Classical Vs. Modern Science Essays

1793 Words Dec 2nd, 2016 8 Pages
Of all the means through which humans perceive the world, sight is perhaps the most important. It is our primary means of understanding the physical nature of our surroundings, both immediate and distant. It is only natural that the great thinkers of antiquity were curious about the nature of vision, and inseparably, that of light itself. In the manner characteristic of ancient science, many common ideas about optics were “hit or miss”, so to speak. Certain Greek thinkers had hypotheses about optics which are more or less in line with modern principles, but many held firmly to ideas which are at odds with the current understanding of reality. I discuss extramission theory (a hallmark of Greek optical science), the work of the atomists Democritus and Leucippus who rejected it and presented compelling (but flawed) alternative frameworks, the contrasting views of pivotal (and ubiquitous) philosophers Plato and Aristotle, Euclid’s highly mathematical and geometric treatment of optics, and Ptolemy’s significant contributions and insights to the field; I argue that they function as cornerstones in the development of optical thought in Western science.
But not all Presocratics were as misled as he was. Democritus, who was active in the fifth century B.C.E. and is famous for his atomic theory of reality, extended the atomic view to visual perception. In doing so, he developed a conceptualization of vision that, while not exactly compatible with modern science (due to to the…

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