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View Diary: Women in Science: Hypatia 350/370-415 (54 comments)

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  •  I only used "Neoplatonist" because it was ... (2+ / 0-)
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    Aunt Pat, Prof Haley

    used in one or more of my references.  However, I think that you are undoubtedly right.  It is like a lot of other preconceptions and modern definitions that we place on ancient history, or even our own relatively recent history.  We always define events by our own experiences and concepts.

    •  That's what we're supposed to do (1+ / 0-)
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      Desert Scientist

      If human history weren't relevant to us, if we couldn't see the past through the lens of our lives, it would be useless.  There is no such thing as abstract history, it's all supposed to be useable.  Every generation takes what it needs from history even as it writes its own history.

      For instance, without a modern perspective we would not realize just how much humanity lost when Classical Antiquity fell.  A Roman could travel faster across Europe than anyone up until the invention of the locomotive in the nineteenth century.  Roman slavery was not the chattel slavery of the Old South.  It evolved as an institution.  By the time of the Empire, slaves had rights and privileges, including the right to earn a small wage from which they could buy their own freedom.  Romans built and operated what we could call modern factories, utilizing water power to drive machines in those factories.  They had universal health care.  Anyone could go to a temple of Asclepius and be treated.  The Roman military was thoroughly modern in its organization.  They even had the equivalent of VA hospitals.  At least one Roman emperor was a black guy.  Others were Syrian and Spanish.  When Classical Antiquity fell, so did the quality of life and personal rights of the mass of humanity in Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East.

      You think we're so great?  Caesar, as bloody-minded as he was, would recoil in horror at the 20th Century.  As bad as gladiatorial games were, the Romans didn't murder 100 million people.  We did.  That's the total body count from the wars, revolutions, purges, and genocide of the last century.

      So don't be dismissive of the intellectual tools we use now to make the past more accessible to our modern minds.  We need all the help we can get.

      Tell me what to write. 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

      by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 11:53:58 AM PST

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      •  I was not being dismissive. (1+ / 0-)
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        I was only making the point that we never can look at the past other than from our own perspective.  How could we do otherwise?  We can't experience the world as Hypatia did.  Yet we do share those things that are common to all humans from the time of our emergence on the African savanna. Namely curiosity about our world, our nature, and our future.

        •  There was once the idea that historians could... (1+ / 0-)
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          Desert Scientist

 "objective."  This still floats around in the culture, even though it was demolished for the first time about a century ago.  Unlike my readings in late Antiquity, which took place twenty years ago, the graduate course I took in Historiography was around twenty-five years ago, so even foggier.  Not much of it remains in my head other than a disdain for the idea of "objective" history.

          Sorry if I overreacted.

          The savanna, and our hunter-gatherer existence, may play a very large part in who we are.  It may have lasted for 200,000 years, maybe even longer.  It is twenty times as long as human civilization.  We're made for small groups, talkativeness, and cooperative behavior, literally, shaped by evolution to be that way.  I've often wondered just how much of what we're up to as a species is directly related to that evolutionary inheritance?

          My day for pondering....Ponderer Day?   That should be a legitimate holiday!

          Tell me what to write. 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

          by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:40:27 PM PST

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      •  Recoil in horror? I don't think so... (2+ / 0-)
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        rbird, Desert Scientist

        I think Caesar would recognize much of the modern world, both East and West, and the see the opportunity that lies within it.  He might be awed at first by the scale of it all, but he would be just as eager to get his hands on all the latest toys and try his hand at the latest version of world conquest.  Once a Caesar, always a Caesar.

        The rest of your comment I largely agree with.  I wonder how history will view the American Empire, or how long we'll even be on the stage.

        •  The body count would horrify him, I think... (2+ / 0-)
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          Desert Scientist, gene s

          ...that's what I was talking about.  The 20th Century is very impressive in an evil sort of way.

          As to the politics of our age, yeah, I fully agree with you.  Caesar would recognize our politics right away.

          Tell me what to write. 'To know what is right and to do it are two different things.' - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin

          by rbird on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 03:26:58 PM PST

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    •  Hypatia would probably have a good lol (0+ / 0-)

      at some of us here! Once again, you did a great job in summing up Hypatia, and (judging from one of the comments) you even brought the truth of her life to someone who never heard of her. How cool is that?

      Sometimes I'm a bit oversensitive about the "Neoplatonist" thing. Many do (fairly I might add, but it is complicated) classify her as a such. It's just that the term has become (recently) misused as a stand-in for atheist/agnostic.

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