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Anaximander: And the Nature of Science

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He examines Anaximander as a scientist interested in shedding light on the deep nature of scientific thinking, which Rovelli locates in his rebellious ability to reimagine the world again and again. I know it would not discredit his scientific inquiry or process and I trust Carlo Rovelli would agree.

He describes how the Greeks established that the Earth was not flat using a nearly identical scientific inquiry used by the Chinese to establish that the Earth was flat. As a stand-alone proposition, it is the least bit enlightening, but after reading this book I can appreciate that Anaximander’s contribution to scientific inquiry and analysis was monumental, as Carlo Rovelli teaches.In my experience, working scientists often get history of science wrong - in this case, as it's arguably more history of philosophy, I can't say whether or not Carlo Rovelli is straying far from what's known to make his point, but what he has to say about the Greek philosopher Anaximander from the 6th century BC is fascinating. Wondrous as this was, it was the reaction of the second man, Thales’s fellow citizen, Anaximander, 11 years his junior that, Rovelli argues, changed the world.

Over two millennia ago, a Greek philosopher had a number of wondrous insights that paved the way to cosmology, physics, geography, meteorology and biology, setting in motion a new way of seeing the world. It's like the best primer you can imagine for the non-scientist on why what you think you know about Ptolemy and Copernicus, or Popper and Kuhn, is not quite right -- Sam Leith ― Twitter --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition. He introduced a new mode of rational thinking with an openness to uncertainty and to the progress of knowledge.

Rovelli thus works in this book a little like an archaeologist sifting a burial site for clues, finding reference points in later historical accounts by Pliny and Aristotle and Herodotus among others. If Newton characterised himself as “standing on the shoulders of giants”, then the two men near the very base of that human pyramid were Anaximander and Thales of Miletus.

Essentially he claims that Anaximander was the first person who looked for explanations of natural events, rather than crediting spirits of one sort or another with such effects .Anaximander assimilated Thales’s ideas, treated them with due respect, but then rejected and improved on them and came up with more exact theories of his own. He suggests that it was the combination of having the first fully phonetic simple alphabet, the lack of dominant royalty and the independence of the city states that enabled this revolution in thinking in Miletus where Anaximander was based. Alongside the desacralisation and secularisation of public life,” Rovelli argues, “which passed from the hands of divine kings to those of citizens, came the desacralisation and secularisation of knowledge… law was not handed down once and for all but was instead questioned again and again. Published in English for the first time, Rovelli's fascinating debut work pays much needed tribute to the pioneering Ancient Greek philosopher Anaximander and the game-changing theories that wrestled science away from crude superstition. Currently head of the quantum gravity group at the Centre de Physique Théorique at Aix-Marseille University, Rovelli became a household name after publishing his first books, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Reality Is Not What It Seems, which became international bestsellers.

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