Explaining the Cosmos is a major reinterpretation of Greek scientific thought before Socrates. Focusing on the scientific tradition of philosophy, Daniel Graham argues that Presocratic philosophy is not a mere patchwork of different schools and styles of thought. Rather, there is a discernible and unified Ionian tradition that dominates Presocratic debates. Graham rejects the common interpretation of the early Ionians as "material monists" and also the view of the later Ionians as desperately trying to save scientific philosophy from Parmenides' criticisms. (...) In Graham's view, Parmenides plays a constructive role in shaping the scientific debates of the fifth century BC. Accordingly, the history of Presocratic philosophy can be seen not as a series of dialectical failures, but rather as a series of theoretical advances that led to empirical discoveries. Indeed, the Ionian tradition can be seen as the origin of the scientific conception of the world that we still hold today. (shrink)
Each of the two major approaches to Aristotle--the unitarian, which understands his work as forming a single, unified system, and the developmentalist, which seeks a sequence of developing ideas--has inherent limitations. This book proposes a synthetic view of Aristotle that sees development as a change between systematic theories. Setting theories of the so-called logical works beside theories of the physical and metaphysical treatises, Graham shows that Aristotle's doctrines fall into two distinct systems of philosophies that are genetically related. This study--the (...) first major alternative to the unitarian approach since Jaeger pioneered the developmentalist method in 1923--provides a sweeping reappraisal of Aristotle's science and metaphysics and a new approach to the problem of substance presented in the Metaphysics. (shrink)
The founder of atomic theory, according to Aristotle and Theophrastus, is Leucippus. His very existence has been called into question. Three of the best minds of nineteenth-century scholarship were embroiled in a vehement debate on this question, which thereupon became a cause célèbre, with scholars weighing in on both sides for the next half century. Ultimately this debate seems to have ended in stalemate and exhaustion rather than in any clear-cut decision. After briefly reviewing the debate, this article argues that (...) there are indications of an atomic theory different from Democritus's that can plausibly be attributed to Leucippus. It considers indications that the atomic theory was known in the mid-fifth century, and then tentatively explores Leucippus's contributions to atomism in a way that will illuminate Democritus's contributions. (shrink)
According to the traditional view of Empedocles' cosmic cycle, there are two creations of plants and animals, one under the dominion of increasing Strife and one under the dominion of increasing Love. At the point at which Strife holds complete sway the four elements are completely separated and all life is destroyed; at the point at which Love is completely dominant there is also a destruction of the biological world, this time because the elements are blended into a perfectly homogeneous (...) mixture. This interpretation of the cosmic cycle, which has prevailed almost since it was developed by Friedrich Panzerbieter and seconded by authority of Eduard Zeller was challenged by Paul Tannery and then by H. von Arnim . Long after these essentially programmatic critiques, three independent studies published in 1965 by Jean Bollack, Uvo Hölscher and Friedrich Solmsen mounted a vigorous challenge to the received view. However, in a detailed monograph devoted to Empedocles' cosmic cycle, Denis O'Brien brought to bear an impressive array of scholarly evidence and critical acumen in support of the traditional view . Several challenges to the traditional view have appeared since O'Brien's book, of which the most significant is that of A. A. Long, who, while criticizing attempts of some opponents of the traditional view, produced some novel and interesting arguments against it. Although the traditional view continues to enjoy the support of authorities such as Jonathan Barnes and M. R. Wright, there is a decided shift in favour of revisionary views. Nevertheless recent advocates of a revisionary interpretation do not provide detailed refutations of the traditional view; Long's arguments remain the strongest objections to the traditional view, and they have never been refuted. Will they stand up to scrutiny? (shrink)
A meteor that fell in northern Greece in 467 BC was said to have been predicted by Anaxagoras. It seems rather that his theory entailed (“predicted”) the possibility of such bodies. The meteor provided a rare case of an observation confirming a theory. The subsequent recognition of the meteor shows that early philosophical theories could have testable consequences and that empirical evidence was being sought to evaluate theories at this early time.