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Title: The cosmology of Claudius Ptolemy
Author: Hart, G.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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This dissertation explores the nature of the cosmos as understood by Ptolemy, and how this understanding was reflected in the methodological principles by which Ptolemy believed that the philosopher should properly study the cosmos. The main historiographical traditions in scholarship on Ptolemy, in particular the charges of fraudulence levelled against him and his place in the debate over instrumentalism and realism in Greek astronomy, are addressed with reference to the alleged discrepancies in Ptolemy's texts that have been cited as evidence in these debates. Ptolemy's methodology is examined to explore ways in which these so-called discrepancies might be resolved. Greatest attention is given to the Syntaxis and Harmonics, as treatises on those disciplines that Ptolemy himself identified as pre-eminent (astronomy and harmonics), while his other works are discussed as appropriate. Discrepancies of various kinds are discussed, including Ptolemy's silent acceptance of his lunar model's erroneous prediction of variations in the apparent diameter of the moon, his manipulation of data to obtain predetermined results, his sophisticated discussion of observational error contrasted with his use of extremely unreliable techniques, his stated adherence to the principle of uniform circular motion in the heavens despite the complex nature of the compound motions that his models actually describe, his differing portrayals of the cosmos across different works (especially the Syntaxis and Tetrabiblos), and the raising of harmonics to a status equivalent to that of astronomy, despite the localisation of sound amid the unstable sublunar elements. Aspects of Ptolemy's methodology then addressed at length are issues of observational error, approximation, accuracy, and precision according to the proper interplay between reason and perception by which progress is possible in studying the world, the limits of knowledge both of sublunar and celestial phenomena, the nature of progress (both of philosophy and in personal study) towards greater and more certain knowledge, and the ultimate goal of that progress and of the studies that Ptolemy presented.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available