Catherine Osborne

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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The term physis, originally meaning ‘birth’ or ‘growth’, evolved to become the standard term for the ‘nature’ of an animal or plant. From the 6th cent. bce Greek philosophers were said to be investigating ‘the nature of things’ or enquiring ‘about nature’ (peri physeos). See empedocles; gorgias. Their task was to investigate the way the cosmos works, and the things that naturally occur in it. Nature was not regarded as an external force or agent (nothing is done ‘by nature’) but as the natural disposition of things to behave in certain ways.Aristotle reports that *Presocratic Philosophy was largely ‘natural philosophy’ and he describes one of his own works (Ph.) as concerned with natural things. In the Hellenistic period, the study of nature became one of the main three branches of the philosophical curriculum (physics, ethics, and logic). It included studies of natural causation, time, place etc. which might belong to metaphysics in the modern curriculum. See physics.

Article.  279 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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