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Science before SocratesParmenides, Anaxagoras, and the New Astronomy$
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Daniel Graham

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199959785

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199959785.001.0001

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Science before Socrates

Daniel W. Graham

Oxford University Press

Early Greek thinkers progressed from mythological explanations to philosophical and quasi-scientific ones. Scholars agree that the Presocratic philosophers sought for scientific explanations of natural phenomena, but most hold that their several theories amounted to unfounded speculations unsupported by empirical evidence. Some, however, claim that the first philosopher, Thales, immediately grasped the principles of astronomy; others give the credit to Pythagoras. In recent times, constructivists, relativists, and instrumentalists defend an account of science without knowledge, which science can progress (at most) in its predictive power but not in its objective understanding of the world. This study will argue against all of the above positions by focusing on cosmological theories from the sixth to the fifth centuries BC. It will show that discoveries made in the early fifth century led to reliable progress in astronomy–after Thales and Pythagoras but before Eudoxus and the mathematical models of the fourth century.

Keywords:   science, astronomy, historiography, philosophy of science, Thales, Pythagoras

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