Myth and explanation in Manilius
This chapter considers Manilius' use of multiple explanations in the Astronomica with the purpose of shedding light on the broader question of the roles of ‘myth’ and ‘science’, two modes of explanation that in the history of the sciences have often been viewed as incompatible. In discussions of the origins of the universe or the causes of the Milky Way, for example, Manilius alternates between ‘scientific’ physical and materialist explanations (atoms, elements) and what we would call ‘mythological’ explanations (gods, heroes): some say the Milky Way is a belt of tiny stars, others that it is the region burned by Phaethon's chariot. A careful look at how and why Manilius intertwines these explanations will show some of the ways in which the relationships between science and mythology as fundamentally different kinds of explanation can and should be rethought.
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