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History of Science Islamic and early medieval science

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 7: Islamic and Early Medieval 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. Imagine that Pierre Duhem is Rip Van Winkle: Near the beginning of the 20th century Pierre Duhem wrote: "There is no Arabic science. The wise men of Mohammedanism were always the more or less faithful disciples of the Greeks, but were themselves destitute of all originality." (Quoted in Lindberg, 1st ed., p. 175.). Today Duhem has risen again from a long sleep after nearly a century. He is a bit groggy and disoriented because of all the changes and discoveries in our culture, and because of the advances in scholarship in the history of science. Explain why his interpretation of Islamic science, although once regarded as common sense, is no longer accepted by historians of science today. If you had the opportunity to speak with Duhem today, how would you help to ease his disorientation and confusion? Use specific and telling examples to help him come to his senses as quickly as possible.
     
  2. Which explanation of the decline of Islamic science, offered by either Lindberg or myself (supplemental notes), seems most plausible to you? Explain your reasoning.
     
  3. In an assigned reading, John Lienhard writes, "The old West provides such an accurate mirror of medieval life just because it was populated by free and inventive people adapting to harsh circumstances. The medieval mind, as it turns out, was what it took to open up America." What evidence did Lienhard provide to support this view? What evidence for this interpretation can you draw from other assigned readings? Why are these things important for the history of science and for our understanding of the Middle Ages?
     
  4. "The stereotype of the Middle Ages pictures the professor as spineless and subservient, a slavish follower of Aristotle and the church fathers... fearful of departing one iota from the demands of authority.... [yet] Certainly the medieval master, particularly the master who specialized in the natural sciences, would not have thought of himself as restricted or oppressed by either ancient or religious authority." David Lindberg, Beginnings of Western Science, p. 213.
    Imagine that you are a medieval university student who has just traveled forward through time to land on our campus this semester.
    You've met some friends here, but as you start to explain where you're from, they scoff at the idea that universities might have been interesting places in the "Dark Ages." In a way that both corrects and informs with specific examples, how would you explain the excitement of medieval academic life to your new-found 21st-century friends?
     

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.

 

"Finally, it was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever complet ing anything. This whole book is but a draught --nay, the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience." Herman Melville, Moby Dick , ch. XXXII.

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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