R. J. Hankinson traces the history of ancient Greek thinking about causation and explanation, from its earliest beginnings through more than a thousand years to the middle of the first millennium of the Christian era. He examines ways in which the Ancient Greeks dealt with questions about how and why things happen as and when they do, about the basic constitution and structure of things, about function and purpose, laws of nature, chance, coincidence, and responsibility.
Voltaire's Pangloss, the man who held among other things that noses were clearly created in order to support spectacles, is the very archetype of the lunatic teleologist; a caricature of sublimely confident faith in the general and undeniable goodness of the world's arrangement, a faith that managed astoundingly to survive the Lisbon earthquake and his own subsequent auto dafé. Voltaire, of course, is poking fun at such conceptions; and, no doubt, in their extreme sanguinity as well as in their apparent (...) imperviousness to devastating empirical counter-evidence, they do seem to be eminently risible notions. In the face of them we might be tempted to abandon ‘métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie’, and to agree with Candide that ‘Cela est bien dit, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin’. (shrink)
In the Archaic Geek world of epic poetry, the causes of things are shrouded in divine mystery; the gods intervene in human affairs, and bring about events, in a cruel and capricious fashion, according to their whims; Apollo visits the devastating plague of Iliad 1 on the Greek host to avenge Agamemnon's ill-treatment of one of his priests; Poseidon shakes the earth and angers the sea, bringing to destruction those who have incurred his ire, as does Zeus himself with his (...) thunderbolts. The gods take on human shape and intervene in battle with devastating effect. In tragedy, the houses of Atreus and of Laius are brought low when men offend against the gods. This article focuses on the explorations of the fundamental concepts of reasons and causation, and the problems of explanation, and argues that it is indeed reasonable to see in Presocratic thought the foundations of Western scientific explanation. (shrink)
The volume presents essays on the philosophical explanation of the relationship between body and soul in antiquity from the Presocratics to Galen. The title of the volume alludes to a phrase found in Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, referring to aspects of living behaviour involving both body and soul, and is a commonplace in ancient philosophy, dealt with in very different ways by different authors.
John of Alexandria is an obscure figure. Little is known of his life: his floruit is placed in the first half of the seventh century A.D. He was a practising doctor; the exact significance of the epithet ‘sophista’ which is found on the superscription to his commentary on the sixth book of Hippocrates' Epidemics is uncertain: but it may indicate an interest beyond the purely medical. Apart from the commentaries on the Epidemics and De Sectis, the only other work ascribed (...) to him with any certainty is a commentary on the Hippocratic text On the Nature of the Child, although four other works traditionally attributed to Philoponus and of a purely medical nature have been ascribed to him. (shrink)