.)

Here is the text of the Desire2Learn Gradebook Declaration:

(7 points) I have posted my Interpretation at Confluence. My Interpretation shows that I have thought about BOTH Context and Evidence assignments for this week. I have done a word count, and my Interpretation is at least 600 words min. My word count does NOT include the original question I am responding to, any quotations from assigned readings, or the two notes at the end of the essay.

(7 points) I have posted an Interpretation at Confluence that is at least 1200 words min. and no more than 1800 words max.

(1 point) My Interpretation contains an explanation of how I came up with my point of view (not part of the word count)..

(1 point) My Interpretation contains a sentence explaining the genre or style of writing I adopted (not part of the word count).

(2 points) My Interpretation contains a citation or link to at least one relevant source (such as the assigned readings) including either a primary source or a secondary source written by an author with demonstrable knowledge of the primary sources.

(2 points) My Interpretation contains a citation or link to at least two relevant sources (such as the assigned readings) including either a primary source or a secondary source written by an author with demonstrable knowledge of the primary sources.

 

Why work so hard on your Interpretation essay? Perhaps the best answer is friendship. Consider the words of an ancient chemist on teaching:
 
“Nor do I fail to understand that it is difficult to make clear the dark discoveries of the Greeks in Latin verses, especially since we have often to employ new words because of the poverty of the language and the novelty of the matters; but still it is your merit, and the expected delight of your friendship, that persuades me to undergo any labour, and entices me to spend the tranquil nights in wakefulness, seeking by what words and what poetry at last I may be able to display clear lights before your mind, whereby you may see into the heart of things hidden.”
Lucretius (circa 50 B.C.) De rerum natura I.136-145.

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
-14
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux