Article

Reason, Cause, and Explanation in Presocratic Philosophy

R. J. Hankinson

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195146875.003.0017

Series: OXFORD HANDBOOKS IN PHILOSOPHY

 Reason, Cause, and Explanation in Presocratic Philosophy

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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.

Keywords: epic poetry; divine mystery; human affairs; Poseidon; Presocratic thought

Article.  11811 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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