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Drift 25, Rm. 102 Organized Session | Special Interest Group Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science
26 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) Switch to local time
20190726T0900 20190726T1145 Europe/Amsterdam Classifications and Categories in the Early Sciences This panel explores systems of classification across the many disciplines that constitute the early sciences. It interrogates the particular ways in which historical contexts shaped how natural philos... Drift 25, Rm. 102 History of Science Society 2019

This panel explores systems of classification across the many disciplines that constitute the early sciences. It interrogates the particular ways in which historical contexts shaped how natural philosophers, scientific practitioners, and scholars organized and categorized people, plants, nature, and ideas. Juxtaposing perspectives from different times and places that make up the early sciences, the papers question whether early scientific categories allow for meaningful or even valid comparisons between cultures and periods.

Aristotle's Rivals: Early Categorialism in Ancient Greek Philosophy
09:00 AM - 09:30 AM2019/07/26 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 07:30:00 UTC
Aristotle's Categories is one of the most influential and heavily commented on texts to survive from antiquity. It is so influential, and presents such a neat contrast to Plato's Theory of Forms, that he is often taken as virtually inventing categorialism as a tradition single-handedly. Yet this is far too neat a picture as his contemporaries Hermodorus (Simp. Phys. 247,33-248,20), Xenocrates (Fr. 12 Lang), and Speusippus (Simp. Cat. 38,19-24; SE Adv. Math. vii 145-146) are all attested as having posited their own categorial schemes. Late Classical Greek philosophy presents us with an abundance of attempts to "carve nature at its joints," but I will be focusing on Speusippus' categorialism as it is the most attested and is likely the one Aristotle was most concerned with given his comments at Posterior Analytics II 13. 97a6-11 and in Parts of Animals I.2-3. I will examine Speusippus' "categorial holism" in this paper, particularly as he applies it in the surviving fragments of his scientific works Likes and Definitions. I will examine how divisions of plant species in Likes depart from Aristotle's own criteria for definitions in the Topics while also addressing some of the potential problems of Speusippus' approach (particularly that objection that it is too epistemically demanding). Despite some shortcomings, however, I will argue that Speusippus and Early Academics were establishing their own unique taxonomy of the world, revamping Plato's method of division to present a powerful alternative that avoids some of the shortcomings of Aristotle and Theophrastus.
Classifying Animals: Aristotelian Zoology in Thirteenth-Century Latin Scholasticism
09:30 AM - 10:00 AM2019/07/26 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 08:00:00 UTC
How are animals to be classified? What gives unity to an animal species? What are the criteria for animals to be part of the same species? Variants of such problems are as intriguing to contemporary philosophers as they were to Scholastic scholars after Michael Scot translated three of Aristotle’s works on animals (History of Animals, Parts of Animals and Generation of Animals) from Arabic into Latin at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The first extant commentary (1240s) on this compilation, entitled De animalibus, was written by Peter of Spain, a physician, who most likely also commented on the Articella, a standard medical textbook at the time. Somewhat later, Albert the Great (1200-1280) wrote a second and much more influential commentary on the same compilation with more than 40 manuscripts still extant. In my presentation, I intend to explore the fabric of questions about animal species and classification as it was proposed in the commentaries of Peter and Albert, and I will show that these classifications extended well beyond an easy appeal to common natures or essences. I also intend to show how these classifications of animals were inseparably linked to the way in which the science of animals was construed, and how it was supposed to relate to natural philosophy and to medicine.
Zoology of Mixing: Discourses of Race and Species in Early Modern Europe
10:14 AM - 10:45 AM2019/07/26 08:14:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 08:45:00 UTC
As the Spanish Empire grew and society stabilized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European agents transposed both their breeding practices and zoological language to organize proliferating human difference. Amidst the hubris of imagining how breeding could create a more perfect society, Renaissance European husbandmen and patrons had first developed the term “race” to describe animal offspring born on stud farms. In its original Renaissance conception, race was thought to be malleable while gender and sex were fixed. Within the Spanish Empire, power relations concretized emergent racial categories like mestizo, mulatto, and criollo – terms originally used to describe animal mixing. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, naturalists bolstered their convictions that species boundaries were unassailable. This paper shows how race and species were more discursive constructs than material realities by following the ideas’ proliferation in European discourse beyond the Spanish empire. To that end, this paper analyzes an extensive database that traces the movement of the language of race in humans and animals in published and manuscript sources in Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Latin, and English between 1400 and 1700. I argue that race—originally a fragile category designating the human artifice that shaped one generation at a time—began to designate traits fixed across generations by the early 1600s, rendering a temporary social hierarchy embodied and permanent. This growing belief in the fixity of difference transferred from Spanish society to the emergent field of natural history, where the most exciting research was being done in the Spanish American empire.
The Importance of Well-Proportioned Wholes: From Archytas’ Division of Mathematics to Ptolemy’s All-Emcompassing Philosophy
10:45 AM - 11:15 AM2019/07/26 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 09:15:00 UTC
The Pythagorean Archytas at the beginning of his work on music theory (fr. 1 Huffman) established a division of the mathematical sciences in astronomy, geometry, harmonics, and arithmetic which became famous thanks to Plato’s adaptation in Republic VII. Socrates praises geometry (way over the other sciences) for its abstraction from reality and for its value as a means to comtemplate the forms, in contast with Archytas himself, who had argued for the superiority of arithmetic on the grounds of its attachment to real-world concerns, and because it allegedly contained the ultimate first principles of the other sciences (fr. 3). From Plato’s and Ptolemy’s discussion, it is clear that proportion (i.e. ratio), a basic tool of arithmetic, underlies the Archytan division of the mathematical sciences, in the sense that arithmetic and geometry are both to be seen as playing the same structural role in relation with harmonics and astronomy respectively (i.e. harmonics is to arithmetic as astronomy is to geometry). It is from this perspective, I propose, that we are to understand the intriguing statement that “our predecessors made good distinctions in the nature of wholes, and therefore they were likely to see well how things are in their parts” (Archytas fr. 1): a good harmony in the division of the sciences is the appropriate basis for the development of these very sciences. Then I will show (and attempt to interpret) that Ptolemy adapted Archytas’ concept of well-proportionate division of the sciences in two ways: first, by imitating the text of Archytas fr. 1 in the beginning of the Almagest, where he discusses his predecessors’ divisions of philosophy, including mathematics as a contributor to physics and theology in the theoretical part. Secondly, some of Ptolemy’s works, in particular his Harmonics, are divided in two sections, the last of which consisting of an “application” of one department of knowledge to another, and bearing what seems to be a fixed proportion, in length, with the main part.
Commentary: Classifications and Categories in the Early Sciences
11:15 AM - 11:45 AM2019/07/26 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 09:45:00 UTC
Dr. Anne-Laurence Caudano
University of Winnipeg
Mr. Andrew Hull
Northwestern University
Dr. Dominic Nicolas Dold
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin)
Prof. Mackenzie Cooley
Assistant Professor, Hamilton College
Dr. Cristian Tolsa
AvH Postdoc
 Hannah Marcus
Harvard University
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