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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51$
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Victor Caston

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795797.001.0001

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Archelaus on Cosmogony and the Origins of Social Institutions

Archelaus on Cosmogony and the Origins of Social Institutions

(p.1) Archelaus on Cosmogony and the Origins of Social Institutions
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51

Gábor Betegh

Oxford University Press

The paper argues that joining a narrative about the origins of social institutions to a narrative about the origins of the cosmos and of living organisms was not a customary feature of Presocratic accounts, but an innovation introduced around the time of Socrates. There is, moreover, some evidence to the effect that Archelaus of Athens, who is usually presented as belonging to the circle of Anaxagoras and as a companion and teacher of Socrates, was one of the first authors to offer such a unified narrative. The paper offers reasons why the conjunction of the two narratives could have been seen by contemporaries as posing a particularly strong threat to traditional theological conceptions. The paper then examines two key texts, Aristophanes’ Clouds and Plato’s Laws 10, in which these new types of account are attacked for their deleterious effects. It is suggested that Archelaus’ theory has a more important role in these texts than is generally recognized.

Keywords:   Archelaus of Athens, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Plato, Aristophanes, Democritus, Antiphon, nomos–phusis, cosmogony, origins of culture, ancient atheism

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