Tensions in knowledge-construction in Pliny the Elder's books on astronomy and agriculture

Taylor,, Robert (2016) Tensions in knowledge-construction in Pliny the Elder's books on astronomy and agriculture. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

In the course of this thesis I engage with the recent academic consensus that Pliny’s Natural History should no longer be regarded as a work of pedantic compilation, but should instead be understood as a work of ethical and intellectual coherence. The central aspect of my engagement is the investigation of the tensions, epistemic and social, that appear to be present in the formation of much of the knowledge that Pliny represents. The examples I use are taken mainly from the books on astronomy and agriculture, and include knowledge of eclipses, agriculture, herbs, and portents. I have taken a number of different, but related, approaches in seeking to understand knowledge-transactions in the Natural History; they can be generally categorised as belonging either to the field of the Philosophy of Science, or of STS (Science and Technology in Society studies). In applying methods developed in these fields I hope to problematise not just Plinian representations of social and knowledge-groups, but also to interrogate the basis of the knowledge that is reflected in the Natural History. As well as examining specific episodes of knowledge-construction (an eclipse before a battle, a puzzling encounter with rustic herb-growers, a multiple birth in Ostia), I examine Pliny’s concern with luxuria with a view to understanding more fully both the particular knowledge that informs his ethical judgements, and how his treatment of this knowledge helps articulate his perspective on Man, Nature, and the divine.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > History, Classics & Archaeology
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 18 May 2017 16:00
Last Modified: 18 May 2017 16:00
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/226

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