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Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought$
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R. J. Hankinson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246564

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199246564.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

R. J. Hankinson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the Introduction, Hankinson identifies universality, simplicity, and the use of argument as the features that distinguish a properly ‘scientific’ explanation of natural phenomena, from a non‐ or pre‐scientific, e.g. mythical, account. For Hankinson, the Milesians are the first thinkers to display a scientific attitude to the investigation of natural phenomena: they sought to explain events by appealing to repeatable and generalizable laws that are invariant over time and which can ground predictions. Simplicity is an adjunct of generalization—the greater the generality of an explanation, the greater is its simplicity; since this involves the attempt to explain the widest variety of phenomena on the basis of the fewest fundamental principles, reductionism is at the centre of the scientific enterprise.

Keywords:   argument, explanation, laws, Milesians, predictions, pre‐scientific, reductionism, scientific, simplicity, universality

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