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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 October 2021

Science and Sophistry

Science and Sophistry

Chapter:
(p.51) II Science and Sophistry
Source:
Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought
Author(s):

R. J. Hankinson (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199246564.003.0003

In this chapter, Hankinson considers the treatment of causation and explanation in two important strands of Ancient Greek thought: rational medicine and the sophistic movement. The Hippocratic treatises of the fifth century bc represent a movement in Greek medical practice away from traditional types of explanation of disease in favour of a naturalistic, physiological model of human pathology, which leads to the emergence of the allopathic causal principle, ‘opposites cure opposites’. The Hippocratic treatises distinguished internal, constitutional factors from external causes, a distinction that helps towards explaining why some people are affected by a disease, or benefited from a cure, while others are not. Drawing upon Antiphon and Gorgias, Hankinson also discusses the sophist contribution to causation and explanation, in particular their emphasis on responsibility in the explanation of action. Finally, Hankinson highlights a tendency, evident in Herodotus’ History and also in the medical treatise Airs, Waters, Places, to explain general traits of physique and character in terms of ethnography, i.e. on the basis of environment, climate, and lifestyle.

Keywords:   action, allopathic causal principle, Antiphon, ethnography, Gorgias, Hippocratic treatises, human pathology, opposites, responsibility, sophistic movement

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