The Natural World in Greek Literature and Philosophy

Mark Payne

Published online April 2014 | | DOI:

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  • Classical Philosophy


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This chapter examines the role of the natural world in ancient Greek literature and philosophy by way of Schiller’s claim, in “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry,” that there was a transformation of the Greek relationship to Nature in the Hellenistic period. While arguing that Schiller’s observations remain seminal, this chapter suggests that a reconsideration of early Greek poetry is necessary in order to properly appreciate the importance of Nature in Hellenistic poetry. The chapter opens up a new approach to this issue by turning to Plato and the Platonic tradition, where access to contemplation is available through a prephilosophical relationship to the natural world. Finally, it is suggested that recent debates between partisans of the autonomy and givenness of the world in continental philosophy reiterate arguments about the cosmos as a home for human beings as expressed in Greek thought itself.

Keywords: Greek poetry; Greek philosophy; Hellenistic period; Schiller; Nature; autonomy; givenness; home

Article.  10166 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Greek History ; Classical Philosophy

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