chapter  35
GREECE AND ROME
ByEMMA GEE
Pages 14

Snow’s opposition between literature and science may seem more naive to us than to his audience of 1959; to the Greeks and Romans it would have been incomprehensible. The concept of antipathy between representatives of the two poles, as it operates today, was unavailable to ancient thinkers. There was, in antiquity, no one word equivalent to “science.” Areas which we might call “scientific” were covered by a range of terms, often more different from one another in nuance than in meaning. These terms include sophia (wisdom) and philosophia; logos (reason, often opposed to muthos); techne (art, skill), and episteme (knowledge or understanding). One can see immediately from Plato (often the source of such definitions in

modern literature) the slipperiness of some of these terms in their original context. Consider, for instance, the discussion of techne and episteme at Plato, Gorgias 449-52. Techne, which is said by Rihll (1999: 2) to be the Greek term usually translated as “science,” cannot be limited in this ancient text either to scientific practice as opposed to theory, or even to the sciences per se. At Gorgias 449c9 the orator Gorgias is described by Socrates as rhetorikes … epistemon technes, “being skilled (epistemon) in the science of rhetoric.” Here epistemon denotes theoretical knowledge, techne the thing practiced (here rhetoric). But the noun episteme can also be used of practical knowledge, as it is shortly afterwards, at 449d9-10, episteme peri logous, “the science of speaking.” Moreover, in another Platonic dialogue, Phaedrus 260d, techne is used as episteme was in the Gorgias, to mean “the science of speaking,” ten ton logon technen. Thus there is no straightforward theoretical/practical antithesis between episteme and techne. Not only that, but Plato’s Socrates casts the net very wide in terms of the activities covered by techne. At Gorgias 452a1-d5, the doctor, fitness trainer, and entrepreneur could all say the same – techne refers to all of their activities.1