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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Measurement Problems in Ancient Greece – Time and Speed

16th February 2017, 18:30 to 19:30, Leech Hall, St John's College, Dr Barbara Sattler, University of St Andrews


Abstract
We usually assume that we can measure all happenings with the same temporal units (seconds, hours, etc.) and can put them in the same calendar. And we take it for granted that we can also measure the speed of processes. From the perspective of the ancient Greeks, however, both points are inconceivable. In this lecture Dr Barbara Sattler will talk about some of the reasons why such a unified account of measurement is unknown in ancient Greece and some of its philosophical consequences by looking at the following three points:

1. The lack of a unified calendar throughout the early Greek world:

Calendars differed from one city-state to the next, even within one polis more than one calendar may be used simultaneously, and they did not provide an easy way for a sequential ordering of years. This reflects a special understanding of the relationship between past, present, and future that she will analyse.

2. The lack of a single temporal framework:

The very idea that all occurrences can be put in a temporal relation to each other (they are either before, after, or simultaneous with each other) is foreign to the ancient Greeks. Dr Sattler will analyse the effect this lack has on the quality of temporal experiences.

3. Conceptual and mathematical problems for complex measures:

Finally, Dr Sattler will analyse some of the reasons why early Greek mathematics and philosophy would not allow for complex measures, that is, for measures that combine two kinds of magnitudes, as speed combines time and space.


Details about Dr Barbara Sattler

Map - St. John's College is denoted as building No; 17

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.