Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

The country 'needs' more scientists, but no one yet seems able to crack the problem. Ancient attitudes may suggest a way ahead.

The earliest Greek 'scientists', c. 600 BC , speculated about how the world was made. They assumed there was a basic stuff (or stuffs) from which everything derived, and argued about what it might be and how it changed into the different forms of matter we see around us. From such speculation an atomic theory of matter emerged.

It was Socrates (469-399 BC ) who changed all that, becoming disillusioned with cosmology because it did not seem to have anything to do with 'the one thing it is in a man's interests to consider, with regard both to himself and anything else -- the best and highest good'. So, as Cicero claims, he 'called philosophy down from the sky, set it in cities and even introduced it into homes and compelled it to consider life and morals, good and evil'.

But Socrates' beliefs were still grounded in the scientific premiss that, since the world was rationally ordered, everything in it had a function for which it was fitted, i. e. the best way to live must be part of the natural order of the cosmos.

This view was deeply influential. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.