Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of California Press
Series: Sather Classical Lectures
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
This is the book of the Sather Lectures that I delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall of 2004. I shall therefore start by expressing my very warm gratitude to the Berkeley Department of Classics, both for taking a chance in inviting me to be the ninety-first Sather Professor of Classical Literature, ...
The dining hall of my college—Christ’s College Cambridge—displays portraits of its most illustrious alumni. One pairing is of unique symbolic value. On the left is William Paley (1743–1805), author of the classic version of the Argument from Design. ...
I / Anaxagoras
The earliest western philosophers were the dazzlingly original Greek thinkers conventionally known as the Presocratics—a line-up which included such heterogeneous figures as Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Protagoras. ...
II / Empedocles
In my first chapter, I identified in the writings of Anaxagoras what I take to be the first Greek manifesto of rational creationism. I concluded by suggesting that Anaxagoras’s own agenda was not essentially religious in motivation, but scientific: to exhibit the power of intelligence when it operates on matter to create the world ...
III / Socrates
To clear the way for this chapter’s protagonist, Socrates, I must start by explaining briefly why I do not believe that his approximate contemporary Diogenes of Apollonia is of major significance for our story, as has sometimes been thought. For Diogenes has been often credited with the earliest version of (roughly speaking) the Argument from Design, ...
IV / Plato
At the end of the previous chapter I noted how, long before he came to write the Timaeus, a dialogue best dated years, probably decades, after the Phaedo, Plato was already planning to vindicate the teleological style of cosmology of which his Socrates had approved but also despaired.1 ...
V / The Atomists
So far in our story the creationists have made all the running, culminating in Plato’s Timaeus, the ultimate creationist manifesto. Even if one faction of Plato’s heirs insisted that he had never meant to say that a discrete act of divine creation had ever taken place, this dialogue’s impact on such thinkers as Aristotle, ...
VI / Aristotle
Aristotle ( 384–322 B.C.) was Plato’s student for two decades before founding his own school. Is it more fruitful to think of his mature work as anti Platonist, or as that of an independent Platonist? Although this age-old question does not admit of final resolution, I am convinced with regard to my present topic, ...
VII / The Stoics
The Argument from Design has come to be the most celebrated member of a family of arguments aimed at demonstrating the existence of a creator god. Although I have now covered more than a century and a half of debate about creation, from Anaxagoras to Epicurus, extraordinarily we have met only one argument that might merit this title. ...
Epilogue: A Galenic Perspective
The most notable absentee from my story so far is Galen, the greatest and most lastingly influential doctor of antiquity, whose voluminous writings have in large part come down to us. I cannot here aspire to do justice to the huge contributions that Galen made to teleological argument.1 ...