For Example and Against

Geoffrey Lloyd

in Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780199270163
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602276 | DOI:
For Example and Against

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How are examples used in reasoning in ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy and science and how were such uses evaluated? Some Greeks, such as Aristotle, downgraded the appeal to examples in mathematics and science in favour of an ideal of axiomatic-deductive reasoning, though still allowing examples a limited role in persuasion. The Chinese used examples with great facility, in such fields as history, law, and cosmology, but in mathematics, for instance, they sought to identify the unifying principles linking different procedures, rather than to attempt to deduce the whole of mathematics from a limited set of purportedly self-evident axioms.

Keywords: Aristotle; axiomatic-deductive reasoning; certainty; example; mathematics; persuasion; unifying principles

Chapter.  10512 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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