- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (December 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300101600
- ISBN-13: 978-0300101607
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece
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"A nuanced, sophisticated, and deeply learned reflection on ancient science.... [The book] will be the foundation for thinking about the deep structures of the sociology of knowledge in antiquity."
From the Back Cover
"A nuanced, sophisticated, and deeply learned reflection on ancient science. . . . [The book] will be the foundation for thinking about the deep structures of the sociology of knowledge in antiquity."-Thomas Laqueur, Times Literary Supplement
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This is an interesting comparison, and can help explain how the Greeks and Chinese arrived at the conceptual frameworks they used in science. For this, the book is excellent. My main problem is that it does not give me a good sense of how science and philosophy was actually used in each society. I have a lot more experience with Greek science, and so know approximately how their methods worked and how they compare with modern methods. The authors are careful to not judge either society with modern methods, but it would have been helpful to know from a modern perspective how "accurate" certain ideas are. Here I'm thinking primarily of astronomy, where it would have been nice to know how Chinese (and Greek, though, I am aware of the cognitive models) thought of calculations in a physical sense, or if they did. These were the type of insights I was looking for and did not find in the book. I learned a great deal about what drove people in philosophy, but didn't get a good sense of the actual accomplishments made.
Quite an interesting book, that if you have an interest in how/why Chinese/Greek science became what it was, is a good introduction. If you're looking for specific scientific comparisons, then this is not the right book.
Of the social structure of China, Lloyd and Sivin write, “Philosophers and scientists generally were born into the <i>shih</i>, which gave them an opportunity to be educated. Only a few people found unconventional routes to literacy and even literary eminence” (pg. 22). Though they admit difficulty in tracing the origin of medical doctrine, Lloyd and Sivin argue that works like the <i>Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor</i> established the form that later medical texts followed, as a dialogue between the emperor and a minister or ministers (pg. 40). Describing medical writings, Lloyd and Sivin write, “Of the earliest extant medical books, excavated from a tomb of 168 B.C. at Ma-wang-tui, Hunan province, the <i>Movibustion Canons</i> are short individual writings (or versions of the same writing) rather than a compilation, and <i>Formulas for Fifty-Two Ailments</i> is a diverse collection of drug and ritual therapies, perhaps the personal accumulation of one healer. These do not contain explicit rationales or doctrines. The <i>Book of the Pulsating Vessels</i>, buried about the same time in Hupei province, writes of the pathological <i>ch’i</i> as agents of three yin and three yang disorders” (pg. 75). Lloyd and Sivin conclude that the Chinese texts lack an exact analogue to Greek documents.
Unlike China, where literacy was confined to the upper echelons of society, Lloyd and Sivin conclude that literacy was fairly widespread in ancient Greece. For parallels with the patronage system in China, Lloyd and Sivin compare the situation in which a doctor might find themselves, identifying four such roles: “(1) A doctor being paid to set a shoulder or prescribe a drug falls clearly into the employment category. (2) When a doctor was paid a retainer to be a public physician in a particular city-state, he was accountable to the body that appointed him…and he had certain contractual obligations…(3) A court physician…might in certain respects be in a similar position to a public doctor…(4) A king, ruler, or wealthy individual could decide to support someone…specifically to release him from some or all of his usual tasks or duties” (pg. 96). Lloyd and Sivin identify debate as central to Greek science, whether in the public sphere or in print. Debate also helped one demonstrate their credentials to the world.
In comparing the two systems, Lloyd and Sivin identify “the circumstances in which Greek philosophers and scientists operated, where the key contrast with China lay in their comparative isolation from positions of political influence. The classical Greeks had no emperors to persuade; they had no sense of working toward an orthodox worldview that would at once legitimate and limit the emperor’s authority, as well as bolster their own positions as his advisors” (pg. 186). According to Lloyd and Sivin, “A basic feature of systematic thought about the external world as it arose in China is that the body and the state were miniature versions (not just models) of the cosmos” (pg. 214). Both the Chinese and the Greeks maintained a “conception of cosmic order as a matter of good government and harmony” (pg. 181). Describing this cosmic worldview, Lloyd and Sivin write, “First, both Chinese and Greek ideas on these topics are deeply value-laden, although the values greatly differ. In neither case is cosmology divorced from the domain of the moral and political. Second, ideas about the macrocosm mirrored and were mirrored in ideas about the two microcosms of the body and the state” (pg. 174). Even with this similarity, the two had different understandings of how the body worked. While the Greeks sought to discover which organ governed the rest, the Chinese were content that they all worked as they should (pg. 222). Discussing the essential questions and goals of the sciences, Lloyd and Sivin write of astronomy, “For Greek astronomers, the reduction of planetary phenomena to combinations of circular motions also amounted to the imposition of order, and occasionally moral implications were drawn from that orderliness. However, in China the meaning of astronomical order was essentially and primarily political. Its moral significance was a corollary of that” (pg. 229). Lloyd and Sivin describe Chinese philosophers and physicians as using science to recover “what the archaic sages rather knew” rather than find “stepwise approximations to an objective reality” (pg. 193).