Dominique Meeùs
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Benjamin Farrington, Science and Politics in the Ancient World, 1946

Benjamin Farrington, Science and Politics in the Ancient World, George Allen & Unwin, 1946, 243 pages.
Réédition de Farrington 1939.
13 1. IntroductoryA Modern Illustration
Haeckel, by stressing the application to Man of Darwin’s theory of the Origin of Species, finds that he has transformed himself om a pure scientist to a politician.19 2. A First Glance at our ProblemFrom Anaximander to Cosmas Indicopleustes
Anaximander, in the sixth century B.C. teaches a theory of evolution based on observation. Cosmas, in the sixth century A.D, teaches a theory based om the Bible, that the universe is made on the model of the Tabernacle of Moses.

In the sixth century in Ionia, within the compass of the lifetime of two men, Thales and Anaximander, science achieved an astonishing development. There is general agreement that the observations and speculations of these men and their immediate successors on the Nature of Things constitute the first draft of those scientific handbooks on the Universe with which we are familiar to day.

P. 19.

Benjamin Farrington est professeur de lettres d’inspiration marxiste. Il n’est ni scientifique ni philosophe des sciences. Parlant de Thalès et d’Anaximandre, il semble réduire la science à l’observation, (point de vue qui est peut-être celui de Francis Bacon), en négligeant la théorisation et la vérification (en acceptant le risque de réfutation). Il me semble, au chapitre 6, citer approbativement une position empiriste.

Plutôt que de science, on a ici plutôt, chez certains penseurs grecs, une prise de position matérialiste, qui ouvre la porte à la science1.

À propos des efforts de l’aristocratie d’Athènes pour limiter la connaissance chez les autres citoyens, Benjamin Farrington mentionne (page 20) les taxes on knowledge, dont je n’avais jamais entendu parler. On avait introduit début 18e siècle en Grande-Bretagne des taxes sur la presse, qu’un mouvement vers le premier tiers du 19e siècle a dénoncées et combattues comme taxes on knowledge. Il y a une page Wikipédia sur le mouvement, qui renvoie à une autre page sur l’introduction d’une telle taxe en 1712. Là, on explique bien que le motif de la taxe était plus répressif que fiscal.

26 3. A Second Glance at our ProblemThe Geometer-God
In this chapter it appears that arithmetic is democratic, geometry oligarchic, and that God prefers the latter.33 4. A Third Glance at our ProblemFrom Empedocles to Prudentius
In the fifth century B.C., the pagan poet Empedocles preaches the need for a knowledge of the Nature of Things. In the fifth century A.D., the Christian poet Prudentius rejects the knowledge of the Nature of Things.52 5. Pagan and Christian SuperstitionAn interlude, in which it is shown that Pagans, as well as Christians, if they despised the knowledge of the Nature of Things, became defenceless against superstition.57 6. The Two Great Achievements of Presocratic ScienceThe Atomic Theory and Hippocratic Medicine. The war on superstition begins.

But, as has already been said, the Greek doctor was able to make an advance on the scientific method of the physicist. Having his material under his control, he avoided hypotheses (in the sense in which Newton used the word when he said Hypotheses non fingo) as much as possible, endeavouring always to submit his opinions to the test of observation. In the treatise entitled Precepts this point is discussed

“One must attend in medicine not primarily to plausible theories, but to experience combined with reason. For a theory is a composite memory of things apprehended by sense-perception. For the sense-perception, coming first in experience and conveying to the intellect the things subjected to it, is clearly imaged, and the intellect, receiving these things many times, noting the occasion, the time and the manner, stores them up in itself and remembers. Now I approve of theorizing, if its foundations are laid in events, and its conclusions deduced in accordance with phenomena. … But if it begins, not from a clear impression, but from a plausible fiction, it often induces a grievous and troublesome condition. All who follow this method are lost in a blind alley… Conclusions which are merely verbal cannot bear fruit; only those do which are based on demonstrated fact. For affirmation and talk are deceptive and treacherous. Wherefore one must hold fast to facts in generalizations also, and occupy oneself with facts persistently, if one is to acquire that ready and infallible habit which we call ‘the art of Medicine.’ ”

… must be dated in the third century B.C.
P. 63.

La prudence du médecin hippocratique est évidemment justifiée pour la médecine de son temps et Benjamin Farrington a certainement raison de mettre ça en évidence. (Et les observations du médecin, méritoires, ne lui dictent pas sa conduite. Quand il passe de l’observation au remède, il fait le plus souvent de la spéculation.) Mais sur la science en général, c’est trop court. Pour que la science avance, il faut, inspiré par les connaissances accumulées et les observations, oser faire des hypothèses, imaginer des théories plausibles. On doit alors les accepter ou les rejeter, non pas seulement sur la base des observations connues, mais aussi sur la base d’observations nouvelles, faites dans le but de vérifier, c’est-à-dire d’expériences. Je ne sais si Benjamin Farrington a conscience de ce que la science est beaucoup plus que l’empirisme.

67 7. Prometheus BoundThe Clash Between Science and the City-State
The meaning of the Prometheus of Aeschylus. The banishment of Anaxagoras. The culture of the oligarchy as seen in Theognis and Pindar.87 8. Plato and the Religion of the City-StateCritias and the political view of the origin of religion. Isocrates and the political function of religion. Plato’s religious legislation. Its incompatibility with Ionian science.107 9. The Revolt from the Religion of the City-StateWhy Plato provided for two types of religion, (1) the traditional anthropomorphic gods, (2) new astral deities. Aristotle’s explanation. The attitude to the City-State of Cynics, Stoics, and Epicureans.118 10. What Epicurus DidProfessor Cornford and the twilight of Greek philosophy. Plato and the Oracle of Apollo. Epicurus founds the first organized movement to combat superstition.130 11. Epicurus and PlatoThe Senses versus Reason. Physics versus Mathematics. The origin and nature of language. The attack on astral theology.148 12. The Religion of EpicurusDeterminism and Free-will. The Gods of the People. The New Theology of Epicurus.160 13. Epicureanism Reaches RomeEpicureanism abolishes the police function of religion. Greek efforts to restore the impressiveness of the Cults. Polybius finds the Roman Senate supreme in the exploitation of religion for political ends. Epicurean philosophers expelled by the Roman Senate.172 14. LucretiusThe intense passion of the poet. The purpose of the poem. The Invocation to Venus. Religio. The anti-Lucrèce chez Lucrèce. The contemporary relevance of the poem. Epicureanism in Italy. Cicero and Lucretius. The Stoics at Rome. Varro and the threefold classification of religion. Lucretius and the Delphic Oracle.217 15. After Lucretius
Il semble que le premier humain a avoir fait de la science au sens propre en ayant conscience de ce qu’il faisait et en le disant, c’est Ibn Al Haytam.