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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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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: 17 September 2021

Science and Philosophy Come to Italy

Science and Philosophy Come to Italy

(p.81) Chapter 10 Science and Philosophy Come to Italy
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

Xenophanes of Colophon, who had “heard” Anaximander, brought Ionian science to Magna Graecia (Sicily and southern Italy) when he fled from the Persian invaders of his homeland. He made geological discoveries implying the cyclical nature of cosmic time. He denounced the Olympian religion as both silly and immoral. But he had his own conception of “one god”, who does not move, but moves everything else by “intelligent will-power:” the All of Thales, the immanent energy of the cosmos. Pythagoras, an immigrant from Samos to the same region at about the same time, carried mathematics to its highest point in antiquity with his famous Theorem. He set up the Brotherhood, a combination of research institute and religious order. He investigated natural science, notably in the application of mathematics to music, leading to the pronouncement that Things are Numbers. However, he introduced mystical and superstitious elements into his Grand Theory. Heraclitus of Ephesus, back in Ionia, criticized Pythagoras,reemphasizing the importance of unity and logos for the new way of thought. His choice of Fire as the basic stuff made immanent and unifying Energy the central scientific concept. Parmenides of Elea also began from criticism of Pythagoras. He made explicit the basic pair of distinctions in the theory of knowledge: necessity/contingency and a priori/a posteriori. He held that what necessary and a priori knowledge–mathematics-is about is Space, the eternal and unchanging reality; the things within that reality can be studied only by empirical methods: “mortal guesswork.” There can be no science, strictly speaking, of Nature. Hence his Grand Theory was a dualism. Empedocles of Acragas tried to vindicate Pythagoras's science by declaring that individual changing things are mixtures of four Roots, in themselves eternal and unchanging, hence fit objects of a priori knowledge.

Keywords:   science, religion, energy, mathematics, music, number, necessary/contingent, a priori/a posteriori, space, root

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