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Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought Paperback – December 13, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0199246564 ISBN-10: 0199246564

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 522 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199246564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199246564
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,616,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hankinson's Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought is sure to become one of the landmark histories of ancient thought. Its scope is impressive....The strengths of the book are its lucid writing, the generous quantity of translated original material, and the number both of fresh insights even into old problems and of fresh ways of expressing old insights clearly and meaningfully."--Ancient History Bulletin

About the Author

R. J. Hankinson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Blinn E. Combs on June 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
How did ancient intellectuals think about what we'd call "scientific phenomena"? How did they go about explaining natural events? What kinds of observations might begin to undermine reliance on the folk explanations of nature found in works by Hesiod or Homer? This book attempts to give intellectually honest and textually defensible answers to these questions, using some of the most rigorous tools of the modern study of scientific explanation (not to be confused with modern science itself).

It's a sad thing that this book hasn't generated more reviews. The book is both treat and feat. It manages to combine fairly precise modern analyses of causation and explanation with the sometimes damnably obscure (some would, less charitably, say "incoherent) work of early Greek philosophers, including even some of the most exact work on the Hellenistic schools yet done. It is probably the most extensive focused discussion on Ancient (Greek) theories of explanation available in English. It extends from a brief but very lucid introduction to scientific explanation in general, to a short chapter on the Presocratics, through Plato and two very good chapters on Aristotle's philosophy of science (in my opinion, the best part of the work), and on through the major Hellenistic schools, and even the Greek medical tradition (a specialists' specialist's topic).

To be sure, the going in this volume is rough and occasionally tedious (though certainly no more so than the subject matter that informs it), but the prose is exceptionally lucid, especially given the great variety among the different styles of explanation on offer. I wouldn't recommend this book for beginners, but for specialists in Ancient Greek philosophy, or people with a good background in the philosophy of science who would like to extend their awareness to the Ancient Greek tradition in more than a superficial way, this volume should be of particular interest.
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