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Dumb Beasts and Dead PhilosophersHumanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature$
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Catherine Osborne

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282067

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.001.0001

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On Nature and Providence: Readings in Herodotus, Protagoras, and Democritus

On Nature and Providence: Readings in Herodotus, Protagoras, and Democritus

(p.24) 2 On Nature and Providence: Readings in Herodotus, Protagoras, and Democritus
Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers

Catherine Osborne (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses extracts from the Apocryphal book of Jubilees, Herodotus' Histories, and Plato's Protagoras. It explores the idea that myths and stories serve to construct one's understanding of nature, appealing to what appear to be value-free facts, but telling a story that attaches significance to those facts as morally relevant or irrelevant considerations. Nature appears as provident and wise, or as improvident and hostile. The portrayal generates in the reader either a sense of fellow-feeling and care for the environment, or a sense of justified aggression. Narrative can be used to manipulate the reader's perception of his/her place in the world, and of the value and purpose of moral precepts.

Keywords:   Jubilees, Protagoras, Plato, Herodotus, nature, providence, relativism, morality, survival, myth

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