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cosmogony


Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


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A ncient greek philosophy, philosophy of science The theory of the genesis and growth of the cosmos, the main theoretical form of pre-Socratic philosophy. There were many pre-philosophical mythical and religious cosmogonies among the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Babylonians, but the pre-Socratics differed fundamentally from all of them by seeking the origin of the world on a rational basis, rather than by appealing to a supernatural force. Nevertheless, their cosmogony was deeply influenced by Hesiod's theogony or genealogical account of the divine kingdom. All of the pre-Socratics held that the cosmos has a beginning. Some set up one or more elements as fundamental principles, claiming that the primary opposites, hot and cold, wet and dry, evolved from these principles and that the other parts of the cosmos evolved from these opposites. Other philosophers claimed that there was an original mixture from which evolved first the four basic elements and then natural substances and the organic world. Although views differed about the process, the whole picture was evolutionary rather than creative and involved no design. Compared with scientific cosmogony, the theories of the pre-Socratics were largely speculative, but they nevertheless demonstrated rational intelligence, which yielded many profound insights. “Practically all that we know about the philosophy of the Milesians concerns ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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