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La Rivoluzione Dimenticata by Lucio Russo

Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Il pensiero scientifico greco e la scienza moderna. Knotentheorie, Ergebnisse der Mathematik und ihrer Grenzgebiete, Vol.

Zur Geschichte epistemischer Dinge. Preface by Marcello Cini. Hardly forgotten, readers might say. In fact, so Russo claims with great persuasive vigor, we have forgotten the true time and place this revolution took place. This was not West- ern Europe of the 16th—17th centuries, but the eastern Mediterranean of the third century B. Russo bases his argument on an ruswo of the scientific method. Essentially, this is a Popperian version of the hypothetico-deductive model, consisting of construct- ing theoretical domains, producing conclusions according to mathematical reasoning, and interpreting and testing those conclusions by appealing to empirical realizations.

He ar- gues that all the components of this method were put in place in the Hellenistic world: Not in the Classical period.

This did not have empirical realizations, and it merely anticipated the achievements of the Hellenistic world in math- ematical reasoning.

Nor later than the third century B. Certainly not at the so-called scientific revolution—which merely brought back to life the Hellenistic methods it luxio from its literary sources. Dimenicata community of historians of math- ematics should be grateful for Russo for this achievement, and should hope that the book gets quickly translated into other major languages.


It will serve as dimenricata reading in a survey of the history of science, besides of course offering an important thesis, well worth our critical attention. First, it belongs to a new wave of studies of Greek mathematics, where emphasis shifts from the Classical antecedents to the Hellenistic ex- tant sources themselves.

Lucio Russo – Wikipedia

As this shift gets us from speculation into facts, it is of obvious methodological value. For this shift in general, see [Saito ].

Second, Russo is right, I think, to highlight a problem that was largely overlooked by the scholarship—that is, how exactly did Greek science get forgotten?

From Roman times right through the 17th cen- tury, throughout the history of Mediterranean and European civilizations, to do science was to study Greeks.

Somehow, a process of forgetting must have occurred in between. We should try to explain how this has happened and, thanks to Russo, the problem may now be addressed. Third and finally, whatever we may think of the narrative Russo offers for the entire his- tory of Western science, I feel we ought to applaud him for offering it.

We may often be wary today, as professional historians, of suggesting all-encompassing models of historical progress and decline.

Yet the play of the history of Western science was not ruswo episodic. Some structure might, and therefore should, be discerned in it. Indeed, Russo cannot be much wrong in ascribing a major role, in this play, to the Greeks. If the book helps to renew interest in such grand narratives, it will have made a very interesting contribution. First, I think Russo puts too much stress on a single period.

Briefly, I find his dismissal of non-Hellenistic science unmotivated. We simply cannot date much ancient science with rivoluzuone accuracy. While something profound clearly changed roughly between the fifth and the fourth centuries B. Second, I think Russo puts too much stress on a single method. In- deed, it is not totally far-fetched to detect a hypothetico-deductive science in some works by Archimedes though even there I tend to see a more purely abstract mathematical thinkingBut taken in their historical context, such works belonged to a wider domain of persuasive writings.


Hypothetico-deductive science may have its roots in Greece—but the roots are tan- gled, as it were, leading to surprising places such as pure mathematics, speculative medicine, and rhetoric. Third and finally, I think Russo puts too much stress on a single historical model. But what if the very same things change their meanings according to their contexts?

La Rivoluzione Dimenticata

When we give an etymology for a word we hardly ever explain its real meaning, past or present, as such meanings depend on a synchronic network rivoluziond connotations.

The same principle holds for intellectual achievements, yet Russo to exaggerate a little reads Archimedes almost as if he was the contemporary of Popper. Archimedes was not, and dimentidata works meant, to ancient readers, something different from what they would mean if written today. Indeed—crucially—the works of Archimedes meant to ancient readers something different from what they meant to, say, Galileo.

Perhaps, then, the scientific revolution consisted just in this: A truly forgotten revolution! Thanks to Russo, we may begin to think through such issues: Mathematical reconstructions out, textual studies in: Remember me on this computer.

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