Non-Western Traditions

  1. The Personal and Practical World

    1. Humanity has generally experienced nature in a personalized and humanistic fashion

      1. Most traditions see each natural phenomenon as having own unique identity

      2. Nature and natural phenomenon also generally seen as having a personality, with particular needs and wants

      3. Thus nature seen as collection of discrete events, not in terms of systematic patterns

    2. Most traditions also explicitly practical in efforts to understand nature

      1. Advances develop from need to solve a particular problem or predict a particular phenomenon

      2. This also inhibits  the development of an abstract view of nature that sees phenomenon as examples of systematic patterns and underlying natural laws

  2. Yin, Yang, and Bureaucracy in China

    1. Needs of the state in China induces significant scientific and technical development

      1. Emergence of Confucian bureaucracy brings with it a large population of state-sponsored intellectuals

      2. State will create schools to train these bureaucrats 

      3. Scholars in China thus are employees of the state; tied to the interests of the state

      4. This will encourage a highly pragmatic approach to the study of nature, emphasizing practical needs of statecraft

    2.  Education of the Confucian scholar-gentry

      1. Examination system theoretically creates a meritocracy in the bureaucracy, but depends on time period

      2. Exams based primarily on Confucian classics and ability to write particular kinds of essays dictated by tradition

      3. Thus would-be bureaucrats required a humanistic education, with minimal training in math or study of nature

      4. Schools to train these bureaucrats, and their students, were highly careerist - overwhelming goal was to train for the examination

      5. As such, there were no degrees

      6. Teachers were bureaucrats themselves, generally on short-term appointments

    3. Scientific study geared to practical needs of the state

      1. Astronomic study promoted by imperial state since emperor's ability to maintain harmony judged in part on ability to provide an accurate calendar

      2. Astronomy also promoted by state as disorder in the heavens was believed to reflect disorder in the emperor's rule

    4. The Nature of Things

      1. Chinese understanding of nature reflected and reinforced Confucian political ideology that emphasized a harmonious, interlocking set of relationships that united all people

      2. Nature seen holistically, as a single organism, much like the idealized state

        • Nature, human behavior governed by the complementary forces of yin and yang

        • Five phases of matter - metal, wood, water, fire, and earth - interacted dynamically to shape the world

        • Cycles in yin and yang, in the five phases, brought each into ascendancy at different times, giving a different character to nature and humans at that time

        • Emphasis on duality fostered an interpretation of nature based on analogies  and paired correspondences

      3. State and social organization both part of and a reflection of that natural order, thus disorder in one created or reflected disorder in the other

  3. Institutionalized Science in India and Mesoamerica

    1. India

      1. Like China, a strong emphasis on the practical

      2. Here, the needs of the priest caste, the Brahmins, of high importance

        1. Predominated in education

        2. Ritualistic importance of texts and reading go texts leads early to highly developed study of linguistics

      3. Religion shaped study of nature

        1. Belief in very long cycles of time leads to early development of study of large numbers

        2. A highly technical and mathematical understanding of astronomy developed out of need for astrological computations

        3. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist views of physical world as an illusion tended to discourage investigation of natural world

    2. Mayan Astronomy and Mathematics

      1. Mayan religion, like all Mesoamerican religion, placed great emphasis on flow of time in grand cycles

      2. Of the Mesoamericans, the Mayan developed the most complex system of calendrics involving the longest cycles of time

      3. Maya saw time, and its passage, as the basic building block of the universe

      4. Nature, humans, and the state all dependent on the flow of the cycles, all united by them

      5. One primary duty of Mayan kings was to insure the continued flow of time through proper ritual, thus insuring continued existence of the world, the people and the city

      6. Mayan kings, as chief priests, sponsored extensive astronomical study, including the building of observatories

      7. Mathematics also highly developed, including the independent development of zero.