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Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity

David Sedley (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 290 pages
ISBN: 9780520260061
January 2008
$34.95, £27.00
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The world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the "creationist" option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle's celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant members—the atomists—sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics.

1 Anaxagoras
2 Empedocles
3 Socrates
4 Plato
5 The Atomists
6 Aristotle
7 The Stoics
Epilogue: A Galenic Perspective

General Index
Index Locorum
David Sedley is Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Plato’s Cratylus (2003) and The Midwife of Platonism: Text and Subtext in Plato’s Theaetetus (2004), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy.
“Sedley's argument is subtle and expert. . . . The brilliance of this book is that Sedley lets the Greeks talk to us and, surprisingly, we can understand what they're saying.”—Nature
“The scholarly book [Sedley] has written is golden.”—Jonathan Barnes London Review Of Books
“An exemplary study of Greek philosophy, sweeping in vision and exquisite in detail.”—Alexander Nehamas Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
“An extraordinarily engaging book. . . . Bold in its suggestions, ingenious in its argumentation, it is written in a style that is clear and comprehensible. . . . It is hardly an exaggeration to say that it defies summary.”—Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR)
“Sedley's aim is ... to 'use history in order to shed new light on the debate' ... This he certainly achieves both with the astonishing breadth of the scope of ideas of the book and with his extraordinary grasp of the detail of ancient theories. This is a really authoritative study by the world's leading expert in the field, and the lucidity of Sedley's writing also makes the book easily accessible to the non-expert reader.”—Journal Of Hellenic Stds
“This is an important and timely volume.”—Reports Of The National Center For Science Education
“Highly recommended.”—J. Bussanich Choice
“This book is well-written, closely argued, and highly informative.”—David Depew Hist & Phil Of Life Sci
“This is a thrilling book, full of detailed argument, all beautifully summarized throughout to lay the foundation for the next chapter.”—Peter Jones Journal Of Classics Teaching (Jct)
"David Sedley's treatment of ancient views on intelligent design will transform our current thinking."—Thomas Johansen, author of Plato's Natural Philosophy: A Study of the Timaeus-Critias

"Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity has the qualities of a classic. Powerfully organised round an enthralling theme, it is singularly rich in execution. The author's unsurpassed command of his material is matched by the clarity, originality, and imaginative detail of his arguments. The book is as accessible as it is authoritative. It speaks to everyone interested in Greek philosophy, and very many of its readers will go back to it again and again."—Sarah Broadie, author of Aristotle and Beyond: Essays on Metaphysics and Ethics

Finalist for the JHP Book Prize, Journal of the History of Philosophy

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