Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge And The History Of Science

Hardcover | January 1, 2017

byFrancesca Rochberg

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In the modern West, we take for granted that what we call the “natural world” confronts us all and always has—but Before Nature explores that almost unimaginable time when there was no such conception of “nature”—no word, reference, or sense for it.
 
Before the concept of nature formed over the long history of European philosophy and science, our ancestors in ancient Assyria and Babylonia developed an inquiry into the world in a way that is kindred to our modern science. With Before Nature, Francesca Rochberg explores that Assyro-Babylonian knowledge tradition and shows how it relates to the entire history of science. From a modern, Western perspective, a world not conceived somehow within the framework of physical nature is difficult—if not impossible—to imagine. Yet, as Rochberg lays out, ancient investigations of regularity and irregularity, norms and anomalies clearly established an axis of knowledge between the knower and an intelligible, ordered world. Rochberg is the first scholar to make a case for how exactly we can understand cuneiform knowledge, observation, prediction, and explanation in relation to science—without recourse to later ideas of nature. Systematically examining the whole of Mesopotamian science with a distinctive historical and methodological approach, Before Nature will open up surprising new pathways for studying the history of science.

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In the modern West, we take for granted that what we call the “natural world” confronts us all and always has—but Before Nature explores that almost unimaginable time when there was no such conception of “nature”—no word, reference, or sense for it.   Before the concept of nature formed over the long history of European philosophy and ...

Francesca Rochberg is professor of Near Eastern studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  

other books by Francesca Rochberg

Format:HardcoverDimensions:392 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:January 1, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022640613X

ISBN - 13:9780226406138

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Ancient Near East, Science, and Nature
Part I. Historiography
Chapter One. Science and Nature
Chapter Two. Old Ideas about Myth and Science
Part II. Cuneiform Knowledge and Its Interpretive Framework
Chapter Three. On Knowledge among Cuneiform Scholars
Chapter Four. A Cuneiform Modality of Order
Part III. Rationality, Analogy, and Law
Chapter Five. The Babylonians and the Rational
Chapter Six. Causality and World Order
Part IV. The Cuneiform World of Observation, Prediction, and Explanation
Chapter Seven. Observation of Astral Phenomena
Chapter Eight. Prediction and Explanation in Cuneiform Scholarship
Conclusion

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Before Nature is a challenging book in the best sense: it invites readers to rethink their most basic categories—including nature itself—through the lens of ancient Near Eastern conceptions of order and practices of observation, interpretation, and prediction. The evidence for an alternative form of knowledge is presented with rigor and imagination, and the result is an enlarged understanding of order, without nature or causes. Before Nature should be read by all historians of science, regardless of their specialties.”